Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Patron of the Arts


Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has banned the playing of recorded music at all public events, on television and at weddings...He has already banned opera and ballet, describing them as "unnecessary".

But wait, there's more:

And in comments broadcast on state television, Mr Niyazov told his cabinet: "Unfortunately, one can see on television old voiceless singers lip-synching their old songs. "Don't kill talents by using lip-synching... create our new culture."

Details here.

In C

David Hurd, independent composer and intrepid blogger, has a fine post up on Terry Riley's "In C". While there check out all the various "scale of the day" posts. Check it out. It's today's must click blog.

Speaking of Crossover Music

I was excited to see that Christopher O'Riley will be putting out a CD of Nick Drake's music:

With two albums in the shops and one on the way, O'Riley refuses to take a breather, as he already has his next two projects mapped out. A piano tribute to Nick Drake should appear in the winter of 2006, and a compilation of artists should appear in the spring of 2007. "I've done four or five of Nick Drake's songs, and I've got a short list of about 18 or 20 that I want to do," he says.

Read more here.

Ixnay on the rossovercay

Pianist Kun Woo Paik will have his straight with no chaser:

Sacrificing the quality of music never makes things better," said Paik, criticizing the crossover approaches of classical musicians, which is prevalent among young, talented classical musicians in the name of popularizing the genre. "I totally disagree with the idea," continued Paik, who is also well-known as the husband of Yoon Jung-hee, a star actress of the 1960s and 1970s. "Classical music is wonderful and complete in itself. Fusing two different genres of music can only ruin the original values of both." More here

The more interesting bit, at least to me, was the news that Paik is recording the complete Beethoven sonatas. I'll be very interested in that set. His recordings of the Prokofiev piano concerti are among my favorites. I very much recommend his Prok. 2 and 5 on the Naxos label.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Harmonious Puddles Make You Lose Control

That's the name of the class blog setup for DePauw University's First Year Seminar: Understanding Music - Writing About Music. Check it out !

Carnival Time

and what a clever one ! Check out all the goodies at this week's "Carnival of Music" (the blogosphere's 13th) hosted by the "Bookish Gardner". It's a must click !

Ten Richest Composers

Hmmmmm....Gershwin, Strauss and Verdi hold the top three spots. Can this be right?

1 George Gershwin

2 Johann Strauss II

3 Verdi

4 Rossini

5 Handel

6 Haydn

7 Rachmaninov

8 Puccini

9 Paganini

10 Tchaikovsky

Read all about it here.....

a training camp for pianists

An interesting write-up on the 7th annual Oxford International Piano Festival:

"The festival has become a highlight of the city's cultural calendar and a boost to Oxford's haphazard profile as a center for musical excellence (always a poor second to Cambridge). And its program of high-profile master classes linked to concerts, and informal opportunities for mealtime gossip, makes it an attractive marketplace for talent and ideas....

and "Not surprisingly, in her public classes, MacGregor encouraged all her students to be daring and think outside the box. She also had a memorably innovative line on practice, urging students to imagine that their Liszt and Chopin had been written by Scarlatti or someone equally remote. Lill, by contrast, asked for nothing so unconventional or so decisive in his classes. Formally polite, reserved, wearing a tie, he spoke with caution - largely, he explained, "because I never really know what teaching is. "I'm happy giving master classes," he added." Read the rest

First there was "Mozart for Babies"

and now this interesting item:

" offer help, teacher and educator Jane Schoenberg teamed with her musician husband, Steven, to create a set of songs designed to explain bodily happenings including breathing, passing gas and circulation." Read the rest

A Disreputable Free-fo-All

"Some might consider it ironic that an art form Americans consider prim and proper might ultimately thrive on the vaguely disreputable free-for-all we call the Internet."

and this:

"All this underscores a point I've spent my life proclaiming: Classical music is intrinsically as interesting as anything in our culture — and far more interesting than Desperate Housewives — but through ignorance and fear it has become stigmatized as elitist. " Read the Rest of this interesting piece

And just when I was getting sucked into watching Desperate Housewives!

Anxious Keys

I had heard about, but not seen until now some of the interesting keyboards created by Ken Butler. You can have look yourself right here.


Pianist Dave Brubeck has a new composition:

Dave Brubeck can finally cross something off that's been on his "to-do" list for nearly 60 years: The legendary jazz pianist will unveil a new six-minute choral work called "The Commandments" Sept. 14 at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, as part of the second annual Jewish Music Heritage Festival in New York.
More here.

Gordon Boelzner, pianist and director long associated with the New York City Ballet, recently passed away at age 68. More

The legendary jazz pianost Francy Boland has also passed away. More info

A CD to keep your eye out for: "Bagels and Bongos" which "features an interview with 90-year-old pianist Irving Fields, who still plays six nights a week at a Manhattan nightclub." Read the rest

More the on the so-called "Piano Man". Seems a bit of a nutter when all is said and done:

"He was not popular at school and appears to have compensated by becoming an attention seeker. Articles and letters published in the school magazine attest to his obsession with notoriety. Many were signed "Scatman" -- an apparent reference to the style of jazz singing that uses sounds imitating instruments instead of words. It now seems appropriate for a man who played the piano in hospital rather than speaking to doctors. " Read all about it

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Today's Blog Pick

There are perhaps less than a dozen blogs that I return to read on a regular basis. One such blog is Punctus contra Punctus. A strikingly personal and erudite blog from Mexico, the posts often read like letters addressed to a friend and deal with much more than music. Where else will you find mention of the "The Engineers Cookbook" cohabitating with posts on Bach toccatas, and the challenges of writing a cadenza in the style of Mozart?. It's today's blog pick. Give it a visit!

Real Piano Man

A very nice and timely post by Pliable about pianist John Ogdon. Ogdon is one of my favorite pianists, perhaps the best of the Manchester group, and a fine composer in his own right. It's too bad more of his music isn't well known or oft performed.

"But if Ogdon’s creativity blazed across the heavens like a meteor, sadly his mental health spluttered like a dysfunctional firework. He made three attempts at suicide, one was by cutting his own throat. There were long stays in the specialist psychiatric Maudsley Hospital in London, interspersed by long periods of depression. There was electroshock therapy and lithium treatment. But ironically Ogdon died on August 1st 1989, aged 52, of natural causes connected with undiagnosed diabetes."

Read the rest of this fine post here. And be sure to follow the link to the Ogdon Foundation.

Gone but not forgotten

That's apparently the latest on the mystery "Piano Man". And it's just as confusing as at the beginning. Hoax? Not a hoax? And, more,

"“When he played the piano in the hospital, he didn’t play it that well — contrary to all the reports — but just kept tapping one key continuously. He admitted that he couldn’t play the piano that well at all.” In May, Ramanah Venkiah, the manager of the unit where the Piano Man was recovering, said: “He has been playing the piano to a very high quality for up to four hours at a time and staff say it is a real pleasure to hear it.”

more here

Wham !?

"Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright are a Wham! for the new century." Somehow I feel that's almost an insult. More.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Time to Move Shop?

I guess I'd start thinking about moving to new digs. Details.

Book Note

I've started reading a new bedtime novel...

I open it up and find on the first page a quote by John Cage:

"Everyone is in the best seat"

And speaking of books, Rob Witts (MusicCircus) is giving some thoughts to starting a music-themed book club for/in the blogosphere. That could be interesting.. Or alot of work.

Carnival Time

Visit the Blogosphere's "Carnival of Music". Lots of good links to interesting blogs.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Piano Man Mystery Come to an End

Check in with Pliable for all the details and links. It all seems so, well, anticlimactic.

Piano or Machine?

What if George Jetson played piano? He might very well own on of these pianos.

Bob Moog, Dead at 71

Sad news today ! Bob Moog's pioneering work has touched so many people and opened so many new doors for musicians.

Read more here.

Moog's website: "No public memorial is planned. Fans and friends can direct their sympathies or remembrances to".

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Pardon the mess

Test File (wrk: bach excerpt - instr: fortepiano - perf: bart collins)

Testing implementation of new features for the blog. If you experience problems with playback or display of this clip, please drop me a message in the comments field.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Red Piano

Have you seen it? Perhaps another reason to visit Vegas.

Today's Web Pick

If it's music related (and it's sweet) you'll probaly find it here at Sonic Cage. It's today's "must click" link.

Check out the link to "Entre Rios". And if that's not your clubby cuppa tea, you might like the George Crumb post.

Beethoven and Ivy

I ought to mention a group I just found out about: The Harvard Piano Society

They have an interesting roster of master-classes lined up.

Beethoven Piano Society



Maybe this will keep the laptop going? Anyhow it gets my vote for creativity.

Pee Powered Batteries

No to Humming?

According to a recent newspaper article:

ASCAP billed the county $17,000 for events and performances where music was played on county property dating back to 2002, though no events or songs are specified in the claim. Mostly the music was played at events at teen and senior centers and county festivals, such as the annual fall Senior Expo, which offers every kind of music from big band to rock 'n' roll to country, according to county officials...Liner and Barrett told the council during its work session that there is little for which ASCAP does not expect to receive payment. "DJs, bands - If you hum in our parks, it's the same thing," Barrett said." More here

At least the Girlscouts are still OK . Quick re-fresher.

Planning a trip to the City?

And now I can fully prepare people for the very special magic that is New York City. If you can say it here, you can say it anywhere.

Overheard in New York

Can I make a reservation

Grand piano? Now that's my kind of business center...

Friday, August 19, 2005

In the News Room

In the news:

"The digital equivalent of homemade tapes are the next target of the Recording Industry Association of America. " Details.

To which the
Consumer Electronics Association had this to say:

"There they go again - The recent news that the recording industry now considers casual, non-commercial CD burning as a threat to be stopped comes as no surprise. Even with their recent victory in MGM v. Grokster, the recording industry continues efforts to chip away at established home recording and fair use rights....It is ironic that the recording industry continues to cry wolf when so many opportunities exist for the industry to leverage technology for future growth. For example, CEA forecasts sales of MP3 players to grow by more than 45 percent this year. Online music sales continue to increase" More.

Two Pairs of Ears and One Concerto

Compare and Contrast. Please hold your applause.

First up a quote from Richard Fairman's review of the new piano concerto by Marc-André Dalbavie. He writes:

"What we in fact heard was a fairly innocuous concerto, based on a handful of scintillating, if not very memorable ideas. Most of them involve light breezes ruffling the surface of the orchestral textures and flurries of notes in the piano part, an impressionist atmosphere that is well sustained and gives away Dalbavie's French nationality, with a hint of Messiaen in the more heavily perfumed harmonies." [italics mine] Read the rest here.

Next a quote from a review of the same work, same concert, by Ivan Hewett. He writes:

"In fact Dalbavie's concerto turned out to be an enjoyable mix of pianistic fireworks and deft orchestral writing with a distinctly American sheen....One of the pleasures of the concerto was the way it kept nudging towards being a piece of kitsch modernism, then pulling back at the last minute. What saved it was Dalbavie's keen constructivist intelligence. Underneath the sheen, you could feel a network of subtle connections being spun. " Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Today's Blog Pick

Convivial and astute obersvations on music and more. It's by an oboist tucked away in California's Bay Area. It's Oboeinsight. Check it out. It's today's "must click" blog.


Have you been yet to the Carnival? It's a good one with loads of stuff to keep ya busy. Thanks to Lynn S. for doing such a great job. Visit it today!

Chopin was not a great composer

So says Dr David C F Wright. Not quite the popular opinion of Chopin's work and, in my view, an ill-considered one. Props to Marcus Maroney of Sounds Like New for pointing us to it. It is indeed worth several good chuckles. Read all of it here,including some choice naughty bits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Mas vale tarde que nunca

A note of appreciation is due Greg Stepanich of the Palm Beach Post for his kind profile a few weeks back of the "Well-Tempered Blog" on his PB Post blogsite. Read it here. Be sure to "click" about the rest of Stepanich's site. He is a voracious reader of arts related websites, news, and blogs (including a favorite of ours - "On An Overgrown Path")

Talk about Taking A Beating

Pity the poor drummer. He must serve up 5,144 hits on the snare drum during a performance of Ravel's "Bolero".

Or cellists. Mahler's "Fifth Symphony" keeps 'em busy with 6,400 movements of the left hand alone.

All of it can add up to injuries. I came across these factoids while reading an article on musicians and injuries.

"Musicians ages 35 to 45 were the most likely to report at least one problem (82 percent). The most severe problems hit the youngest musicians. Why younger? The theory is that people are practicing their hardest trying to get into orchestras or they are in orchestras for the first time and are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of learning new repertoire," Horvath says, noting that she has seen children as young as 12 suffering overuse injuries"

Read the interesting rest of this article here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Today's Blog Pick

Doughnuts, Brahms, Schubert, Albeniz, Marc-Andre Hamelin, and more. Check out today's "blog pick": FullerMusic. It's heading straight to the WTB blogroll.

More Than My Old Piano

Speaking of old pianos and Australia, I'd be wrong not to mention the work of pianist/composer Erik Griswold.

An American living in Australia, Griswold is one of the few composers to continue working and extending the music for prepared piano. Griswold's music goes further than that associated with likes of, say,
John Cage and at the same time is able to achieve an amiable accessibility. If you dig Kronos Quartet and/or Piano Circus, then Griswold may be just your cuppa tea. Strangely, I discovered Griswold by listening to a broadcast over WFMU --a great radio station!

There's two CD's of Griswold's (piano) music that I think are especially good: "More than my old piano: music for prepared and toy pianos" and "Other Planes". The first is an imaginative mix of materials --such as musical elements derived from the musics of China, Cuba, Brazil, and improvisational jazz. Here is the Cuban derived "
Guagauanco" (mp3 file). On "Other Planes" what catches my ear is his ability to coax from the piano a kind of ventriloquism. Here's "Bass Plan" (mp3 file).

Recently Griswold has put out some good stuff with percussionist Vanessa Tomlinson. Together they're known as "Clocked Out Duo". The album "Felaminikuti" is full-on good listening. They describe it this way: "Felaminikuti began Clocked Out Duo's foray into the world of small sounds. We started out using all manner of pocket sized keyboard and percussion instruments and soon expanded into $2 electronics."

Here's an excertp of their re-working of "
This Land is Your Land" (mp3 file). Their version is a kicky crazy toy piano/percussion good thing . Not exactly Woody Gutherie and Odetta, but it ain't bad at all. Check 'em out.

More about Clocked Out Duo and their available recordings is found

Nosè: Santander Piano Competition

And (via La Idea del Norte) happy to hear that congratulations are due Italian pianist
Alberto Nosè, who has taken first prize at the recently concluded Santander International Piano Competition in Spain. Other prize winners are Herbert Schuch (Germany) and Ji Chen (China). Details here. Nosè is no stranger to the competition circuit (although he apparently did not pass the preliminary screening for this year's Van Cliburn), he has taken prizes at other major piano competitions. There's a lively discussion afoot (see the comments section here) on his choice of Granados "Maiden and the Nightengale" from the Goyescas:

La tarde que le dieron el premio tocó "Quejas o La Maja y el Ruiseñor", una de las Goyescas de Enrique Granados y fue comentario general que la elección de dicha obra fue "inadecuada" para un momento así. (The evening they gave the award he played "The Maiden and the Nightengale", one of the Goyescas of Enrique Granados, and it was generally remarked that the selection was the work was less than adequate to the moment. I was very much surprised..)[trans mine].

Indeed that is very surprising. And probably, yes, it is owing more to the tendency to favor pianistic pryotechnics --all to often at the expense of other muses.

In Praise of Ruin

Old pianos. You see them crouching in dank basements, laundry rooms, shoved into the dark corners of bar rooms, garages, wasting on porches, and worse. Whether victims of faded ambitions, neglect, or sheer age, they seem to have but one destiny: the trash heap.

Or maybe not. Enter "
World Association for Ruined Piano Studies" (aka WARPS). Their mission to provide old pianos with plenty of sunshine, rain, and a chance to make beautiful, if strange, music once again. I love this poem from their website:

"The guts of Schumann Chopin -
All that damp and unrequited love
Are strung out to dry

Unwound strings and dead wood
Whirr and chirrup
In the cicadas long electric blurt"

They've put out several nice recordings of "ruined pianos". One of the most interesting is Ross Bolleter's CD entitled "Satellites: Pieces for ruined pianos, pianos on the edge of ruin and prepared piano" Here's an excerpt (mp3) from his "An Ancient Piano is Singing". Click here to listen.

You can read about and hear an interview with Ross here. And check out the website for the World Association for Ruined Piano Studies here. The site is full of interesting stories, photos, and sounds.

Friday, August 12, 2005

An Exorbitant Intelligence

From "La Idea del Norte", one of the smartest blogs on the Internet, there are several recent post well worth pouring over. The most recent is an engaging meditation on the mad and beautiful work of poet Leopoldo María Panero. Emejota's post immediately brought to mind this passage from a book by Deleuze and Guattari (a book that, among other things, takes up the theme of schizophrenia):

"Are we to speak about Fitzgerald's and Lowry's alcoholism, Nietzsche's and Artaud's madness while remaining on the shore? Are we to wish only that those who have been struck down do not abuse themselves too much? Are we to take up collections and create special journal issues? Or should we go a short way further to see for ourselves, be a little alcoholic, a little crazy, a little suicidal, a little of a guerilla--just enough to extend the crack, but not enough to deepen it irremediably?"

I think Panero very much implicitly challenges us in the same way. Like Emejota, both me fascina y asusta.

Competition for Piano Accompanists

Piano Accompanists have their own competition. Details.

The tasks of the piano accompanist, or music collaborator as they say, are often difficult, little rewarded, and replete with their own beauty. Nice to see some acknowledgement of that art.

Jerry Springer: The Opera

No comment. Details.

Brooklyn Philharmonic Appoints Christie

This is good news!

"The Brooklyn Philharmonic yesterday named Michael Christie, a 31-year-old Buffalo native and the recently appointed chief of the Phoenix Symphony, as its music director." Read the rest here.

Don't Fence Me In

Gershwin house is no more:

" The latest structure to be reduced to rubble is 1019 N. Roxbury Drive, the house where George and Ira Gershwin wrote "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Shall We Dance" and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Singer Rosemary Clooney lived there for half a century.

Despite a letter-writing campaign by preservationists and Gershwin admirers, Beverly Hills issued a demolition permit for the property in July, and the place where the visiting Bing Crosby once crooned "White Christmas" is now all but gone, along with its lush landscaping." Read the rest here.

Orchestras Gone Wild: It's Off Da Hook

A few thought this morning on a fading scandal that makes for better headlines than actual copy. I'm referring to Blair Tindall's Mozart in the Jungle. Apparently her 15 minutes are not quite over.

You'll find a recent interview here.

And why, oh why, am I not surprised by this??

I'd say Robert Dyer gets it just about right. I quote at length because it's so good:

"She's done her homework and marshals all the familiar dismaying statistics about budgets, failing orchestras, and diminishing sources of support. But for all the information she supplies, her book lacks context.

The reader is supposed to be as shocked as Tindall was by the discrepancy between the glamorous myth of classical music and the actual lives of most musicians. Some readers might be surprised, but today's young musicians, who have survived conservatory or university programs and career-planning courses, couldn't possibly believe that myth anymore.

The human cost of the classical music business comes out most poignantly in Tindall's tribute to the late Samuel Sanders, one of her lovers and a close friend.

Sanders was founder of the Cape & Islands festival and a pianist who toured for years with violinist Itzhak Perlman. It's shocking to read that when Perlman was taking home $33,000 for a concert, he paid Sanders only $1,000.

Sanders is by far the book's most endearing character -- lonely, mordantly witty, deeply cultured. He faced health problems from birth and died after his second heart transplant, but he was a dedicated musician who experienced great triumphs by pouring his soul into his work; he didn't phone it in, churn it out, and do coke before performances. He died in debt, deserted by many of his famous friends
. " Read the rest here.

Or, better, this bit of sly snarkage from Alex Ross:

"I played the oboe until age eighteen, and every day I thank my lucky stars I was rescued in the nick of time from that lurid, shocking, degrading lifestyle. (I spent two years in Holliger House, a wonderful shelter for recovering teenaged oboists.) If, as Ms. Tindall claims, classical musicians are routinely drunk, high, and horny when they play, they do much too good a job of hiding it. Let's bring some of this crunkosity out in the open. I want to see a couple of OD's and maybe some onstage vomiting at the NY Phil. Let's put a hidden camera backstage and see what Yo-Yo Ma is really doing before he saunters onstage with that cherubic grin. And let's talk about Pierre Boulez — the original party monster is in town this weekend, and it's going to be off the hook." More.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Uggh Factor

Too scary for words.

Book List

I have been reading quite a bit this summer. Here's what's in the stack with a piano related theme:

The Piano Tuner by Robert Astle.

The Piano Tuner is an outrageous dialogue between Bob, a blind piano tuner, and a prepared piano. Bob has been summoned out to a house on the prairie to tune a derelict piano, and he soon discovers that the piano has been "prepared" with sounds, objects and stories which Bob must confront in order to bring the instrument back into tune."

The Odd Boy and His Precious Piano by Allen Howe

Ogilvy is a peculiar and sensitive boy; over protected by his quirky parents, and a budding musical prodigy. The Odd Boy and His Precious Piano charts his life from the age of three through twelve as he, among other experiences, is led about town on a leash by his mother, tap dances on an art-deco ferry, plays piano for Greta Garbo, discovers coffins in a bachelor neighbors basement, becomes a love-slave for the girl across the alley, kisses his best boyfriend, and competes in an international piano competition. Charming, poignant, and heartbreaking, The Odd Boy and His Precious Piano, through a unique child's voice, speaks directly to the adult heart."

Check 'em out!

Today's Found on the Web

"My wife has commenced to practice, and the
first time she touched the machine I thought
we were in the midst of a thunder-storm, and
the lightening had struck the crockery-chest.
The cat, with tail erect, took a bee-line for
a particular friend on the back fence.
The baby awoke, and the little fellow tried
his best to beat the instrument, but he couldn't
do it. It beat him.......
.... But I have to stand it all. The Snookeses
and the Smitherses and all the fashionable peo-
ple have pianos. And we must be fashionable
even if the baby becomes epileptic and the rest
of us go crazy." (from Girls of Today. December 18, 1875)

This made me chuckle aloud. Read all of it here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Leave Your Mark!!

I am pretty excited about The Well-Tempered Blog's new "Guest Map" (the link to it is on the RH column) please check it out and leave your mark!! I am always interested and often surprised by where readers of this humble blog are located, so "Guest Map" was a bit of geekiness I couldn't resist implementing.

Please drop by and "leave your mark" on the Well-Tempered Blog. The "Guest Map" has a satellite and map view feature, you can scroll about the globe, and leave comments and links to your own blog/website.

Perhaps a tad nerdy, but I like it.

Just find your spot on the map (you can move the map with your mouse or use the sliders on the left of the map), click on the location, a message box will pop-up. Enter all the fields and leave an icon marker (if you don't select a marker the message will not appear). Click the button "Place!" and, voila, you're done !

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Speaking of Brains

Have you listened to yours lately?

" Using an EEG to apparently record the soothing pattern of patient's brain waves, a computer program then converts them into musical sounds. It usually turns out to sound like classical piano music. " Read the rest here.

But, hold on! One more tid bit from today's news:

" It was found that men deciphered female voices using the auditory part of the brain that processes music, while the sound of male voices engaged a simpler mechanism at the back of the brain. " Read more here.

and if all of that's too much, you can always put you mind at ease with this wonderful old movie:
Creature with the Atom Brain.

Piano Good for the Brain

Some news this morning from the science hall:

"Practicing the piano as a young child gives the human brain a musical capacity that is difficult to acquire later in life, Swedish scientists found in a study quoted in the media. "

and this intrigued me: "The scientists, who investigated the brains of eight concert pianists in their thirties who started practicing as young children, found that the pyramidal tract is "more structured in pianists than in non-musicians".

I wonder who's brains they examined? Read the rest here.

One of the swedish scientists is Fredrik Ullen, a remarkable man of many talents, not only is he a neuro-science researcher but also a very fine pianist. A sheer delight is his recording of various transcriptions and arrangements of Chopin's "Minute Waltz" (charting its transformations by the likes of Sorbaji, Godowsky, Phillips, and more). Find more information about the disc here. He has also recorded the music of Ligeti and Scriabin among others.

Ullen has his own website. It's well worth poking around. You'll find it here.

Diary of a Piano Teacher

A possible addition to the summer reading list.

"The short chapters read like conversation with a friend well-versed in classical music and performers. Barnhart spends many a page reminiscing about his teacher, Rosina Lhevinne — known only as Madame Lhevinne to her students. She introduced every new piece by writing "W-H-Y" in bold letters at the top of the composition and demanding that her students consider why the composer made the decisions he or she did. ...Also, while Barnhart's main focus is music, he makes no secret of his politics (Democrat) or his interest in the private lives of famous musical figures. Discussion of the sex lives of Beethoven, Liszt and Tchaikovsky — among others — makes the book not great for kids. "

Hmmm. Yes, why? More here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The World's Largest Piano Lesson

A very grand use of the Internet!!

"The World's Largest Piano Lesson: Preparing for Performance" is a first-of-a-kind opportunity for people everywhere to participate in a rare interactive master class that will take place over the Internet. "It's a revealing lesson that takes participants into the often secluded world of performance preparation," explains Richard Bosworth, the virtuoso pianist who will headline the event at Lincoln Center in the fall. Bosworth, an Internationally known concert pianist and master teacher, will provide part of the lesson with a performance of selected pieces, including the Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante, Op. 22 by Frederic Chopin. His performance at Lincoln Center will be filmed to form the basis of a Webimentary™ that will use Internet streaming, live footage, MIDI technology, and interactive audience Q&A to provide an exclusive and unique program via the personal computer. " (emphasis mine). Read the rest here.

further details:

It will be Web cast at 3:00 p.m., Sunday, October 16, 2005.

Check out the website for "The World's Largest Piano Lesson". It's a fine site !!

Ten Year Old Composes Minuet


Blogs and Classical Music

A comment made by fellow blogger Pliable on the "combined power of blogs" reminded me of some pointed remarks by NYT music critic Alex Ross (found via a post at Brian Sacawa's blog). Ross believes that:

"Blogging will probably play a major role in the ongoing revolution and renaissance of classical music, which, I believe, will once again become a popular art in the next 20 years."

Why? That answer is suggested in Ross observation that: "In the classical arena, people are starved for a national conversation about music, because there are no regular critics at almost every magazine you could name: Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, even The New Republic and The New York Review of Books. Why can't Rolling Stone or Spin publish a classical piece now and then? Rolling Stone used to, but no more. Nor is there classical music coverage on TV, except when Yo-Yo Ma loses his cello or some freak masters the tuba at the age of 3. So people have discovered the internet and created new kinds of communities there." (emphasis mine)

I belive this is very true. Not only for classical music, but also for rock and other genres where listeners seek out conversation and information beyond the PR pablum in webzines, fanzines, and various "alternative" media. But even if there were "regular critics" within the mainstream media, I'm not sure how successful they'd be reaching listeners. Frankly a good chunk of what passes of classical music criticism in today's media is a complete bore. (NPR's "Performance Today" is a real bright spot on the radio dial for classical music lovers). As Ross' sees it, classical music lovers on the net "are changing the tone of the classical conversation, discarding the old guardedness and stuffiness and pseudo-objectivity."

Read the rest here.

Check out Pliable's blog here and Brian Sacawa's is here. They're both very fine blogs. Be sure to check out Pliable's post on conductor Dudamel. It's what got the ball rolling.

Piano Man Mystery Update

Sad. It looks like the identity of the "Piano Man" might never be discovered. It really is astounding to me that in this day and age nobody has recognized him.

"It is possible that his family lead an isolated existence and have not seen the stories but we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that we may never know who he is and that he may be with us for a long time." The search for the identity of the slightly-built man is being conducted by the trust with the help of Scotland Yard and the National Missing Persons Helpline."

Read the rest here.

The News from Cleveland

A few thoughts and links this morning on the recently concluded Cleveland International Piano Competition.

Chu-Fang Huan took first prize, which consists of a whopping $50,000 cash award (the largest cash prize of any piano competition). She will appear in New York at Tully Hall in November, record a CD, and make about numerous concert appearances in both known and obscure venues. And that lead me to wonder this: As competitions seek to super-size themselves by awarding large cash prizes and a long string of concert engagements, there may be some real drawbacks. One of them being too many engagements in a short period might stretch some winners to the point of burn-out. I don't know that we've reach that point yet, but it seems a good time to start thinking the consequences of too much of a good thing.

Confounding expectations. Well, really just Don Rosenberg's expectations. He has penned a meandering bit here on the unpredictability of competition results, juries, and yadda yadda, yadda.

And from an article on 4th prize winner and Ohio native Spencer Myer: "While excited to have done so well, Myer was a little disappointed to place only fourth. ''It was a bit of a letdown because the audience was so supportive,'' he said, adding that the audience gave him a standing ovation when he completed his performance Friday night." I'm also surprised that the audience factor didn't propel him further. Though, on a number of levels, I think it's a positive sign. "Myer first appeared in the competition in 2001 but was cut after the first round. When he auditioned again in 2003, he wasn't accepted. It's the subjectivity of competitions that bothers Myer, but he acknowledged that competing is ''kind of a way of life for pianist.'' As he is nearing age 30, Myer will soon be geting off the competition merry-go-round. But not too soon. Myer will be going on to the Busoni International Piano Competition in Italy. Perhaps this one will be the charmer. You can read the rest here.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Chu-Fang Huang!

Congratulations to Chu-Fang Huang! Winner of this the 2005 Cleveland International Piano Competition.

Huang first caught my attention at the Cliburn. Happy to see more attention focused on this talented pianist.

Complete list of the winners:

First Prize Chu-Fang Huang, 23, China
Second Prize Sergey Kuznetsov, 27, Russia
Third Prize Stanislav Khristenko, 21, Russia
Fourth PrizeSpencer Myer, 26, USA

I am truly surprised, though not disappointed with, Myer's fouth place finish. I'd have thought his local audience appeal would have carried him further. And on that note, here are my predictions and personal choices posted earlier this week:

My personal ranking:

1st Prize: Chu-fan Huang
My vote for 2nd prize: Khristenko
My vote for 3rd prize: Kuznetsov

What I predicted:

Huang 1st Prize
Myer 2nd Prize
Khristenko 3rd Prize

Correctly placing Chu-fan Huang for 1st prize and Khristenko for 3rd Prize.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

Somthing to keep your eyes open for is the new Quay bros film.

"On the remote estate of Dr. Droz a terrible experiment is taking place. Droz has brought the famous opera singer Malvina van Stille back to life, and he's making her rehearse for an opera he has written. A piano tuner discovers Droz's nefarious plan, in the process falling in love with Malvina and trying to come to her rescue. "

More about it here on the excellent "Film at Eleven" website.

Emerging from his Straightjacket?

"What was particularity surprising was that Cullum was classified as a jazz artist, a musical genre that has an enthusiastic but generally small following. That's a musical straitjacket from which he seems to be emerging."

Read the rest here.

Cleveland Finalists: Profile

Thumbnail sketch of the finalists in the press. Read it here.

2005 Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition.

"Song-Yuan Tang, a 17-year-old from Shenyang, won the competition on Thursday with a bracing account of music from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. For his efforts, he received a $3,000 prize and is eligible to receive a full four-year scholarship to the Eastman School of Music, worth approximately $80,000. " More here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Classical music and the iPod World

Ivan Hewett. He just doesn't get it:

"Classical music fits badly into the Walkman world, and even worse into the iPod world. "

One senses he laments a world that never was and, along the way, profoundly misses the music around him.


Live 8 a Bore

"But for singer and pianist (Elton) John, never shy of spouting outspoken opinions, the Hyde Park gig in front of 205,000 people was a pretty dull affair." Details


for the love of all that's holy.

change the wallpaper. I really like this site. But it really hurts my eyes.

If in Texas

All you'll need is ten dollars and a dream. Details.

pianist peddles cheese at farmer's market

Oddly unsurprising. Details.

Cleveland Intern'l Piano Competition: Finalists

The finalists are:

Spencer Myer
Sergey Kuznetsov
Chu-fang Huang
Stanislav Khristenko


FRIDAY, AUGUST 5, 8:00 PMSpencer Myer, 26, USASergey Kuznetsov, 27, RUSSIASATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 8:00 PMChu-Fang Huang, 23, CHINAStanislav Khristenko, 21, RUSSIA

If I were voting:
1st Prize: Chu-fan Huang
My vote for 2nd prize: Khristenko
My vote for 3rd prize: Kuznetsov

(Myer is a fine player, but I hear no originality or risk taking in his interpretations. Largely academic, studied, and polished to a high-pitch sheen. So I'm afraid I'm not in the "local lad" makes good camp this go-around. But I'm open to persuasion).

What I predict:

Huang 1st Prize
Myer 2nd Prize
Khristenko 3rd Prize

Stay tuned here.

Good luck Chu-fan Huang!

Gustavo Dudamel

Nice catch from Pliable on the British presses giddy exaggerations. The enormously talented Venezuelan conductor is appearing with the Gothenberg at the Proms.

Pliable writes:

"The media are having a field day in the UK with the 'unknown Venezuelan' story, and Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian seems to have swallowed it hook line and sinker with a screaming headline... Conducting prodigy to make Proms debut at 24." (ed: link is to the Higgin's piece).

Perhaps the hype will prove more good than harm.

and.. "Moreover the unknown conductor of Venezuelan youth orchestras also has a Deutsche Grammophon contract in his pocket." Well, to be fair, the Guardian piece notes the fact.

But, yes, the claim that "Dudamel is unknown outside his native Venezuela" is wildly off-the mark. And the article seems to shade the tutelage from Simon Rattle.

What I found more interesting in the Guardian was this:

"Venezuela has been funding music education with the goal, according to Xavier Moreno, the secretary of the state foundation for youth orchestras, not to create professional musicians, but to "rescue the children", in a country of 22m where three in four live in poverty."

To my mind, that is the real story that ought to occupy the space being given over to the silly "Unknown Venezuelan" hype-age. In fact, I blogged about it earlier this summer here.

More about Dudamel here and an interview with him here (in Spanish).

Bloggers and Depression

Today's PSA

"...bloggers are finding themselves disillusioned, dissatisfied, taking long breaks, and in many cases simply closing up shop. this debilitating scourge ebbs and flows but there is hardly a blogger among us who has not felt it’s dark touch. we’re speaking, of course, about blog depression. " read the rest here.

Today's Found on the Web Link

Go here. A musical message in a bottle?

Found it here.

A Spoiler Free Carnival

Go. Just go to this week's music carnival in the blogosphere. It's positively brilliant. Double good fun for Harry Potter fans. It's hosted this week by MusicalPerceptions. Lots of interesting music-related treasures from around the net. Check it out! And speaking of carnivals, I gotta mention this site:

Geeks, Freaks, and Scamboozles Free Gazette.

For the carnie in all of us.

UPDATE: The dreaded link rot has set in. I have updated the URL to point to the new location of the "Carnival".

considering a new job?

"There are about 10,000 piano technicians nationwide, Cassaday said, and the demand for them is building: "Baby Boomers are retiring, so we're going to see a huge amount of our technicians in the next five to 10 years, and no one is coming in to take their place."

Read the rest here

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Today's Odd Fact

During World War II "pianist" referred to a spy who operated a radio or wireless telegraph to report back to headquarters.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Entering the FredOSphere!

Check it out !!

I appreciate The Well Tempered Blog's addition the blog roll over in the FredOsphere ! The FredOsphere is one fine music blog that is already a regular destination on the web for many.

Can I Blame It On Charo?

"Stupid Charo!"

That's exactly what I muttered as I crawled into bed late last night.

The reason: I had heard that Charo, she of Cuchi-Cuchi fame, was going to be peforming Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto. This struck me, in my ignorace, as wildly improbable and just a tad juicy. But not knowing much about Charo's background, I went googling for more info. Sadly, one of the links I followed flooded my PC with spyware. Luckily my anti-spyware and anti-virus programs caught most of the trouble makers. But some were pretty stubborn. I had to manually scrub the pc. It took a little over an hour. Cuchi-Cuchi, indeed.

Ah, about the Rodrigo concerto (in an interview she describes it this way: "It's a most beautiful concerto," she gushed, "trust me on that. All you have to do is listen to this music and you feel your brainy organ."). Charo is performing it and she is, in fact, a trained classical guitarist. She even studied for a time under the great Andres Segovia. I never knew ! But it pleases me to know this. In much the same way that it pleases me to know that Phylls Diller plays piano.

With the Twist of A Knife: George Crumb

A new work by composer George Crumb receive a world premiere at the Salzburg Festival.

"The familiar tune "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" arrives in the new collection of songs by Philadelphia composer George Crumb without its usual air of triumph: You're more likely to envision the soldier's pallbearers. Unfolding like a funeral march, the song is groaned as much as it's sung while rusty chains are rattling on a bass drum. "It's war tunes," says soprano soloist Barbara Ann Martin, "with the twist of a knife."

What a great description! And here's a pretty good description of Crumb's unorthodox methods:

"Crumb has always loved unorthodox musical notation and the psychological impact it has on the performers. To that end, the nocturnal instrumental interlude in The Winds of Destiny was printed in reverse negative style - white notes on black paper - which is so unreadable that a conventionally printed version is included as an appendix..........What initially stumped Orchestra 2001 members is the score's request for an Aboriginal Thunderstick. What, exactly, is it? Then, the composer mentioned that he had discovered it through a Crocodile Dundee movie. "It was in a dark scene so I didn't know what it looked like," he says, "but I loved the sound," which resembles the beating wings of a giant bird. And yes, one was found. That incident says much about Crumb's art: Sounds are intuitively assembled from everyday observations, processed and arranged for maximum visceral effect, and then notated with picturesque precision." Read the rest of this fine article here.

And to give you sense of unorthodox notation style here's an illustrative excerpt from his Makrokosmos Vol.1:

A few numbers on A Steinway

At once too much and too little.

" Alexa Ray, 19, the piano-playing progeny of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, is expected to tickle the ivories for a Southampton charity event to benefit the Suffolk County Red Cross.....

"From what I hear, she's pretty talented. That's the buzz out there" in the Hamptons, said D'Orazio, who runs a Hauppauge-based modeling agency, Ambassador Promotions.

D'Orazio is hoping to tap into Ray's Grammy-winning father's fan base on the East End, where the singer-songwriter has long partied and his ex-wife, Brinkley, is a veritable institution."

Read the rest here.

The News From Cleveland

A quick post this morning on the doings at the Cleveland International Piano Competition.

The semi-final round is announced:


Hong Xu
Grace Fong
Spencer Myer
Sergey Kuznetsov
Andrius Zlabys
Xiang Zou
Chu-Fang Huang
Stanislav Khristenko

You can listen via an online radio broadcast here.

There are quite a few retreads or, if you like, battle-hardened players from the Cliburn and other stops along the competition circuit. In this go familiar profiles from the Cliburn are: Zlabys; Huang; and Fong.

Spencer Myer has the local buzz. But my vote goes to Chu-Fang Huang who has a ravising tone, and made in fact to the Cliburn finals.

Noteworthy, a local newspaper "The Plain Dealer" has put-up a blog or sorts for the competition. You can find it here. (Registration req).

Good luck to all!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Marvellous Machines

And speaking of music and machines, this amusing site from the BBC rates at least a chuckle or two.

It requires Shockwave. Manipulate the instruments by adjusting the numeric dial associated with each "instrument".


A recent post at Retroklang (a great blog) on Stravinksy and his experiments during the 50's with serialism reminded me of another Stravinsky experiment: his work with the Pianola or, if you like, player piano.

When one thinks of Etudes written for player piano it's usually in connection with Conlon Nancarrow. But several decades before Nancarrow, Stravinsky took up the idea of writing a set of etudes for player piano. Of this only one etude was completed, titled appropriately enough "Etude pour Pianola".

You can learn more about Stravinsky's work with the pianola and listen to some it here (including some nice clips from the Rite of Spring).

As well, visit this site to hear an interview with Conlon Nancarrow on his work

The website of master pianolist Rex Lawson is well worth a visit.

Star Power

Pianists appearing at this summer's SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) :

Emanuel Ax (Aug. 10); Alexander Melnikov (Aug. 11); Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Aug. 12); Andre Watts (Aug. 13); Van Cliburn (Aug. 17); and Martha Argerich (Aug. 18).


93 and Still Playing

I hope to be as fortunate:

"At age 93, Dorothy C. Smith is still at the piano keyboard at First Baptist Church of Quartz Hill, providing inspiration as well as music for the congregation. Despite battling arthritis, she plays twice each Sunday and again on Wednesday night. "

Read the rest here.