Horror video: Her first piano lesson in Russia

Horror video: Her first piano lesson in Russia


norman lebrecht

August 10, 2014

This is a professional orchestra player receving  piano tuition at an unnamed St Petersburg music school.

If you know the teacher, do name her – though her methods are by no means unusual. Some believe violence is innate to the culture.

UPDATE: We understand that the video was taken around 2010 in a fast-track school for gifted children.

piano lesson in russia


  • Sergei says:

    To motivate a student, nothing more effective than beginning
    saying to her/him “You´ll learn to play the piano well. or else
    I´ll broke all your fingers”

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Round and round and round for years… and surfacing here just now.
    “Horror video: Her first piano lesson in the UK”… rated XXX!
    How about that? Good enough generalization?

  • esfir ross says:

    It’s a spoof, not real lesson. Remind teaching style of Dmitry Bashkirov.

  • cabbagejuice says:

    Oh boy, I have seen enough of these people! If this is a spoof it is based on reality. One Russki colleague in a “peace music school” was rumored for pinching students if they made mistakes. If I didn’t exactly witness this, I saw her touch students in a very inappropriate manner before competitions, even blowing into their ears! Why would parents and even administration accept such mistreatment, even her gratuitous yelling at the students? The parents wanted their kids to win prizes and the school wanted flawless performances even if it came at such a heavy price.
    Fallacy No 1: Note perfection doesn’t mean good music. The changes already in place by the 2nd half of the 20th century means the function of a pianist is not the need to be a note machine. Recordings have made this redundant.
    Fallacy No. 2 (that I had to use to justify myself and students): A linear approach will obscure the structure as the focus on trees rather than the forest. Such teachers have little to no understanding of structure. I don’t nor do my good students play any less accurately than those hounded by their teachers.
    Fallacy No. 3 The personal value of music is killed when students become clones of their teachers or nervous wrecks as witnessed a few months ago of a trembling teenage student of this witch. I have had to swallow so much of my boredom and frustration over the years with my students and kids as well just so they would derive the better personal and developmental value of what they were doing.
    I was taught in piano pedagogy that at least in the country I am teaching in, touching students was FORBIDDEN. And this is logical since physical contact of a bigger person on a smaller, more vulnerable one is regarded as a form of aggression. So I have all kinds of ways of getting them to do things and as a last resort, ASK them if I can touch their hands briefly.
    My own study with one Russian teacher who studied there in the 30’s, was mind boggling. I suppose she could not help it as this was they way things were done, everything regimented and putting music in the same box so as to control it. This mentality is criminal and militates against everything spiritual and personal music should be, a refuge from the nasty world.
    I found this unfortunately not only among Russians but from countries where music bureaucracy is entrenched. Maybe the Italians I have witnessed are exceptions to the rule, but the ones I have seen are also note obsessed and rigid in their approaches.
    A teacher of mine complained of this very approach by a certain Annie Hickenlooper, AKA Olga Samaroff, who was a veritable accuracy martinet, a common phrase of hers “cog in the wheel of concentration”! I looked up online a horrible article by her in the 1920’s or so about her “concentration method” and a freaky Liszt Rhapsody played by her sounding like rounds of machine gun fire.

  • Jonathan Powell says:

    Well, Mr. Turchev, are you claiming this is not a Russian teacher?

    To quote you: “Round and round and round for years… and surfacing here just now. “Horror video: Her first piano lesson in the UK”… rated XXX! How about that? Good enough generalization?”

    Try listening with the volume on, and you’ll find that the old bag is speaking Russian. …

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      Try to understand irony…
      1) this video has been on the net for years and was never picked up
      2) it surfaced here now why?
      3) should a similar generalization be made for UK music schools, it could be rated XXX given the countless cases of fondling and other inappropriate touching reported here.
      Got it?

  • steve says:

    Counterproductive teaching method. Interesting to hear about Olga Samaroff from CB. Perhaps her approach left an impact on one of her most distinctive students:Alexis Weissenberg.

  • cabbagejuice says:

    I have been around long enough to have figured out that big name teachers are not an indication of their worth. In fact, in music schools, X may have good or even exceptional students but may be a lousy or even destructive teacher. (How many pianists back then went to Juilliard to say they “studied with Rosina Lhevinne” when she just put her rubber stamp on the them, since she was not really functioning as a musician for decades?)
    I have found this to the be the case over and over again, wasting my own precious time trying to figure out what was so great about certain mentors even if his or her name was whispered in reverent awe. One in particular was teaching the exact opposite technique of his star pupil. And these types don’t really care about any student who is not going to bring him or her glory.
    This teacher of mine landed in the Philadelphia area from one of the talent canvassing in the Youngstown, Ohio area in the late 40’s. There were plenty of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed students who were told from the get go to start memorizing Beethoven sonatas. Those who could not make it were just shoved aside as he was. She was very astute businesswise and pushy to the extent that Leopold Stokowski himself finally dumped her.

  • Maestro M says:

    Talk about a hands-on approach. You have to be tough to be a musician, that’s the lesson of the old school. I use a baton so I can poke my students.