Friday, February 18, 2005

Classical Music MP3 Site

Classic Cat is a directory with links to over 1500 free to download classical performances on the internet, sorted by composer and work. To find the classical music you select a composer, a work and a performing musician. Then you are transported to the page of the musician(s) where the music is hosted and you can download it.

Check it out.


Pianist glad she wasn't "trained too much"

A refreshing article on pianist MacGregor. If only more pianists (musicians) were this open to new ideas and music.

"I didn't have that thing about, 'Oh, you're talented. That means you must practice four hours a day,"' she said from her home in Brighton, Eng-

land. "I just grew up and I played. I played for my friends, and I mucked around, basically."

And, as far as she is concerned, "mucking around" was the ideal approach.

"One of my great fortunes was not being trained too much," she said.

Such thinking is sacrilege in many classical circles. But MacGregor, 44, is not your ordinary classical pianist. In fact, she is not even completely comfortable with the label "classical pianist."

One critic has described her as "exhilaratingly, recklessly democratic" in her musical tastes,

because the London-born pianist has no qualms about mixing musical genres in unconventional and sometimes unlikely ways."

Get the low down right

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Man Plays Piano With No Arms

this is really an amazing story:

"The man from Plummer, Idaho is a piano player who tickles the ivory with the softest touch. But, he'll be the first to tell you he plays like he has hands of steel."In '71 in Great Falls, I lost my hands. I was electrocuted, of course," Bill says. That's right. Bill lost his hands and his arms in an accident nearly 34 years ago."

Read the Rest

Chopin in jazz : Noteworthy Idea

Now this is the kind of creativity I can hardly wait to wrap my ears around.

"Jagodziński is an innovator of sorts, being the first person to adapt Chopin's music to jazz. For his efforts, Jagodziński and his group have earned a distinct place on the local music scene. His fellow band members also have a long history of achievement in jazz, earning prestigious distinctions and having performed with some the world's top artists. "

Very Cool!

Boston Symphony Orchestra Gives World Premiere of Yehudi Wyner Piano Concerto

Good to hear BSO is playing and support (with commissions) the works of new composers.

"Chiavi in mano, a BSO commission, marks the first time that Wyner’s work has been performed by the full orchestra, although other works have been premiered by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. His recent works include Trapunto Junction, a chamber work for brass and percussion; Commedia, a piece for clarinet and piano written for Richard Stolzman and Emanuel Ax; and Horntrio, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music in 1997."

Check it out!

Just the right room: Pianos and Living Spaces

A timely topic given my own musings of late on "where to put a new piano" and so on. The article strangely doesn't spill much ink on mention of upright pianos. This is strange as uprights (along with the other variety of familial piano hand-me-downs the spinet and console) is what's most likely to be found in a piano-owning home. But may it's just all about the demographics.

Still there food for thought and more on the feng-shui of piano owning. Here's a tasy tid-bit:

"A century ago, the piano room — or parlor — was the original home entertainment center. That's where guests were received and the family gathered to share what we now call "live" music. Then there was no other kind. Television and honking home stereos would render the parlor obsolete long before computer games and iPods.

Piano sales are a fraction of what they were when Teddy Roosevelt was president. In 1909, 364,500 were sold, but by 1999, fewer than 102,000 new pianos were brought home. Still, there are people for whom music is the defining characteristic of their house, and its rooms must serve their musical needs."

Enjoy the rest

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Manilow plays Vegas

Unlike Ms. Keys, Mr. Manilow actually can lay some claim to having "classical chops" --remember his dreadful abuse of the Chopin c minor prelude. Songs like "Mandy" and "copacabana" are the kinds of dreck that get stuck in one's head at the supermarket... SO vegas seems a natural.

But shouldn't Barry get at least a little respect.. I think the article makes a compelling case for the affirmative.

"It's his reputation as a master entertainer that's kept Manilow viable ever since the hits dropped off in the '80s and he started making noncommercial jazz albums. Last year his supposed farewell tour sold out stadiums across the country. "It must have been another generation that discovered me," Man-ilow says. "Or maybe they were brainwashed by their parents and wanted to see me before I died. 'Look, he's still breathing. Buy the ticket!' "

Manilow has been performing ever since he was a kid himself. He was raised in Brooklyn by his mother, the daughter of Russian immigrants—his father, a truck-driver for a beer company, left shortly after Barry was born—and "a billion" cousins. Music figured prominently in the household. "If it had been another time and place, my mom could have been Ethel Merman," says Manilow, in his still-strong Brooklyn accent. "But she couldn't, so I did it." He went to Juilliard out of high school, got a job in the CBS mailroom and was married by 22. Four years later he'd left the day job—and the marriage—to jam in Manhattan's jazz clubs and cabarets."

It's actuall a good read.

Check it out

Jerry Lee Lews to Give Kid Rock Piano Lessons?

Oh please...

"rap-rocker has decided it's time he learned to tinkle the ivories and he's called in his rock 'n' roll pal to teach him the basics - and while they're having impromptu lessons, the pair plan to record an album together."


Somebody's PR wetdream? Next up: Kid-Rock plays duets with the single most over-rated mediocre pianist on the planet -Alicia Keys.

And, speaking of Keys, it is ever so amusing to find rock folks swooning because she can sit down and plunk her way thru "Fur Elise". Her penchant for name dropping classical composers (always in some clumsy and amusing way) and gross over-statement of having so-called "classical training" (i.e., she had piano lessons) is amusing. But aside from this obvious exaggeration (so overwhelmingly demonstrated by her remarkably mediocre piano play ability) is the curious way in which classical music is used to create an exotic patina, as if it bestows merely by being invoked a profundity and virtuosity that so plainly exeeds her grap. On the other hand, her target audience is wowed by anyone able to set down and pluck-out the Moonlight sonata or Mozart minuet, even if they wouldn't be caught dead listening to
classical music

Laugh or cry... ??

Burglar Charged for Moonlight Sonata

This had me almost choking on my coffee this morning...Definitely "Fark" worthy news:

"The police chief in New Riegel, Ohio, woke up in the middle of the night to sounds of someone playing Beethoven on his piano. Chief Steve Swartzmiller grabbed his gun and went to investigate. He found 19-year-old Shawn Chadwell drunk and playing the keyboard. "

Read all about it here

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New Beethoven Movie in Production

Ed Harris..? Really??

"Ed Harris is set to play Ludwig van Beethoven in "Copying Beethoven" for director Agnieszka Holland." More about it here But what's the plot? Anyone know?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Fitness and Pianism

Perhaps someone should hook Ray Kurzweil up with Leon Bates:

"The pianist not only pumps ivory, he pumps iron, too, as a physical-fitness enthusiast. Music came first as a child, but Bates began weight training in high school while growing up in Philadelphia. His daily regime of practicing piano and lifting weights has been with him ever since. "You learn an awful lot about how your body works and what it takes to maintain it," he said. Today, he bench presses more than 300 pounds and has seen as many gyms as he's seen concert halls. "

Read More Here

condi and beethoven

from the just heard file:

"In an interview yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she's always loved Beethoven. When he heard this, President Bush said, ‘What a coincidence, that's my favorite movie, too." - conan o'brien

Will Ray Kurzweil Live Forever

Kurzweil, the man who gave us the Kurzweil digital pianos and so much more, seems to think so. I suppose with Ray anthing's possible --especially with the keen attention he's given to "fine tuning" the body electric. Read more here:

Read the rest here

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Bond composer rails against successors

"The film composer John Barry - whose stellar 50-year career has encompassed scoring the great Bond movies, Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves - has lashed out against his musical successors. "[The composers] have nothing to say. They are just messing around with notes. I'm at a loss," he told the Guardian."

and you know what? He's right. Absolutely right.,11711,1409385,00.html

A bone to pick with stilted classicists,

"Mesdames et Messieurs of the CSO, when you program idle, trite, and useless music for my education and protection, I feel condescended to, because I have a need for honesty. Would you be willing to program music that you love, so that I may love it?"


Friday, February 11, 2005

Music that Goes to the edge of the Canvas

"WE tend to think of the explosion of creativity in New York in the mid 20th century as one that was dominated by the visual arts. The era belonged to those hard-living and wildly original exponents of abstract expressionism. But there was a great deal of experimentation in classical music, too – if you can use that term for sound-making that was continentally removed from the European heartland of the Austro-German tradition.From the 1940s, the avant-garde composer John Cage was active in New York overturning the precepts of art music. Among his followers were Morton Feldman and La Monte Young, who in turn inspired the minimalist composers Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass."

Read the rest here

Mountains, Cows, and a Symphony: Nice. Very Nice.

"Lassen County, a place with more sheep and cows than people, has a new homegrown product to boast: the Susanville Symphony. The rural community known for state prisons and rodeo queens is suddenly a twitter over Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

Atlanta Symphony unveils design for new hall

"Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, the glass, steel and concrete structure will include a main hall with an audience capacity of 2000. It will be possible to raise or lower the auditorium’s roof – from 48 feet to 104 feet above the stage – depending on acoustic needs. Kirkegaard Associates are the acoustic consultants. A smaller studio hall will seat 300 people, while the rehearsal room can also seat up to 350 people

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lazar Berman, Pianist Known for Powerful Style, Dies at 74

Sad news. One of the most memorable, and deeply moving, listening experiences in my life is that of hearing Berman's recording of Franz Liszt's "Dante Sonata". It remains the monument by which I've measured all other recordings and performances, and that compelled to study the work for myself, even though it was well beyond my reach, as I was completed captivated by his performance.

Rugged technique and dazzling imagination were abundantly manifest in everything played. His passing further removes us from a connection to the piano playing the "Grand Manner". More on the Master's life and work:

"A pianist with a bearlike build, a shock of sandy hair and a disarming smile, Mr. Berman had a gentle manner that seemed at odds with his often-muscular approach to the piano. His repertory, though, was broader than his reputation would suggest. It ran from Bach and Handel, through Mozart, Clementi and Beethoven, to Scriabin and Shostakovich. Although Mr. Berman was best known for the grandeur of his Liszt, Chopin, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff playing, he played Mozart and early Beethoven, for example, with a light touch that could surprise listeners who had typecast him as a firebrand."

Read the rest here:

and more info here:,,60-1477172,00.html

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Shostakovich's life as a silent cinema pianist

Love this series on BBC. Check this one out --especially if interested in film composing . "Tommy Pearson talks to author John Riley about Shostakovich's long film music career, from his early life as a silent cinema pianist to his epic score for King Lear

Swift Currents, Like His Music - Steve Reich

Ideas That Flow in Swift Currents, Like His Music - On Steve Reich

A really lovely profile of Steve Reich in the NYT.

"Steve Reich was sitting in a Starbucks, a logical enough place to meet a man who has been described as the most caffeinated individual in New York. Around him, ambient noise recreated the atmosphere of his 1994 piece City Life, which incorporated recordings of pile-drivers, snatches of speech and other downtown noises. He was talking about his latest piece, You Are (Variations), which had its premiere in October in Los Angeles. "

Nice lead line...

Read the reset here:

Another Art Case Piano

Steinway & Sons will unveil a one-of-a-kind Arts & Crafts style piano inspired by The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa at 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 17 in the Great Hall. The unveiling will kick-off the 18th annual Arts & Crafts Antique Show and Conference at the resort. Each year, hundreds of arts and crafts enthusiasts from around North America flock to the resort to share in the heritage of this historic period. "

Alas no photo...


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Liberace of Baghdad

The Liberace of Baghdad

Sean McAllister's "The Liberace of Baghdad" has won a special jury prize at this year's "Sundance Film Festival". The film is a documentary that exams present day Iraq in the context of the life of an Iraqi pianist (Samir Peter).

I have not seen the film, but judging from the advance notices it looks very interesting.

Read more about it here:

and here:

More on the lost Beethoven

More on the lost Beethoven

Last night, "The Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra performed the 10-minute adagio, or slow movement, as the centerpiece of a night of classics, drawing respectful applause and some standing ovations from an audience of around 1,000. "

A few more details about the work:

"Ludwig van Beethoven wrote the main themes of the piece in 1789, when he was just 19-years-old. He titled the draft "Concerto in A for Piano" and gave instructions for other instruments, but left unfinished phrases, writing only "etc., etc."
Dutch musicologist Cees Nieuwenhuizen orchestrated the movement using Beethoven's notes and adhering to the master's early style, which was heavily influenced by Mozart
. "

and this:

"Beethoven is not believed to have written the opening or closing movements."

These reconstructed works are always interesting, but one always suspects if it isn't a bit of blasphemy. Perhaps somethings really are better left unsaid (unfinished).

yea..... I know...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Fashion and Schubert

Fashion and Schubert

Rolling along our merry snarky way, I offer you this be classical blabla:

With his hip haircuts and stylish clothes, he cuts a dashing figure onstage. (In the program book for Sunday afternoon's concert, fashion designer Issey Miyake is thanked for providing the pianist's concert attire.)

Read the rest here: