Saturday, September 24, 2005


Over the past three years, he has hosted a small series of concerts at his home, which have featured acquaintances. "I have a lot of friends who are artists and who deserve to be heard, and I wanted to showcase them here," he says. His most recent performance, in April, featured a concert pianist-friend from Japan. The show, which drew around 65 people, began with the pianos on the first floor, with the pianist and audience working their way up to the second in order to match the pieces to the pianos best-suited for them.
--excerpted from The Boston Globe

Don't miss Wqan Ang's Boston Globe photos of a Boston psychologist's home, filled to overflowing with pianos.

P.S. I know he works with children ... but if he were my psychologist, I'd be cured.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A few chords short ...

I felt so behind in my preparation, anxiety set in with its cousin, insomnia. I began pathological bouts of list-making — the Chopin group, the Schumann group, the 21st-century music, the recital program, the lecture-recital. In the middle of telephone chats, I was apt to recite my columns to the vague discomfort of friends. For me it had become a ritual for the calming of runaway nerves.

So, naturally, just as I’m a few chords short of entering Bellevue for observation, the telephone rings and a conductor speaks. As any pianist knows, a conductor’s call has a special ring. The conversation: Do I know the Beethoven Third, can I play it in a month, we’ll speak again on his return from Europe, so yes, it’s a go. A few moments of pure elation. The anticipation of a concerto with orchestra is a sweet one. It gets the inner metronome beating faster. The Beethoven C minor concerto with a good chamber orchestra! Then panic. On top of everything else, I now need to reconnect with a great work and bring it to life as swiftly as possible.

Part of a diary entry and one of many articles that pianist Beth Levin has contributed to the online music review La Folia. In Beth's playing, her honesty, tenderness and fierce tehnique can stop your breathing.

She writes: “I live with my family in Brooklyn. I very much wanted children and was eager for the challenge of balancing a musical life with a home life. One of my favorite tasks is to pop a lasagna into the oven while doing some intense practicing, thereby fulfilling two roles at once — mother and musician.”

Saturday, September 17, 2005

There's No Place ...

Pliable offers more paths to important performances and astonishing productions ...

And while I was considering Edinburgh last night, McCoy Tyner was coaxing his Steinway into an ecstatic jangle in my living room ... a state of confident grace there on my television, raising money for New Orleans.

Danny Glover arrived to speak eloquently on Katrina:

"She has revealed a poverty of imagination ..."

Jessica Duchen writes a post about the marvels and the thrill of the Eternal City

and she imagines that Dorothy must have actually said

"There's no place like Rome."

It brought on a brutally tender memory of Judy Garland. My father loved her deeply as a friend, and as her agent near the end of her life. They had marvelous, hilarious times together. I was about nine years old when he brought me to New Jersey to see her perform (she collapsed on stage that night). Earlier, in her hotel suite, I remember playing for her on an upright piano. It was Ellfenreich's little "Spinning Song", a piece that has entered the lives of so many little pianists. I sat down next to her when I was done, and she took my face into her hands with a passionate, surprising suddenness, and kissed me on the mouth. When we went out to the Boardwalk, passing through crowds of admirers, I remember her telling people that I was her daughter. Now that I'm older, I'm able to imagine the loneliness that must have shadowed her all the time. Except from the stage. And that must have been where she found the life-saving intimacy that we all need.

Looking into the living room at McCoy Tyner, I thought I saw it there, too.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Piano flashbacking

Bart Collins in a recent post features an article that touches on the strange and indescribable connections between music-making and memory, and it's prompted me to think again about a recurring condition of mine. It's a strange, occasionally eery and consistent flashbacking (best verb I can think of) that happens nearly every time I practice the piano. These are astonishing, out-of-the-blue, instant transportations to forgotten moments ... (as a 9-year-old walking past a swing ... as a 28-year-old sitting a certain way in a certain house ...) Mundane and tiny they often are, yet they are perfect recollections. Little virtual realities that arrive with an absolute suddenness. Absolutely unpredictable. Always when I'm involved in playing. And it always feels as though I'm reliving the moment for the first time.

This happens so regularly that I've just folded it into the library of the everyday. But over the years I have tried to think scientifically about the cause, as if I were trying to narrow down the triggers of an allergy, or a headache. I've imagined that it might be certain measures of certain music (can't find any evidence of that) ... or a certain exactly re-struck piano-playing pose that my muscles somehow remember (but there are such an infinite number of them) ...

In the end I've left it all in the unsolved mystery files, but I really think that it has got to have something to do with the place that music naturally occupies in our mind's blueprints. Bart quotes Paul Robertson, the founder of the Medici Quartet: "Music is the underlying structure of communication.”

It's a big thing to say.
But it strikes a chord (as they say).
And helps to emphasize the poignancy of a saying whose source I'm still trying to find ...
We danced before we walked and we sang before we talked.

(I'd love some help on that one.)

I did an interview once with Mikko Nissinen, the Director of the Boston Ballet. He told me that he immediately knows when he's watching a good dancer because it seems as though the dancer is the source of the music.
That thought has never left me.

In any case, I've long wondered whether any other pianists go flashbacking like me ....

Thursday, September 01, 2005 has begun an emergency online national housing drive to help victims of Katrina who desperately need shelter.

And the Red Cross has made it simple to donate.

Every moment counts.