Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Laptop Battles - Coming to a City Near You

And speaking of roll-up keyboards, here's the perfect event: Laptop Battles. The battles are described as "a competitive event for laptop musicians to match their skills against one another. Battles are chosen randomly and conducted in 3 minute rounds. A panel of judges decides which contestant advances to the next round, single elimination style." Now that's pretty cool sounding. And the competitions are picking up some pretty high-profile sponsors in the world of digital music making, such as Native Instruments and Ableton. Perhaps the in the not too-distant future individual latop-artists will soon find the corporate money (aka sponsors) at their doors. Check those cereal boxes, kids.

Learn more about Laptop Competitions right

Roll your own, Maestro

Now here's a new product that should make for an interesting plane flight or train ride. Perfect for the laptop set.

Check it out

And you could probably compliment it nicely with the handy dandy roll-up computer keyboard (we want one -hint). Info here

And they are off...

The Rubinstein Piano Competition gets into full swing... Wonder how many will be playing the Rach Piano concerto no2?....

Read about it Here

You win a few..and then some

Unsurprisingly, news comes from the UK that Mozart continues to be "da man" on the Classics charts --though he doesn't take the #1 spot. That honor goes to Rachmaninoff and his Piano Concerto no2 (not a personal favorite of mine). Prediction: if it were a US poll of classical music fans Rach's 3rd piano concerto would be the chart topper. Read the rest Here

Monday, March 21, 2005

Deaf composer unveils work

"..four world premieres by a deaf Edinburgh composer are to be performed in the Capital. James Douglas has written a series of 75 works - each dedicated to a person or group who has helped him since a chronic ear infection caused him to go deaf 14 years ago. "

Read the rest

Calling all classical music fans!

Looks like great fun!

"Classicalive - a three-day exhibition of everything and anything from the world of classical music - has been attracting children from across the country.
It was officially opened by 17-year-old violinist Nicola Benedetti, the current BBC Young Musician of the Year.

"There's something here for everyone," she said. "I've been so impressed with all the stands. And the atmosphere is very warm and welcoming."

Classical is often seen as not as appealing to children as other kinds of music. But Nicola, who often tours schools, disagrees. "

Check it out

Eclectic Stroking the Familiar

"When Mr. Blake, a pianist, begins a song like ''The Midnight Sun'' or ''Stella by Starlight'' or ''Mood Indigo'' he suggests its harmonic world with a few powerful opening chords, revs up the sustain pedal and slips into extreme displays of rubato and dynamics. He will assault you with one rich, harmonious chord, a room-filler, then chase it away with the next one, a quiet, mildly dissonant pianissimo stab with no sustain. Mr. Blake has been teaching at the New England Conservatory since 1967, in the department that was once called third stream -- meaning the intertwining of jazz and classical-music philosophy and pedagogy -- but is now called contemporary improvisation. And there is a special-interest feeling to what he does; in no way is he part of a mainstream movement within jazz. (You couldn't even call it a niche because nobody has directly followed his example.) But what he does -- using solo-piano technique, imagination and memory to construct a slightly disturbing dream of American music -- is fascinatingly original"

Well, it's not that original, but worth a listen. Read the rest
of it here

Bluffer's Guide to Classical Music

an interesting little series from out New Zealand way. Worth a gander.


Schubert had an advantage over Beethoven in that he could actually hear the music he wrote. However, this was balanced by the raging syphilis that killed him at the age of 31. He sure managed to pack an awful lot of music into those few years though, with his output including over 600 songs, eight existing symphonies (don’t be fooled that there’s a 9th Symphony – number 7 is missing) and loads of small-scale works for chamber ensembles and solo piano.

Unlike Beethoven, Schubert sure could write a good tune (Beethoven is the greater composer but no one could claim it’s because he wrote pretty melodies). Many of his best appear in the myriad songs he composed. For a great sample of these, try a CD released by Hyperion called “A Voyage of Discovery”. This is a highlights collection taken from the company’s 37-volume complete Schubert songs edition, and it’s a fantastic bargain as well as great music performed superbly. Addicts will need all 37 CDs.

Check it out here

Life is so unfair. Just ask Salieri

This was no Faustian bargain, Thornton explained, but a sincere promise from a devout young boy to serve God all his life if he could only be a great composer.
What Salieri became instead was a good, competent composer - not so mediocre as Shaffer portrays him - whose world-view was rocked when he bumped into pure genius in a man he considered undeserving. As Shaffer tells it, at least, the result was a murderous "war [that Salieri] fought with God through his 'preferred creature' Amadeus."

Read on

Classical Pianist Interprets Radiohead

Fans of Radiohead take their love of the band very seriously. Classical pianist Christopher O'Riley, however, has taken his admiration further.

O'Riley has recorded two full albums of Radiohead transcriptions for solo piano. His latest CD, "Hold Me to This," will be released by Harmonia Mundi's World Village imprint April 12. The new album, which follows 2003's "True Love Waits" (released on Sony Classical Odyssey), features many of the band's B-sides and rarities.

"I'm not arranging these songs just to have arranged them," says O'Riley, who also hosts the Public Radio International syndicated show "From the Top," which showcases young classical musicians from across the United States. "I'm doing the best I can to approximate the energy of a full rock band. And that's really always been part of the conceit and the seduction of piano reductions or arrangements of any kind of music. That possible range of color, and vitality, is the same thing that drives, say, Liszt's transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies."

Read the rest


"Besides the obvious budget cuts, Wish believes that a big reason kids don't learn music in school is because they associate "educational" music -- classical and marching -- as being kind of boring.

"I believe it's better to let them get to the good stuff first, as opposed to being confined to 17 years of classical piano," Wish says.

So when students say they want to learn how to play Shaggy, Ricky Martin or Britney Spears, Wish makes a trip to iTunes and invariably comes back with just three necessary chords. "

Roll on over here to read the rest

Learning to play piano at age 49 can hurt your brain

"Pianos have 88 buttons, and none of them does what I want, no matter how many times I press them. I cannot remember why I took it up in the first place -- something to do with being closer to my children and understanding them more. "

Ouch. Take a couple scales and call me in the Morning

Beethoven's Wreck

"For Beethoven, enough was not enough. He decided the evening needed a finale, so he threw together the Choral Fantasy for piano, chorus and orchestra. Beethoven would improvise the introduction to this piece.
The omens were not good. It was a freezing night. The concert would run eventually for four hours from 6.30pm. Beethoven had fought with the original soprano, but the replacement he brought in was wholly inadequate. Goodness knows what the orchestra was like – it was an ad hoc group which would play almost all of the music under-rehearsed, with some of the huge programme of new, modern music not rehearsed at all.
The event developed into a bit of a shambles, with Beethoven publicly shouting abuse at the hapless clarinet player in the Choral Fantasy who inadvertently played the same phrase twice. Beethoven made the already alienated orchestra start again."

A good story twice told. Read it all Here

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy Birthday Mr. Bach

"A group of music students will celebrate Bach's birthday on March 21 by walking 20 miles from New Brunswick, New Jersey, to a New York Philharmonic concert in Manhattan.

The three-day stroll was inspired by a journey that Bach made in his youth. While serving as a church musician in the town of Arnstadt, the composer heard that Danish organist and composer Dietrich Buxtehude would be performing in Lübeck, 250 miles away. With no way to travel, he decided to walk, and completed the trip in ten days."


So what are you doing for Bach's Birthday?

The centrality of the arts

It's about time somebody started championing the Arts as "the" heart of a liberal arts education --well, really, it should be central to any university/college education.


"Let's say you're an academic adviser and a student comes asking which course to take to fulfill a humanities requirement: Europe in the Age of Revolution or Beethoven's symphonies? Or how about this one: the philosophy of Descartes or the poetry of Milton?

If the adviser were Helen Vendler, the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor, Beethoven and Milton would probably get the nod, and not simply because as one of the nation's leading literary critics Vendler is prejudiced in favor of her own and related academic disciplines.

If pressed, Vendler could make a reasoned and persuasive case for why the arts should be at the center of a humanities curriculum. In fact, that is exactly what she did when she delivered the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities in May 2004. Established in 1972 by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Jefferson Lecture is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual and public achievement in the humanities. "

Read the rest

A pianist's remarkable triumph over adversity

It's just amazing what passes for adversity this days.

Ho hum... good luck Steve O.


Playing With Myself.

OK. It's been awhile since posting. Busy, busy, busy boy. Hopefully I'll have some links to clips of your truly playing a little Bach.

And speaking of playing check out this review of Anthony de Mare's latest gimmick. And it's too bad that comes to being that --since it could be much more interesting and engaging. I still give him kudos for creativity. But, yea, he needs to spend a little more time in the practice room:

Excerpt: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/17/arts/music/17mare.html

"Four years ago he presented a compelling semiautobiographical multimedia piece in New York, "Playing With Myself." The program incorporated performances of piano works, songs and some dance sequences into acted episodes depicting a young man whose exploration of his anguished longing culminates in a transforming romantic encounter at a gay nightclub.

So it's no surprise that at Zankel Hall on Tuesday night, on his recital program titled "Gotham Glory," a celebration of New York City, Mr. de Mare was at his best in Frederic Rzewski's "De Profundis" (1992). This is a stunning 30-minute work for solo piano that combines Mr. Rzewski's ferocious, gritty and at times dreamy piano music with speaking and singing of texts adapted from Oscar Wilde's harrowing essay from prison.

Mr. de Mare's performance involved a mesmerizing array of sounds: vocal sighs, cries, barks and growls, as well as some horn-honking and percussive tapping of the closed wooden cover of the keyboard. Mr. Rzewski wrote the work with Mr. de Mare in mind, and after abandoning an attempt to perform it from memory, Mr. de Mare returned onstage with the score, started over and performed "De Profundis" as if he owned it.

The rest of his formidable program was devoted to some technically challenging contemporary piano works, including premieres by Paul Moravec, Jason Robert Brown, David Del Tredici and Fred Hersch. Several of these scores pushed Mr. de Mare's pianistic skills to the limit. Perhaps his attempt to turn the contemporary piano recital into "concert theater," as he calls his explorations, is taking a toll on his technique."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I will learn, not fear, the piano

A lovely essay on learning piano:

"In my growing-up house, the one where my grandparents raised us with a sense of purpose, extracurricular activities were not just for our educational resumes. We were expected to do the things that the ancestors never could. We studied literature, played sports, gave speeches, participated in pageantry on a regular basis.

They weren't just activities. They were duties.

Music also wasn't extracurricular. It was integral. Mahalia Jackson's soulful wail painted the walls on more than Sunday mornings. Nat King Cole was a regular, too.

And when those voices were silent, I heard the songs anyway. Man, my grandmother could sing! We heard ``How Great Thou Art'' along with ``Straighten Up and Fly Right.'' And when she wasn't singing, she kept trying to make my brother, sister and me perform in front of her friends.

In the corner was the piano, an extravagance that became a necessity, a part of a cultured upbringing. It was so much a part of my house I can't remember when it wasn't there. But I do remember this:

I never played it.

I didn't know how. And I was scared to learn."

Read the rest here

Ferrante Mauled by Steinway; "Don't blame the piano"


"Las Vegas, Nev | A city is in shock and Arthur Ferrante, of Ferrante and Teicher, is recovering after a vicious attack by his eight-foot Steinway grand."

Read the rest and laugh here

A Mozart Free Zone

Finally somebody is saying no to the "Mozart-Overkill".

"The province of Styria said on Tuesday it would opt out of the much-publicised "Mozart Year 2006" and declare itself a "Mozart-free zone".

Read It here

A Young Gun To Keep Eyes and Ears On

If you haven't heard Mr. Biss at the piano, you're missing some of the best piano playing to be heard among the current crop of young pianists. Without doubt, he is destined to tower over the majority of his peers. Check out this very nice NYT piece:

"On his 16th birthday, in 1996, a day when some teenagers receive a driver's license, Mr. Biss began a professional career. He performed a recital that night in Chicago, and unbeknown to him, two major power brokers of the classical music world were in the audience (Lee Lamont, now the chairman emeritus of ICM Artists, and Zarin Mehta, now president of the New York Philharmonic)."


Monday, March 07, 2005

Listen Up Alkan Fans! Free Internet Music

Free Archive of First Recordings of Unknown Nineteenth-Century Music on the Internet

"The first thirty-five world première recordings in John Kersey’s “Romantic Discoveries” project are now available in Mp3 format. They feature composers including the reclusive genius Charles-Valentin Alkan, now attracting wide attention from the musical community, as well as Samuel Sebastian Wesley, best known for his sacred music, Chopin pupil Ignace Xavier Joseph Leÿbach, and noted pianist-composers Brinley Richards, Sydney Smith, Wilhelm Kuhe, Stephen Heller and Edward Rimbault, to name but a few.

Kersey has decided to issue these recordings as part of his mission to make this music better-known, and as the outcome of his long-standing research into this area. “These pieces are superbly melodic, entertaining and wonderfully-written for the instrument,” he says. “Their composers wrote to provide accessible, enjoyable music for a wide audience, which fulfils its purpose as well today as when it was first performed.”


More info here

Listen Here

Cold War Submarine Piano

Strange !

"The only full-size piano ever installed aboard a submarine conducting nuclear deterrent patrols is scheduled to go on display this summer at the Steinway Company Museum in New York.

The exhibit, celebrating the 150 years of the famous piano company, is scheduled to display a different piano for each decade."

Read all about it here

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Undefeated: William Kapell

"Was there any greater American pianist born during the last century than Kapell? Perhaps not. Certainly he was the most famous American-born player until Van Cliburn. He was a jukebox star during the 1940s, thanks to his performance of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto, a noisy showpiece that Kapell came to resent, in the way that Rachmaninoff came to loathe his own Prelude in C-sharp Minor.

He was also a stereotype of a native New Yorker: bright, brash, tactless, competitive, funny, cocky, and thin-skinned. He could be exceptionally generous and also nasty. He was a nervous, obsessive person—and meticulous (he kept a diary to record, down to the minute, how long he practiced each piece, toting up the numbers month after month)."

Passion for Piano

Tom Hutchinson is a zoologist, anthropologist, business man, carpenter and mechanic. His real passion, however, is in the music produced by his seven player pianos.

Read the rest right here

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cliburn Competition Competitors Announced

Something new, something old. Recognize anyone?

Not surprised to see Cabassi back (you can hear him here in mp3 format: http://digilander.libero.it/davidecabassi/music.htm)

Not excited about the return of Davide Franceschetti. More hype and image than music to my ears. Roberto Plano.
Surprised (and disappointed) Andy Russo wasn't back.


Name, Age as of May 20 (Nationality)
Ms. Lilian Akopova, 21 (Ukraine)
Mr. Ning An, 28 (Ooltewah, TN)
Mr. Giuseppe Andaloro, 22 (Italy)
Mr. Stephen Beus, 23 (Othello, WA)
Mr. Sodi Braide, 29 (Nigeria/UK)
Mr. Davide Cabassi, 28 (Italy)
Ms. Jie Chen, 19 (China)
Ms. Sa Chen, 25 (China)
Ms. Ying Feng*, 28 (China)
Ms. Grace Fong, 26 (Temple City, CA)
Mr. Davide Franceschetti*, 28 (Italy)
Mr. Alexei Grynyuk, 27 (Ukraine)
Ms. Chu-Fang Huang, 22 (China)
Ms. Mariya Kim, 23 (Ukraine)
Mr. Alexander Kobrin, 25 (Russia)
Ms. Marina Kolomiytseva, 25 (Russia)
Mr. Alexey Koltakov**, 26 (Australia)
Ms. Soyeon Lee, 25 (S. Korea)
Ms. Ang Li, 20 (Canada)
Mr. Albert Mamriev*, 30 (Israel)
Ms. Gabriela Martinez, 21 (Venezuela)
Ms. Maria Mazo, 22 (Germany/Russia)
Mr. Alexandre Moutouzkine*, 24 (Russia)
Ms. Esther Park, 20 (Little Ferry, NJ)
Mr. Roberto Plano, 26 (Italy)
Ms. Daria Rabotkina, 24 (Russia)
Mr. Ilya Rashkovskiy, 20 (Russia)
Ms. Elizabeth Joy Roe, 23 (Aurora, IL)
Ms. Rui Shi, 21 (China)
Mr. Rem Urasin, 29 (Russia)
Mr. Xiaohan Wang**, 24 (China)
Ms. Di Wu, 20 (China)
Ms. ChenXin Xu, 23 (China)
Ms. Joyce Yang, 19 (S. Korea)
Mr. Andrius Zlabys, 28 (Lithuania)

PR Release Here