Thursday, April 24, 2008

Keyboard of the Future

you decide. Me? I like rather like it.

via the inimitable "WFMU Blog".

Wonder Years

I like jumping on chairs
crashing down stairs
and teaching pianos
to sing Rachmaninoff
like growling grizzly bears

It's Official

Glenn Gould kicks *ss again. That's right. Of the 48 brave souls who participated in WTB's poll "Pianist from the Past You'd Most like to Meet" Maestro Gould trounced the competition. In 2nd place, after a slow start, was Artur Rubinstein, followed by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 3rd. New poll going up soon.

Out & Around Blogsville

Your Blogosphere report for April (yeah, I know I slacked and there wasn't one for March, Feb, or Jan).

So many good blogs, so little time. Here's the run down on some things that recently caught my eye. In no particular order.

I was fascinated by a post on Oscar's "Educacion Musical" blog about representations of music in time and space. Including very very tasty bit from YouTube. Nice stuff all around. Read more here

A recently discovered blog is "Mostly Opera". What you'll find here is an absolute gem of thoughtful and engaging of everything opera -from Ken Russell's "Faust" to the bugger Busoni. Give 'em some blog visit. Find it all here.

Exploring the world of pianos, musical theater, and performance is a splendid and unassuming blog titled "Matt's Little World of Pianos, Theatre, and Performance". A clever and sure footed guide to all things musical theatre for pianophiles and musicians of all stripes. Give 'em a visit. Link. Loads of good things abound here.

Interestingly, a pretty solid majority of visitors to the Well-Temepred Blog come from Spain . And that pleases me to no end. Espana is home to some of best blogs on the net. A recent gem is this fine post ("Antiquities") on the earliest known recordings over on RetroKlang. I would be distraught without "La Idea del Norte" -for it's convivial wit and perceptive writing are rare commodities. Take for example this post on the matter of rubato.

Close to home is "Music in a Suburban Scene" I was delighted to discover we share a passion for The Shaggs. Oh yea baby! Check it out here. As consolation to missing out on Radiohead, I recommend checking out the magnetic field tour. I caught up with it in Northhampton and I'm still raving.

Patti at "oboeinsight" points the way to a great read on the magic teleprompters. Hehe. (btw, the blog's new look is super!). You find it all here.

A note of thanks to Keith at "In Which Our Hero" for pointing the way to a new addition to my list of summer reads. You find it here. I can always count on a great recommendation!

Matt (of "Soho the Dog") perked my day up with this post on Bach and soy sauce. You read that right. Now click on over and read all about it. link

Surf's up! Happy reading.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

From Norway with Love

The Wall Street Journal has up a fine article on Leif Ove Andsnes and his championing of Edvard Grieg's beautiful Ballade for Piano.

This work easily makes my top 10 list of favorites. I discovered the Ballade during my youth. I had a piano teacher, somewhere along the road, who used a volume called "Great Themes without Variations" (I still have it) for sight-reading exercises. One of the works was the theme from this very Ballade. It just immediately charmed me.

Mr. Andsnes observes that when Beethoven or Brahms write a set of variations, they start out with a very simple theme with relatively simple harmony. Then they make it more elaborate with each variation. But Grieg chose a haunting, melancholy Norwegian folk melody as his theme and harmonized it with exceptional richness. "It is one of the most beautiful I've ever heard, and so wonderful that it actually creates a problem: Because it is already so complete in itself, it seems hard to imagine where he can go from there."

And the places it goes!

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What ails classical music criticism

A recent post on Zach Carstensen's fine blog "The Gathering Note" asks a good question:
So why are newspapers dumping their critics? My own feeling is that newspapers, Seattle’s two daily’s included, haven’t figured out a way to fit their classical coverage to a greatly changed classical music scene and changed ways people, including the current audience for classical music, digest both music and news about said music.
That's certainly part of the puzzle, but the fault isn't entirely with the newspapers. Much of what passes for music criticism bears some of the blame. Why? Because more often than not it is tired and boorish.

The idea of Glenn

Are you devoted Glenn Gould fan? Then put your devotion to the test and take the CBC's online "Glenn Gould Trivia" quiz.

You'll find it right here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

new work by J.S. Bach Discovered!


" GERMAN scholars claimed today to have found a long-lost organ composition by Johann Sebastian Bach dating from the early days of his career.

The piece, entitled Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns haelt (Where God the Lord does not stay by our side), was found in an auction lot by professors from the Martin-Luther University in Halle, said one of them, Stephan Blaut." Read the rest here.

A Video Game for Classical Music Lovers

Jeepers! And I was just getting the hang of the whole Wii thing.
"Classical music attendees across the country are being treated to a videogame in concert halls that lets them conduct an orchestra through a rendition of the William Tell Overture, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony or Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. The game is simpler than Guitar Hero;"
read the rest here.

and more details here:
Wave the baton too slowly and the orchestra arrayed on the screen plays the "William Tell Overture" at a crawl. Wave it too fast and the music gallops away.

Chopin and the BBC

This is good news and something to look forward to this next month.

"BBC Radio 3 is to broadcast every note written by Frederic Chopin during a weekend dedicated to the Polish composer, who died in 1849 aged 39. The Chopin Experience, which runs on 17-18 May, follows similiar tributes by the station to Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Tchaikovsky."

and of special interest: " A dedicated website, launched as part of the Chopin weekend, will feature video piano lessons by pianist David Owen Norris"

deets here.

We'll keep you posted. The calendar's marked.

A Romance on Three Legs

It's not too early to start planning your summer reading list. And if you're a fan of Glenn Gould, then like me you'll be looking forward to this one.

A Romance on Three Legs by Kate Hafner

According to the publishers jacket blurb:

"...perhaps Gould’s greatest obsession of all was with a Steinway concert grand known as CD318. To explain that relationship, which Gould himself described as “a romance on three legs,” Katie Hafner introduces us to the important figures in Gould’s life, including Verne Edquist, his longtime, long-suffering, blind tuner. She offers a fascinating history of the art of tuning, and takes us inside Steinway during the war years, when CD318 was built. And she dissects Gould’s life with the piano, from his first encounter with it to the endless coddling and tweaking that Edquist performed over the years. Hafner includes Gould’s stormy, sometimes outrageous, correspondence with Steinway, and describes his despair when CD318 was fatally dropped from a loading dock."

To be published this June. Pre-orders on the site. Link.

because it's always been played that way

This has me searching for the score to see for myself.

At some point he had a problem with the second variation of Beethoven's Sonata Opus 111.. Verville thinks that the third variation in the second movement should be played in 9/16, not the 12/32 that pianists invariably use. This was heresy as far as most of the musical establishment was concerned. It's disappointing to see the great pianist Anton Kuerti arrogantly scoff at the idea. He says essentially, so every great pianist has been playing it wrong for 200 years? And who are you? Others are not so sure, like the pianist Arthur Ozolins, and the piano manufacturer and musician whom Verville called at 3 a.m. with this bombshell.

I think I'm with Kuerti on this one..


Missouri Southern International Piano Competition

Competition junkies take note. The Missouri Southern International Piano Competition gets underway next week. Deets are found here.

piano wizard

Piano Wizard. It's software designed to teach piano. But does this really work? Have you tried it out as a student or teacher? I'd be interested in hearing of your experiences. Here's a recent review of it. link

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blue Suede Piano?

Actually it's 24-carat gold leaf piano that was owned by Elvis Presley (a gift from his wife Priscilla), and it is going on the auction block.

Elvis Presley’s fans can now look forward to adding one more rare piece of this legendary’s star’s memorabilia with his 24-carat gold piano soon to be put on the market for the very first time. The buzz around this unique offering has set the international memorabilia world into a tailspin...

It will no doubt fetch a pretty piano or two. So I'll have to resign myself to the "pretty in pink" Elvis music box. (link)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

That's Different

I wouldn't, push come to shove, disagree.

"Ahn, who lives near the Finch subway station in north Toronto, said she finds sounds such as the movement of trains, the wind in the tunnels and the door chimes of Toronto's transit system to be musical." Link.

Just today I was out on a hike and admiring the a mighty fine symphony put together by the birds and frogs along the pond.

Today's Magic Word: Clavichord

Congrats !
Jeremy Pople, an unflappable 12-year-old who says he barely practiced, won the 58th Annual Western Pennsylvania Spelling Bee yesterday. His winning word was clavichord, an early keyboard instrument that is smaller and weaker in tone than a piano.

too loud for orchestra

The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BR) said it had little choice but to drop the world premiere of Swedish-Israeli composer Dror Feiler's Halat Hisar (State of Siege), from a concert because it was "adverse to the health" of its musicians.

Members of the 100-strong orchestra said they could only contemplate playing the piece wearing headphones, after several suffered buzzing in the ears for hours after rehearsals. The 20-minute composition starts with the rattle of machine-gun fire and gets louder.

In his defense, the composer claims his work is "no louder than anything by Shostakovich or Wagner". Machine guns? I am not sure I'm buyin' that.

Details here.

More background on EU regulations governing sound levels and the challenge it poses for the modern orchestra can be found here.

the Office

"The producers of NBC’s hit comedy The Office did an incredible thing last Thursday that I can’t remember ever taking place on television. At the end of the show, they paid tribute to a young fan that died March 14th...The in memoriam dedication appeared during the end credits of the NBC comedy’s 9 p.m. episode. It was accompanied by grainy home video of Robinson playing the show’s theme on the piano.” Read more about it here.

Good on the powers that be at NBC/The Office for this sweet tribute. And here's the clip they aired. Enjoy.

Both Sides Now

Not Joanie. It's Lars.

German pianist Lars Vogt calls Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto the most important of all the great Romantic concertos.

Check it out and the radio interview with Vogt here.


For the dl on the Sokolov row check out Jessica Duchnen's post here.

backgrounder: "The Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, acclaimed as one of the greatest in the world, has been forced to cancel his upcoming performances in Scotland and London because of changes to UK visa regulations" Link

If the piano and guitar had a baby

It might look like this

It the Harpejii and I want one! More about it all here.

Take Two

Piano ensemble enthusiasts take note! A new foundation, the Kurosawa Piano Music Foundation, has been formed with the aim of promoting the art of the piano duo.

We strive to inspire young pianists to discover and explore the rich and varied repertoire of the piano duo genre, to be trained for teamwork accomplishments, and to provide a deeply moving experience to impact the lives of all who participate.


Monday, April 07, 2008

At Home with Artur Schnabel

Raining Pianos

This gave me a good chuckle.

The PR department at Warsaw city council is thinking of throwing pianos out of windows as a public relations exercise to publicise the capital...Vienna has its Mozart, London has its Sherlock Holmes, why not throw replicas of grand pianos out of the window as a promotion gimmick, Warsaw PR people say.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Musical Species: Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia

I recently came across Spiegel On-line's interview with Oliver Sacks about his recent book Musicophilia. It really is a must-read. The interview canvases, albeit briefly, a wide range of topics.

One thing that caught my attention for the better part of the day is Sacks' suggestion that "a sense of rhythm, which has no analog in language, is unique and that its correlation with movement is unique to human beings. Why else would children start to dance when they're two or three? Chimpanzees don't dance." I am not sure I buy that at all, and find myself sort of surprised by it. Some researchers have suggested that music (in particular rhythm) came before and established a foundation for the language (see for example The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body).

Whatever one makes of it, it's well-worth checking out. You'll find it right here.
You can find an equally interesting review of the book right here.

Side effects

This really is the sort of thing you'd expect to come across in one of Oliver Sacks' books. According to a news report a man in the US underwent a curious transformation after sustaining a head injury.

Amato was swimming with a few friends when he took a dive into the pool. He doesn’t remember much of what happened next, except that he hit his head on the bottom — hard...About two weeks later, he went to visit a friend. There, as he was waiting, Amato sat down at his friend’s piano just to “screw around.” “That’s when I just went bonkers,” he said.


A Reader Checks In

A note of thanks to a WTB visitor for taking the time to share some of his own experience and perspective (see the comments section to "After the Golden Age"). The readers son is pianist Andrew Staupe and you can hear an interview with him, via Minnesota Public Radio, right here. Best of luck to father and son!

Werner Herzog's Next Project: The Piano Tuner

This should be something to look forward. According to the Hollywood Reporter, filmmaker Werner Herzog is busy at work on film adaptation of Daniel Mason's wonderful novel "The Piano Tuner".

Werner Herzog will write and direct "The Piano Tuner," a lush Victorian-era drama about a Brit's journey to war-torn Burma, for Focus Features. Mandalay Independent Pictures' Cathy Schulman is a producer on the project.
Details and more here and here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

tiembla en los tejadillos.

no more need be said.

Paging Sweden and Norway

Please sign my "visitor's map" (link in the right hand colum). I know you're out there and I'm obsessed with your respective countries.

Ecce Blogger

A big round of kudos is due "Sounds and Fury" for its list of the top 50 classical music blogs.

I definitely recommend checking it out as you're more than likely to come across some real treasures. My own little spot on the information highway comes in about half ways on the list. That suits me fine.

Why do we blog? The answer is no doubt as varied as the number of blogs out there. I started blogging (with a different blog) in 2000. After my web host folded, I sort of forgot about blogging until 2005. My first blog, titled "The Digital Pianist", provided the foundation for "The Well Tempered Blog" - a blog mainly devoted to providing links to news stories and webpages of interest to pianists, students, and pianophiles. I never intended or thought of this blog having a wider readership. In fact, I was pretty surprised to find anyone was reading it, and more so by eventual links back from bloggers elsewhere about the globe. (To all I send huge note of thanks). I don't consider this a great blog by any means. I am continually amazed by the traffic and locations of visitors.

I don't consider myself a "blogger" per se as much as a reader. And two blogs that I never fail to read, two blogs that I would put at the very top of my list of great blogs are "On An Overgrown Path" and "La Idea del Norte".

Time and time again, I can count on turning to them for something original, fresh, and thought provoking. They really are examples of what good blogging really is.

Give them a visit. (and then you'll know how far short I fall).

Shout Out

A big, and belated, shout to the UK's Guadian for their link (yet again to this humble little blog). It continues to be one of the key ways in which unsuspecting souls stumble upon my blog.

Read it all right right here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Dog. Stick. Spring.

Sometimes spring really can be a simple joy.

The Anti-Piano Competition

La Roque d’Anthéron International Piano Festival is perhaps a model of piano revelry for pianophiles of all stripes, especially those tired for the grinder that is modern day piano competitions. At least that thought occurred to one observer of the recently concluded Artur Rubinstein International Piano Competition (which ended up not awarding a 1st Place Prize this year). Noam Ben Ze'ev notes that:

"the small southern French town of La Roque d'Antheron, which is no bigger than a neighborhood in metropolitan Tel Aviv. For the past 27 summers, this small town has hosted a piano festival that has nothing to do with competition. Even though the festival's guidelines wholly reject the competitive approach, its 70 recitals draw hundreds of thousands of listeners from all across Europe. Its designer and creator, Rene Martin, chortles at the suggestion that the piano recital is dead."

The website for the festival is found here.

It does seem like a wonderful event, but I am not sure that it is a workable alternative to the competition treadmill that many young pianists find themselves trapped in until their too old to compete -- and then put out to pasture in some obscure corner of academe.

And now that the Rubinstein has concluded:

".. the finalists have all but vanished from the collective memory in the same way that a Saturday soccer match is forgotten. As for the performers from earlier competitions, they're almost completely gone from memory. "

Sad. True. It is what it is.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

After the Golden Age

Terry Treachout has an article/review of Kenneth Hamilton's book After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance. There is much to ponder there, both in the book and the article, and some of it is old hart. Here's a few choice excerpts.

Golden-age pianists generally treated the written score as a guide to interpretation rather than a definitive set of instructions. Many of them added unwritten embellishments of various kinds to the pieces they played. Vladimir Horowitz, the last major classical pianist to play with such textual freedom, recorded versions of works like Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15 that deviated so dramatically from the score as to amount to substantially original compositions.

a deep unease with the sheer routine and funereal boredom of some piano recitals I have attended. . . . Whatever disadvantages early-romantic concerts had, they were often more informal and sound simply like a lot more fun, for both performers and audiences.

Maybe. But I am not so sure that it's always as Golden as it seems in the backwards glance of a certain nostalgia. A certain nostalgia that is equal parts commodity and true remembrance.

More on it later. But check it out. Link

Supersize My Piano

I suppose reaching an octave is really out of the question.