9781574670264 / 1574670263

Abby Whiteside on Piano Playing: Indispensables of Piano Playing - Mastering the Chopin Etudes and Other Essays


Publisher:Amadeus Press



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About the book:

Two of piano pedagogue Abby Whiteside's most influential essays, "Indispensables of Piano Playing," from 1955, and "Mastering the Chopin Etudes," from 1969, are reprinted in this volume, along with several shorter pieces. Whiteside's iconoclastic but firmly held beliefs are still provocative: "the pianist cannot control tone quality," "the importance of a prescribed fingering is practically nil," and "time spent on scales is not used to best advantage" are among them. But Whiteside backs up her ideas persuasively, and even pianists who cannot go along with her all the way will likely find themselves altering aspects of their techniques.

Whiteside bases all pianism on motions of the upper arms (confusingly called "top arms" in "Indispensables") and de-emphasizes anything to do with the fingers. She sees the forearm and fingers only as extensions of the upper arm, which is responsible for speed and accuracy. She is good at imagery in pressing her points: skating, jazz players, and untrained children are recurrent points of reference. Another of her main principles, the idea of basic rhythm, is well characterized by musical examples.

Readers would do well to begin with the foreword to "Mastering the Chopin Etudes" (written by Joseph Prostakoff and Sophia Rosoff, whose teaching is still based on the Whiteside principles), which helpfully clarifies some of the ideas from the outsider's perspective. "Mastering" refines many of the points from "Indispensables," and is best read first. Although "Indispensables" is divided into chapters, much of the same material is covered all the way through, and there is a great deal of overlap with "Mastering." Undoubtedly, there are some ideas in these essays that made complete sense only from the source herself, but there is much here of benefit to pianists of all levels. --William R. Braun

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