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#2066460 - 04/18/13 09:56 AM Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude
Dwscamel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 492
Has anyone conquered this beast of a piece? I'm lifetimes away from ever playing it, but I'd love to hear people's experiences with this piece, or, better, their recordings!

Personally, I've listened to about 70 different interpretations of this over the years, and this amateur recording is still my favorite. Although Horowitz is my favorite pianist, and one of Rach's best friends, somehow his recordings just don't do it for me!


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#2066493 - 04/18/13 11:18 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
Thracozaag Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/06/04
Posts: 1980
Loc: Salt Lake City
Best I've heard was a live performance (of a stunning all-Rachmaninoff recital) given by Sergei Babayan.
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#2066555 - 04/18/13 01:32 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
BruceD Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18221
Loc: Victoria, BC
Of all the Rachmaninoff Preludes and Etudes, this E-flat minor Etude is the one I like the least. Before others rush to berate me for my taste, I didn't say that I don't like it, as there are some things in it I do like; it's just my least favourite of the Preludes and Etudes. Fortunately - I guess - I'll never have the technique to debate whether or not I should study it.

Maybe others can say what they admire about this work; I know it has its staunch admirers.

Regards,
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#2066578 - 04/18/13 02:21 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
jeffreyjones Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 2383
Loc: San Jose, CA
It's a very popular piece, and for good reason. Unfortunately, because of its thick writing and easy appeal it gets banged out mercilessly by young, well-meaning but musically undeveloped aspirants, and that makes many listeners cringe. I've listened to a fair number of competition performances of this Etude, and I often get the feeling that they set out to play it for all the wrong reasons. If you do play it in a more beautiful manner, without sacrificing the character of the unique and effective writing, then the bell effects can be amazing.

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#2066581 - 04/18/13 02:32 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: BruceD]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Of all the Rachmaninoff Preludes and Etudes, this E-flat minor Etude is the one I like the least. Before others rush to berate me for my taste, I didn't say that I don't like it, as there are some things in it I do like; it's just my least favourite of the Preludes and Etudes. Fortunately - I guess - I'll never have the technique to debate whether or not I should study it.

Maybe others can say what they admire about this work; I know it has its staunch admirers.

Regards,


You are not alone in that opinion, and it is not unwarranted: the accompaniment in the first few phrases has a slightly heavy and awkward quality which is often performed so clangorously that the melody is drowned when it should still be ringing. The forte, allegro appassionato, and molto marcato markings at the opening may have something to do with this. This problem is entirely remedied (to my mind) in all following sections of the piece by way of soft, arpeggiated accompaniments, assignment of the melody to the tenor register, and octave doubling of the melodic line almost everywhere where it is marked mezzo-forte or above.

There are many recordings of it which are less than ideal.

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#2066614 - 04/18/13 03:35 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: AldenH]
DameMyra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 1983
Loc: South Jersey
Originally Posted By: AldenH
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Of all the Rachmaninoff Preludes and Etudes, this E-flat minor Etude is the one I like the least. Before others rush to berate me for my taste, I didn't say that I don't like it, as there are some things in it I do like; it's just my least favourite of the Preludes and Etudes. Fortunately - I guess - I'll never have the technique to debate whether or not I should study it.

Maybe others can say what they admire about this work; I know it has its staunch admirers.

Regards,


You are not alone in that opinion, and it is not unwarranted: the accompaniment in the first few phrases has a slightly heavy and awkward quality which is often performed so clangorously that the melody is drowned when it should still be ringing. The forte, allegro appassionato, and molto marcato markings at the opening may have something to do with this. This problem is entirely remedied (to my mind) in all following sections of the piece by way of soft, arpeggiated accompaniments, assignment of the melody to the tenor register, and octave doubling of the melodic line almost everywhere where it is marked mezzo-forte or above.

There are many recordings of it which are less than ideal.


I also have very mixed feelings about it. I started to learn it a few years ago and got about halfway through it and dropped it. I just didn't love it enough to put in the necessary work to master it. (The only piece my teacher ever let me drop. BTW.)

This video of a very young Nelson Freire it one of my favorite performances of it. He takes a less bombastic approach and also brings out many of the inner voices.
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#2066657 - 04/18/13 05:14 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
My favourite performer of this and most of the other op39 etudes is the teenage and the 20-something Kissin.

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#2066667 - 04/18/13 05:45 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
I'm still a Horowitz fan concerning his recording...I like it because he plays around with the transparencies, making it fluctuate between heaviness and transparency.

Not a huge fan of the work though I was humming it on the way to my exam just now - I still like the two D minor etudes the best.
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#2066701 - 04/18/13 06:35 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
The No.8 d minor one is my favourite, I've played it on and off for 3 years now. Every time I come back to it I remember how much I love to play it.

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#2066758 - 04/18/13 09:07 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: DameMyra]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8925
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: DameMyra

This video of a very young Nelson Freire it one of my favorite performances of it. He takes a less bombastic approach and also brings out many of the inner voices.

That's one helluva fine performance, and has long been in my YT favourites. I'm also very partial to the young Kissin.

I've always loved this etude with its angst-ridden fiery passion. The perfect accompaniment to a young man's coming of age!
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#2066779 - 04/18/13 09:59 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7707
Loc: New York City
For every good performance of this etude, there are at least a hundred teenage kids and graduate students who butcher it. There are just too many notes for most amateurs to keep under control and bring out the melody.
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Polyphonist

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#2066780 - 04/18/13 10:03 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
Hopefully I can do it justice when I tackle it this summer

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#2066781 - 04/18/13 10:06 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: debrucey]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7707
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: debrucey
Hopefully I can do it justice when I tackle it this summer

I never found it technically very hard. The difficult part is to make it sound like music and not banging.
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Polyphonist

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#2066783 - 04/18/13 10:09 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
That's what I meant lol. I agree that it doesn't look technically very hard.

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#2066785 - 04/18/13 10:10 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: debrucey]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7707
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: debrucey
That's what I meant lol. I agree that it doesn't look technically very hard.

There are a few screwy places, but generally the difficulties are musical. ha
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Polyphonist

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#2066793 - 04/18/13 10:20 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
ishaxe Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/18/13
Posts: 6
Loc: Banned
I've listened to a fair number of competition performances of this Etude

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#2066828 - 04/19/13 12:15 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Polyphonist]
DameMyra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 1983
Loc: South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: debrucey
That's what I meant lol. I agree that it doesn't look technically very hard.

There are a few screwy places, but generally the difficulties are musical. ha


Can be taxing if you have small hands.
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#2066924 - 04/19/13 05:58 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Look at the huge length of the Rackers fingers ... no wonder we struggle with our reach.

I've downloaded the 39/5 and have presently broken my fingers on the first 4 measures ... the twiddly bit half way through measure 4 takes the cake ... hope I've cottoned on to the right "song" (only kidding ... please no rocks) which is marked at a hectic Appasionato tempo.

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#2066936 - 04/19/13 06:54 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7974
I was reading through this piece just the other day, and I was getting this weird "Hollywood epic" vibe from it. Then I remembered that some famous pianist had referred to Rachmaninoff as a Hollywood composer. And I could see that connection being made - but this piece was written before the kind of Hollywood scores I had in mind. The influence must be in the other direction - Hollywood composers were learning from Rachmaninoff's music.

But it is a such an amazingly good fit that it will be a long time, if ever, before I can rid myself of the idea that the piece is really a piano reduction of a score to some epic movie from the 1930s or 1940s.

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#2067001 - 04/19/13 09:40 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: wr]
Dwscamel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 492
I find it incredibly interesting that the agreement in this thread is:

'the piece is not technically so hard, but is musically very hard'.

I always thought that the main difficulty was the technique.

I agree that there are lots of notes and that the piece often gets hammered out, but I bet that if people played this piece more slowly, they would bring out the melody better. So rather than saying its main difficulty is musicality, I think it's more true to say that people tend to play it too quickly and so there's a tendency to make the musicality more difficult than it needs to be. This is rather different than saying it's musically difficult in its own right.


Edited by Dwscamel (04/19/13 09:40 AM)

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#2067081 - 04/19/13 11:45 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7707
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Dwscamel
I find it incredibly interesting that the agreement in this thread is:

'the piece is not technically so hard, but is musically very hard'.

I always thought that the main difficulty was the technique.

I agree that there are lots of notes and that the piece often gets hammered out, but I bet that if people played this piece more slowly, they would bring out the melody better. So rather than saying its main difficulty is musicality, I think it's more true to say that people tend to play it too quickly and so there's a tendency to make the musicality more difficult than it needs to be. This is rather different than saying it's musically difficult in its own right.

It's not especially difficult to someone who already has a developed chord technique and can play multiple voices in one hand and bring one of them out. For a beginner who lacks these skills, it is impossible to play well.
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Polyphonist

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#2067138 - 04/19/13 01:30 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: wr]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18221
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: wr
I was reading through this piece just the other day, and I was getting this weird "Hollywood epic" vibe from it. Then I remembered that some famous pianist had referred to Rachmaninoff as a Hollywood composer. And I could see that connection being made - but this piece was written before the kind of Hollywood scores I had in mind. The influence must be in the other direction - Hollywood composers were learning from Rachmaninoff's music.

But it is a such an amazingly good fit that it will be a long time, if ever, before I can rid myself of the idea that the piece is really a piano reduction of a score to some epic movie from the 1930s or 1940s.


The story goes that when Brian Desmond Hurst was looking for a composer for the music to his 1941 film "Suicide Squadron" - which eventually was entitled "Dangerous Moonlight" - Rachmaninoff was his first choice. When the composer turned down the offer, Hurst found Richard Addinsell, and with his "Warsaw Concerto" as the movie's main music, the rest - as they say - is musical history.

While Addinsell may be no Rachmaninoff, there are some similarities of style between the two, one might argue.

Regards,
_________________________
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#2067314 - 04/19/13 08:22 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: BruceD]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7707
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: BruceD
While Addinsell may be no Rachmaninoff, there are some similarities of style between the two, one might argue.

Addinsell rips him off countless times, so of course there is a similarity... grin
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Polyphonist

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#2067328 - 04/19/13 09:08 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Polyphonist]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8925
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist

Addinsell rips him off countless times, so of course there is a similarity... grin

But you do like the piece? Sure it's pops fare, but very effective and well written.

Incidentally the 'British Light Music' series on Marco Polo has a delightful collection of his other works. Fun listening...
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#2067332 - 04/19/13 09:16 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: argerichfan]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7707
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: argerichfan

...but very effective...

Maybe.

Originally Posted By: argerichfan
...and well written.

No.

Originally Posted By: argerichfan

But you do like the piece?

Not in particular...I prefer to listen to Rachmaninov rather than someone copying him...





..badly.grin
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Polyphonist

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#2067351 - 04/19/13 09:55 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8925
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Well I'll take it over the 'Yellow River Concerto', which it has been compared to. And the Addinsell is just the tonic when one wants a quick sensual injection of juicy tunes. wink
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Jason

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#2067437 - 04/20/13 03:06 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
fan deserves a quick dig in the ribs for his disparaging remarks about his ex-countryman Richard Addinsell
(“wot wrote the bloody awful Warsaw Concerto” ...
to quote Spike Milligan).

To pour some oil on troubled waters ... be it known chaps that one of my proudest possessions is a recording of the movie “Scrooge” with music provided by Richard Addinsell.

“Scrooge, released a A Christmas Carol in the United States, is a 1951 film adaption of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
It starred Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, Hermione Badderley as Mrs. Cratchit,
Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit, Clifford Mollison as Samuel Wilkins, a debtor,
Ernest Thesiger as Marley’s ghost, as well as old Marley.”

Regards, btb

PS For what it’s worth, the Warsaw Concerto is a highly evocative composition which captures the drama of bombers over London during WWII, of wailing sirens, explosions,
deathly moments of silence hoping that you weren't next to be blown up, Spitfires taking off,
moments of hopefulness dreaming of it all being over ... but underlying the whole tortuous
glimpses of desolation, the never-say-die gritty courage of the British population.

But then fan was too young to have shared the war years.

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#2067476 - 04/20/13 06:33 AM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: BruceD]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7974
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: wr
I was reading through this piece just the other day, and I was getting this weird "Hollywood epic" vibe from it. Then I remembered that some famous pianist had referred to Rachmaninoff as a Hollywood composer. And I could see that connection being made - but this piece was written before the kind of Hollywood scores I had in mind. The influence must be in the other direction - Hollywood composers were learning from Rachmaninoff's music.

But it is a such an amazingly good fit that it will be a long time, if ever, before I can rid myself of the idea that the piece is really a piano reduction of a score to some epic movie from the 1930s or 1940s.


The story goes that when Brian Desmond Hurst was looking for a composer for the music to his 1941 film "Suicide Squadron" - which eventually was entitled "Dangerous Moonlight" - Rachmaninoff was his first choice. When the composer turned down the offer, Hurst found Richard Addinsell, and with his "Warsaw Concerto" as the movie's main music, the rest - as they say - is musical history.

While Addinsell may be no Rachmaninoff, there are some similarities of style between the two, one might argue.



I remember that we had a copy of a solo piano version of the "Warsaw Concerto" in the piano bench when I was a kid, and I remember liking the main theme enough to read through it occasionally. But there was something oddly misshapen about the arrangement that told me it wasn't "real" classical music. At the time, I didn't know that it was movie music.

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#2067759 - 04/20/13 07:19 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: btb]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8925
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: btb

PS For what it’s worth, the Warsaw Concerto is a highly evocative composition which captures the drama of bombers over London during WWII, of wailing sirens, explosions,
deathly moments of silence hoping that you weren't next to be blown up, Spitfires taking off,
moments of hopefulness dreaming of it all being over ... but underlying the whole tortuous
glimpses of desolation, the never-say-die gritty courage of the British population.

Thank-you for that, I hear this differently now, and upon a revisit... well it makes perfect sense.

Wonder why this piece is the target of such critical assault? Of course it is not Rachmaninov, but why cannot it be appreciated on its own merits? Even my mum is too young to have experienced the war years, but her parents certainly did.
_________________________
Jason

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#2067778 - 04/20/13 08:15 PM Re: Rachmaninoff op.39 no.5 e-flat minor etude [Re: Dwscamel]
DameMyra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 1983
Loc: South Jersey
My mother loved the Warsaw Concerto. She also happened to be born and raised in Liverpool. She would tell me and my siblings stories about what life was like during the Liverpool Blitz. She was only 20 when it began in 1940. One of her stories was about watching "Dangerous Moonlight" at the movies with my Aunt Gerry and hearing bombs in the distance, hoping they wouldn't come closer so she could see the end of the movie. There was another time at the movies where the bombs came so close they finally had to stop the movie so people could go to the bomb shelters. My mother didn't get to see the end of that movie till almost 30 years later in America when it was on TV.
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