Misha Dichter

Misha Dichter was born in 1945.  He studied with Aube Tzerko in Los Angeles and Rosina Llevinne in New York.  His recordings are a confident, individualistic collection of scores as the Brahms D minor Concerto, Schubert’s posthumous A major and B flat major Sonatas, and Beethoven sonatas.  He has also published several Liszt recordings, including the complete Hungarian Rhapsodies.  His Stravinsky Petrouchka shows the extent of his large and sonic sound.

States Dichter, once he made his decision to become a concert pianist, he practiced as long as twelve hours a day.  Instead of working on formal exercises, such as Czerny or Clementi, he spent a year practicing various standard exercises such as scales, arpeggios, and trills just to develop his technique.

Dichter reported that he knew from his teens that he wanted to be a concert pianist, although he had no concept of all that was involved in his decision.  “I think there was some sort of inner consciousness that knew that something was there even though I had a great deal to accomplish pianistically; but there was still a blind belief in myself and in my abilities,” he said.

With respect to teaching, Dichter confines himself to one or two master classes during the summer and one or two classes during the winter months for one or two weeks.  He states he takes a dim view of the master class format.  “I have noticed,” he said, “That this format of teaching is often simply an ego trip for the pianist conducting the class.  I would much rather give private lessons to very talented students.”  “I would like to take on talented students,” he continued,” And see how far along I could bring them.”

Early in his career, Dichter formulated a system for himself for memorizing works for performance.  He broke down the form of the piece into its larger structural sections.  He memorized intervallic relationships and harmonic blocks that are common throughout the entire movement of the complete piece.  If the piece is based, for instance, on the interval of the sixth, he noted, then that interval will permeate the entire movement and form harmonic units.  Whenever it comes up it not only contributes to an understanding of the piece, but offers a way to memorize it. 

“I am not memorizing senseless details but rather blocks of harmonic sound along with all the secondary units surrounding that vital point,” he declared.  “So even if I lose some details in the first couple of days of work, my mind remains fixed on those big blocks and I have a picture not only of the harmony, but also of harmonic structure or melodic pattern, because by then the hand has formed almost a visual image of those blocks and I have a picture not only of the harmony, but the hand relative to these main blocks.”

He approached new pieces through the study of the structure of the composition and looking at a piece as a conductor would.  Dichter noted that one phrase is linked to another phrase and that all the phrases add up to an entire movement or an entire section.  There is a sense of architecture that the pianist must think orchestrally, thinking about the ultimate sound of the work.

Said Dichter, I believe that music structure should come first in learning piano and should be developed through listening.  After one has seen something of the beauty of the music, then he can approach the instrument.”  Then comes the confidence that arises in playing piano through attention to different levels of pedaling, training the hands to be close to the keys, and developing different ways of playing octaves and chords, according to Dichter.

Dicthter’s playing incorporates low wrist and round curved fingers, developed over years of playing.  His arm weight comes into the picture, especially when playing chords.  The big sound, he said, comes from the shoulder and the whole arm.  Some of this may result from changing the height of the bench.  Over the years, Dichter made adjustments in his style, such as getting his wrist lower and flattening the fingers a bit for closeness.

As for favorite past composers, Dichter loved Schumann, a 20th-century composer.  Compositionally, rhythmically, melodically, and harmonically, Schumann fascinated Dichter the most because the composter is purported to have been ahead of his time.