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Katia Tchemberdji Turns 50

The composer Katia Tchemberdji, born in Russia and now living in Berlin, will celebrate her 50th birthday on 6 May 2010. Her most important works include “Ma’or” for clarinet solo, Three Bow Dances for violoncello and piano, “Farewell Songs” for four vocal soloists and chamber orchestra, the chamber opera “Max and Moritz” and the so-called Heidelberg Trio for clarinet, violin and piano.

Tchemberdji enrolled at the Central Music School of the Moscow Conservatory already at the age of seven, where she continued her studies in composition, music theory and piano in 1978. Her most important teachers were Nikolai Korndorf and Yuri Cholopov. In 1984 Katia Tchemberdji passed all her examinations with honours. From 1984 until 1990 she taught at the Gnessin Music Academy in Moscow. She has lived and worked in Berlin since 1990. In 2003 Tchemberdji received a teaching post for composition for children and youths at the “Paul Hindemith Music School” in Berlin-Neukölln.

Equally in demand as a composer and as a pianist, Katia Tchemberdji has been invited to numerous international chamber music festivals. She has undertaken extensive concert tours as the accompanist of the cellist Natalia Gutman. Katia Tchemberdji has received numerous composition commissions from renowned musicians and organisers. Her predominantly introverted, lyric-expressive style especially features moving sound effects in piano and vocal chamber music.

One of her most important inventions in the area of piano pedagogy is the “keyboard ruler” which serves as a learning tool and toy for piano pupils. It helps to test and support hearing, to find scales, chord sequences and simple melodies on the keyboard and also to transpose very easily – just by shifting the ruler. The keyboard ruler is one octave long, e.g. from C to c, and is subdivided into 13 squares (one square per key). The pattern reproduced below can be copied (several times, if desired), then cut out and glued onto cardboard or plastic strips of the same size. Children can then colour in the squares. It is useful to make several keyboard rulers at once. To designate a scale, chord sequence or melody, the key squares can then be numbered or one can simply place paper clips on the given squares. The ruler can then be placed at the desired place (e.g. from C to c, from e to e’ or from A-flat to a-flat, etc.) on the upper edge of the black keys of the piano keyboard. The location of the paper clips then shows which keys are to be played. Without any further explanations and technical directions, children can then immediately realise these sound and/or interval structures at the piano – structures which are, as experience shows, so difficult to describe in words – and then memorise them. Especially interesting is the fact that a given sound structure (e.g. major chord or minor scales) can be easily and “playfully” transposed through all the keys by simply shifting the ruler on the keyboard. Transposition is normally very difficult, especially when it is does “in one’s head” and not by listening. The “logic” which remains hidden to many adults, too, is made clearly visible with the keyboard ruler. Fear of black keys, new keys, many accidentals, etc. has no chance to even develop. Thus the keyboard ruler encourages musical comprehension already in young children, strengthening their readiness to learn and try out new things.


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