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At right, today's daily Lenten improvisation from Third Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, as posted to my Facebook page  (where earlier videos are archived) live at 8 a.m. EST.

For some reason, the sound is off by default, so once you hit play you may have to turn the sound up by clicking in the right hand corner of the video and pushing up the speaker control.

I've also captured the audio and will post mp3s of the improvisations later (probably on Saturdays), to the left of this column of words. In the space currently blank.

Meanwhile, my apologies for the sound quality.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sundays are not part of Lent.  On Sundays I will play a prepared piece. Each week a different Toccata, leading to Easter, and, of course, the Widor Toccata. This week, Dubois.
The week's featured recording: (2/16)

Werde munter mein gemute
by Johann Pachelbel

Another perfectly charming piece of music that didn't quite make the billboard top-40 is this set of variations on the same Lutheran chorale that Bach used for a much more famous setting ("Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"). Johann Pachelbel wrote much more than his famous canon, and while this piece may not be among his 10 best, it is definitely worth a listen. The chorale is followed by 4 variations.
This week on the blog:    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2018

Piano vs. Organ (part 3)


We get tourists, sometimes. Or visitors. In any case, a young woman walked into our sanctuary one afternoon while I was practicing the organ and decided to ask the question that was pressing on her mind: which is harder to play, the piano or the organ?

She did not, it seems, want a complicated answer.

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"classic" blog: from June 12, 2013

A fun game for the kids?
part four of the Gottschalk series

You know that game in the comics section of the paper where you are supposed to find six differences between the two panels? I feel like I've been playing that a lot lately.

Preparing for a concert can be a tricky business. Preparing for one on an accelerated schedule is even more fun and games. But Gottschalk is there to help--sort of. There is a lot of repetition in his works. You can play the same thing four times in a row and it sounds just like a pianist practicing something over and over to get that gesture just right but you are actually playing it straight through the way the audience will hear it in concert!

On the other hand, many of Gottschalk's "repetitions" aren't exactly the same. I submit for your inspection this passage...

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Pianonoise's wall-to-wall Olympic coverage:

Monday, February 17, 2014


I've always thought of artistic endeavors as more of a marathon than a sprint, which might be one reason you won't see any piano playing at the Olympics.  But imagine if they did put it on television.

For one thing, you would have to have a pair of announcers telling us all everything the pianist did that wasn't exactly up to par.

For example, in ice skating, it is completely obvious to anyone when someone falls on his or her can in the middle of a routine and yet you still have intermediaries crying out to let us know that it was a bad thing. Also, when what was advertised as a triple axle turns out to be merely a double ("Bob, he's only playing that scale passage with one hand! That's an automatic deduction right there!")

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Monday, January 27, 2014

No reason it couldn't be done on skis, I suppose

With the Winter Olympics coming up next week, I've been making bizarre comparisons between the world of sports and the world of the arts. Last week it was all about bigger, faster, stronger...well, mostly faster and louder. This week it's time to focus on those fascinating sports you used to never see broadcast anyplace except once every four years at the Olympics, though now you can tune and catch them all in perfect ubiquity, 24 hours a day, if you've got ESPN 7.

In the winter Olympics, our fascinated attention is drawn to exotic outliers like Curling and the Biathlon. The way the biathlon works is that two great sports that have nothing at all to do with each other are mashed together, such as skiing and shooting. First you have to run on skis really hard and fast, then you have to stop and hit five targets. It's something that was first invented by college students very early one morning surrounded by empty pizza boxes and formerly alcoholic beverages.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

speed records

The Winter Olympics are coming up in a couple of weeks and I thought I'd opine on what would happen if they would let pianists compete along with the other athletes which is, of course, to set speed records.

Bigger, faster, stronger? Of course. In every human endeavor. The longest and hardest piano concerto. The loudest and fastest interpretation, and so on.

Really, though, it is just a chance for me to sit here comfortably while the snow falls outside and the wind threatens to blow my face off if it gets the chance, and go over some of my past recordings rather than braving death to go make a new one.
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The Solace of Noble Minds

The Strange Employment of Domenico Scarlatti


Naples in 1685 was a very loud place. Thousands of inhabitants crammed into a tight space, dwellings piled high atop each other, narrow alleys filled with the cries of street vendors, children, men rushing back and forth--a cauldron of human activity. Into this noisy environment was born one Domenico Scarlatti.

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