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 ...