Listening to recordings from the pros. Listening to recordings of yourself. Both options are tremendously beneficial in their own way as you continue to learn standard repertoire and explore musical interpretations.
It may seem a little scary to listen to yourself, but making a quick recording at home is an incredibly effective way to check in and assess your own progress. Even the process of making a recording will make you tune into your own performance with heightened awareness. How is my rhythm, pedaling, and dynamics? Did I actually shape this phrase the way I intended to? Am I doing better than I thought? Where are places I can give more?
The Big League
A quick online search of title and composer yields thousands upon thousands of results. But who do you choose? The fun part is that there are many wonderful artists with their own interpretations of the exact piece you are learning. Listen to at least 2-3 different professionals, with your music in front of you. Did you just hear someone do something magical to a specific passage? Listen to it again. What did they do that made it so beautiful? Can you try to imitate this sound yourself?
Several pros have established themselves as experts of musical periods or specific composers. While this is far from an exhaustive list, here are a few of the heavy-hitters to check out:
Claudio Arrau. Chilean pianist, 1903-1991. Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms.
Vladimir Ashkenazy. Russian pianist, 1937- . Complete piano works of Rachmaninoff and Chopin, Beethoven sonatas, Mozart piano concertos.
Martha Argerich. Argentenian pianist, 1941- . Schumann, Prokofiev, Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff.
Alfred Brendel. Austrian pianist, composer, author, and poet, 1931 - . Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Liszt.
Glenn Gould. Canadian pianist, 1932-1982. Best known for his performances of J.S. Bach, particularly the Goldberg Variations.
Vladimir Horowitz. Russian pianist, 1903-1989. Romantic works including Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Schumann.
Lang Lang. Chinese pianist, 1982 - . "The J-Lo of piano."
Evgeny Kissin. Russian-Israeli pianist, 1971 - . Romantic era, particularly Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven.
Murray Perahia. American pianist and conductor, 1975 - . Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann.
Sviatoslav Richter. Russian pianist, 1915-1997. Schumann, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Liszt, Prokofiev, and Debussy.
Arthur Rubinstein. Polish-American pianist, 1887-1982. Often quoted as the best Chopin performer of all time.
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