In my teaching, I am regularly talking about the music we are studying and performing as a language that communicates to us as the performer and then through us to our audience that hears us. In my own playing and performing, I am studying how different mediums of art interact together as they are created together.
We can easily observe this idea as we pay attention to the score of a movie without music. If you haven't seen this video of the Throne Room Scene of Star Wars - A New Hope, you should check it out. Clearly, the musical interaction with the scene is of tremendous importance.
We can easily observe in examples like this how the music impacts the presentation to the audience, but does the interaction of music and art actually affect the choices of the artist in creating the work? In other words, when an artist creates a work of art while listening or otherwise being impacted by another artist's work, does that change the work in progress?
Painter, David Hummer of the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art and I are experimenting with that concept and observing how music and painting interact in creating a work of art. We have tried it in the studio and have experienced the impact and on January 26th, 2020, we are going to add a third dimension to that mix: a live audience. Our plan is to create a work of art on stage. He will be painting a portrait of musician and composer, Philip Glass. I will be improvising and in a sense creating a musical score to his painting all the while we are both restrained to the time confines of a recital performance.
The performance is January 26th, 2020 at 2pm and will be held at the Caroline Mark Concert Hall at the Wausau Conservatory. Admission is free.
Martha Argerich is among the most inspiring pianists of our era and has given us decades of great performances. Her expressive and lyrical playing sets a high bar for all others playing this instrument. In a New York Philharmonic Orchestra program notes, Ravel was quoted, "The G-major Concerto took two years of work, you know. The opening theme came to me on a train between Oxford and London. But the initial idea is nothing. The work of chiseling then began. We've gone past the days when the composer was thought of as being struck by inspiration, feverishly scribbling down his thoughts on a scrap of paper. Writing music is seventy-five percent an intellectual activity." Perhaps that can be an inspiration to a composer or arranger who hasn't yet found the "muse" for a piece that allows them to quickly expel it to paper, but is slowly working through ideas and crafting their own masterpiece. American jazz was the inspiration behind this piece for Ravel and it is filled with both great excitement and beautiful lyrical themes that Argerich performs masterfully!
Glen Gould was a master interpreter of Bach. He had a great talent at understanding and performing the polyphony of Bach's music. Gould brings out clarity of voices. Gould also put a lot of thought into his performances and trying to interpret them as Bah would have played them. They weren't written for the legato sound of the piano and Gould plays the piano in a style reminiscent of the harpsichord or clavichord which these pieces were written. There are a lot of good Bach performances on recording, but Gould's performances remain among the very best.
Alexander Scriabin wrote this beautiful short piece when he was only 16 years old. The piece is filled with deep emotion and a gypsy-like expressive and weeping melody. Another performance that makes Evgeny Kissin one of my favorite pianists.
Oh my! 2019!! I am looking forward to a great new year of blogging about things that inspire me with piano playing, teaching, and listening to others. I hope you had a great season of holidays as we wrapped up 2018. My personal November and December flew by like a whirlwind as in addition to celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years and all the performances that season entails, I was married on New Year’s weekend! It was a wonderfully fun time, but kept me from writing.
With the new year, I am very excited to get back at it and have a number of articles in mind regarding piano teaching, practicing, and accompanying. Three topics that I am digging into and learning about and will begin the year with are:
A lot of great ideas and discussions ahead, but to start the year, I will share this great video of what is easily one of the most popular and recognizable piano concertos: The Grieg Piano Concerto! This is often one of the first piano concertos a pianist plays and is played beautifully and expressively in this video by Khatia Buniatishvili. Enjoy this performance and watch for new posts this January!
A piece that is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and loved piano pieces of all times, the Moonlight Sonata--as we usually refer to it--wasn't titled that by Beethoven. The first edition of the piece was titled, Sonata quasi una fantasia which translates to, "sonata in the manner of a fantasy" or even "sonata played as if improvised." The "moonlight" name came from the German music critic, Ludwig Rellstab who described the first movement as moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne. The moonlight description stuck, and today it is thought of as the Moonlight Sonata.
Daniel Barenbaum performs this piece beautifully and expressively and the "fire" in the third music is very exciting.
It was a recent online discussion I had about 21st century piano composers that drew my attention to David Chesky's piano concertos. Chesky molds the inspiration of his eclectic stylistic interests and experiences into his composition. This concerto is inspired by the frantic pace of his adopted home, New York City. You'll hear jazz and classical ideas and inspiration in this exciting work.
Dave Brubeck heard this rhythm played by Turkish musicians on the street and was intrigued by it. When talking with one of the musicians he was told, "To us, this is what blues is to you." That is where the title came from and the foundation for the piece. The Turkish melodic hook sounds almost classical to our ears and then the piece moves into a great blues feel. Also check out the recording on Brubeck's album, Time Out.
Banned at times in the WWI era for criticizing the Soviet regime, yet admired by Stalin himself. Maria Yudina's playing mimicks her personality. Free, somewhat rebellious, muscular, and reinventing. It is fitting that she recorded this at a time in 1962 a year Stravinsky was finally invited back to the U.S.S.R. after 30 years of having been banned himself. Yudina is a pianist worth listening to and in addition to Stravinsky, has brilliant recordings of Liszt and Bartok
Before Spotify, iTunes, and compact discs. Even before the 33 1/3 rpm LP's were the 78 rpm record discs. In the 1930's Horowitz recorded many of these with short pieces such as Chopin mazurkas and etudes, Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, and other shorter works by Debussy, Poulenc, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, and others. Perhaps the very best is the 1930 performance of the Paganini-Liszt-Busoni Etude in E flat. The control over technique is astounding. This is the etude that Arthur Rubinstein heard Horowitz play in 1926 and wrote about in his memoirs: "I shall never forget the two Paganini-:Liszt etudes, the E flat and E major ones. There was more than sheer brilliance and technique; there was an easy elegance-the magic that defies description." Horowitz was a technical monster, but along with this technical mastery is a simple elegance that is unmatched.