Saturday, July 30, 2005

Today's Movie Tidbit

" "I've been collecting Cuban music all my life and I love it," he [Andy Garcia] says, walking over to a piano at one end of the room where he proceeds to play a song from the soundtrack of the new film. Garcia is an accomplished musician and composed much of the music for the movie himself. The piece is emotional and dramatic. "I've always found Cuban music creatively stimulating," he tells me as he walks back to the sofa. "They called Havana the Paris of the Caribbean and that wasn't just a tourist slogan, it was a simple truth. " (emphasis mine).

Read the rest of it here. I look forward to the movie.

Rose and the IKI and More

Jerome Rose on origins of the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Mannes:

"It [Marlboro Festival] was an all-around exposure to the world of the arts; it was a dramatic crossroads in my life," says Rose, now a respected interpreter of Liszt and other great 19th-century composers. Rose is on the faculty at Mannes College of Music in Manhattan. "I wanted to do something similar in the piano world." .

and the seeming dysfunctionalism of today's piano competitions:

"I'm trying to regard them as young artists, not racehorses, where if you come in second you're not as good as the first,"says Rose, who finds the more typical competition track, which pits young pianists against each other in high-pressure circumstances, distastefully crass. "All of that is a very warped attitude. One problem with (competitions) is that, if you happen to be in your late 20s and still studying, there's this feeling that it's all over for you if you haven't won one and are not yet known."

We agree. Read the rest here

Visit the Marlboro Festival here

Visit the International Keyboard Institute and Festival here

And the fall-back for the competition burn-out: Grad School and the pretensions of academe?

Getting Cross About Crossover Music

An Op-Ed piece I agree with:

"when singers who are not opera singers start singing opera arias and are identified by the media as "opera singers," I get really cross. A person who makes a living singing opera on a stage is a true opera singer. A pop idol singing opera arias, however well -- or badly, as is usually the case -- is merely a singer of opera arias. When the media refers to such singers as "opera singers," it lowers standards, expectations and diminishes the achievements of those who have studied and really know what they are doing." Read the rest here

China's Piano Craze

Interesting conversation with master piano teacher Yafen Zhu on the massive popularity of the piano in Asia:

"Douglas Humpherys, chairman of the Eastman piano department and artistic director of the piano competition, says that 70 percent to 80 percent of Eastman's piano majors are now Asian. The Juilliard School of Music in New York City reports a similar percentage, and top piano teachers around the country now joke that the American conservatory system would immediately collapse if you removed Asians from the classroom. Only it's no joke. "


""Two decades ago very few people in China studied piano because no one had any money," says Yafen [Zhu] . "But the opening up of China and the economic growth has changed everything. Now almost every family can have a piano. It's created a piano craze."

Read the rest here

Friday, July 29, 2005

Piano with Pedal Board: Today's Web Pick

This lovely thing is a piano with pedal board made in Italy by Borgato.

Their website is today's web pick. I would completely love to sit down and play at one of these things. I should think it sounds as beautiful as it appears. Visit their website here. It includes a brief history of the pedalboard and some of the composers who wrote for it:

"In the 19th and 20th centuries other composers also wrote for the piano with pedalboard, among these:
Alexandre Pierre François Boëly 1785 – 1858 Twelve pieces Op. 18
Robert Schumann 1810 – 1856 Studien op. 56; Skizzen Op. 58; Six Fugues on the name of "Bach"
Franz Liszt 1811 – 1886 Fantasie und Fuge über den Choral "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" from Meyerbeer's "Prophet"
Charles Valentin Alkan 1813 – 1888 Twelve Ètudes pour les pieds seulement, Benedictus in D minor Op. 54, Thirteen Prières Op. 64 Eleven Grands Préludes et une transcription du "Messiah" de Händel Op. 66 Impromptu sur le choral de Luther Op. 69 "Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott" Op. 69 for piano with pedalboard
Charles Gounod 1818 - 1893 Fantasie sur l'hymne national russe, Suite Concertante and Danse Roumaine for piano with pedalboard and orchestra, Larghetto for violin, viola, 'cello and piano with pedalboard, Marcia Solenne for organ or piano with pedalboard.
Camille Saint-Saëns 1835 – 1921 Concerto for piano with pedalboard and orchestra (First version of the 2nd Piano Concerto)
Léon Boëllmann 1862 – 1897 Twelve pieces Op. 16
Franco Oppo 1935 "Freu dich sehr o meine Seele" (2000)
Fabrizio Marchionni 1976 "S'Indàssa" (2000)
Jean Guillou 1930 "Epitases" (2002)

American Folk Piano

This is definitely a great article on the piano's place in the history of American folk music. Chock full of some interesting tid bits.

''In the 19th century," he says, ''pretty much anyone who could afford a piano had one. They were very common rhythm instruments in early string bands." Bourne has become an avid scholar of the piano's rise and fall in American folk music, just as he has in the melodic style of Old West saloon music. He has complained to ''Deadwood" 's producers about their historically inaccurate use of guitar-driven, bluegrass-type string bands. Those kinds of bands did not exist in the 1870s, when the show is set; though larger saloons might have had a small ensemble featuring piano and fiddles.

The piano was also a mainstay in American homes -- and not just wealthy homes, Bourne says. ''In the 1860s, '70s, '80s everybody had a piano in their parlor. There were 4,000 piano manufacturers in this country alone. It was such an all-encompassing instrument; you could play anything on it."

So what happened?

Very nice to see the piano being recognized for it's central place in American musical and social history.

Read the rest here.

Check out the website for the Lowell Folk Festival here

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another Piano Competition: Take Note

"The International Piano Institute of Santa Fe has announced the third round of its first Competition Internationale. "

A new piano competition open to pianists of all ages.

Read the rest.

Visit the IPI website here.

At some point, entering a competition (like going to summer music camps and festivals) has just got to stop being fun. No?

Actor determined to play piano

Well there's nothing like takin' the bull by the horns.

According to a news report, Charlie Sheen (born Carlos Irwin Estevez) "is determined to find time to learn to play the piano because he's sick of pretending to be a jingle writer on his hit US TV sitcom TWO + A HALF MEN."

Sheen says, "I have learned, positionally, where my fingers should be on the keyboard at certain times. That's a start." Read the rest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Today's Web Picks: LEMUR and AV Grandpa

League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots.

Mmmmm.. That's a name you can go to the bank on!

What it is: "Founded in 2000 by musician and engineer Eric Singer, LEMUR's philosophy is to build robotic instruments that "play themselves." In LEMUR designs, the robots are the instruments."

Listen to an mp3 of Lemur here . I like it. There's something...I dunno..."Kicky-Garage Band-Meets-Reich"

On the other hand, I must confess that the Lemurs have done nothing to efface my affection for "The Avant-Garde Grandpa". Who sounds a little like Brak. Listen to Avant-Garde Grandpa perform his "Tribute to Beethoven" (mp3 file. Check out the quotation in the L.H. from a Chopin polonaise. Happy music making).

Watch the Lemurs perform here

2 Pianos, 4 Hands: A Play

This play seems to be something worth checking out.

"Two actors, two pianos and many, many characters grace the stage as fifteen years of learning the art of piano playing unfolds in an hour and a half. "

Details here

Be sure to check out the Quicktime clip. It's pretty goofy.

Pianist Sues Over Chopin Incident

Things like this just make my head feel like it is going to explode.

"A 16-year-old pianist is suing his music teacher for allegedly confronting him on stage during a Carnegie Hall competition and slamming the keyboard cover on his fingers as they argued over what piece he would play. " Read the rest here.

via TSG (The Smoking Gun) you can read it here.

More here (Washington Post) and here (CNN)

Starting Early

Piano lessons at 18 months? I feel like such a late bloomer.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sony and Payola

I'm shocked! Just shocked!

Washinton Post reports:

"Recording industry titan Sony BMG Music Entertainment agreed Monday to pay $10 million and stop bribing radio stations to feature its artists in what a state official called a more sophisticated generation of the payola scandals of decades ago." (emphasis mine)

and love this:

"Don Henley of the Eagles, a founding member of the Recording Artists Coalition, praised Spitzer for addressing a problem that hurts recording artists."

According to the article, Attorney General Spitzer is also looking at "EMI, Warner Music Group and Vivendi Universal SA's Universal Music Group."

Read the rest of the article here

Of course this old news in a sense. For example, there is this article from 2001 in which pretty much nails things head-on, and boldly asks and answers:

"Why does radio suck? Because most stations play only the songs the record companies pay them to. And things are going to get worse." Read the rest here

Come to the Carnival

If you've missed any of the blogosphere's Carnival of Music you've missed out on something wonderful.

Carnival Numero 8 can be found here at "The LLama Butchers"

Carnival 7 is here

What is it? A smashing good thing from the TexasBestGrok. From the FaQ:

"The Carnival of Music is a celebration of all things musical - listening to or playing it, writing or recording it, analyzing or criticizing it. Music history, music theory, and composition are all welcome and encouraged in featured entries. I will not limit genres; classical, jazz, pop, rock, rap, country -- all are welcome here."

Read all about it here

And to get you in the mood here's an MP3 recording of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no 6 (known as the Carnival of Pesth). Listen here. It's performed at the piano by Maestro Sergio Calligaris. Check out his web page here

Piano Competitions Ahoy

The Cleveland International Piano Competition is underway. What!? No competition blog? No webcast? Please 'splain... Still you can catch radio broadcasts of the competition here. Schedule is here.

And the New Orleans International Piano Competition is going on this month as well..
Read about it here.

Making Music Out of Molecules

Listen Here

Read about it here

The BBC and The B

More on the topic du jour found here.

Choice quote: ""Chaz Jenkins, the head of LSO Live, the London Symphony Orchestra's recording company, says "downloads are the future for classical music". When the orchestra's catalogue became available on iTunes, online sales outstripped conventional sales. "You can reach audiences who are intimidated by walking into a classical CD store, or who just can't get to one."

Got a Minute?

One for the "Things That Make You Go Hmmm" File:

"What would you say, given one free minute of anonymous public speech? One Free Minute is a mobile sculpture designed to allow for instances of anonymous public speech. When you call the cellphone inside One Free Minute, you get connected for exactly a minute to a 200 watt amplifier and speaker. The speech produced by the speaker can be heard clearly more than 150 feet away from the sculpture. "


TV Buzz

This is stretching things a bit... But I was intrigued by this bit of news concerning the TV program "Desperate Housewifes" :

'...Woodard, who's a new regular, plays a housewife with a dark secret. "Her character was a concert pianist," Cherry says. "She's going to be involved in something pretty gothic on the show -- pretty dark and spooky." more here

It's one of those programs I almost never watch, but can get sucked into once in awhile. I am both repulsed and amused by it.

Podopera: Opera in the Digital Age

The UK's Handstand Opera Company will begin offering podcasts:

"We are delighted to present a podcast that reflects our philosophy of 'go-anywhere' opera. Now people can listen to our podcast wherever, and whenever they want. We hope its informal style and interviews will encourage more people to try out opera, wherever they come across it."

Read more about it here

Check out the Podopera website here

Classical Radio

A spot of good news for that seemingly endangered species, the all classical music radio station.

"The changes WMHT FM have made so far have succeeded in accomplishing one thing classical stations all over the country have tried to do: attracting younger listeners. According to Arbitron, 37.5 percent of classical music listeners are over the age of 65, and 61 percent are over 55. In the past two years, the average age of the WMHT listener has fallen from 66 to 57. "

Read about it here

The Music of Two Houses

And speaking of nice things in the NYT. There is this article on Mozart's birthplace:

"EVERY year, more than half a million people fight their way through small streets to visit Mozart's birthplace on the third floor of a medieval town house in the Getreidegasse. It is the place to go, even if you are really here only for the "Sound of Music" tour." Read the Rest Here

This nicely bookends an article on the birthplace (and career) of Franz Liszt:

"The house in which Liszt was born in October 1811 stands in the town of Raiding (Doborján in Hungarian) in what is now Austrian Burgenland. The house is now a museum - you will find it at 42 Lisztstrasse, Raiding, not far from Sopron. " Read the rest here.

Just like the Energizer Bunny

Earl Wild is turning 90 and still going strong. A very fine write-up of his latest turn at the keyboard can be found in the New York Times:

"He played through his formidable program without a visible droplet of perspiration on his brow, without so much as unbuttoning his sky-blue sports coat......He also shared some musical tricks he amuses himself with, like playing the Chopin études down a step in key, or revealing how by just adding a plaintive harmony to a descending D major scale you can evoke the "suffering Tchaikovsky."

Read the rest here

Pianos and Drugs: A Very Bad Mix

I commented about this awhile back. Seems the drug dealers who used pianos for smuggling drugs will now face a very different sort of music .

Piano Mystery. Update.

Doctors now want to find out if there's physical reason for him not speaking. Read about here.

Have they considered consulting the Faceanalyzer in unraveling the mystery of his identity?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Orchestra Opens Online Music Shop

via On An Overgrown Path comes news that the UK's Philharmonia Orchestra has opened their own online music shop.

Check it out here

They are offering Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto with pianist Emanuel Ax and the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen .

Sorceress of the New Piano

If you haven't seen "Sorceress of the New Piano" you're missing out. Big time as they say.

A very nice write up of it can be found here.


The Beatles Inner Stravinsky?

This PR bit put a smile on my face.

Pianoman Fred Hersch

Wow! A great interview with jazz pianist Fred Hersch. Read about it here.

International Keyboard Institute & Festival

The International Keyboard Institute and Festival is in full swing in NYC. The kind of event that makes any piano player's heart sing. The NYT does right by it in this article found here.

More on Beethoven and the BBC

The BBC's enormously successful "Beethoven Experience (BE)" continues to generate chatter and, I hope, further innovation. The BE even enjoyed more downloads (about 1.4 million) than Bono as Jessica Duchen notes her blog. What's more, I think she has absolutely hit on what ought to be the take-home point for the suits:

"...people DO want great classical music. They just need to be able to GET AT IT easily. That doesn't mean dumbing-down or doing crossover. It just means changing the means by which the best stuff is made available."

And perhaps they are taking note, at least judging by this article in PC Pro by Simon Aughton. he writes:

"Record labels' classical music bosses are reassessing their policy on downloads, having been taken by surprise by the figures. It has been thought for a while that the genre was in terminal decline, and little effort has been made to exploit the rise of digital music"

But I can't help but wonder if "classical music bosses" are altogether ready to think outside the box in the digital age:

However Matthew Cosgrove, director of Warner Classics, warned against too many similar giveaways, fearing that a proliferation of free music will hit sales (where have we heard that before?)."

Then there is this factoid at the bottom of Aughton's article: The download and sale of Classical music through iTunes's music store exceed physical sales.

Sifted another way, however, the marriage of digital technologies and classical music production(s) raise for some cautionary questions and concerns. Pliable's fine blog On An Overgrown Path has done an admirable job of articulating such . A recent post cuts to the quick:

"I completely understand the compelling argument that free downloads such as these Beethoven Symphonies widen the audience for classical music. By the same token I look forward to attending the free concert performance that the BBC will be offering of Siegfried at next year's Prom season to bring Wagner to a wider audience. And if that is not financially possible, why do we have to pay a fair rate to the star musicians who sit with us in the concert hall, but not to those hidden away in a recording studio? "

Check out that post as well as " Is recorded classical music too cheap? "

Blue Light Special?

All these interesting pianos going on auction.

Book Note

Looking to expand the summer reading wish list, I was intrigued by this title:

"Composers in the Movies: Studies in Musical Biography, just published by Yale University Press."

Details here

Dial a Composer

And continuing on a theme of sorts.

"The American Music Center and the Siday Charitable Foundation have commissioned six composers to write telephone on-hold music for AMC's New York office."

The "original electro-acoustic" can be heard in the States by dialing 212. 366-5260 or online at

Bling Bling with a side of fries?


"Now, McDonald's reportedly hopes to lure hip-hop artists to drop references to Big Macs into their rhymes. Though it's not offering money upfront, the fast-food giant is willing to pay rappers $1 to $5 each time songs with the plug hit the radio, according to today's Advertising Age. McDonald's hopes to have its signature sandwich in several songs by summer, the mag says. And it looks like the plan just might boost sales, some McDonald's customers said yesterday."


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Today's Web Pick: The Unheard Beethoven

Check out this fascinating website devoted to the neglected works of Beethoven.

"Now YOU may judge for yourself as to whether these pieces deserve a wider hearing and the ability to join the repertoire. These never-before-heard works are now available to anyone with a computer, a modem and a soundcard, in the form of MIDI files. Our rule of thumb has been that if a work has been recorded and is readily available, we will not produce a MIDI file, concentrating instead on the works which are not otherwise available. At present, over twelve hours of Beethoven's music is available on this website and in no other listenable format."

The Unheard Beethoven


Can the Internet Save Classical Music?

After my previous post about the BBC and Beethoven, I came across an interesting article about the way in which Beethoven fans have been using the Internet. Two amateur music lovers have set about to create a website dedicated to just about every note written by Beethoven:

"With painstaking care, they're systematically turning Beethoven's most illegible scrawls into digital scores that can be downloaded and played by any computer, with the ultimate goal of bringing to life virtually every note the composer put to paper."

Along the way, the article makes some good points that touch upon much broader issues.

Perhaps it's a quixotic dream in the era of Britney Spears and Eminem. But Zimmer and Holsbergen are part of a growing community of amateurs and semiprofessionals who are using the Net and other digital tools to bring classical music out of concert halls and academies, hoping to popularize it with the democratizing force of the Internet.

The evidence may not be visible yet in classical music sales, which, at about 3 percent of the market, are a sliver of pop music sales. Yet the energy is palpable, on interlocking blogs from ordinary music fans and from the New Yorker magazine's music critic, in the classical stations programmed by home disc jockeys on services such as Live365, and in the eager amateur criticism accompanying this spring's Webcast of the Van Cliburn piano competitions.

Read the rest of this fine article here.

Close Encounters?

You know, I've always wondered how one gets into playing the organ. This looks like a fun way to start:

"The South Dakota chapter of the American Guild of Organists is co-sponsoring Pipe Organ Encounter, which began Sunday and runs through Friday on the campus of Augustana College.
"We have 18 kids, ages 11 to 18, from seven different states," said Marilyn Schempp, the camp's co-director. "Close to half of them have never touched an organ until this week."

Read the rest here.

Putting the Pedal to the Metal

"With his spectacles, sport coat, and bow tie, Endres looked a bit professiorial, but that was before the music took complete possession of his body; no one has stomped the pedal this enthusiastically since Rudolf Serkin."

Read the rest here

Monday, July 18, 2005

Beethoven and the BBC

Stereophile magazine gets it right with this essay on the mini-dust up and recording industry tantrum following the BBC's bold and welcome "Beethoven Experience".

Key graf:

"If downloading was the real reason the classical recording industry was on the ropes, we'd have probably heard about all of the classical P2P networks out there. We haven't, of course. In fact, the major labels have been complaining that classical music is so dead that they haven't even been able to give it away.The Beethoven Experience shows that you can give it away. We'll have to wait and see whether new listeners, now that they've been exposed to classical music, will want more of it—and if they're willing to pay for it. My guess is that they will, but perhaps not as much as the major labels would like." [emphasis mine]

Read the rest here

Kelsey Liu Off to a Good Start

Kelsey Liu, all of nine years of age, has played Carnegie Hall. Congratulations!!

Read about here

Joe Harnell R.I.P.

Pianist and arranger Joe Harnell has passed away at age 80. Details here

The Unseen Virtuoso: Bell Ringer

Not strictly a piano-related item, but one that greatly interested me:

"He has no pretences, this son of a carillonneur who first took up piano at age 4, then sat for years next to his father in Toronto's Metropolitan United Church, learning the not-so-delicate art and technique of playing the bells."

Read the rest here

World Piano Competition

The absurdly titled "World Piano Competition" (it always conjures up images of WWF wrestlers with pianos) has announced winners. Details.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Biss Alert

If you're in NYC take note. Jonathan Biss, one of the bright young lights of classical music, will be filling in for another pianist at the Mostly Mozart Festival's finale. Details are here

A new community Music School Opens in MA


Looking to Buy a Piano?

This may be of interest:

"Legendary comic Les Dawson and musicians Peter Skellern and Bobby Crush were among the stars to have tickled the ivories over the many years it has sat in thetheatre."

Details here

Van Cliburn to Perform

A nice profile of Cliburn and his return to Ravinia.

Key grafs:

"...piano legend Van Cliburn will be the pavilion of the Ravinia Festival. After an absence of 30 years, he returns to Highland Park at 7 p.m. Saturday to perform the Grieg Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ravinia music director James Conlon. "

and this

"But being one of the world's most famous pianists has its downside, and the ensuing decades have not been an endless stream of ticker-tape parades. Cliburn performed 100 or so concerts a year for many years, and critics began to fault him for playing only a selected group of 19th century masterworks. He began a long hiatus from regular performing in the late 1970s."

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, July 14, 2005

china opens international music camp

Details are here

von Oeyen gets a rave review

A few posts back I noted an interview with von Oeyen and his upcoming Philly concert. Here's the review of it. Check it out: "It also helps that von Oeyen has massively developed technique. His ability to manipulate tone was difficult to tell in the Mann's big-venue acoustic. But he gave the impression that, technique-wise, he had easily put this concerto in the conquered category, and still had more to spare. He was by turns elegant, agitated and caressing." Read the rest here

Smile and Tear

This looks really interesting:

"A jazz documentary which captures the legendary Montmartre Club in Copenhagen 'Between a Smile and a Tear: A Night at the Montmartre Club in Copenhagen' is due to premiere this summer. The film has been made possible by the world-renowned pianist Niels Lan Doky." Read the rest here

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rambling Round Your City

A shout out to the "The Rambler" . Very appreciate of his kind mention of "The Well Tempered Blog". The Rambler is itself a great read for musicians of all stripes. Adding it to the WTB blog roll today.

More Christopher O'Riley and Radiohead

Readers know I'm a fan of Christopher O'Riley. So it was with great interest that I read this interview. Some interesting bits:

AP: Was classical music always what you were going to do?

O'Riley: Oh yeah, always. Realizing I was never going to be a popular kid playing Bach and Mozart, I did start a rock band when I was in sixth grade. ... After that I had a fusion band for a while, and we did a lot of original material. Some of it was pretty lame but a lot of it was good stuff. My family moved to Pittsburgh and I ended up playing professionally at a jazz club toward the end of high school. So when I went to the New England Conservatory, it was as a classical musician, but also with an ear toward continuing that, and then I decided cold turkey to continue with classical music.

AP: What's your take on the controversy over the Internet's role in the music industry?

O'Riley: I'm on a Radiohead fan site constantly, They'll say, I feel so guilty, I'm downloading your record right now. I'll say, well, the people who are objecting to downloading are the people who are putting two decent tracks on a record, and are afraid that the shit's gonna stink when people hear the whole thing. I'm not worried that people are going to hear my record and not want to buy it. You know, I own every single Radiohead ever did, and it's not for lack of having downloaded all of them at various times in various forms.

Read the rest here

Today's Web Pick

Today's web pick is The Living Composers Project:

The Living Composers Project is a non-profit database begun in 2000, which aims to provide composers, listeners, performers, and researchers with a source of information about the music of our time."

You can search by country and find information about a living composer just about anywhere in the world. Check it out.

Windfall for the VSO

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is benefiting from the state budget surplus. It's reported that the VSO will receive $25,000 to help with the cost of buy a concert grand piano for the orchestera:

"That is just great," said Eleanor Long, orchestra manager, on Monday upon learning of the state appropriation. She said the purchase of the used 9-foot Steinway Concert Grand, which the state says has a total price tag of $60,000, would fill a great void for the orchestra. "It is perfect for any soloist for any occasion," Long said." Read the rest here

And speaking of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, they're holding auditions. Details here

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Not a Nerd Event

So says Elijah Wood. Read all about it here

Key graf that stuck out for me was this:

"Conversely, video game music is already rising in popularity with classical musicians. "I think it's the next place classical music is going," said Laura Karpman, who composed music for "EverQuest II." "I think it's very relevant.""

I don't know that it's where classical music (allowing for a broad definition) is going. Rather it's already gone there.

No Pain, No Gain?

An interesting short article on the Taubman method for pianists and related doings at Princeton. Read it here

Beethoven and the BBC

And speaking of the BBC's distribution of some of Beethoven's music, I come across a post that seems to cut to the quick. It's entitled tellingly: "Labels bitching about BBC distributing Beethoven's symphonies"

Agreed: "Record companies need to think a little bit out of the box these days instead of putting forth doom and gloom." Read more here

And what about those who downloaded the BBC's free Beethoven symphonies? You can read what one of them has to say here

Hearing and Enjoying

In an essay in the Guardian, Maragaret Cooks wonders if one's love of music can be satisfied by listening and not performing. She writes:

"Perhaps the talent for hearing and enjoying music is actually separate from the ability to produce it. I knew a woman who was an avid concertgoer, but who was so tone deaf that even her speech was a monotone. So maybe not all listeners are failed performers; they may be maestros in their own right, unusually excelling in a private, precious, non-competitive medium."

I do think they are separate activities. As are musicianship and performance. I have known very fine musicians who play only for themselves. Hearing bits and pieces of their playing coming up the walk, thru an open window, and so one. They'd rather die then sit down and play for an audience, even if on a rare blue moon they might play a "small something" for friends.

I'd say she gets just about right with regards to the free Beethoven mp3's made available by the BBC:

"More than 650,000 copies were downloaded in the first week, suggesting that there was a preponderance of computer literate, young people seizing the day. Popularisation of culture is emphatically to be encouraged, as with the three tenors and 'Nessun Dorma', Classic FM and the Top of the Pops-style music charts, CDs entitled Wagner's Greatest Hits and the like.
The new BBC Prom season has a home page geared for family appeal. Music is good for the soul, maybe for pacification and relief of stress, and should be universally disseminated. "

and what a fine image:

"But for a memorable, timeless experience, there was nothing to match listening to a concert pianist, Alexander Block, playing a repertoire from Glinka to Shostakovitch to Gershwin, on an upright piano in the bar of our train, while we trundled round St Petersburg in the white nights of summer; the sun suspended as if by surface tension on the horizon. All of us transfixed and silent over our vodka and beer."

Read the rest here

Monday, July 11, 2005

Morton Feldman

I have always like Feldman's music. Here are two lovely video clips of pianist Philip Thomas playing two of Feldman piano pieces. Site requires Quicktime plugin.

Watch here and here

Tori Amos Bio

Sometimes things just seem right. For example, Keyboard Magazine recently had Tori Amos on the cover. I'd have read it, but my dog ate it. Nice.

She's hawking a her bio. Seems a hodge-podge of a mess. I'll take a pass. Read about and decide for yourself here

Teaching Actors to Play the Piano

The NYT trails the Seattle press in this idea for a story. Read it here

WTB posted about this topic here

Andrew von Oeyen: An Interview

You can read an interview with pianist Andrew von Oeyen (a past recipient of the Gilmore Award) right here.

WaPo Notices Sultanov's Passing

Perhaps sometimes late is not better than never.

The Washington Post has finally gotten around to taking note of Alexei Sultanov's passing. Whatever the intentions, it strikes me a pity they couldn't do better.

Read it here. Or not.

Guitar Playing Robotics

Not a piano post. But something worth checking out: The Crazy J- guitar playing machine
Details here.

Nicely compliments this drum playing robo-gadget found here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London, July 7 2005

I heard news of the vicious and cowardly attacks in London this morning. Prayers and sympathy go out to all the UK and especially to the people of London.

I was most anxious to check in on fellow music bloggers Pliable and Jessica Duchen. Jessica has posted and is OK. Hope to soon see a post from Pliable.

Some links to more information:

Wikipedia has mushroomed with info on the attacks. Both the BBC and the Guardian have dedicated coverage sites.

Images from London have been posted as well.

A blog I read is Random Reality, it's a blog by an EMT who works for the London Ambulance Service. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

While Other Blogs Sleep

From "La Idea del Norte" comes this parabol of sorts:

""Este blog ha cerrado por haber dejado de ser anónimo". Me quedé perplejo y conmovido.Ahora me siento culpable."

I know that feeling.

Read the rest here.

"La Idea del Norte" has become one of my favorite blogs. Well worth adding to your own bookmarks. It covers a wide variety of topics with the kind of nimble elegance I can only dream of possessing. How can you not be immediately drawn in by a post that begins:

"El día que perdí el uso de mis manos empecé a descubrir mi lugar ante el piano. "

Read the Rest.

Clint Eastwood's "Piano Blues"

Say it's July 9th, you're in NYC, and you've an afternoon to fill. You might consider the free screening of Clint Eastwood's "Piano Blues" showing at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab.

Piano Blues (NR)A Film by Clint EastwoodSaturday, July 9 at 2 p.m.

"Director and piano player Clint Eastwood explores his life-long passion for piano blues, using a treasure trove of rare historical acts as well as interviews and performances by such living legends as Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Dr. John.running time: 85 mins."
Details Here.

The Sounds of Science at Mass MoCA

Details here here. (opens a.pdf file)

"In this extraordinary live music event this great experimental rock trio performs original music to surreal and breathtakingly beautiful short documentaries of underwater life by the revolutionary French filmmaker Jean Painleve. "

"Yo La Tengo".

We're a record label. But we are not evil

Pliable has the goods on this here.

And speaking of record labels and such, there is this interesting article by Jon Newton.

David Diamond

Alex Ross has a very interesting piece in the New Yorker on composer David Diamond.

Read it here.

Also worth a peek is this interview with Diamond (as well as Crumb and Perle) found here.


I was certain I had a recording of Diamond's Piano Concerto. The disc I thought it on turned out to be a recording of a different composer's work. Digging about further, I can't find any mention of a commerical recording of Diamond's Piano Concerto. If anyone knows of one, let me know. Hopefully the Delos Diamond Series will include it in a future release!

Tanglewood Speculation

Changes seem to be afoot at Tanglewood with James Levine:

"..everyone expects Tanglewood to be transformed in the Levine era, but no one knows yet what direction the changes will take. Levine has been at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home, festival, and school only twice before, as an audience member in 1956, when he was 13, and as a guest conductor in 1972. "

Read the rest here.

What If John Cage Owned an X-Box?

That's an excellent question. Some answers and names here.


Charlie Albright is due some serious props.


Close. No Cigar.

Sorely disappointed by this news:

"Seventh International Web Concert Hall competition concluded in June 29th, with the selection of no winners and five honorary mentions award recipients. Seven Honorary Mentions were given to the following performers (alphabetical order):

Attwood, Koji (Piano) - USA
Chiovetta, Fabrizio (Piano) - Swiss / Italian
Liu, Yang (Violin) - China
Roth, Linus (Violin) - Germany
Trio di Pavia (Piano Trio) - Italy"

More about the competition here.

Sometimes the real winners are the non-winners. How so? Just have a listen to Koji Atwood over here.

Today's Web Pick

The American Pianists Association

From the site's intro page:

"The mission of the American Pianists Association (APA) is to discover, promote and advance the careers of world-class, classical and jazz pianists, who are citizens of the United States between the ages of 18 and 30, through competitions, performance tours and educational programs. "


Alexei Sultanov

Wayne Lee Gay writing for the Star-Telegram has a fine article on the memorial service for pianist Alexei Sultanov.

"...mourners, including internationally renowned pianists Van Cliburn, Jose Feghali and Alexander Korsantia, were gathered for a memorial service for Sultanov, gold medalist of the 1989 Cliburn Piano Competition."

Read the rest here.

"Piano Man" Updates

More on the possible Norway connection
here and here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Web Site of the Day

Clearly a labor of love.

Beethoven's Homepage

The Old Man and the Piano

Remarkable human-interest story about an 89 year old man's passion for the piano:

Not much happens on the Stetson University campus just before the sun comes up. Except on the third floor of Presser Hall every day at 6 a.m. when Carl Saliani rediscovers the music that may have saved his life 60 years ago in Europe.

Read the rest here.

The "famously unfamous" Pianist

Nice write up in FanFaire of pianist Russell Sherman, who turns 75 this year.

"By choosing university (Columbia) over conservatory (e.g., Juilliard) and by shunning piano competitions, he eschewed the most direct line to celebrity, preferring instead to nourish "the soul" (through the study of the liberal arts) while he learned all about music and "mastered the piano" (and with it the light and dark sides of "the universe") under the guiding influence of his beloved teacher, Steuermann. Thus, when in his young professional life he came to the proverbial fork in the road, he was not forced to forsake one (teaching) for the other (concertizing); having the wherewithal and the courage to choose both, he did. And so it was that Russell Sherman came to balance his time between teaching and performing and happily, he has flourished in both worlds - though minus the glitz (as he probably likes it), and with but a gleam of fame. "Music," he wrote in his book, "is a cake which grows as you eat it, which has seven layers and seven more for each layer." In a very real sense, he's got his multi-layered cake, and eats it too."

Read the rest here.

One Piano

A fine story from Seattle Times on the piano's importance for a family battling cancer.

Read it here.

Blind piano teacher


Day Late...

The NYT has finally gotten around to posting notice of the recent passsing of Grete Sultan. Finally. Perhaps now Andante and ArtsJournal won't be too far behind?

Wanda' Big Day

Wanda Landowska

Today marks the birth of Wanda Landowska. She was born in July 5th, 1879 and lived until 1959. More about her remarkable life and career can be found here.

Some choice Landowska quotes:

"I never practice; I always play."

"The most beautiful thing in the world is, precisely, the conjunction of learning and inspiration."

"People ask why I play Bach so romantically. Well, Bach was a very romantic man; he had 22 children."

"You go on playing Bach your way, and I'll go on playing him his way."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

UK Mystery Piano Man Update

According to press reports, it is now thought that there be a link to Norway in the case of the UK's mystery pianist:

"Hospital officials trying to discover the identity of the so-called Piano Man are looking into the possibility he could be from Norway. The virtuoso pianist has not spoken since being found soaking wet, dressed in a dinner suit, in Sheerness, Kent, 11 weeks ago. "

and a reader of this blog asked about autism as a possibility. It now appears that they may be:

"Several theories have emerged as to what has caused Piano Man's condition. Some sychiatrists say he shows all the signs of being an autistic savant." Read the rest here.

No word on what constitutes "virtuoso" here.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Through a Glass Darkly

"I believe in other worlds, other realities. But my prophets are Bach and Beethoven, they definitely show another world." - Ingmar Bergman.

Read the rest
here. And bookmark the site. "Monsters and Critics" is tres cool.

Artful Devices

Today's "Found on the Net" is composer Christopher Dobrian's website his CD "Artful Devices: Music for Piano and Computers". This may not be everyone's cup-o-tea, but I find it very beautiful music. Visit the website to listen to clips of the work. Check out the piece "Unnatural Selection" in it "notes played by a human performer become a population of possibilities from which the program derives its musical material. The program "learns" the music on the spot, at the moment it is played by the human performer, and joins in with a synthesizer accompaniment it improvises based on the music it receives. "

Check it out here.

In Memoriam Alexei Sultanov

I was sad to learn today of the death of pianist Alexei Sultanov:

"His astounding roller-coaster career, which included a gold-medal triumph at the 1989 Cliburn competition when he was still a teen-ager, ended quietly Thursday morning when he died in his sleep at his Fort Worth home."
Read the rest.

The website for Sultanov was recently one of my web picks. You find it here.