A little common sense goes a long way. When Johann Sebastian Bach was a boy, the story goes, a fluid keyboard technique was considered out of the question. Teachers of the time thought that it was impossible to use the thumb. They believed that a keyboard instrument had to be played with straight fingers extended directly forward. Since the thumb is so much shorter than the other fingers, it cannot reach the keys. You can try this at home.
Bach’s revolutionary insight was that if a keyboard player allowed the fingers to curve, the thumb could reach the keyboard. And facility at the keyboard was on its way.
Some of the insights of the Taubman/Golandsky approach to piano playing are similarly suffused with common sense. You can’t hang on to a note at one end of the hand, while the other fingers play elsewhere? Let go. You can’t connect notes a long distance from each other? Use the pedal. One hand can’t manage all the notes in the chord written for it? Play some of them with the other hand. You want to play fast? Use muscles that move quickly.
Still, common sense is not everything. Technology is a major ingredient in the Taubman/Golandsky impact. A library of DVDs captures the insights that Taubman began to ferret out in the 1940s. The foundation of the library is a 10-disc set called “Virtuosity in a Box.” Starting with fundamentals, it is based on the set of lectures Edna Golandsky delivered at Dorothy Taubman’s summer sessions in the 1980s and 1990s. Taubman herself is a participant in the “Virtuosity” discs.
Other DVDs deal with topics that came to obsess Golandsky in recent years: the question of rhythmic propulsion and continuity is addressed in the DVD called “The Art of Rhythmic Expression,” and how to exploit the lines of music hidden below the melody is addressed in the DVD called “Forgotten Lines.”
Another series of discs provides master classes on particular pieces and lectures on specialized topics. The presenters are associates of Golandsky who are expected to turn up for the Golandsky Princeton events. They include John Bloomfield, Father Sean Duggan, Robert Durso, Ilya Itin, and Mary Moran. Duggan, the only member of the team with whom I discussed the DVDs, says that he uses “Virtuosity in a Box” as a review for himself. “It’s pretty much orthodox,” he adds, chuckling, as he enjoys his theological choice of word.
The recordings are live. Astonishingly, explanations are lucid and well-expressed. The atmosphere is spontaneous. In one presentation, Duggan searches for his misplaced notes during a lecture. In another, an intrepid member of the audience asks Edna Golandsky to stop talking and just play what she’s trying to explain.
The DVDs have extended Golandsky’s global scope. Participants in Norway or Korea or Australia have learned of the DVDs on the Internet, ordered them online, discovered that they still have a few questions, and come to the Princeton summer symposium in search of additional answers. P..S. It is now possible to take Golandsky piano lessons using Skype.