When working on executing ornaments with an adult student as they appear in J.S. Bach’s Prelude in F minor, I thought instantly of Claudio Arrau’s allusions to “shaking” these out, without having a thread of tension in the arms, wrists, and hands. One of his biographers, Joseph Horwitz, profiled the pianist in an extensive interview that drew out many of the virtuoso’s ideas about technique, of which ornaments were a particular focus. (Conversations with Arrau)
A central aspect of Arrau’s playing is arm weight technique as taught to him my Martin Krause: “Relax and let loose, never be stiff of cramped in any joint. Krause even recommended that pianists should engage in sports.”
It was no surprise that I had for years integrated the whole arm, “shake” out recommendation as it permeated Arrau’s teaching, and related it to playing long trills. (in Mozart sonatas, concerti, etc.), and then through years of studying the Classical repertoire, along with Baroque and Romantic era compositions, I drew upon Arrau’s resonating quotes, to unkink my Bach ornaments, freeing them of tension.
Rather than dissect the physical ingredients of the SHAKE ’em out approach to ornaments as they appear in J.S. Bach’s F minor Prelude, BWV. 881, I decided to let a lesson video illustrate the main points.
P.S. As it happens, one of Arrau’s proteges via his assistant, Rafael De Silva, was Ena Bronstein, who perhaps influenced MY SHAKE IT OUT, FREE THROW, ARM LOOSE, WRIST SUPPLE, ORNAMENT GRAPPLE. She was my teacher in Fresno, California for about a year before relocating to Princeton, New Jersey.
The following sources contain Arrau’s ideas about piano technique:
Piano Lessons with Claudio Arrau: A Guide to his Philosophy and Techniques by Victoria A. Von Arx. A book preview is found via the link below.
By the same author from her Dissertation: The Teaching of Claudia Arrau and his Pupils: Piano Pedagogy as a Cultural Work (2006)
“Arrau explained relaxation as avoidance of stiffening within the joints that impair the body’s ability to move freely. Freedom of motion would allow the realization of musical impulse, the transmission of musical intentions through the body to the keyboard. The freer there body, the more the piano would be experienced as an extension of the player’s body, converting musical impulses into sound.”
Essentially Arrau “expressed the importance of experiencing mind and body as an integrated whole.” (There’s a substantial section on the maestro’s “Piano Technique” that’s easily accessed within the Von Arx Dissertation.)
Conversations with Arrau