Sunday, April 30, 2006

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

Barbaric and Sardonic

Easily a charmer. Link.

Web Pick of the Day



Clarinets South of the Border. This is a great group blog (even if you don't speak "la lengua de Dios"). There are links a plenty to keep you busy. Very interesting stuff that covers a range of topics and performers. Give the ivorys a rest and check 'em out.


Norma Jean's Keys

Wow. Mariah Carey reportedly payed $662,500 to own a piano owned by Marilyn Monroe (one previously owned by her mother). No details about the piano.Link.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blogosphere Report: Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger Time

I thought I'd organize this week's blogosphere report by using the "Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger" method pioneered on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" (although I think Stephen's probably not a fan of blogs).

First a tip of the hat to Spring. Spring fever has taken hold of the blogosphere this month.

If you're a gardner, spring is sort of the "Christmas Morning" of the seasons. A tip of the hat earning post that captures some of that "Christmas Morning" vibe is found at the "Bookish Gardner" blog.
I can't see the same new bud or bloom too many times. It's as if I were holding the face of a prodigal, long-lost loved one, and saying, with great melodrama: It's you; It's really you.
Check it out.

But it's not just the gardens. There's the wildlife to think of too. Antonio at "Punctus contra Punctus" has been on to one of the real miracles of Spring in his neck of the woods

"Spring never comes without miracles: Last spring I reported that our Red Slider turtles laid eggs.Well, now they've done it again!!!
The post is complete with video footage of the miracle. Find it here. Unfortunately, I don't like eggs of any kind. So a Wag of the Finger to Antonio.

Equally ecstatic is "Fuller Music" ("I'm relishing this ecstatic feeling that the world is back to spinning as it should.") And who wouldn't be with manuscript of a pulitzer winning piano concerto sitting on their music stand. Details and photo here. That definitely rates a tip of the hat.

Spring is also a good time to visit New York City. It doesn't stink as much. The great city is not yet redolent with the aromatic delights of rotting garbage and worse. Any doubt, just check out the great series of posts titled "Three Days in April" at the "Art Post" blog. Complete with photos. There's something of everything Pollini, Handel, the Whitney, and, yes, gardens. Check it out. Tip of the hat for knowing when to visit.

Both the Musical Monk and Alex Ross have gone on a Spring break of sorts. Earning a wag of the finger. Real bloggers keep on bloggin'.

On the other hand, it's nice to see "The Standing Room" has emerged from hibernation. A poem by Rosario Castellanos ("Se habla de Gabriel") breaks it nicely open. Tip of the hat definitely in order.

A tip of the hat is due Jennifer Higdon. She's writing a piano concerto and I really like her music.

And a wag of the finger is due Jennifer Higdon. She's writing a piano concerto and Lang Lang is getting the honors.

Spring is also a fine time to take a friend to the Symphony. "Musical Perceptions" has some spot-on advice for doing just that: "encourage your friend to listen to a recording of the music before taking them to the concert. Talk to them about multiple listenings, and ask what was different about this performance, both because of the live environment and because of the newer expectations from the previous listening." I'm looking forward to his follow-up post. Give him a visit and be sure you give him a tip of the hat.

A series of Gould-worthy posts appear at the always interesting "La Idea del Norte". These are the unfolding of an ambitious Mozartproject, one that keeps Emejota (and I still feel badly about being so slow in responding to an email from Emejota. Bad Bart. Bad Bart).moving from piano to computer. The posts are complete with photos (check out the shot of his hands on the piano, midpage). Along the way he discovers the truth of apt observeration of Charles Rosen: that in a public performance things more often than not go from bad to better, but that in the recording context it's often the opposite ("..en un concierto con público las cosas tienden a ir de peor a mejor (por aquello de que los nervios se van asentando conforme pasan los momentos iniciales) mientras que en una grabación pasa exactamente al revés). It's really one of the best music blogs around in any language. Big tip of the hat.

Speaking of recordings and technology and what not (pace Hank Hill)...Here's a tip of the hat post on a product that probably deserves a wag of the finger.

The "Roll-up Piano" has intrigued me for some time. And, lo, a fellow blogger actually owns one. A delightful (and helpful) review can be found here at "My Other Life". I wonder how it fares as a bare-bones midi-controller with a laptop. Photo and review are found here.

And I've taken up a reading recommendation from the fine blog "In Which Our Hero" (my one-stop shopping for reviews of books, movies, and more). I'll let you know how I make out with the book.

And blogger-pianist-technophile, Hugh Sung has been rocking the blogosphere with a sortie of videos and podcasts. Not to be missed at any cost are those with Thomas Hampson and the 2 second shoe lace instructional video. Go get you pod on here and tip your hat on the way in.

A tip of the hat to Canadian artists, by way of a post at "Sounds Like Now", for taking a sane position. Check it out here.

Tip of the hat to Tears of a Clownsilly for pre-emptively dissing the piano man, Billy Joel. Tip yourself this way.

Wag of the finger to Billy Joel for this:
Pianist Jeffrey Biegel will perform the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the EMF faculty orchestra. Biegel had initially asked Joel to write him a concerto, but due to time constraints the pop star suggested that some of his solo piano pieces be reworked into a concerto.
Oh sure.. Let's just throw a few things together.

Tip of the hat to "Musings of a Middle-Aged Woman" for a alerting us to a cock-and-bull story that merits a big wag of the finger. Find it here.

Surf's up !

Oh and here's some happy springy music from Seattle band "The Midget" (friends of mine who are always up to something good). You find it on my "Stickam" which on the sidebar to the right.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bach's Wife Did the Composing?

How much of Bach's music was actually written by his second wife (Anna Magdalena Bach) It's a question that's been kicking around for some time. Now comes research that perhaps gets us a little closer to an answer.
Martin Jarvis says some of the works believed for centuries to have come from the hand of Bach were actually written by the composer's second wife...He named Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor - one of Bach's most famous pieces..."It was written by a wonderful lady called Anna Magdalena; she was Bach's second wife."
Link. And there's more

He claims that Magdalena, who helped copy some of Bach's compositions, almost certainly wrote the cello suites that had been attributed to her husband.

"When I first played the cello suites ... I was struck by the fact that I didn't think this music was written by the same person," he said. "So it's been a journey since 1971 until when I took this up seriously five years ago." Jarvis said she may have even "had a hand" in writing the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Bach's famous keyboard collection of preludes and fugues.

And that's not at all. Next in the good professor cross-hairs: ""I have been curious about Mozart's sister Nannerl, and whether or not she was involved in any of the manuscripts of Mozart," Prof Jarvis said. " Link.

If that's got your attention, I recommend seeing the film "Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach". Check it out here.

Ravel and TV

PWS at "Tears of a Clownsilly" has down us all a good turn by locating a delicious bit of Martha Argerich playing Ravel. Go here to see it for yourself.

Or find that and more at "Music in a Suburban Scene". Find it here.

But, frankly as much as I love Martha, I think she has got nothing on Caida Cole's Ravel. Hands down my favorite Ravel CD. Phenomenal! Check it out here.


This is news?

"EMI Classics has signed 25-year-old American pianist Jonathan Biss to a two-year exclusive contract, the company announced."

I started out really liking Biss' playing. But I have to say I've been disappointed on recent hearings.

Goodbye Gary

Festivities and farewell's for Gary Graffman. Details here. I'm already overlooking the whole "Lang Lang" thing. So don't ask. If you're looking for something to read this summer, his book "I Really Should be Practicing" might fit the bill. It's a nice enough book, but the asking seems more than a tad too high. Link.

International Piano Paralympics Winner

You'll find an inspiring profile of Tim Baly, winner of the First International Piano Paralympics held in Japan last year, worth spending some time reading. You find it online here. Mr. Baley has his own website. Check it Out.

Gardening is Like a Good Mystery

Did I plant this or is this a weed?

Each morning with the sunlight tilting toward mellow and a cup of coffee in hand, I scan the dirt for clues. Look close for the tell-tale signs of Spring's approach. Small leaves. Shoots. Some things already in bloom. Crocus. Daffodil. Tulip. The dirt shaking free from the stupor of a long winter. Cracks. Heaps. Life.

My garden.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Short History

An interesting history that brings up a couple of things to mull.
The earliest known keyboards date from before 1000 A.D. and were attached to church organs. The keys were as far apart as the organ's pipes and were played with the fists or even the knees.

Cristofori had solved most of the practical problems of the hammer mechanism, but his instrument caught on slowly. Though they both had tried out the pianoforte, neither Johann Sebastian Bach nor Georg Frideric Handel composed for it.
.True enough. But it does seem that Bach was fairly interested in the development of the instrument, and was helpful in selling some of the subsequent fortepianos made by Silberman.

If you're curious, there's a very interesting and worthwhile account of Bach's keyboards:

Herr Bach plays not only a quite slow, singing adagio with the most touching expression... he also sustains in such a slow movement a note of the duration of six semiquavers with all the varying degrees of loudness and softness, and this in the bass as well as in the treble.

You can hear some of Bach's music played on clavichord, the Silbermann fortepiano, and harpsichord here.

Brits Heart Mozart

It's official. Mozart's top composer with Brits.

Not only does one of his pieces top the poll, but Mozart was also the composer featured most often in the favourites list, with 24 entries in the top 300 - three more than his nearest rival, Beethoven.

Anyone with questions about the UK's native talents can check in here.

For the record, I like Elgar just fine. We'll split the difference on Britten. I love his knuckle busting "Scottish Ballad".

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cake and Papa

For his birthday the Pope dined on chocolate cake shaped like a piano. link


"I wanted to take the world of sound you can create automatically on a fortepiano or harpsichord, and find ways of re-creating those instrumental colors on the modern Steinway," he says. "It's a fun challenge."

And it's misguided I think. Did they run more or less this same story last year? Did I blog about it last year?

Yundi Li

If you're needing more, there's a very nice write up/interview with Li online here.

a piece for cello, CD and old men

Far from simply drawing on traditional European sources, he draws his deepest inspiration from the indigenous people in South Australia's ochre-coloured Spinifex Lands. link

Friday, April 14, 2006

Summer Blockbusters

The season is just around the corner. And just how delicious can it be?

mind your manners

I always wondered about the rules of behavior for a piano bar.

Now I know. Details.

Survival Guide

This is a fascinating website that I stumbed upon.

"Piano Owner's Survival Guide"

I happened upon this site because I have acquired by my own choice the burden and (I hope) joy of rebuilding a piano. It's old and beastly, but it has some music in it and I figure it'll be good fun.

This website has a "How to repair it Yourself" section. And that's what what got me there (via Google). But the whole site is quite something. Take for example, a whole section of cartoon drawings by the site owner (Dr. Schnock's Music Primer).

Musikmesse International Press Award

List of winners and contenders here.

Korg OASYS. Looks sweet!

Tell Them to Zip It

That might as well have been title for this essay by Andrew Clark for the Financial Times. He is no fan of the chatter and lecture (pre, post, or during) at concerts that is increasinly common (no pun intended) nowadays. He says of it:

It signifies a fear that classical music may not be sufficiently communicative or “entertaining”. No one will admit to this fear. You don’t have to explain jazz to anybody, but the implication is that you do with classical music - for reasons that are phoney. It’s not because the music is too complicated and needs elucidating.

But, more interesting, is his contention that

"The problem for classical music in the 21st century is that it is competing with the high decibel count, the simplistic beat and the narcotic effect of rock and pop, beside which it seems “boring”. No wonder it is considered a minority interest. Demystifying the concert experience is part of a desperate attempt to give it more street-cred and develop enough support to sustain it.

If that's the problem, I don't see that shutting 'em up, if you will, is going to prove much of a solution (not that that's at issue here). More, I don't see that it hurts things one bit as far as classical music is concerned. Rather, I think the stultifying pretension of a belief in the "sanctity of classical music" is part and parcel of the current miasma. The real problem and it's solution are elsewhere. In the meantine, such complaints just seem plain snarky.

The Great Pod Rush Revisted

Several weeks back I had a post about the success of classical music in the digital download market. You'll find that post here.

I mention it because it seems good background for reading a post this week over at Alex Ross' fine blog "The Rest is Noise". You'll find it all nicely bundled and referenced here.

Ross, in response to a piece by Steve Metcalf, says "A couple of years back, I speculated that classical music might thrive in unexpected ways in an iPod culture because it could be disseminated as pure musical data, free of cultural stereotypes." Not sure about the "free of cultural stereotypes" part, but I think I know what he's getting at and I think time has proved that speculation right. A few choice grafs:

Ross: " On iTunes they can sample different kinds of music, make a low-risk $0.99 or $9.99 purchase, and go on from there. Apple's habit of regularly featuring new classical releases on the main page of the iTunes Store is surely one of the best things that's happened to classical music in a long time: finally the work is out there in the main cultural arena."

That echoes Universal's Joseph Grubners: ""It's great for people new to classical. It's very easy to sample a single track at a very low cost. It's a low-risk purchase. On the one hand, if you are an expert classical consumer the digital medium is also great. You can (or will be able to) access a vast repertoire of recordings and artists."" (link).

From that same article's there this: "We see the web as essential to the way we think about audience development and education," said the Philharmonia's Alice Walton." I think that's about right, but probably too early to say how it actually shakes out. I wonder if that will translate into gains in the area of audience development. Perhaps, but I'm not so sure. Not without change in the very thing the audience itself is coming to see.


iTunes isn't the only bright spot in Cyberspace for classical music lovers. The classical selections on "Rhapsody" are pretty good. I'm happy.

There are also loads of other interestesting classical music podcasts available on the NPR website that are worth checking out. You'll find it here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The chili con carne is ready

Loren Schoenberg, executive director of the Jazz Museum in Harlem, compared it to finding a Shakespeare sonnet or a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
Read the rest.

If in LA

You might want to check out the tres hot Yundi Li recital. Details.

No Boundaries

Now I am really going to have to check out this collection of well-scrubbed piano players. Quite a collection of arrangements for five pianos. It looks like just pure fun!


Ogres, Onions, and Mozart

A very fine and well-written review of Piotr Anderszewski's recent recording of Mozart piano concerti.

It's not that Mozart lacks surface appeal. But, as Anderszewski explains, he's not one of those composers who throw out their big ideas and knock your socks off right away. Mozart is different. He leaves room for musicians to work through the layers from different angles, so they can develop the smallest detail.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Polyphonic.Org Goes Live


The website forum for orchestral musicians is up and running. Check it out, here.

Jazz Piano Must Click

Great post over at "On The Overgrown Path".

Hurry over and check it out. Link.

sounds in the big apple

Musical instruments in NYC.

It's your link-o-the day.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My Piano / My Self

Some readers might recall Nancy Friday's book from the 1970's titled "My Mother / My Self" . While it's still worth a perusal, I hadn't thought of it in ages. What made me think of Friday's book, and it's subject matter (the relationship between mothers and daughters), is a recent work by another Nancy, one that also explores the relationship between mothers and daughters, a play titled "Prodigy":

"Prodigy tells the story of three generations of women who are connected through music – specifically, through the piano....The play deals with the complex issues that arise in mother-daughter relationships. The granddaughter, Miya, is a piano prodigy, and her mother, a failed pianist, cannot bear the jealousy. The three women in the play all narrate as well as participate in the action onstage. This feature lends Prodigy a unique quality. Imagery and unconscious thoughts are exposed just as they would be in a novel, and the writing is virtually faultless. " More here.

All of that set me to thinking about other accounts of mothers & daughters in which the piano figures prominently.

To start, there is Ingmar Bergman's film (from the 1970's) titled "Autumn Sonata". In this movie, the great Ingrid Bergman plays "a concert pianist who meets up with her estranged daughter (Liv Ullmann) for the first time in seven years, and spends an evening confronting unresolved ill feelings from the past." Needless, to say it's not the best of relationships. You can find more info about the film here.

More recently, there is "Die Klavierspielerin (The Piano Teacher)", Elfriede Jelinek's semi-autographical novel and movie of the same name. Her vision is much more challenging and complex, oozing with the festered pathologies of failed ambitions and damaged family relationships. The centeral character, Erika Kohut, is an emotionally stunted middle-aged failed concert pianist who teaches at the Vienna Conservatory. Erika has spent her entire life suffocating beneath her mother's oppressive expectations. You can find a review and links to other reivews of "The Piano Teacher" online here.

I also wondered about actual mothers and daughters in music history. So I was delighted to stumble across an article titled "Mothers Who Were Composers And Concert Pianists . Link. Written to celebrate "Mother's Day", it appeared in the online magazine "Creative Keyboard". It briefly sketches the lives of Clara Schumann (Wieck) and Teresa Carreno. Actually, most of it's focused on Carreno. But I was disappointed by how little it actually tells us about there lives as mothers, or even of lives and influence of their own mothers. However, there's quite a bit of information in it about their fathers (who also doubled as their first piano teachers).

And recalling Clara's relationship to Brahms, I couldn't help but notice a further connection between Clara and Teresa: Brahms. There is this strangely telling exchange between Eurgene D'Albert (Carreno's husband) and Brahms: "Once when d'Albert was dining with Brahms in Vienna, he asked him why he never married, Brahms said, "That is quite simple; because I have never found a wife like yours." But I digress.

Even more strange, the lone piece of music selected to accompany the article was a boring set of finger excercises written Frederich Wieck for this daughter Clara Schumann. Nothing from the various piano works written by Clara Schumann or Teresa Carreno. Holy Nom du pere, Batman !

If you're interested, a recording of some piano rolls made by Carreno can be found here here. Some midi files of her music are here. And, you, can find mp3 clips of Clara Schumann's music here.

While you're out and about, surf over to Literary Momma for a delicious excerpt from Andrea J. Buchanan's "The Piano Tuner". Choice graf:

"Truthfully, it has been a while since I thought of myself as a pianist, although I suppose even when I did qualify as being one I always felt uncomfortable admitting it. It felt a little fraudulent: I had no CDs, no major competition titles to my name, no international concertizing. But people always took me at my word. I think they wanted to buy into the romance of it, the 19th-centuryness of it: a pianist! And the world I lived in for so long did seem romantic on the surface: telling people on airplanes or blind dates about my life at the conservatory, in the practice rooms, on the stage, always seemed to enhance our time together and give me an air of sophistication and mystery I otherwise lacked. But the reality of it was constant, lonely work, the result of which depended on the mood of whoever was listening and judging. When I first arrived at music school and saw that even the graffiti in the bathroom was music-related ("Liszt piszt here and miszt"), I vowed to never become like that, swore I'd never lose my perspective on the rest of the world."

It's a beautiful read. You find it here.

On the flip side of things (boys, pianos, and mom) there is the recent film Unleashed, James Toback's brilliant "Fingers" and the interesting "remake" of it "The Beat My Heart Skipped". But that's for another day.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Have Piano, Will Travel: Zimerman

.And of course his
went everywhere with him

Ah, those were the days! Touring with your chef, doctor, family, and pianos by rail. The good days apparently aren't entirely gone:

"Zimerman does travel with his own Steinway. That's almost unheard of these days. But it's the essential ingredient of his eclectic programming."

Can you imagine the logistics of hauling your own concert grand around with you?
Zimerman's upcoming recital looks to be a really good one. Most interesting part of the program, at least for me, is his selection of a "little-known work, Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz's Piano Sonata No. 2. Bacewicz, who died in 1969 and is one of Poland's greatest female composers, composed the sonata for Zimerman's longtime teacher, Andrzeij Jasinski." Lucky folks in Rochester!

Read the rest here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Five Pianos

This sounds like fun. Details

"the unusual chance to hear a harpsichord, a fortepiano based on a Viennese model built in 1795, a Bösendorfer piano from 1840, a modern American Steinway piano (using a design essentially completed by 1859) and a toy piano built in 1999 by the leading European maker of toy pianos."

The Occupational Hazards of Being A Classical Musician

"When it comes to dangerous careers, you'd have thought classical music would be pretty low down the list. You don't run the risk of electrocution, death by vomit or heavy-drug-related injuries that make the rock musician's life so perilous. There's nothing too challenging on the concert platform."

Think again.

Details here.

Meow Mix Part2:

File this one under: Do as I say, Not As I Do. It's an amusing article on the "rivalry" between Lang Lang and Yundi Li. You can read it here. And more of the same can be found here.

Should anyone ask my opinion, Li is the real musician of the two. Lang Lang is too, uh, Liberace-esque for my taste, but plenty of others love him..

And there's this from Meow Mix 1:

""In the past, Lang Lang hasn't been kind to his countryman. In the same paper, in a 2003 interview, he said of (Yundi)Li, "There isn't much to compare. He's good, and I'm happy for him. But he's not having the career that I'm having." "


Virtuoso may be pushing it a just a little. But "gimmick" is spot on. But, hey, it's still great fun.


"They're from Utah, they're Mormon, they're all Juilliard-trained. I thought they might be a tad gimmicky -- the Osmonds meets the Cliburn auditions."

Blogosphere Report

.GeorgeCrumb BACH HughSung..Books FullerMusic

As Chris at the Collaborative Piano Blog points out, it's been a wee slow in the blogosphere of late. But I sense the pulse of things is starting to quicken.

With the days getting warmer, it's nice to sit outside and do a little reading. Offline. At the top of my own list is Jessica's new book, "Rites of Spring", and you read about it here
and have a peek at it here.

And another fine recommendation for your reading enjoyment can be found at The Art Post. Margarita has written a very nice post on a collection of essays by Tim Paige, venerable critic of the WashingtonPost. She zeroes in on a wonderful bit about Van Cliburn. You'll find that post here. Speaking of the legendary Ciburn,he was recently celebrated in grand fashion in Texas. You can read about it here. The august guests are reported to have danced the night away to the sounds of big band music.

Speaking of dance and books. Be sure to drop by one of my favorite, if very infrequently updated, blogs: "FullerMusic". Cathy has a great post on the Sarabande from the Bach French Suite #5. Here's a small sample from her post: "On certain days it is unearthly -- a perfect, weightless dream. On other days, its shadows and crevices become essential. It gets weighty and human, and I bend it, perhaps, where it shouldn't be bent ..." Read therest here. I'm glad to see FullerMusic back in action!

And while FullerMusic is in action, it appears Jose at Punctus Contra Punctus has fallen into very deep thought. See for yourself here. If you yourself need something to think about, check out his Brokeback Mountain inspired bunny post. It's found here. BTW, I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain, and it's becoming one of those things where you start to think you are the only person on the face of the earth who hasn't seen it. Another movie I want to see is Brick, there's fine post on this "teen noir" (is that a genre?) flick over at In Which Our Hero.

And, now, a word about Elliott Carter. Hands down the best piano concerto of the last century was composed by Carter. IMHO. So, or course, I was earger to read Steven Hicken's review of Carter's more recent Dialogues for Piano and Orchestra. You can read his review here on Sequenza21, and while surfing give his blog a visit.

Speaking of composers, I'm happy to see a fellow blogger has discovered the beautiful music of George Crumb. You can read about it here.

I've officially added pianist Hugh Sung's blog to the WTB "Blogs of Distinction" list. His corner of the blogosphere is a "must click" for anyone interested in the latest technologies for classical musicians. Music meets tech indeed. You can find it right here.

And speaking of technologies, I see that Steinway and Sons is staking a claim in the realm of pc-based music production. S&S has entered into t a partnership with Gary Garritan (mastermind behind the clever GPO, Garritan Personal Orchestra, that is already a hot commodity among many composers and students). According to the Garritan's site:

"Steinway & Sons, maker of the world's finest pianos, and Garritan, makers of the world's finest music soundware, announce a new venture to create a series of Authorized Steinway Piano sample-based software instruments."

What this means is hard to say. There are already many fine Steinway sample libraries on the market. But this one is sure to generate much interest. Read the details here.

More to follow...

Happy surfing!

Putting Beethoven on the Sports Page

I ache already.

"In Saturday's Beat Beethoven 5K, the great composer was supposed to finish the run around the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus on the exact beat that his famous 5th Symphony ended." Details.

Condi and Friends

A nice write up of Condi Rice's love of music and playing the piano recently appeared in the Washington Post. Whatever you make of her politics, there's little doubt of her love of music. Read all about it here.

Takin' Names

Interesing. A man who once tuned pianos for the Grateful Dead has been keeping a list or sorts. For years now he has has been having visiting artists autograph a concert grand. Talk about storied pianos !
Dave Brubeck, George Benson, Dr. John, Chick Corea, Marvin Hamlisch, Diana Krall, Peter Schickele, Roberta Flack, Rita Moreno, Wayne Shorter, Nancy Wilson and Victor Borge are among the 75 or more artists who, while playing engagements at bergenPAC, have taken time to sign the "harp" -- the metal inner chassis of the piano where the strings are strung.
Read the rest.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

In the Beginning was Sound & Other Trivia

T he BBC's Radio 4 has posted up the 2006 Reith Lectures. They are available as direct download in mp3, video, and print ready copy. There are forums open on the lecture series website to provide ample room for hearty debate and conversation. Good job, BBC!! This year's lecture series is deliverd by Maestro Daniel Barenboim, and the series, titled "In the Beginning was Sound", has lots of food for thought.

For example, here's something striking that Barenboim said that caught my attention:

"You know, when you play music, you get this peaceful quality I believe also because you are in control of something, or at least you are attempting to control something that you cannot do in the real world. You can control life and death of the sound, and if you imbue every note with a human quality, when that note dies it is exactly that, it is a feeling of death. And therefore through that experience you transcend any emotions that you can have in their life, and in a way you control time.."

The more I think about that, the more I disagree and feel even a bit irked by it. It seems to trivialize both the work of an artist and the work of art itself. The artist is simply a neurotic in this account. In fact, it seems like a simple paraphrase of Freud's view: the artist sublimates his frustrations and fantasies, unrealizable in the "real" world, into a realm of phantasy that he or she controls. Art is simply a symptom, a brilliant disappointment, a substitution for something more. But I doubt it.

The boundary between the "real world" and this other world, of creativity, isn't so strict and clean. This isn't to say that there aren't boundaries or distinctions. But another account, one more perceptive, might reckon those boundaries as intersections and pivot points. That art is not about control, but about drifting, becoming, feeding and being fed by the "real world", that the work of art is not about a transcendental unity, but a transcendence, since Barenboim invokes that idea, that is a loss, a something more, more like religious experience than neurosis. More akin to the Buddha's smile than the neurotic's self-deceptions.

2006 Reith Lecture Series

Good for Goode

Richard Goode
Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance

Good for Richard Goode:

"The prize recognizes "pianists who have achieved the highest levels of national and international recognition." It carries a cash award of $50,000; the winner spends two to three weeks at Northwestern teaching, leading master classes, and performing."

Solid, reliable, and workmanlike. That's how I think of Goode. Not a Ferrari, but more of a comfy Buick. Professorial is another word that comes to mind. The Beethoven cycle of his is very nice, but I wouldn't take it over Kempf or Gilels.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Different Kind of Deadhead

A truly dedicated fan.

Gary Grossman, 64, traveled from Long Island to Lancaster to perform with the Lancaster Symphony Chorus this weekend, just as he’s traveled to Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin to sing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

He’s not a professional musician, just a retired certified public accountant with a 40-year love affair with this grand piece of music that has captivated audiences around the globe with its well-known “Ode to Joy,” which Grossman will sing in German with the chorus in the fourth movement. Read the rest here.

I'm suitably impressed !

Old and New

A very nice write up of and chat with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard is found here.. and, for the record, I really, really, like his playing. (OT, that unflattering photo of Ivan Hewett has got to go).


File this one under: "iPods in unlikely hands". According to reliable sources, Pope Benedict XVI owns an iPod nano. And, because you'll ask, he has the music of Chopin, Tschaikovsky, Beethoven, and the rest of the gang. Read more about here. (in Spanish).

His Holiness probably has no interest in these items.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Piano On A Milk Carton

Awoman's search for her beloved and long "lost" piano. It's the kind of story that stays with you for awhile.

"Nearly five years ago, while financially strapped because of medical bills, Kathy Leclere sold her most prized possession: a piano given to her by her parents on her 12th birthday."

Read the rest.

I thought about that often and on today. We name our pianos. We pour our lives into them. And when they are gone, something more than an instrument is missing.

I hope she finds her piano.

Storied Piano

Bronfman gives a recital on "storied" piano. But that's not what caught my eye scanning thru the article. It was this bit about Balakirev's "Islamey"

''It has the reputation of being the single most difficult piece in the world," said Ledbetter. ''It is so difficult that the composer himself couldn't play it."

More here.

I'm not sure I'd say it's the "single" most difficult piece, it is wildly difficult and not very rewarding as music goes, but I wonder what is the single most difficult work for piano. I imagine it has no real answer. It's likely that its whatever happens to be sitting on your music desk at this moment. Whoever you are, wherever you are in your journey playing the piano.

Spring Rolls

Monday, April 03, 2006

Canada's forgotten piano genius

Andre Mathieu . I confess it is the first time I came across the name.
..He was a child musical prodigy who some consider Canada's Mozart, but Quebec pianist Andre Mathieu died nearly four decades ago, poor and largely forgotten. Few of his works have been performed in public since his death but that is about to change.

Read the rest here.

Is Classical Music Going to the Dogs?


Why is it still so tough for women in classical music?

That's a good questions. Some thoughts on the matter, at least with reference to the field of conducting, can be found here.

Brain Food

If you're still hungering for more of last year's Cliburn competition, you might be interested in a new documentary titled "Encore!with James Conlon". I have not seen the series, but it looks to be a very good one (piano competition focus or not):

"Maestro James Conlon explores the relationship between the concert pianist's internal world and the composer's score - with the finalists of the Twelfth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition as his examples - and examines what makes one interpretation so different from another
." Read the rest here.

Each episode is organized around and attempts to explore a particular theme or question. A fairly familiar rubric:

"Apollo or Dionysus?"
"Plato or Aristotle?"
"Being It or Playing It?"
"Beauty or Truth?"
"Technique or Spirit?"
"Tradition or Innovation?"

As I have not seen this series yet, I've no idea how it fares in tackling the subject matter it sets before itself. But there is a review that might, or might not, give an answer to that question: "a brainy, if naggingly flawed, treatise on the philosophical underpinnings of great classical music."

What seems to irk the reviewer is both the very asking of the questions, dimissively derided without qualification as "conceits", and what's seen as the series' apparent failure to connect the dots for the viewer ["often fails to make the link between Conlon's grandiose ideas and the music"]. But that seems, in my book, no real flaw at all. In exploring something it is often the asking of the question that is more valuable than the "answer" itself. (As an aside, this is one of my main complaints about education: very few students are taught how to ask good questions). A rough reformulation of Wittgenstein's bon mot might apply here: "Tell me how you seek and I will tell you what you seek."

I look forward to checking out the series.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

music for theremin and piano

Lovely. Fresh. You find it here.

Piano Santa Foundation

New to the WTB list of Piano related web links is the "Piano Santa Foundation", a non-profit that brings music to young people. Link.


Here's something you don't read everyday in a music review:

"I have never been in the same building with a more powerful and masterful musician on any instrument in any genre. Ever. And, on a personal front, Mr. Atamian is what some people would call ... well ... some might say rather, under certain circumstances, at least on the surface ... a rehearsal Dickran was grimacing and rolling his eyes at the orchestra, apparently unhappy with the piano, the conductor, and whatever else - maybe even the orchestra. We thought, is this guy a jerk?."

Living out of a suitcase might make one a little cranky. Then again it seems Atamian has been cranky for quite awhile: "
When I was young my managers always said 'Richie, don't complain about the hotel. Richie, don't whine about the piano. Now Richie doesn't care any more."

Whatever else you might say, he is definitely, refreshingly, honest.

Read the rest here.

And, to be honest, every area of human endeavor has it's share of jerks. BTW, "epicurean lifestyle boutique" rates a good chuckle or two.