Thursday, December 29, 2005

Constance Keene, Dead at 84

Constance Keene, a long familiar teacher and gifted pianist, has passed away at age 84. Link.

A review of her recording of Hummel's piano sontas is found here.

Mozart: too chocolate-boxy ??

Lewis-Crosby is right. BBC3 is making an unfortunate decision not to give Mozart his day.

"Although it was done for Bach and Beethoven, Radio 3 has decided not to broadcast the entire works of Mozart in his 250th anniversary year, because it could come across as "too chocolate-boxy." More.

On the face of it, that seems to be no reason at all. And the only one buying it might just be Rupert Christiansen. Tim Luckhurst's scathing reply stands:

"George Orwell's use of the BBC as a template for totalitarian casuistry can look obsolete nowadays. But the corporation can usually be relied upon to throw up an executive to revive the stereotype. Step forward Roger Wright, Controller of Radio 3. His objection to proposals to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart combines pomposity with a startling contempt for self-interest. " Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Ornaments

Well, not quite. But it is today's webpick. A website that explores the mysteries of ornamentation in early music. You'll find it here.

Kudos for Bach

I couldn't have said it better. Link.

Online Music Price Fixing Probe

As Alice says, "Curiouser and curiouser!"

In the news today are reports of an investigation into the pricing of online music.

"Subpoenas issued to Warner Music Group, BMG, EMI Group, and Universal Music came to light over the holidays as all four received requests for information in the form of subpoenas in connection with an industry-wide investigation of the pricing of music downloads." More here.

Déjà vu?

As Podcasting News recalls, "State attorney generals have previously investigated the major labels over price-fixing issues. In 2003, companies settled a price-fixing suit involving CD sales spearheaded by a group of state attorneys general. The companies agreed to millions in cash payments and millions more in donations of CDs to libraries and schools." More.

Some related odds and ends thoughts here.

Theater Note

This looks interesting:

"2 Pianos 4 Hands "is the riotous tale of two boys in Canada sharing the same goal: concert pianist stardom," according to Marquis Entertainment, which handles licensing (and sometime produces) this title (and other shows). "They work fervently towards their dream amidst pushy parents, eccentric teachers, hours of repetitive practice, stage fright, the agony of competitions and the dream of greatness. As they mature, they become more aware of the gap between the very good and the great — and come to the humbling realization that greatness may be out of reach."


Alexei Sultanov - Website

As I mentioned earlier the Chicago-Tribune has been running an outstanding series on the life of the late pianist Alexei Sultanov. They have also created a fantastic tribute site that includes all of the articles as well as photos, video clips, and audio files from throughout his career. It's found here. Excellent site!


My "GuestMap" is back up and running. Link on the Right Hand side. Mark your spot!

Viva Mr. Mozart

Jeff, keeper of the excellent "" blog, points the way to the pretty slick (and official) website dedicated this year's celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday. That and more here.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Memories of Christmas Vinyl Past

Go here. It's whack.

Toolbox Carols

An entire album of Christmas carols performed on hand and electric power tools.

Tasty. Click here to listen to a bit of the "Dance of the Sugar Plum fairy". It's all right here.


Bizarre. Delicious. Tibetan chant meets alpenhorn.

It's here.

Christmas 76

It's about 10 minutes of a family testing out the tape recording on Christmas day 1976. Think of it as "found sound" meets way-back machine. You find it here.

And while you're at it check out the "Six Million Dollar Man Christmas Album" and other oddities of the period. It's here.

52 Weken

Today's web pick is "52 Weeks" - bringing you rare musical treasures . The "Abba fur Kindern" is not to be missed. Link.

The Unexpected Gift

Great post.

"My stint as a Baghdad church musician -- 10 weeks, until relieved by the chaplain's assistant -- was not distinguished. If I found 15 minutes during the week to peruse the music, then I'd lucked out. Free time was that scarce. Yet playing on Sunday proved to be no burden -- quite the opposite. Plunking on Beethoven, picking through "Holy Holy Holy" became the week's subtle, unexpected center, a moment of rough but sincere melody in trying, troubling circumstances. It was an unexpected gift." Read the rest here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Competition Note

Heads up, Arizona! The Bosendorfer International Piano Competition is coming your way next month at Arizona State University. Here's the list of competitors. Follow the links for more info.

Seeing Failure: The Pianist Stumbles

An interesting exploration of sight-reading by visual artist Jenny Perlin.

"A three channel video projection depicting three professional pianists attempting to perform a piece of music that they have never seen before. Each pianist is shown in a separate projection, and each starts the piece at the same time. They then continue playing at their natural speed. The work, Robert Schumann’s piano concerto in A minor, is challenging, and the pianists make mistakes. After a mistake, the pianist’s screen goes dark for five seconds, and their music stops, while the other pianists continue uninterrupted. Then the projection resumes, and the pianist continues playing. The more challenging the piece becomes, the more mistakes the players make, and the more the three projections turn off. In this piece, the editing itself becomes the taskmaster; the act of cutting determines a player’s presence as performer." More Here.

Described by one reviewer this way: " What begins as familiar music ends up as disjointed dissonance -- but with each pianist laboring honestly to create artistic perfection." Link.

I've really been intrigued by this idea since reading about it.

Unclassical classical

Interesting profile of Jamaican pianist Rhoden:

"Orrett Rhoden has been stirring those kinds of reactions and impressions from playing the piano since his childhood, being recognised as a prodigy certainly by the age of eight." Read the rest here.

And the Winners Are...

The winners of the Dranoff Two Piano International Competition have been announced.

Seo & Kato Piano Duo - 1st Prize
Varshavsky-Shapiro Piano Duo - 2nd Prize
De Stefano Piano Duo - 3rd Prize

Be sure to check out the competition website for vid clips. The De Stefano Clip leaves me wanting to hear more. Pity the clips are so short.

Thanks to the Dranoff Competition for making these available online.

Congratulations to the winners! !

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Meme of Four

Caught the meme bug reading HurdAudio. Watch out it's catching.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Waiting for Guffman, Duck Soup, Annie Hall, Female Troubles
Four TV shows you love to watch: The Colbert Report, Malcolm in the Middle, The Simpsons, Strangers with Candy, Smallville.
Four places you've been on vacation
: Mexico, Canada, Bahamas, Adirondacks
Four websites you visit daily
: TalkingPointsMemo, The Onion, Salon, Google (or pick any four from the WTB Blog Roll).
Four of your favorite foods
: Thai, Mexican, Korean, Vietnamese
Four places you'd rather be
: Spain, Iceland, New Zealand, Mexico.

That's it and now it's your turn! Tag.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Channukah Songs for Children

Treasures abound at the Judaica Sound Archives. Here is the sites "Chananukah Songs for Children". The Archives main page is found here.


You can't help wondering at the seemingly colossal blunder that is Rootgate. In Texas more woes:

" Abbott invoked the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The attorney general alleges the company's "MediaMax" technology for copy protection violates the state's spyware and deceptive trade practices laws in that consumers who use these CDs are offered a license agreement. But even if consumers reject that agreement, Abbott says, files are secretly installed on their computers, posing additional security risks"

Read the rest here.

Best quick take: "Digital media represent a truly revolutionary change in the nature of "content." Attempts by companies to legislate their old business models into the new era will lead to odd and foolish consequences — including, just possibly, this one." More.

Risky Gifts?

iPod gets a parental advisory of sorts in the UK. Details.


Today's web pick is the "Piano Pedagogy Forum", a site chock full of interesting bits concernging piano teaching method and theory. It's also now added to the WTB "Piano Links".

Career Note: Good Grief

If you've been wondering what happened to the piano playing "Schroeder" of Peanuts fame, we've got some news. In the new theater play "Dog Sees God":

"Snoopy’s death has made CB (Charlie Brown) question everything in the world, and that spurs his wandering through Peanuts-ville – he wants to know what the others think of it, whether they believe in heaven for dogs and so on. The crazy twists and turns their lives have taken quickly overpower CB’s quest, though, and the plot soon switches to being more about discrimination against gays than about understanding death. This is because Beethoven (i.e., Schroeder) is, on just one tragic piece of evidence, presumed to be gay, and tortured by the others for it. Logan Marshall-Green is perfect in the part, from the moment he’s glimpsed on stage, hunched over the piano just like his cartoon counterpart."

Move over Peppermint Patti, indeed. Read the rest here.

Dranoff Competition - Update

Some news this morning from the Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. Specifically, the finalists have been announced and they are:

De Stefano Piano Duo
Seo & Kato Piano Duo
Varshavsky-Shapiro Piano Duo

They will compete in the finals to be held tomorrow evening. Best of luck to all.

Some additional prizes were given out to non-finalists:

Piano Duo Yoshie & Takashi recieved the award for "Best Performance" of the commissioned work for the competition, a work by composer Marcel Bergman. And Duo Scarbo got a nod receiving the "Audience Prize". Congratulations!

Check out the Dranoff website for the competition. There you will find photos and videos (in .wmv format) online of the following duos

Wang Piano Duo
Marzec-Tsalka Piano Duo
Varshavsky Shapiro Piano Duo
Piano Duo Yoshie & Takashi
Unison Piano Duo
De Stefano Piano Duo

Quite good all around.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Farewell to Stromness

Head on over to "On An Overgrown Path" to check out Pliable's recent post on Peter Mawell Davies. I share Pliable's guilty delight in Davies "Farewll to Stromness". It's perhaps the most unassuming, elegant, and moving short pieces of piano music ever penned. There is a link to an audio excerpt on Pliable's site if you'd like a listen. Better, I recommend my favorite recording of it (and other gems): Christopher Riley's CD "At the Break".

Monday, December 19, 2005

Alexei Sultanov

The Chicago-Tribune is running a 3 part series called the "The life and rebirth of a musical mastermind"I don't know about the "musical mastermind" bit, but Alexei Sultanov was one of the most fiery and gifted of pianists. The article covers his development as a pianist and the cruel tragedy of his stroke. It's a great read. You find it here. There's also another hero to marvel at in this story and it's wife Dace.

Read it here.

Bach and the Brain

Strangely, just yesterday I was asked what my choice would be if I could have the music of only one composer to study and perfom. Without hesitation my answer: Bach. There is something about the music that pleases me on so many levels. I always feel like I learning from Bach, and my hands love following the various twists and turns. There is a very strong physical component to it. Something I can't quite pin down. The best I can say is that it simply pleases the hand and delights the readers mind. And maybe there's a very good explanation.

"Robert Schumann cured himself of a severe episode of mental illness by studying Bach's counterpoint, setting himself a task of composing six fugues on the composer's name. Neuro-musicologist Arthur Harvey, of the University of Hawaii, claims: "Bach's music consistently makes the brain work in a balanced way better than any other." link.

and this:

""Of all the music we tested in medical school with patients, colleagues and others, Bach's music consistently made the brain work in a balanced way better than any other genre," said Arthur Harvey, who is also an internationally known neuromusicologist." link

Music from the Holocaust

"It's hard to imagine a Nazi concentration camp as a center of artistic creativity, but one of them, Terezin, or Theresienstadt in German, proved to be just that, spawning music that is haunting to this day. For the past several years, Shelburne pianist Paul Orgel has been researching and performing works by four composers who were prisoners at the Czech camp." Read the rest here.

More about the CD and pianist Orgel can be found here. A brief interview with Orgel about the recording can be found here.

Pollini - Chopin Nocturnes

A review that suggests everything I would have imagined. Link.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Cool Online Site

Here's a site worth checking out. Let's you search for music similar to music you know you like.

Composer Martino Dead at 74

Sad news. Link.

Spidey Sense?

I agree. Details.

Ultimate Opera

Very funny stuff. "Musical Perceptions" points the way to a good chuckle or two. Find it here.

Speaking of the Digital Age

Nice catch over at "Music in A Suburban Scene" (a very worthy blog)which points the way to the "" site for the ensemble "the alarm will sound". They are found here. And while you're out and about check out Brian Sacawa's very tasty MySpace site. And give his blog a visit here. Damn nice playing,Brian.

And while you might not be able to download any Bach, you can download about 13 minutes of delicious improvising courtesy of the aforementioned Music in A Suburban Scene. It's quite a spray of notes. Check it out, here.

BBC Radio 3 and Bach

BBC 3 has created a blog for their Bach marathon. Performances of every work of J.S. Bach.
You find on the blog a schedule, notes from those involved, a treasure trove of links, and more.

You'll find it here.

No word on free downloads as with the Beethoven Experiment. I suppose that's no doubt good news for the recording industry. Speaking of which here are some quotes and thoughts on the latest regarding the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) flap over royalties:

A quote from Music Managers Forum (MMF)"... “This is a battle between the suits and the talent, and we are on the side of the talent. It’s the talent which creates the wealth in the first place - performers who are often writers. The music industry hasn’t handled the online market very well, and now they’ve got into bed with the online providers and are attempting to squeeze the income of the artists.” Read the rest here.

and this

Musicians hit back in downloads dispute

and this:

"The group also challenged the record labels to reveal just how much money they currently receive from digital downloads. The Music Alliance has said that if the BPI gets what it wants, then BPI members would receive 40p - 50p per download whereas composers and song writers will get just a few pennies. "We have now submitted our reasons for why the record industry should adopt fresh economic thinking in a digital age to sustain the composing community upon which they rely." said Adam Singer, head of the Music Alliance." More.

Much food for thought all around.

Melvyn Tan: A No Show Twice Over

A "no show" for national service is now a "no show" for the concert.

"Pianist Melvyn Tan, the man at the centre of the recent controversy over National Service evasion, said he would defer his public appearance at the Esplanade and not be a judge in a local competition." Details

And this: "Pianist Melvyn Tan, a native of Singapore, has canceled a planned concert there amid accusations that he received special treatment after dodging the draft, Malaysia's Bernama news agency reports."

Most Disappointing Music Critic

Any nominations?

Nippon Symphony

Nippon Symphony has a new music director: Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Details here.

So That's How They Do It

"They told me not to worry because in every Merchant Ivory movie there's a scene where a woman plays piano and they know how to shoot around it. I was pleased because the noise coming out of this piano was so horrendous I couldn't concentrate on the scene. I was a total failure at it."

Every Merchant Ivory movie? Okie Dokie.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Radio Waves

A couple of thoughts this morning on classical music on the nation's airwaves. I often wonder if the "classical music is dying" routine doesn't amount to a certain self-fulfilling prophecy. But first this.

Playbill Arts recently ran a bit on classical music on the radio titled " Who Knew? Classical Music Can Be Good for Ratings" on the effect of dropping classical programming at WETA in Washington D.C.. . The last paragraph caught my eye:

"a greater range of ages are now tuning in, citing ratings showing that the percentage of WETA's audience in the 65-74 age bracket has dropped from 16 percent to 11 percent in the past year, while those aged 25-34 rose from 10 percent to 13 percent."

Is that really good news? What's gained might be a loss. I wonder.

And in Boston the three B.'s (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms) are likely to be knocked off the airwaves by country music. WCRB has been sold. Two stories to read this earlier one, speculating on the likely purchase coming down to two buyers Greater Media and Clear Channel:

"...that leaves Greater Media and Clear Channel. Interesting that McCord once ran Greater Media.Both operators have their reasons to buy, but neither of them necessarily include a proclivity for Schumann and Schubert."

And it's now reported that:

" certainly seems that we’re going to hear country on (WCRB),” said Scott Fybush, editor of the online newsletter NorthEast Radio Watch. “That’s the most logical thing for them to do.”

I'm inclinced to agree with the head of Marlin Broadcasting: "
“To be a genuine world-class city, not to have a full-time commercial classic music station is kind of embarrassing.."

It isn't just "kind of" it is.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pianist Gyorgy Sandor Dead at 93

Some sad news this morning. The passing of legendary pianist Gyorgy Sandor, one of Bartok's greatest students, at the age of 93. His magnificent recordings of Bartok's piano music are milestones and his book on technique, "On Piano Playing" is found on many a pianists' shelf .
Also noteworthy are his transcriptions of the music of Dukas ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice") and Shostakovich ("Russian Dance of the Golden Age"). More here and here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

No Lunkheads

What do do you listen to to while excercising?
I freely admit classical music isn't high on my all-time greatest hits for the gym. but check out this list of classical music recommendations for gym rats. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Sweatin' to the Oldies". Choice quote: "All four concertos as well as the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini are packed with surging emotions that will push you into your aerobic zone." More.

World's First Musical Sandwich

Rossini would be delighted. A company has begun making what it bills as the world's first musical sandwich. According to news reports, "The concept of musical sandwiches is something we've been looking at for a while now and we thought Christmas would be the perfect time," said Tesco spokesman Jonathan Church."If they prove to be as successful as we think then we will consider a whole range of musical sandwiches."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Think About It

What was great about the 1950s was that for one brief moment (maybe, say, six weeks) nobody understood art."
- Morton Feldman.


Old Computers Making New Music

Music from old video games are making a come-back of sorts. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. Read all about here. Choice quote: "When I was in junior high, I'd wake up in the morning, turn on my Commodore and load up the game with my favorite music on it so I could get dressed, instead of turning on the radio.". I hadn't thought about the Commodore in years. :)

UPDATE: Thinking about the good old days, reminds me to point readers to the
The 1982 Atari Club Christmas Catalog. Step away from the Xbox and remember when. It's all right here.

Hey Big Spender

"According to study results, patrons spent 5 percent more when listening to pop tunes, and when classical music was played, they spent 10 percent more.

Classical music is apparently not only an effect way to chase off teenagers, but a good way to encourage diners to spend more money. Read all about it right here.

Can You Hum A Few Bars?

Maybe not. This is the kind of news that makes one wonder whether to laugh or cry.According to news reports, "It seems that the victories obtained in the war against illegal file-sharing have given the music industry enough confidence in order to move to other types of so-called infringement of copyright cases....a crackdown on sites that offer free lyrics, scores or guitar licks."

Perhaps we should just start shutting down the libraries while we're at it. Read the rest here. And more.

Dave Brubeck

A great profile of jazz master Dave Brubeck can be read here. A few days back I caught part of an intervew with Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air". Check it out along with some of the other jazz links at the bottom of the website. Find it here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Up Blogoscope

Long over-due for addition to the WTB blogroll is the most excellent "A Monk's Musical Musings". Say that 10 times as fast as you can. LOL. It's a mighty fine blog. Check it out here.

It's on my "to-do" list...

I've always wanted to participate in one of these mega-monster piano concerts.

Edith Jankay

I was surprised to learn this morning that pianist, teacher, and sister of Miklos Rozsa, Edith Jankay, has passed on. More here.

Carnival Time Folks

Tasty links and commentary ahoy at the 23rd Carnival of Music ! Rap, Dylan, and more.

And, hey, volunteers are needed for the next installment of the glorious Carnival.
Give it a whirl, folks. Check in with TexasBestGrok for the details. C'mon it's easier than growing sea monkey and way more fun.

Ludwig B. and Lead

It's official (I suppose) that the cause of death was lead poisoning. It also accounts for some of his other, less than nobel, behaviors. Details here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Good Morning

Wake up. Coffee. Listen to Beethoven sonatas. Go for walk. Life is good.

Two for One

Some news this morning from one of the many pit stops on the piano competition circuit: The Wideman Piano Competition.

"Ji Yeon Shin and Tatiana Mitchko Tessman both won the Gold Medal Siskron-Rice Award of $2,000." Read the rest.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Very Different Christmas Special

If you're heading towards overload with the usual fare of television Christmas "specials", you might do yourself a favor and check out a remarkable DVD called "A Christmas Past". Description:

"A collection of enchanting silent films, "A Christmas Past" offers a nostalgic peek into the Yuletide pleasures of the early 1900s. Evoking the Victorian charm of Currier and Ives prints, these picturesque comedies and tender dramas were produced as cinematic Christmas cards offered to moviegoers of the silent film era."

"A Trap for Santa" (1909)
"A Winter Straw Ride" (1906)
"A Christmas Accident" (1912)
"The Adventures of the Wrong Santa Claus" (1914)
"Santa Claus Vs. Cupid" (1915)
"A Christmas Carol" (1910)
"The Night Before Christmas (1905, 9 min.)
"A Holiday Pageant At Home" (1901, 5 min.)
"Santa Claus" (1925)

The music by Al Kryszak is particularly effective. Check it out here.

And in Related News

A few days ago I posted a note about the BBC's planned Bach fest(including free mp3 downloads of Bach's music. Fellow blogger (and one of the best) Pliable offered up a different and not insignificant assessment titled "Musicians' Jobs before free downloads. In thinking about it, I'm not so sure that the argument doesn't flow the other way: downloads ultimatley might prove beneficial to their jobs. What's more, I'd like to believe that concern for the financial well-being of musicans is the animating concern behind objections to the BBC "free" downloads.

"steps by the record companies association, the British Phonographic Industry, to cut their earnings to 2p per download

"Composers and songwriters are arguing in the UK copyright tribunal that they should receive 7p to 9p from every track downloaded from the internet, instead of the current 5p. The demand, issued by the Music Alliance, which works on behalf of composers, is being made to counter steps by the record companies' association, the British Phonographic Industry, to cut their earnings to 2p per download."

Read the rest here

Buzz Kill

Pee your pants funny.

From the wags over at "The Onion".

"The Recording Industry Association of America announced Tuesday that it will be taking legal action against anyone discovered telling friends, acquaintances, or associates about new songs, artists, or albums." Read the delicious rest of it here.