Conversation with Björn Stålne Part 1

The audio was put on too low (my mistake) during the broadcast, so here is the first 11 minutes of the conversation with much stronger audio (in Swedish):

This video doesn’t exist

Fredagsblogg 6

What a beautiful Friday it is. I am listening to the birds outside, looking at the green outside the window:

Every five minutes I look up from the computer to look at some trees…


I can go out on the balcony in the warmth when I take a break from all the editing:

Our neighbor built this little thing. Perhaps we should too?


So, I’m back home, and I am editing many hours a day. Basically done with the final version of the Sonata op. 14 nr. 2, which was the third time I recorded it (!). The problem was, first time was too slow. Then, I did it a second time WAY over-reacting to the first time. One should not react to bad versions I kept telling students in Stockholm. Wouldn’t hurt if I followed my own advice now and then, eh?

Listen to the beginning of the second version:

No flow and not really beautiful. The “pastoral” quality does not come through at all. So, this is the final version:


The main piece on Volume 4 will be the Funeral March Sonata (op. 26). Although the grandiose sonata in B-flat op. 22 is also a major piece: you could see it as the most accomplished, and the last, of Beethoven’s early sonatas (he was very proud of that sonata himself).


Here is the end of the first movement of op. 26. It’s so beautiful. Sorry for the camera sound, I didn’t take the time to match the video with the microphone sound (that I will do in the complete version of the video). The microphone is, by the way, one of the four Neumann U87 I am using for the recordings, together with a pair of Rode tube microphones. Enjoy, and see you next Friday! I have to get back to editing…

Fredagsblogg 5

Hello everyone, and happy midsummer!

The longest day in Sweden is today, and everyone takes the day off. So will I, so this will be rather short. I have been in recordings the whole week, and will go back home on Monday to start editing so I should have some results for you next Friday to show.


Many things can happen when you record. All of a sudden, on Thursday, someone came and carried away my piano…by mistake. They took the wrong piano. That was, to say the least, stressful. Then there are moments when you get some recording buddies in a slow movement. Listen to this:

I guess those guys wanted to sing along…


I wish you a great summer, and send myself off the computer and out for a walk in a truly typical Swedish summer weather, the one when it feels it will start raining any moment, with this great theme that Beethoven starts his Sonata Op. 26 with. It will be followed by five gorgeous variations.

Next Friday I will know more how the recorded material sounds when put together into whole movements. See you then!

Fredagsblogg 4

Sorry, this week was so busy that I completely forgot about this Friday writing until I went to bed last night. So therefore, this Fredagsblogg is a day late – which became two since it is Sunday now.

The five days of concerts and masterclasses at Steinway Gallery in Stockholm are over. Thank you all the wonderful students, thank you Lut for your fantastic work, thank you to the audience for letting us share our music with you.

It was heavy work, but it is great to do something that feels truly meaningful. I hope the students feel the same way.


I will describe my week since last Friday. Here goes:

Friday: Wake up in Växjö. Practice Hammarklavier. Pick up microphones. Tuner is tuning my piano in the concert hall. Check out travel for Stockholm. Can’t really decide on which train. Practice Hammarklavier. Make schedule of 36 lessons for the masterclasses. E-mail students. Practice Hammarklavier. Setting up the microphone stands, microphones, piano, cables, interface, preamps, computer… Practice Hammarklavier.

Saturday: Finding good positions for the microphones. Practice Hammarklavier. Start recording. Sonata op. 14 nr. 2 for the third time now, I hope this time I will get it right. First time was too sleepy, second time was too speedy. It goes really well, the movement is done in a few hours. Practice Hammarklavier.

I am now filming as well as recording the sonatas, so that I can show you when I play the movements in some of the blog posts. Then you can listen and view the final result. Here is an excerpt:


Sunday: Recording Sonata op; 26, first movement. Get stuck in the first theme, still recording the first two minutes after two hours. Not at all the same flow as yesterday. Practice Hammarklavier. Finally finish the first theme. Decide on train for the Stockholm travel, go to station to buy tickets. Start recording the first variation, same thing, goes very slowly. Not a productive day. Practice Hammarklavier.

Monday: Pack all the stage things, takes about an hour and half. Practice Hammarklavier. Buy new concert jacket. Long Live H&M. Take train to Stockholm. Go to Music Conservatory to give a lesson. Only 35 left now. Practice Hammarklavier. Go to my sister to eat fantastic grilled chicken. I am so tired that I drink half a litre of Coca-Cola. Idiot am I…can’t really sleep the whole night.

Tuesday: Leave house on bike. Not a huge success, too many bags to carry. We take car instead. At Steinway 10am to start the masterclass. First lessons. Tobias Ringborg arrives to teach a little chamber music. Practice Hammarklavier. Concert at 7pm. Play Hammarklavier, and it goes quite well. Especially happy with slow movement. Sweating like crazy during the gigantic sonata, probably lost two kilos. Here is a picture taken by Majsan of Sweden when I talk the talk:

Wednesday to Friday: Teach all in all 29 lessons with great, great young pianists. Concerts in the evenings. Long days with no breaks. I get completely lost trying to find my sisters house in the evening, biking around for an hour extra. The evening is very pretty so it’s not too bad. Worse on Friday morning with pouring rain.

Saturday: Last 4 lessons, then final concert. Everybody plays really well! Audience votes on three different sonatas, Moonlight Sonata wins and I play that. Hop into a taxi, realize in the taxi that train is not at 18.32 but 18.23. I make the train with about a second and a half, running like mad at the station. On train, and that’s where I’m writing this. Going to Växjö again, for 3 full days of recording Beethoven Sonatas!

Fredagsblogg 3

Jetlag in Jävle. Getlag in Gävle. Nah. That thing only works phonetically: Jetlag in Gävle.

Jetlag is the damnest thing: you are sleepwalking through a day, just waiting for the moment when you can go to bed, and when you finally get to that moment, the sleep-clock in your brain is off and you just lie there, hours passing with no sleep…1am…2am…3am…wonderful.


As I write this on the train from Gävle I am still jetlagged, damn it. But let’s talk about the fun things that happened this week instead. We recorded ”Belle Époque”, Tobias Broström’s Piano Concerto with Gävle Symphony Orchestra and Johannes Gustavsson conducting. It was great, things went so smoothly. There were no ”sour moments” during the two days and we finished ahead of schedule. Applauds to us! One more! And here is a video!

There will be three concertos and two orchestral pieces on the CD, the Trumpet Concerto is played by Håkan Hardenberger, and the Violin Concerto is played by Karen Gomyo. Everything is conducted by Johannes Gustavsson. I am proud of the company, indeed.


Nest week’s thing will be the concerts and masterclasses at Steinway in Stockholm. We have a fantastic set of young pianists, and I would advise you to come listen to them.
Seats are free, and I start by playing the unplayable Hammarklavier Sonata in Tuesday at 7pm.

You can read more about this on my Facebook Page


Because of the travel and recording, I have no news on the Beethoven Volume 4 front. I just edited a minute of music, but that’s about it. I want to have it ready by the end of July, so I’d better push myself a bit. As I am writing this I am traveling to Växjö, where I will use the weekend to record a couple of tracks for Volume 5: The Pastoral Sonata and perhaps a movement of the Moonlight, too.


Today it’s raining in Växjö. Happy students are parading through town, but with umbrellas. So to end this, here is a little heartbreak from Parapluies de Cherbourg. It’s the story about a boy that falls in love with a girl working in an umbrella shop. He has to go to war, and when he comes back, she has married another man. They meet at the end by hazard…but not to reunite, just to accept the fate that they will live with the scar forever that they should have been, but were not. Sob…

The beginning credits are in such good style, the music is written by the great (haha) Legrand, and Catherine Deneuve is more beautiful than all of today’s silly movie-stars together. Here is the beiginning credits, the scene when he leaves, and the end. Her daughter in the car is their child. My interpretation of the ending is that he has moved on, but she is going out in the cold, still regretting.
Again, sob…

A vendredi, prochain…je pense…

Fredagsblogg 2

This week has been messed up because I didn’t get my beauty sleep because of the damn roof nailing. When I got up in the morning and wanted to go out to get my paper it looked like this:

I become angry like Captain Haddock when it is this noisy. Anfäktar och anamma!


Things are moving along slowly with Volume 4. This week, I had enough edited material to start to do mixing. Mixing is when you try to spiff up the sound and make it more enjoyable. For example, this is how the finale of the Sonata op. 14 no. 2 sounds like without mixing:

And this is after the mix I made this week:

Recorded at Victoriateatern, my favorite place in Malmö.


I have also red a lot about Beethoven, since I write the texts to the booklet (not done yet, Christina, but it is seriously under way…). The sonatas on this volume is written during 1799 to 1801. A short time, but very happening in Beethoven’s life so it’s real fun. He started to realize that he was losing his hearing, and he had a serious love affair, plus he wrote an amazing amount of music. More about all this will be in the booklet, of course.


On to the silly thing of the week! When I tell people that I play hockey, they often seem concerned that it’s bad for the hands and fingers. So, here is a little video where I show how the hands are protected!


I will travel to Sweden tomorrow, to Gävle: recording of Tobias Broström’s Piano Concerto is next week. Looking forward to play it, record it and to meet Tobias again, as well as the orchestra. I’ll tell you how it went next Friday.


By the way, editing recordings is probably the most boring thing one can do. It is tedious, tedious crap to do, but someone’s gotta do it. Recording is fun, mixing is fun. Editing, not.


Everytime I have my last breakfast at home before traveling, it feels a little sad. Because I love eating breakfast at home. What can beat this in the morning?

Bon apétit, See you next Friday!

Fredagsblogg 1

I had some real good work on Beethoven this week, I have:

1) practiced the Hammarklavier Sonata a lot
2) edited the recordings of two of the sonatas of the coming Volume 4
3) continued to cut the filming of one of those sonatas
4) written some of the texts for the booklets

Now, I just have to keep doing this for some more weeks, and voilà! there is the Volume 4 to send to the factory.


Speaking about Volume 4, and those recordings: I recorded the whole CD 8 months ago. I started to edit it, and…deleted it all. I could feel that I had “korvstoppat” as they say in Sweden, trying to cram in things without taking the time necessary and having the patience needed. Then I took a long break from recording. Now I am on my third (!) version of some of the sonatas but I am so happy I re-did them. I dare to say they are pretty good by now…


One thing I’m also doing is to create the silhouette for the cover. As you have noticed, Beethoven is getting older on each volume. For Volume 4, I started with this:

which is now (not finished yet) this:

In the next blog entries on the sonatas, I’m going to play the movements on film, so you can get a better idea of the piece. It won’t be possible to do on every sonata, but at least some of them. Here is how it looks like to edit (click on picture to make it bigger):

Fancy, huh?


I have started a concert series in New York City, at Victor Borge Hall at Scandinavia House. It will be mainly chamber music. My marketing will be that the concerts will be awesome. Weird thing today to use as marketing, there are so many gimmicks that are built on anything but quality. But with players like David Chan and Caroline Stinson that can hear in this little excerpt from the concert, it just can’t fail. There will be more of this!


Weather here in the New York area has been very warm the last days. Clearly better than the rain, rain and rain we had a week ago. And oh, today we will get a new roof. That.Will.Be.Loud.


Next week will be more work with Beethoven Volume 4, more practicing; I have to prepare for the recording of Tobias Broström’s Piano Concerto which is coming up, and the Hammarklavier sonata is coming to Stockholm on June 14th.


It’s Friday after all, so we should end on a light note. What is better than a Parisian scene from my favorite show Family Guy:

Au revoir! See you vendredi prochain!