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My summer musical endeavors

     Every summer I invest time in furthering myself professionally so that I continue to grow musically for my students. This past winter I prepared and sent in an audition and was supposed to once again attend the prestigious Adamant School of Music in Vermont to perform for the 96 year old legend Menahem Pressler in one of his highly sought out masterclasses. Sadly, the entire retreat was canceled for good reason since the small selective group of mostly elder attendees (that include many of Mr. Pressler’s notable long time pupils) come in from all over the country and world.

     In light of this change to my summer schedule I took on two separate projects instead. In July I privately recorded a Chopin Nocturne I had been practicing during spring. 

      It was during this time while doing a lot of music history research (as I always am) that I made a stunning worldwide discovery. I saw a very unique piano roll from circa 1905-1910 pop up on the British ebay website and purchased it. This piano roll is a hand played recording by the French master Francis Planté (1839-1934). He recorded an entire Bach Prelude and Fugue and it hasn’t been catalogued anywhere. This makes my valuable find the world’s earliest born performer recording of a Bach keyboard work! It is as far back as we will ever get to hearing how someone would have performed Bach’s piano music.

     To give an idea of this musical artifact’s depth, Planté once spoke of having performed for a Haydn pupil. Joseph Haydn (born in 1732) had only a handful of pupils while living in Prince Esterhazy’s castle, namely Mozart and Beethoven being among them. Once the piano roll made it overseas, I found one of the few specialists in the country who can still build and fix the Steinway Duo-art piano roll playing system that this roll can be played on. I was able to reach his shop and play the roll back on a newly restored museum quality 1930’s Steinway. I used a high-end cardioid condenser microphone to record it for posterity, and upon hearing it up close in person, I was blown away by the liveliness of this performance as I’m sure you will be. It was like stepping out of a time machine. My next step is to also have the roll scanned by another specialist for library preservation, possibly at Stanford.

     I am now very excited to share this recording with the world and be a part of the field of sound archeology. It will be available on Spotify and iTunes soon, and I plan on working to get this recording into the hands of a few famous artists and faculty at prominent music schools and conservatories. It contains some authentic stylized nuances in phrasing and ornamentation unlike any other modern recording of this same piece. Many details like these have been completely lost with time. It also fully validates a lot of my own personal musical habits that I’ve researched and acquired over the years of my studies. To hear Bach actually being played this way is a true breakthrough for Classical music as a whole today. 

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