piano music | WOSU Radio

piano music

ccolor photo of Daniel Wnukowski playing the piano
/ wnukowski.com

“It was dark, unsettling. And it, in a way, kind of reflected my own family’s dark history.”

That’s how the music of Austrian-born Holocaust survivor Karol Rathaus first struck Canadian pianist Daniel Wnukowski when he heard it for the first time several years ago.

“This man was completely obscure to me, but the music resonated so strongly,” Wnukowski said in a recent phone interview.

head shot of Anna shelest
Dmitri Shelest / https://www.annashelest.com/

There was a time when a woman composer was a relatively rare phenomenon. There was also a time when music critics drew a clear line between "masculine" (read: strong, powerful, large) music and "feminine" (read: gentle, sweet, small) music.

If the Ukranian-born pianist Anna Shelest had lived during that time, her new recording of solo piano music by women composers would not have come to fruition and, thus, would not have been able to showcase women's music in its own power.

Lisa Marie Mazzucco / simonedinnerstein.com

“I think that he’s kind of like the grandfather of it all.”

That’s what pianist Simone Dinnerstein says about Bach, a composer for whose music she has a particular affinity.

Liberace with candelabras
Allan Warren / Wikimedia Commons

As the saying goes, laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.

And — hello? — who wants to cry alone?

colorphoto of Benedict Cumberbatch and James Rhodes sitting at a grand piano
from YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm4OKds30k8

A couple of years ago, The New Yorker published a cartoon by Joe Dator that truly catches the spirit of our times.

In the single panel, a pregnant woman undergoing an ultrasound exam looks befuddledly at a face on the ultrasound monitor screen. The mouth of the woman giving the exam is slightly open, as though in mid-speech. The cartoon’s caption reads, “Oh, don’t worry. That’s Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s in everything.” View the cartoon here.

Some of the traditional Chinese musical instruments on display in the Legacy of Imperial Beijing: The Bliss M. and Mildred A. Wiant Collection of Chinese Art exhibition at OSU's Urban Arts Space.

Behind every great piano and every great pianist is a technician on whom everything depends. For most of the last half century in Columbus, that piano technician has been Ben Wiant.

Two recent events — one musical, the other related to the world of Chinese art — have brought Wiant out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight.

color photograph of Worthington's Tröndlin fortepiano
Robert Murphy

A rare fortepiano from the age of Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann returns to its Worthington home Saturday with a five-figure makeover and as star of its own show at Worthington’s historic Orange Johnson House.

Reportedly one of only three extant fortepianos in the United States made by the 19th-century Leipzig-based piano builder Johann Tröndlin, the instrument returns to Worthington after an extensive two-year restoration by Oberlin conservatory piano technician and early piano restorer Robert Murphy.

Slowly but surely, Lubomyr Melnyk is getting noticed. This summer, the enigmatic Ukrainian-born pianist, who looks like Rasputin's doppelgänger, released illirion on Sony Classical.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat

As a freelance musician with a growing family, Mozart couldn’t afford to hide his light under a bushel, and in any event he was never one to be bashful in the first place. With musical gifts as phenomenal as Mozart knew his to be, he didn’t hesitate to put his flashiest skills on display, as he did even before the Holy Roman Emperor in one particular performance that he spiced up in a special way.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat

As a freelance musician more often than not short on cash, Mozart learned early on that, when it comes to making do-re-mi, if you don't succeed, the only thing to do is try and try again.

image of a color portrait of Mozart wearing a bright red coat

In Mozart's day, as today, it felt good to get compliments on a job well done. One episode in Mozart's life shows that getting props is enough to make even a genius right chuffed.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a birght red oat

It is quite possibly the most recognizable movement from Mozart's piano concertos. With its rolling triplet feel over the spring of gentle pizzicatos, the second movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 467 wafts along like a cloud drifting in a summer sky. Musicologist David Grayson calls the movement "a sonic dream world" and writes that "it offers moments of sublime beauty and ends in a state of bliss, but its surface serenity cannot conceal the turmoil that lies beneath."


His career spanned nearly eight decades and took him to the world’s most prestigious concert halls. His list of collaborators reads like a Who’s Who of A-list classical musicians – many of whom make more than cameo appearances in his posthumously published tell-all memoir. And on Thanksgiving Day this year, pianist Earl Wild (1915-2010) would have added “centenarian” to his list of accomplishments.

color image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat

Like many young adults seeking independence, the twenty-something Mozart searched high and low for a plum gig. His journey for a job took him all around Europe, and he effectively took a portfolio of his work with him, performing (from memory) a piano sonata here, a violin concerto there to get his work "out there."

Among the works Mozart took with him on the road were his first six piano sonatas (K. 279-284), which racked up as many miles and almost as much air time as their creator did.