Tuesday, May 31, 2005

How Honky Was Mozart?

One for the "Found it Online File":

"As experience grows, some experts may yet answer the vexed question - when Bach played on the Gravicembalo of Silbermann, how many Cents of honk did it have? What tuning did he have in mind when he composed? Similarly, on the Viennese Stein pianos, how honky was the tuning? And how honky was Mozart himself, in his thoughts and in his dreams? How honky was Scott Joplin? "


Johann Nepomuk Hummel: The Piano Competition

"The concept behind the triennial competition is to spread the message of a pianist and composer who, in his time, was ranked among the top flight in Europe - Bratislava native Johann Hummel (1778-1837)."

Read the rest

Monday, May 30, 2005

Pianist or File Clerk?

This brought a smile to my face:

"Some take piano lessons diligently for 12 years and become great composers. Some take it for 10 years and become great file clerks. I have been at it for six months and should probably start filing now. "

Read the rest of this amusing bit right

What's Makes the Classical Music Critic Tick?

Via Brian Sacawa's excellent blog, I was alerted a few days ago to this news item, but it slipped to the back burner. What is it? It's a demographic survey and study of classical music critics in the USA and Canada.

"The survey's 181 critics are drawn from daily newspapers, magazines and online forums, and, under the condition of strict anonymity, agreed to write frankly their thoughts on what criticism should be, and how well they think they are doing. "

Loads of information can be found there, and all of it is fuel for discussion and debate. The study, a joint project of the North American Music Critics Assocation and Columbia Univ.'s Journalism crowd, can be found online (in .pdf format) right here.

More later.

Cliburn Chatter: Meet the Finalists

Here are the judges' picks for finalists (in bold-red are those competitors Well Tempered Blog predicted as the judges' final picks.

Davide Cabassi
Sa Chen
Chu-Fang Huang

Alexander Kobrin
Roberto Plano
Joyce Yang

Sa Chen! Wow. Both Sa Chen and Huang were on my personal wish list, but I didn't think the judges would select them. But they did and I am so happy to be hearing more of them.

To be honest, I believe Yang was a bad choice for a finalist, she seems to me to be a fine young pianist but who has yet to fully mature musically and communicate a moving artistic vision. What she delivers, as I hear it, are fleet fingers and a repetoire of muggings that create a kind of audience appeal. I could go on, but let's just say she's not my cuppa tea. Nontheless, she has made it quite far and that merits credit. Still, in her place, I would have placed Martinez as she is to my ears a better musician. Different ears. Different choices.

For those of you following it, here's some of the other predictions from the blogosphere (correct choices in bold-red):

Mike Winter' s (from the official Cliburn blog) pegged the following as finalists (bold-red for those actually selected): An, Feng, Martinez, Mazo, Plano, Yang

Carl Tait's (which is purportedly more or less identical to that of Thomas' from Klassic): Yang, Plano, Martinez, Feng, An, Kobrin

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cliburn Chatter - The Home Stretch

The finals are coming into view. Thus far here's the picks and pans from the last few days from this side of the computer. Your own mileage will of course vary ;)

Kobrin and Cabassi. I belive that these are the two best musicians in the competition. Kobrin I think is the better technician. Cabassi's recital sparked a bit of complaint (particualrly his Beethoven). Trailing not far behind is Plano and Martinez.

Low point? For me it was An's performances. These seemed bad all around, even the chamber music which other liked did nothing for me. I will be very surprised if he gets a spot in the finals.

Most over-hyped? Joyce Yang. She just simply to my ears has not yet developed the depth of musicianship required of a medalist. I'd not expect her to continue on.

I liked Sa Chen despite slips. She played with a gorgeous tone throughout. I'd like to hear more of her playing, but I'm afraid that's it this go. Hope to be wrong.

Best Chamber music playing? Had to be Roberto Plano. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Finalists? My predictions?


(edit: I'd prefer to see Huang in place of Feng, but I doubt it will tip that way).

Liszt, Thalberg, and A Piano on eBay

If you're lookig to buy a piano and have a few hundred thousand dollars handy, you may want to check out a piano listed over on eBay. It is purported to be the piano used by Liszt and Thalberg for their legendary "ivory duel".

See the piano (a rare Erard concert grand) as posted at eBay right


Read about the "ivory duel" and long standing rivalry between Liszt and Thalberg
online here

Personally, I've gotten any room for that kind of monster. I'm just hoping to find me one of these sweet babes.

Today's Blog Tip: Sir Michael Tippett

Marcus Maroney has a nice post concerning various plans afoot to mark the centenary of Sir Michael Tippett's birth. Included is mention of Paul Crossley's recording of Tippett's piano sonatas. Read about it here

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Bloglandia and the Van Cliburn

A nice article on blogging and the Van Cliburn Competition appeared yesterday in the Star-Telegram. Read it here (requires reg). The Well-Tempered Blog rates mention and a quote. Cool.

Other blogs and bloggers mentioned are: Thomas Vitzthum, a German fellow, blogging for the German online classical music site Klassic, and Carl Tait who is writing the web commentary for the Van Cliburn site's official blog. We like it. Not only because we agree with most of Tait's takes on the performances (we have some quibbling, but that'll wait), but because it's an enjoyable read all around. Preliminaries were nicely handled by Mike Winters, though we often disagreed with him. But, hey, that's the spice that makes it fun.

The work the Van Cliburn Foundation has put into providing a real-time streaming webcast is keenly appreciated. According to the article, the Van Cliburn folks have had over 16, 000 hits on their webpage since the start of the competition. I don't know exactly how that traffic breaks down, but I hope they'll continue to further beef up and/or explore alternative online delivery methods. Without a doubt it's one of the best things on net for piano lovers!

Thought-Experiment: If TV Networks Sponsored a Piano Competition

It might look a lot like this.
The jury might closely resemble this.

From the Top

Nice bit about Chris O'Riley's radio show "From the Top". I really like the program and listen to it whenever I can.Read about it here. And he has a new CD coming out.

"Piano Man" Mystery Nearing an End?

According to a report in The Independent, he might be a Czech national. A boyhood friend and his family say they recognize him. And, more importantly, claim an undisclosed physical marking of some kind might unravel the mystery of the Piano Man's identity.

"He was a fantastic, captivating player but always so quiet, so shy. When I saw the pictures of Piano Man on television, I thought, 'Well, Tomas, you became famous at last'."

Read about it here.

Seems like a promising lead. Wait and see.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Ruth Laredo, "First Lady of the Piano", dead at 67.

Very sad news! Ruth Laredo, one of the truly great ladies of the piano and long linked with the music of Rachmaninoff, has died of cancer at age 67. More information here and here.

More information about her life, career, and recordings is available from


Down the Memory Hole and Back Again

Pliable from The Overgrown Path asked a question awhile back that set me to thinking: What was the first classical record you bought?

It was an album by Artur Rubinstein. I think it was titled "My Favourite Chopin" or something along those lines. I suppose I was 11 or so at the time.

But the first recording that I can remember listening to in childhood, and which I nearly wore out, was one of those "100 greatest piano works of all time" type of albums. What I remember loving on that record was the "Scherzo" from Litolff's fourth piano concerto. On the "B aide" was an excerpt from Richard Addinsell's "Warsaw Concerto". I think the pianist in the Addinsell was Leonard Pennario. But I'm probably wrong about that.

Wonder how all that warped my aesthetic sensibilities? Don't bother answering....

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Need a Piano Teacher?

Check here. I didn't even know such a service exists...drats... I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Jailhouse Rock

Puts a whole new spin on the music:

"At 20, he began his four-year stint in jail on a drug-dealing charge and encountered fellow inmates from completely different lifestyles. He was playing in church services then and saw a different route to the music from some of his fellow inmates."

Read more here.

Things to Do With Metonomes

A new use for the metronome: improve your game of golf. Can't wait to try it. Report back later.

The Practice Room

An interesting bit and good news relating to a court battle over piano practice and noise abatement in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. Read about it here.

Coltrane's Piano Makes It Home

And it just wouldn't be right otherwise.

" A few of the keys, mostly toward the high end, were marked with the word "sticking" in John Coltrane's hand. The ink is directly on the ivory and quite faded."

No doubt they'll be feeling alot better now. Details are

The Celestial Jukebox and Mr. Schoenberg

Pliable from "On An Overgrown Parth" has done web surfing music lovers a great favor. He has tracked down some of the best online classical music broadcast sites. Some items on the list are already familiar to WTB (see our "Listen 2 Music" section on the RH side), but there's a great many that we'd not encountered before. Some real treasures!

For example, the Schoenberg Center's "Jukebox" offers all the Schoenberg your heart could desire. And lots of spots on the web for listening to Bach..

It's all right here "On an Overgrown Path" !

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Helpful Pedagogy Site

This is a very cool and useful site for piano teachers. It's a database of 20th century piano music written for the intermediate level piano student. You'll find it right here.

Today's Cool Word Is



Van Cliburn Competition: Semi-Finalists

Here's the official slate of semi-finalists. WTB's earlier picks for the semi-finals are in bold red:

1. Mr. Ning An,
2. Mr. Davide Cabassi
3. Ms. Jie Chen,
4. Ms. Sa Chen
5. Ms. Ying Feng
6. Ms. Chu-Fang Huang
7. Mr. Alexander Kobrin
8. Ms. Gabriela Martinez
9. Ms. Maria Mazo
10. Mr. Roberto Plano
11. Mr. Wang Xiaoha
12. Ms. Joyce Yang

The biggest winner will likely be Stephen Beus. The unfortunate decision to eliminate him this early on in the competition will probably only further enhance the buzz surrounding him. Good for him !

And this leads to the next consideration: Certainly they are all pianists with great technique, but how many have the goods needed for a long career, one music lovers will passionately care about once the competition is over?

One really pleasant surprise is that Maria Mazo made the cut (we thought she would be unfairly passed over and glad we were wrong).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mr. Chopin

"The story unfolds in Chopin's Paris salon just days after the 1848 revolution -- an upheaval that also figures in "Les Miserables" -- and deals with his fractured romance with the novelist George Sand."

Details here.

Star Wars Post

I never cared for the "Star Wars" movies beyond the first one. But I have always liked the music. The man behind the music is, of course, John Williams:

"When Williams started working with producer George Lucas on "Star Wars," America was celebrating its bicentennial. The composer was 44, balding with dark hair around the sides and graying beard. The five-time Oscar winner is now 73, with white hair and beard -- but the force is still with him."

Read the rest

The Cliburn Competition - View from Here - Part 2

No doubt the reviewer for the Dallas Morning News had it about right in observing that "The third day of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition provided some of the best playing so far, and some of the worst. " Underscore the word "worst". That sentiment can be extended.
I don't think I've heard so many sloppy performances and a willingness to throw caution to the wind. And what's more, is it just me or does it not seem that some of the competitors this time around are laying it on just a little thick with the annoying facial expressions and excessive gestures?

So far here's who I like and think merit advancing because of the level of musicianship displayed:

Beus, Yang, Urasin, Cabassi, Kobrin, Lee, An, Maryia Kim, Andaloro, Zlabys, and Plano.

Of these, I'd not be surprised to see Beus, Cabassi, and Kobrin make it to the finals.

We'll have to see what the judges think...

Playing Beethoven

Here's some interesting news! Actor Ed Harris is finding playing Beethoven very difficult. He's playing Beethoven in the film "Copying Beethoven." You can read about it right here.

I can almost hear the many times repeated strains of "Moonlight" and "Ode to Joy" percolating in this one.

Apparently, Beethoven isn't the only composer heading to the big screen. Mozart gets some more time in the spotlight.

That Other Piano Competition

While the "Ivory Circus" and its high-stakes fun in Texsas wind to a close, there's another competition gearing up that you might want to check out: The 2005 World Chamionship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. Details about the event are here.

Competiting in the contest are:

Eytan Uslan - Charlotte, NC - Regular Division
Jennifer Hund - Lebanon, IL - Junior Division
Andrew Eichholz - Belleville, IL - Junior Division
Samuel Noethe - O'Fallon, IL - Junior Division
Edward Folk - Lebanon, IL - Junior Division
Morgan Siever - Carlyle, IL - Junior Division
Brandi Long - Danville, IL - Junior Division
Sang Park - Shiloh, IL - Junior Division
Charles Davis Jr - Greensboro, NC - Regular Division
Tom Cortese - Champaign, IL - Regular Division
Faye Ballard - Champaign, IL - Regular Division
Andrew Moore - St. Charles, MO - Junior Division
Russell Wilson - Greenbelt, MD - Regular Division
Adam Yarian - Bowie, MD - Regular Division
Harrison Wade - Decatur, IL - Junior Division
Rod Ludwig - Seymour, IN - Senior Division
Roben Martin - Carlyle, IL - Junior Division
Adam Swanson - Dansville, MI - Junior Division
Brett Youens - Tubingen, Germany - Regular Division
Alex Henrichs - Breese, IL - Junior Division
Bryan Wright - Lynchburg, VA - Regular Division
Karah Gettleman - Bismark, IL - Junior Division
Dale Wells - Kalamazoo, MI - Regular Division
"Perf" Bill Edwards - Ashburn, VA - Regular Division

There's a nice write up of one of the young players to keep your ears open for

Harrison Wade .

Looks like loads of fun.

The Van Cliburn's Italian Contigent

A "human interest" write up of sorts appears in the DF Star Telegram by Jennifer Autrey on the four Italians at this year's Van Cliburn. Echoing the seeming consensus that Italians do well and giving us a glimpse of them at play away from the keyboard, she dubs them "the fun boys of the competition". Ok, maybe. But "Fab Four"? That's pushing the envelope just a little a too far. :-) Read it online here.

Forgive the Mess

A sudden wave of spring cleaing hit us yesterday and we thought it would be a swell idea to spruce up the old blogstead. Unfortunately, this resulted in some mess with font colors and customized template components needing tweaking. We will stay with the present look for a bit. But we sort of miss the old paint already. Feedback is always welcome.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Way to Go!

"(Esther)Bruns, who taught music for 30-plus years at Farmingdale Elementary School, drove to students' homes before and after school to give piano lessons, charging only $2 to $3. If students needed a ride to school, she'd pick them up. And when their talents progressed beyond the elementary school level, she was first in line at their recitals. "

Schools need more folks like Esther Bruns! Check out her story here.

Women at the Piano

Alicia de Larrocha's birthday got WTB thinking about some of the other great women at the piano past and present.

And that naturally brought us to this interesting website Women at the Piano. Lots of great information!

Happy Birthday !

Today is pianist Alicia de Larrocha's birthday!

Without question, she is one of the true champions of Spanish music.

If she's not already in your CD collection, you ought to right that shame by getting a copy of this CD.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Beethoven Experience !

A quick reminder to gear-up for BBC Radio's "The Beethoven Experience".

"From 9am on Sunday 5 June to midnight on Friday 10 June, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast every single note of Ludwig van Beethoven. Every symphony, every quartet, every sonata ... and plenty of Beethoven surprises too."

Of special note: Artur Pizarro's complete cycle of the Beethoven piano sonatas. More about that here

And don't forget to check out this article.

A critic taken to task?

Zip on over to On An Overgrown Path for more on the dust-up following the premiere of Maazel's opera "1984" (Orwell). Of particular interest are the comments including a very nice reply by Emanuel Ax. You'll find it all right here.

Good Doggie Revisited

Dang! This whole dogs and classical music thing is getting way too complex..

"I found out that dogs in general do not seem to have a particular preference for classical or pop music,' he says, 'but rather that they seem to react well to anything that transmits a sense of joy and well-being. So I mix my choreography between classical and modern pieces. In the field of classical music, I have found out that the music needs to have a pronounced sense of rhythm and that it needs to flow well. This is why composers like Bach, Vivaldi, Pachelbel or Mozart, are very suitable. Also, dogs do not like most contemporary classical pieces, because they do not react well to atonality.'"

Read the rest of it here. Dogs and choreopgraphy. :-)

Good Doggie

Just as I've long suspected! Dogs prefer listening to Bach. It's a fact.

loves Bach Posted by Hello

A Donkey, A Piano, A Good Laugh

Apparently donkeys can't play piano. At least not this one.

"Piano Man" Mystery Update

Some say it's a hoax of sorts. But perhaps not at all. Some interesting details are reported here that I'd not previously seen reported. It's a genuine puzzle, given all the international attention, that nobody seems to know this poor soul.

Hiroshima's Grand Piano

Came across an interesting news report: "George Winston will play the grand piano that was repaired after having been damaged in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima at a concert to be held in the city." The full story is online here.

Winston's Webpage is Here.

A little of this, a little of that - Cliburn Chatter

A round-up of highlights from this morning's chatter generated by the Van Cliburn Competition. No real big surprises --least not here.

Of WTB's favorites to watch: Franceschetti's turn at the keyboard was a highlight for many. Confident and warm playing. But not extraordinary on balance. Conventional Wisdom: He'll advance to the semi-finals. We agree, but still find his playing erratic. Cabassi gave a commanding performance and he's still our favorite to win this thing.

Happy to report there was indeed some buzz for Stephen Beus who, despite a plodding start, managed to light some fires with his performance of Barber's Piano Sonata and to ought to make it to the next round. We hope he does.

You can find more about Beus via "From the Top here ("From the Top" is hosted by Chris O'Riley, see prev. post). Beus, who is a Mormon served on a church mission abroad and the break from full-time practice didn't hurt him a bit. Following the From the Top link, you can hear him give a very nice performance of the fugue from Barber's Piano Sonata recorded for From the Top

A pleasant surprise: Soyeon Lee, who reportedly enjoys pilates and power shopping. More about her here. Other surprises of a sort: Alexei Grynyuk managed to pull-off a respectable performance, at minimum he managed to keep himself from sticking his tongue out while playing. On the other hand, Elizabeth Joy Roe was described as appearing to be in constant torment. Her playing was reportedly pinched sounding. Whatever. Our auditors guess: Grynyuk and Roe are done.

Thus far WTB expects Franschetti, Beus, and Cabassi to continue on...

But ya just never know.. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Van Cliburn Competition - the view from here

Logistical nightmare or my own misfortune? The live feed online from the Van Cliburn Competition seemed to be down. Haven't tested it on various sytems yet, but will give it a whirl later. Anyone had any luck with it? Dang it!

The official blogs are up for the competitions. But, at the moment, they consist mainly of chit-chat and yip-yap about the kick off event at John and Lesa Oudt's estate (plastic keys, cowboy boots, etc). Last post yesterday. Find it online here. Bloggers are Mike Winter (a free lance classical music critic) and Carl Tait (a semi-finalist from a previous VC Amateur competition). We'll keep checking back.

That Radiohead Piano Guy: Christopher O'Riley

A fun interview with one of WTB's favorite pianists Christopher O'Riley can be found online right here. Among the interesting tidbits: what's on his iPod and what he wants played at his funeral. More importantly, O'Riley reveals the secret to his pianistic bag of tricks:

"For me, it’s Prokoviev’s Second Piano Concerto — everything I ever wanted to do on piano is in that piece, all my pianistic bag of tricks. I find that more and more, because I’ve had my fingers around it for so long, those shapes fall naturally to my hands. "

A Hint of Yorkshire

The detecting contines (by armchair and professional investigators alike). Various theories are being advanaced as to "Piano Man's" identity. Among the most interesting (at least from the sidelines)is the suggestion that he is Canada's "Mr. Nobody":

"Mr Nobody spoke like an Englishman and appeared to have had an English public-school education — including Latin and Greek. A linguistics expert thought he heard a hint of Yorkshire in his accent. The Toronto hospital gave him a name he apparently mentioned when first admitted — Philip Staufen — and he later called himself Keith Ryan. Friends of a former French porn star who had lived in England, known as Georges or George Lecuit or Lechit, said they recognised him. But nothing was proved and the man eventually chose a Scandinavian name, Sywald Skeid. The Canadian police doubted he was a genuine amnesiac and held him on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. But he got married to the daughter of one of his lawyers, and was bailed to live in British Columbia. Now, he is reported to be missing from there. He was about the same age as the Piano Man — between 25 and 35 — and like him, he turned up with dyed blond hair and the labels torn out of his clothes. They look similar, and Canadian press cuttings confirm Mr Nobody later had plastic surgery. Reports from Canada say that when last heard of, his wife had gone to Portugal to arrange a visa for him, and he was expected to join her there. Read all about it here

and more here. And scroll mid-page for more here.

Yes, Jessica there's a movie brewing in this story. Seriously. At this rate, he will no doubt achieve far greater celebrity status than this year's winner of the Van Cliburn. Dang!

Arrested Developments

Long Island cops gave a bad review following a poor performance by a piano-store employee — and arrested him for allegedly stealing one of the expensive instruments. Read about it here.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Things to Do With Mozart

Definitely different from the "Mozart-for-Babies" stuff. In Olympia, Washing they are using Mozart to, well, keep things moving. read all about it here.

blog out of the bag !!

Color me suprised! The Well Tempered Blog is the "blog out of the bag" over at Musings of a middle-aged woman!! We're honored! Adding you to the WTB Blog Roll.

Check it out here and don't miss the link there to the 2005 PhotoBloggies.

Piano Man Update

It seems wildly surprising that with the intense interest given to this man's plight that nobody has recognized him yet...

More on recent developments here.

Jessica Duchennotes similarities with the movie 'Ladies in Lavender" Check her post out here.

Always A Charm the Second Time Around?

Nice write up on Olga Kern who returned to and eventually went on to share first-prize at the Van Cliburn competition in 2001. She previously failed to even get thru the preliminaries in 1997. She has a new CD coming out on Harmonia Mundi. I am looking forward to giving it a listen. On balance, Kern's playing has been in my experience a mixed-bag. She's either very good or, well, she just sort of bombs. You can read all about it right here.

Personally, I was far more impressed with Ioudenitch and I wish he'd spend more time concertizing -he appears to have gone the route of Votapek (which isn't a bad one at that). It will be interesting to see if Kern's career has any longevity and continues generating excitement among music fans. It's hard to think of a Van Cliburn winner who has had a career that continued to burn bright long after the "Ivory Circus" pulled out of Texas. Faster than you can say "Simone Pedrone" most seem to fade into the vast sea of "good" classical pianists.

Afterthoughts: Perhaps, at the end of the day, this is more a comment about the changing nature of international piano competitions in recent times (there's so many), the fickle finger of fate, and the decline of classical music's purchase on the modern attention span.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Monday is Music Day

A lovely post on music and spirituality from our friends at A Sort of Notebook:

I am not certain what it is about this that soothes me so. I am quite an awful pianist. (That's not modesty, I am pretty bad.) I think that it is the knowledge that, though I cannot do the song justice, the memory of the melodies and words are in my heart. I am trying to mimic a genius that I myself have not attained.

Read the rest of it here.

Bad News for Classical CD Buyers?

From On An Overgrown Path comes word of some legal troubles that may spell "very bad news for fans of Hyperion's recordings, and all purchasers of classical CD's" Get the full scoop here. I remember reading about this some months back and thinking: uh-oh.

While you're On An Overgrown Path poke about the rest of the site, it's one of the web's best music and arts blogs. Worth the trip.

Gearing Up At the Van Cliburn

News on the pre-competition doings and fun in Forth Worth (including a certain pianist riding around in a pink cadillac... must bite tongue). Read all about it

More blogging on the Van Cliburn a bit later.

Here a man, There a man, Everywhere a Piano Man

Could it be that the UK's mysterious "Piano Man" is a nowhere man con-artist from Canada. Excepting a small difference in nose, some officials seem to think so. Read about it here.

Has anyone seen Brendan Fraser lately.

Whoever he is, we hope this ends well for all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

America's most spectacular, most fabulous pianist

One for the cultural studies set today. It's actually a very interesting essay.

"Liberace was a genteel, half innocent culture whore, gambling the soul of history on the craps table of showbiz, a strange, inbred cross between a historian and a pimp." Read the rest here.

I remember seeing Liberace on daytime tv shows when I was a kid. It was sort of mesmerizing. More stuff

"Liberace: The Legend Lives"

No not another Lang Lang related post, but it does concern another "L" pianist of some note.

It's an interesting bit about a Liberace tribute show. According to the press report the performer "earned the grand prize in the 1998 Liberace Piano Competition in the professional division." Read all about it here.

Wow a "Liberace Piano Competition"? I knew about this one. Are there more...

Kitten on the Keys

"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." Read the rest here.

Meow mix anyone?

Li does have better CD covers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Is Bigger Better... Perhaps Not

""The image of the deaf Beethoven clawing at his piano, trying to force from it sounds that he could hear, has passed into the popular consciousness. So, too, has the idea that Beethoven wanted his pianos ever bigger, ever louder." Read the rest here. A very nice review for Lambert Orkis.

Relief Pitcher

Yakov Kasman does it again. Showing up to fill in for another ailing pianist, arriving just an hour before curtain time and digs into the Rachmaninoff 3rd. The details are here. Perhaps Kasman needs a cape.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Is the Queen's Piano Falling Apart?

It very well might be. Just ask Jamie Cullum:

"Gambaccini played a bit from memory of Grieg - SAILOR'S SONG - and then Jamie took over and did DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES. "After a few bars he leaned over and said to Gambaccini: 'The damper pedal doesn't work.' " More here.

The Andre Watts Recital

"While he has always been known more for the Romantic, bravura repertoire than his introspective side, Watts' programs in recent years have been pointedly, even militantly, reticent, as was the case Saturday night at Tilles."
Read the rest here. From the same review, the critic writes this:

"Ligeti's early "Musica Ricercata," composed in 1953, deconstructs compositional technique, and listeners may recognize the second piece in the set (marked "sad, rigid and ceremonial") as the haunting, static soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

What's up with the ever increasing and utterly pretentious use of the words "deconstruction" and "deconstruct" by music critics? Doubtful they've slogged through Of Grammatology. More likely, they've just had one too many "theory" courses. At this rate, can "phallogocentrism" be too far off? I suppose one does have to stay "au courant" (or at least appear to be) but it'd be nice to see the word used, um, well rightly. It's increasingly becoming a meaningless short-hand for "criticism", "taking apart", and such. By one set of lights, it's a consequence of the bastardization of philosophy in film and literary "theory" (a word itself that iteself now pulls duty for the more pedestrian "idea"). The end result being utter rot.

A very fun game to play in the car is to tune into NPR's "On the Media" and see just how many "po-mo" buzz words get squeezed into a broadcast.

Pot Meet Kettle

"If there's one thing pianist-singer Ben Folds detests, it's poseurs in the music industry who care more about how they look on TV than about honing their craft."
read it here


Identity of Pianist A Mystery

A strange case from the UK:

"A smartly dressed man found wandering in a soaking wet suit near an English beach has baffled police and care workers after he refused to say a word and then gave a virtuoso piano performance." According to the report, "It was only after he was given a pen and paper that caregivers were given an intriguing clue to his possible background when he drew an intricate picture of a grand piano. He was taken to the hospital’s chapel where he played classical music on the piano for hours." Read the rest of the report

In addition to drawing a piano, he has drawn a Swedish flag. More details and a photo from the UK's TimesOnline

Sunday, May 15, 2005

With a Little Help from My Friends...

Speaking of practice...Waterfall at A Sort of Notebook has s very cool group practice blog-log (did I just type that?).

It will start back up in June and we plan on joining the fun. Check it out, here. And while you're at it, poke around the rest of her blog. It's well worth it ! She also has a link to this interesting link of special interest for adult piano students: The Baggage Fossils Bring to Their Lessons .

Practice Makes Perfect.. And Then Some

Check out Jessica Duchen's recent post on her "play-in" for friends as a dress rehearsal for an upcoming performance. The "play-in" was at the home of friend Stephen Kovacevich Yikes!! That's a enough to put anyone on edge!

It's a great post from a great blogger, check it out
here. Good luck, Jessica and Kudos to Kovacevich for being a stand-up guy.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Nuts and Bolts: Prepared Pianos

An interesting look at prepared pianos --nice photos included. Check it out here.

Piano Commandos

Oh sure, Rosina Lhevinne is probably rolling in her grave, but hey who doesn't need a "piano commando" beer stein? No affiliation with WTB, we just like beer and pianos.

Check it out here.

Kudos for Halle

"THE Hallé Orchestra - on the verge of bankruptcy seven years ago - has been named Britain's top classical ensemble." Read the rest here.

Lost and Found

Mozart. Lost. Found. Read about it here. Bringing together dogs and Mozart means we couldn't pass up this link.

Blind Pianist is also a Photographer

A very interesting article about the blues pianist Henry Butler and his interest in photography." Read about it here.

Check out Butler's own website here. Be sure to scope out the foto of Butler and Keith Richards :)

Mei-Ting Sun

A interesting contrast with Lang Lang can be found in the playing of Mei-Ting Sun. And for fans here's some good news:

"In September, Sun will travel to Warsaw, Poland, to represent the United States in the International Chopin Competition." Read on.

While not WTB's pick for the International Chopin Competition's top prize (we happen to be rooting for another pianist), we are confident that Sun will be a major point of interest at the competition. What's striking, at leat to our ears, about Sun as a young pianist is the seemingly all-too rare combination of originality and maturity.

Definitely check out his "whitekeys.com" website here. The site aims to "provide free, good classical piano recordings to the general public, in addition to the goal of educating the masses on the full range of expressions within classical music." Visit the site if for no other reason than to listen to the remarkable mp3's of pianist Koji Atwood.

Mei Ting Sun. Remember the name and keep your ears open. You won't be disappointed.

Check out his website Link.

'Tom and Jerry' inspires Chinese pianist

Here's one for the "I could've guessed" files:

"It was the cartoon ``Tom and Jerry'' that inspired Lang Lang to become a pianist."
Read about it here.

Friday, May 13, 2005

In the Beginning: First Place at the First Van Cliburn Competition

As things gear up at the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, it seems right to step back and consider the pianist who won the very first Van Cliburn Competition: Ralph Votapek.

There's a fine write up of Votapek here.

You can hear him at his best in this recording of 20th Century piano masterpieces. Good stuff!

The grand master of piano salesmen

Continuing along with Eastern Europe piano related news comes this interesting profile of László Cseke:

"there is no question about his expertness. As a youngster, his first love was the organ. His second love was rock music ("I had shaggy long hair"). In high school, he divided his time between music and sports, but favored music and neglected his sports training. However, reluctantly, he accepted the fact that "there are more talented musicians than I." Actually, his sports trainer advised him to learn how to repair pianos. "

Read the rest

No one left to buy our pianos: Piano Maker's Lament

"The world became too digitized, and children play computer games, mobile games or digital pianos," Ceralova-Petrofova said. "We are trying to raise awareness of acoustic musical instruments among the younger generation. If we don't do it as a producer, soon there will be no one left to buy our pianos."
More on the ailing piano markethere.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Woman Held Hostage by Piano

Not quite -- at least not as you might imagine.

Check out Jessica Duchen's recent post in which she opines: "If I were a real pianist...I would be one of the ones who doesn't show up. I would cancel any concert for any excuse. I wouldn't want to do them. " Wouldn't we all. But then concert halls would be awful quite if there too many real pianists. But we trust "practising all morning, then lying in bed with churning stomach all afternoon, eating far too much chocolate, breaking out in those patches of dry skin" will be well worth it. We wish her best of luck !

Jessica maintains one of the web's most convivial and interesting blogs on the world of classical music. We are happy to add her to our list of "must read" blogs.

Be sure to check out her post on interviewing pianist Robert Taub. Taub's recent book "Playing the Beethoven Sonatas" is well worth adding to your summer reading list. And while reading it, you'll certainly want to have a listen to his fine recording of the sonatas.

Mozart and the Keyboard Culture of His Time

And continuning with our "Ithaca" theme, you'll want to check out "Mozart and the Keyboard Culture of His Time" , a presentation put online by the good folks at Cornell University. The site explores, as the title suggests, keyboard practices of Mozart's time.

The site exceptionally well-organized, nicely illustrated, readable, and polished in every respect. There are sections of the site that explore the production, editing, and reproduction of Mozart's works; how Mozart composed; piano practices and instruction during Mozart's time, as well as a delightful section on Mozart and kitsch. Fantastic site for pianists and Mozart lovers alike! Check it out online Here.

The Healthy Musician

Mark your calendars.

June 17-21 are the dates for the "Healthy Musician" series of workshops at Ithaca College in, of course, gorgeous Ithaca, New York. One of the great places to visit in the fine state of New York.

Intended for both musicians and health care providers "workshops will focus on health and musical performance. A multidisciplinary faculty will examine the physical and mental factors that affect both the musician and performance and will discuss the care and prevention of music-related injuries...Music faculty will address the physical demands in five major instrument groups -- brass, strings, keyboards, voice, and reeds -- and the workshop faculty will give a Saturday evening recital. Attendees are welcome to perform during the demonstrations and the recital."

A bevy of interesting links and article's focusing on the performing arts and health can be found online from Ithaca College here

While everyone is getting healthy in the birthplace of the ice cream sundae , "Well Tempered Blog" recommends visiting Purity Ice Cream. We love the "Mocha Chip" and "Green Tea"!

Mmmmmmmmm.....Mocha Chip....ice cream..

It Might Have Been Norway -- But, alas, Just the Basement at Carnegie Hall

The cleverly titled "Andsnes Project" is underway in the basement of Carnegie Hall. Anthony Tomassini, a capable, if something of a "b level", scribbler at the New York Times, has penned a review for those who care to read it. It's right

Also check out a copy of Andsnes' recording of Haydn piano sonatas. To WTB's ears, it's one of the best Haydn discs available.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Double Your Playing Pleasure: The Ultimate 2-Seater

This is perhaps the ultimate "solution" for two piano players: The Pleyel Double Grand Piano. The instrument in question here belongs to the Thai royal family and has been restored to a concert ready state. Here's a bit of it's reported history:

"This piano, bearing the serial number 152919, is now considered one of the rarest musical instruments in the world. It was created in France, probably between 1911 and 1915, and is said to be one of only eight ever built. It has one main steel frame but two sets of keyboards. Sold to a Frank Lewis in Cambridge on October 16, 1916, it later became the property of Prince Chudadhuj _ a son of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) _ who was studying at Magdalene College, Cambridge University, at the time. The prince graduated with a bachelor's degree in language and returned to Siam in 1918, accompanied by a golden harp (now called the Chudadhuj Harp and kept at Tamnak Prathom) and the double grand piano." Read more about it here (including a photo of the beast).

If a double grand piano is not to your liking, well there's always the double-keyboard upright piano. Have a look at this beauty! Wow!! It's fascinatingly ugly yet lovely in it's own right!

To hear music played on one of these rare birds check out this CD recording performed by a very fine piano duo.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Fifty-eight Jacks

Something I've wanted to do is build an instrument (yea.. like I can squeeze that into my already bloated list of things-to and want-to). This interest lead me to Harpsichord & Fortepiano and a very an interesting article by Anthony Miskin that explores "the joys and pitfalls experienced by a complete amateur in building an English bentside spinet from a kit." Read the rest article here.

The Thinking Man's Pianist

"Both poet and intellect, Lill is the thinking man’s pianist. He offers absolutely no theatrical gestures. He doesn’t pander to the audience. He just plays --sincerely, thoughtfully, meditatively even – and the results are pure beauty."
Read all about it.

and A WTB Favorite CD

Friday, May 06, 2005

UK Piano Links

Whilst surfing the web came across this handy page of UK piano links.


Beethoven, Beethoven, Beethoven

From Norman Lebrecht (at La Scena)comes news of a Beethoven project that should be of interest to many:

"..the BBC will broadcast the complete works of Beethoven, from the juvenile piano trios to the climactic string quartet in F major, opus 135, with many fragments and oddities besides."

He notes that the "concerts will be aired on Radio 3 and ‘streamed’ for a week on the website (www.bbc.co.uk/radio3). Anyone from here to Hong Kong can slip a disk into the hard drive and download a set for keeps. Allow five minutes on broadband for symphonies one to eight, ten minutes for the momentous ninth. This, as never before, is Beethoven for free – a gift to the world, just as the longsuffering composer might have wished."

Read the rest here.

Here's the links to BBC's "Radio 3" C L I C K

Richter Competition

The "Sviatoslav Richter International Piano Competition" is on the horizon. The dates for this competition are June 12 to 26. More information including a list of competitiors is available here.

Interesting Piano Pedagogy Site

Surfing the web I came across this interesting site on piano pedagogy:

Piano Pedagogy Plus!.

Check out the site's review of Berman's book "Notes from the Pianist's Bench" here.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Things That Make You Worry

"A pop culture controversy that has simmered for decades came to a head when a middle school marching band was told not to perform "Louie Louie."

Benton Harbor Superintendent Paula Dawning cited the song's allegedly raunchy lyrics in ordering the McCord Middle School band not to perform it in Saturday's Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival."

Read the Rest.

Greetz to Reflections in d minor for the heads up on this story.

Big Brother Bites the Dust.. Or Not.

Follow along over at "The Overgrown Path for the shake out following the premier of Lorin Maazel's operatic translation of Orwell "1984" (1984 the Opera.

In reading over the dust-up from the critics, I have to say I've not read anything that makes me *not* want to see the opera. In fact, I have had a hard time finding anything that smacks of substantive or meaningful criticism. More pointedly, Andrew Clements' write up for the The Guardian strikes me as amounting to nothing short of a fit of nincompoopery.

The real core of the fuss is probably, as "The Overgrown Path" observes, "actually about someone who has never written an opera being allowed to buy a staging at Covent Garden."

And, finally, I guess (push come to shove) that Jessica Duchen is right: "the vast majority of new operas are actually crap". Still I want to see it.

Peter Nero: Interview

Pianist/composer Peter Nero makes for an interesting interview. Read it here.

Composers and Commissions

"Meet the Composer has announced the names of 22 classical and jazz composers from whom it will commission new works in 2005. The commissions total $215,000. "

Read the rest here.

Death and Transcendence

"Helene Grimaud about themes of death and transcendence in the work of Frederic Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninov. Grimaud explores their work in a new recording."

Have a listen online here.

Sexing Up Classical Music

One scarcely knows whether to laugh or weep at this:

"Which is really a travesty of the truth, because classical music is mostly full of sex, or to put it better, eroticism - it's just that it's hidden, buried in music's grammar. Every time you hear a dissonance (a tense-sounding interval or chord) melt into a consonant one, you're hearing the basic erotic pattern of arousal and relief. That's true even in the chaste polyphony of Renaissance church music (which is why some of it doesn't sound half as chaste as it ought to)." link.

Um, Ok. Anyhoo, back at the ranch, there does seem a move to "sex" up classical music on the marketing side of things. Is it making a difference --apart from spicing up CD album covers and giving otherwise bored scribblers something to yammer on about? Not likely -- at least not if you're counting the beans. Just ask Terry Teachout.

And just where is all the classical sexiness? Well,look around you at the next concert or opera that you attend. See anything sexy? Uh, not likely (oh sure there's little starlight here and there amid the dark and drab and gray of the evening), but largely it's just empty seats, gray hair, and nervous types who probably suffer from various allergies.

In fact, it probably is more likely (just as a sort of unscientific field experiement) that you'll observe much more of a concern with class than gender.

Until then, there's always this:

The Ultimate Guide to the Hottest Women in Classical Music. Scary.

Fear the Metronome

"The honors department at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette was evacuated Wednesday. A custodian found a ticking bag on the first floor and called the campus cops. A university spokeswoman says it turns out there was a metronome in the bag." More here. And more here.

And should enquiring minds need more, here's a brief history of the
the metronome here. I never liked the metronome during my student days. Nowadays, let's just say we've made a truce. It's a handy tool when not abused --or allowed to abuse!

Need a metronome? Well, here's one that runs on your computer or laptop. It's free! Check it out here. And another sofware version here.

Or you can skip the whole thing, including practice, and just play the Xbox game called Metronome.

Choice, choices, choices.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

And in other news...

"The labour battle at the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has come to a head, with the union representing the musicians announcing a strike date. "
More here.

Classical by day, Latin by night

"In New York, I ended up playing a lot of gigs at night, mostly Latin jazz and Latin salsa," he said. "I was living uptown in a very Latin area; a lot of Mexicans, a lot of Puerto Ricans. I was hanging out, going to a lot of clubs, and I checked out Paquito D'Rivera and Michel Camilo, and a lot of great music, which in Detroit was just not happening.

"So I ended up doing classical music by day and at night hanging out, and little by little I really got into Latin music heavily."

Hanlon's fourth album, La Gorda Linda, features all these disparate influences. The CD is fueled by the popular hit single and title track, which features guest artist Tito Nieves. The raucous tune opens with a heavy bass/piano riff that sounds like a cross between Pretty Woman and the theme from the Peter Gunn TV series."

Read the rest here.

We Are Piano Rock

"“Last summer, while we were chatting over drinks, we started to wonder what it would be like to do rock without guitars. Then we all came up with the idea of inserting the piano into the gap left by guitars. And we gave our music a retro feel reminiscent of the popular 80s radio show, ‘Jeon Young-hyeok’s Music World,’” said Choi"

Check it out. This looks like a thoroughly enjoyable album!!

More here.

Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Here's the list of competitors (including age and nationality) for this year's Van Cliburn Competition:

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)

A good many of these folks are familiar faces and fingers from the competition circuit.

Who does "Well-Tempered Blog" like? There are three Italians and one American we're looking forward to following at the competition:

Roberto Plano; Davide Franceschetti; Davide Cabassi.

Roberto Plano is a likely candidate for the gold. Here is Plano's website. Check out the audio links on his site! He has already demonstrated solid musicianship and technique of a major talent at other competitions (Busoni, Iturbi, Cleveland). But he would not be our first choice. To the ears of "The Well Tempered Blog" his musicianship has a ways to go yet before ready to claim the gold at the Van Cliburn despite wins elsewhere.

Franschetti created a splash last time around, but doubtful he'll finish first but will likely make the finals. Well Tempered Blog is less certain that he has what it takes for the long haul, so we'll be watching/listening for a strong showing of musical depth along with pianistic dash.

Cabassi commands a robust and mature musicianship, and his formidable technique is always lead by it. His playing has been rightfully likened to that of Radu Lupu. If "The Well Tempered Blog" were judging, Cabassi would win our nod for 1st place.

A long shot to watch out for is Stephen Beus. He very well could pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, and may likely as not make it to the finals.

Of course there are many other young pianists in the mix we've not heard. And that always makes for delightful surprises.

Here's a very nice run down on the rest of the competitors and some thoughts on their chances. Van Cliburn Competitors.

Don't forget to sign-up for the live audio and video from the competition online here.

Happy listening!