Saturday, April 28, 2007

Since 2000, his charitable foundation has provided vaccinations for nearly 2 million children across the Russian Federation, protecting them against mumps, measles, rubella and hepatitis B. His work with these kids symbolizes all that is great about the Russian soul. For that reason, Russians love him — everyone knows him. You go to a remote village, they know of him. He reaches far beyond the music world.
--Maxim Vengerov on Rostropovich

Soho the Dog has the usual blogeloquence, emphasizing Rostropovich's deep and sophisticated talent for accompanying, with Mussorgsky provided as luminous proof.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Genius Out of Context

"I'm surprised at the number of people who don't pay attention at all, as if I'm invisible. Because, you know what? I'm makin' a lot of noise!"
--Joshua Bell, on playing at rush hour at the l'Enfant Plaza metro station in D.C.

Thanks to Justin Davidson over at The Rest is Noise for linking to this Washington Post Story.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Back Bay's Bonus Twilight Hour ...

This was a sweet city evening with unnaturally long 6:30 shadows and 50 heartwarming degrees. Result: Spring fever with a nice little twist of strangeness.

I'd just heard pianist Eric Sedgwick play at First Church Boston (formerly First and Second Church). Eric is an astonishingly gifted graduate student at the Manhattan School of Music. I was so grateful that he'd done Leon Kirchner's first piano sonata, written in 1948 when the composer was only 28. Sedgwick grabbed the controls and unleashed the thing, finding all of its luminous crevices and dangerous corners. He also found its lyricism and quick wit. I love this music. At 88, Kirchner is still inspired. Sedgwick got it right.

When I stepped out, it was Twilight Savings Time, and the surprise of the softness of the air, and the weird length of my shadow on these undulating, heel-devouring brick sidewalks gave me spring fever. It started me on a dizzying walk that vacillated deliciously between Memory Lane and Avenue of the Future ...
Good Old Boston.
I'm still here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The astonishing J. Haguttohamenazy

And as for the pianist Joyce Hatto, I'm looking forward to doing what I've not yet been able to do -- listen to an honest recording, in which she/they are uncompromised. And I'll listen with real compassion.
Jeremy Denk gets the award for the strangest post on Hatto. And don't miss Matthew Guerrieri's eloquence either.

(P.S. The kindergartner in me used Vladimir Ashkenazy's right shoulder and ear; Hatto's hair and nose; a slice of the face of Horacio Gutiérez; and the hands of Marc-André Hamelin, all of whom had their work, in part or in complete performances, used by W.H. Barrington-Coupe in his wife's recordings.)

(P.P.S. Here's a report by the excellent Alex Gallafent of PRI's "The World" which includes interview clips with retired Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer, and a couple of smaller points made by yours truly.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Talking to Osvaldo

An interview with Osvaldo Golijov, who's just claimed a couple of Grammy awards for his opera Ainadamar.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sweet, Synchronized Dream

I happened upon the enchantment below after reading Jessica Duchen's article in the Independent about the joys and hazards of YouTube.
I am so fond of Debussy's warm observance of the lives of children. I love the pieces that are musical mirrors of children's secret and open-hearted worlds. He captures essence of that sweet quickness that moves them from universe to universe when they are deeply absorbed ... that quick and determined little dance they do that melts the heart with an admiring kind of love.

This little film captures the dance, too. It includes three of the pieces from the Children's Corner Suite, dedicated to Debussy's little daughter Claude-Emma (Chouchou). The dance is captured through a layering of great minds:
Emile Vuillermoz, music critic, biographer of Debussy and friend and student of Ravel. He wrote Musiques d' Aujourd'hui (Music of Today, 1923), Histoire de la Musique (History of Music: 1949), Claude Debussy (1957), and Gabriel Fauré (1960); filmmaker Marcel L'Herbier; pianist Alfred Cortot and Debussy. It's a recipe for intelligent magic.

Here it is.

Vuillermoz, by the way, was the kind of critic who could write this way: (here he's describing the opening of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun): "The alternation of binary and ternary divisions of the eighth notes, the sly feints made by the three pauses, soften the phrase so much, render it so fluid, that it escapes all arithmetical rigors. It floats between heaven and earth like a Gregorian chant; it glides over signposts marking traditional divisions; it slips so furtively between various keys that it frees itself effortlessly from their grasp, and one must await the first appearance of a harmonic underpinning before the melody takes graceful leave of this causal atonality." (Emile Vuillermoz 1957)

Debussy with his daughter Claude-Emma (Chouchou).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Discs, nerves and rubbers ...

While I'm stuck at home, ever-so-patiently waiting for a disc in my neck to fall out of love with a nerve in my arm (they should never have met), I see I've arrived at the time of night when I am simultaneously missing two great concerts. One of them is a little far away ... Marc-André Hamelin in Philly playing Villa-Lobos's ecstatic nerve-pinch, the inexplicable portrait of Arthur Rubinstein that Villa-Lobos called "Rudepoêma". Hamelin's performance leaves you gasping ...

The other concert is maddeningly close. Hilary Hahn, 15 minutes away at New England Conservatory's gorgeous Jordan Hall. I noticed on the Bank of America Celebrity Series blog (one of my faves) that she has a blog of her own. Her "itty-bitty news" items brought me a smile. This one, for example:

"Maestro Has a Request"

Some moments are the stuff of comedy routines. This is a scene from a recent rehearsal, exactly as it happened. The conductor was European, the orchestra of British descent.

"Does anyone have a rubber?" the maestro asked the orchestra, pencil in hand.

A titter passed among the musicians. Realizing his double-entendre, the conductor turned crimson, ruffling his hair in an embarrassed gesture.

The principal violist located a large white eraser and handed it over. The conductor rubbed out an old pencil marking, then returned the eraser. A quip was made about sharing a rubber, getting it back used.

A minute later, the eraser was borrowed again, and again returned.

The next time an eraser was needed, the principal violist gave the conductor a small, flat, white packet with serrated edges and a distinct shape inside. A surprised chuckle escaped the orchestra. The maestro shook his head, laughed, and held it up for all to see. He hesitated – and then, in one decisive motion, pocketed the package.

The joke was complete. Rehearsal continued as usual.

Also on Hilary's site
a sweet
note about the loss of
this little friend:

Well, here at home I'll quietly applaud all of the heroic, touring musicians who brighten our lives, while they live theirs, so unimaginably full of stresses and obstacles. And, very often, loneliness. Here's hoping for lots of gasping tonight, and riotous applause. And lots and lots of encores.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'd like to buy a vowel, please ...

The principal carrier of [Edwin Fischer's] expressiveness was his marvellously full, floating tone, which retained its roundness even at climactic, explosive moments, and remained singing and sustained in the most unbelievable pianissimo. (In conversation, Fischer once compared piano tone to the sound of the vowels. He told me that in present-day musical practice the a and o are neglected in favour of the e and i. The glaring and shrill triumphs over the lofty and sonorous, technique over the sense of wonder. Are not ah! and oh! the sounds of wonder?) By bringing the middle parts to life, Fischer gave his chord-playing an inward radiance, and his cantabile fulfilled Beethoven's wish: 'From the heart -- may it go to the heart.'

From Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts, by Alfred Brendel, Published by Noonday Press

Here's what the ah! in Fischer's Bah!ch sounds like ...