Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

The Science of a Superior Touch

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

The Science of a Superior Touch

Article excerpt

Ask virtually any classical pianist if they spend more time pondering the intricacies of Prokofieff and Paderewski or giving serious thought to physiological theories. The likely response would be a bemused stare - from anyone except Claudio Richerme, that is. For the young Brazilian concert artist and music professor, having an intimate understanding of body mechanics is the only way to insure an outstanding performance.

"Most musicians themselves may not look that deeply at physical concerns," says the soft-spoken pianist. "And many piano teachers may not be familiar with physiology. Everything from correct posture to the variations in hand positions is critically important to achieving the optimum level of performance," he states.

For the 39-year-old native of Sao Jodo da Boa Vista, a small town in the interior of Sao Paulo State, researching the mechanics of proper playing has almost become obsessive. "Of course, I've improved a lot," he laughs broadly. "One of the reasons I began the research is because I didn't have very good technique before."

A lack of technique is something no one would accuse Richerme of today. Indeed, it is his ability to convey a variety of moods and interpret the most demanding technical works while maintaining such enviable tone quality that has impressed audiences and critics alike from Vienna to Sao Paulo.

After his Carnegie Hall debut, the New York Times lauded Richerme's "elegantly refined pianism, impeccable technical command and great variety of tones. His finger work is crisp, accurate and texturally illuminating," the review continued. "He makes important musical points with direct, unaffected honesty." The pianist drew particular praise for his interpretation of Ravel's La Valse, moving the Times to praise his ability to execute the taxing work with "subtle washes of tonal coloring" and "an insinuating but controlled rhythmic flexibility that was altogether devastating in its cumulative force."

It would have been impossible to forecast such feats when young Claudio began piano lessons in his hometown with a local teacher, Benedita Camargo. By the time he graduated from the Sao Paulo Music College, Brazil's classical music realized they had a major talent developing in their midst. In the mids-1970s, Richerme solidified his reputation by winning prestigious local competitions and performing with major symphonies throughout Brazil.

In 1977, at the invitation of the Partners of the Americas, he spent six months as an artist-in residence at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, serving as an ambassador of Brazilian music and helping to make the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos and other composers from his country better known to North American musicians. "Only a few pieces by Villa-Lobos are well-known outside of Brazil," he acknowledges. "But he had many masterpieces, and was very innovative. His music has a distinctly Brazilian style, based on folklore and the incorporation of rhythms seldom used in classical music." Naturally, work by the famed composer would become Richerme's stock in trade, in both concert and through recording. "There is a special Brazilian soul in his music."

Richerme's study with Guiomar Novaes, a Brazilian concert artist and highly regarded teacher during the peak of her career in the 1950s, further reinforced the importance of achieving optimum tonal quality. "She was famous for her touch and fine tone quality," Richerme says today. …

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