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Watch a fascinating piano lesson on Haydn and Liszt with David Jalbert

Robert Rowat

"I've explained this concept to 20-year-olds," notes David Jalbert while giving a piano lesson to 11-year-old JJ Bui, "and it takes them weeks to get their heads around it. You do it on your first try."

The concept in question is a new approach to the rhythm of the first movement of Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49, and Jalbert is impressed by Bui’s ability to assimilate.

Jalbert agreed to give a private lesson to Bui, winner of CBC Music's 2016 Piano Hero contest, when Bui was in Montreal recently. It was the day after Jalbert played Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with l’Orchestre Métropolitain. We filmed the lesson in CBC/Radio-Canada's Studio 12, and you can watch it below.

Like many classical musicians, Jalbert divides his time between performing and teaching. He’s a celebrated concert pianist, recording artist and member of the chamber music group Triple Forte; he’s also associate professor of piano at the University of Ottawa.

After working on the Haydn sonata, they move to Liszt’s Concert Étude in F-sharp minor, S. 145, No. 2, “Gnomenreigen,” or “Dance of the Gnomes.” (This is the piece Bui played on CBC Radio One’s Metro Morning the day he was named CBC Music’s Piano Hero, and stunned host Matt Galloway.) “You don’t seem to know that it’s hard,” says Jalbert, referring to Bui’s technical accuracy in the notoriously difficult piece. He then cautions Bui not to rush the tempo.

Whether you’re a piano student currently working on one of these pieces, or simply curious about what goes on at a piano lesson, we think you’ll find the lesson fascinating to watch.