Beethoven and piano improv contests through the ages

Since today would be Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday (he was born on December 17, 1770), I spent the morning reading about him on the internet.

One of the most fun articles I came across described a piano improvisation contest between Beethoven and one of his rivals. The full article is worth reading, so I’ll just say that it reminded me of the jazz piano “cutting contests” that my own teacher, Billy Taylor, told me about from his youth. In New York City and elsewhere during the 1920s-40s, jazz pianists would take turns improvising on a popular song. Sometimes these contests were friendly and in good spirit, but sometimes a pianist would turn up the heat and become competitive, just like our friend Ludwig van Beethoven did.

(BTW, while reading the article you may feel that Beethoven was being unnecessarily mean-spirited. But keep in mind that the other pianist, Daniel Steibelt, willingly entered into the contest and knew exactly what he was getting into. This was a contest between two respected and seasoned professionals.)

Enjoy the article HERE. It’s a good one!

Improvising classical piano is fun and a lot easier than you think. Here are some free lessons to help you get started. Enjoy!

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