Frederic Rzewski, the truly formidable pianist and composer, died at the end of June. I have been feeling quite nostalgic since reading of his passing (see NY Time obituary linked here). I had the privilege of hearing him play in person on several occasions, the most memorable of which was an incredible performance of his best known piece, "The People United Will Never Be Defeated," a virtuosic set of 36 variations on a Chilean protest song. Mr. Rzewski presided at an upright piano brought in to the upstairs rooms at Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip - yes, that's right, at Wholey's!! Frederic was in Pittsburgh for other concerts, along with visiting relatives who live here. I will absolutely never forget that performance. I needed to get my hands on the score again, so I visited Carnegie Library and I have been happily sitting at the piano re-visiting this amazing work (full disclosure....it's REALLY difficult, and I can only say I have worked on just a few of the variations!) I will link a video performance of Frederic performing his piece a few years ago, but there are some splendid recordings: Ursula Oppens (he composed this piece for her in 1975), Marc-Andre Hamelin, Igor Levit, and Conrad Tao. Please give a listen and let me know what you think!
It is hard to believe, but Martha Argerich celebrated her 80th birthday on June 5th. As I watched mesmerized in the spring as she played a concert live but without an audience in Germany, then returned to the piano and tossed off the 2nd Chopin Sonata. She has had an extraordinary career and has always had an extraordinary technique and beautiful sense of musicianship. Please check out the many, many performances that you can find on any streaming service or youtube that you choose. Also, there is a recent album released of her legendary 1965 concert that has been remastered. Such Chopin playing!!!! Here is a brief article from The Guardian that might interest you.......
Beautiful balance between hands, something that all pianists strive towards. In another installment of "Morning Music Walks with Andrea," I'd like to share with you another performance from Wigmore Hall. Today I listened to a beautiful performance by Kathryn Stott. Ms. Stott is an English classical pianist who performs as a concerto soloist, recitalist and chamber musician; she is a frequent collaborator with Yo-yo Ma. Her specialities include the English and French classical repertoire, contemporary classical music and the tango; listen to her album of Erwin Schulhoff's music called "Hot Music," especially the five "etudes de jazz!" As I walked and listened this morning I was so taken with the lovely balance between melody and accompaniment in this recent performance at Wigmore . I so enjoyed the Faure Nocturne and the Poulenc "Melancolie" (which is quite difficult to play well, by the way), but be sure to listen to the Earl Wild transcription of "Embraceable You" at the end. Let me know how you like it!
In continuation of "Morning Music Walks with Andrea", here are a few more concerts I would suggest listening to: through Carnegie Hall, New York you can look forward to a concert of Native American and African American compositions for the piano played by a pianist who has been on my radar in the past, Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli. It will take place on Friday, April 16th at 7:00pm. Another will be a work by Olivier Messiaen, "Quartet for the End of Time", written by Messiaen during his internment in a concentration camp and first performed in that camp in 1941. My earliest recording of this work was by Tashi, made up of a favorite pianist, Peter Serkin, who passed away last year. This piece is hailed by The New Yorker as "the most ethereally beautiful music of the 20th century". Listen on Tuesday, April 20th at 7:00pm and let me know what you think!
And, have you signed up for free concerts in Wigmore Hall, London yet? I have happily watched SO many amazing concerts recorded in Wigmore over the past months....please do yourself a favor and sign on to watch! I link Wigmore here for you.....watch next Monday, April 12th when the great Imogen Cooper gives a piano recital!
Now, let me know what YOU have been listening to?!!
dSo I think I will start a new series of listening suggestions, "Morning Music Walks with Andrea"! What do you think, want to come along? This morning's listening and strolling suggestion comes by way of the fabulous Shalin Liu hall in Rockport, Mass., and with a program by harpist/composer Maeve Gilchrist joined by the Rasa String Quartet and guitarist Conor Hearn. I so enjoyed the "Harp Weaver" by Gilchrist, inspired by a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Perhaps because of my own Celtic roots, I have long loved Gaelic-inspired music, and this program of harp and strings made for some glorious listening while walking! I link it here; please give a listen (no judging if you choose to sit in a comfortable chair instead of walking!) and let me know your thoughts - Slainte!
So the treks in my laundry continue!! It has been my habit for so many months during the cold weather to walk on the treadmill in my basement most every morning. I look forward to, not just for the exercise, but for the fabulous company I have every day (Yes, Jack, I love you too, but that's not who I am talking about, haha!!). We have a wealth of concerts to view through many venues, including one that I signed up for (for free, although a small donation may be nice), which is Wigmore Hall. I can't tell you how lost in beauty I have been on so many occasions. The latest was this morning as I listened to the French pianist Cedric Tiberghien play a recital with a program fashioned around Armistice Day. I link it here, and I hope you will listen, learn, and enjoy as I did. You might also consider signing up for other concerts at this hall. Worth a good long walk on a treadmill, or someday outside when it warms up!!
I have spent much time in recent weeks exploring new (and not so new!) piano repertoire......always such a joy to research and listen for hours on end! I'd like to share a special piece with you by Bela Bartok from his suite Out of Doors, "Musiques Nocturnes." Barbara Nissman, in her wonderful book on Bartok from a performer's view, says that "Bartok's writing here is complex and multilayered, and his ideal sound palette is difficult to translate. this is music that demands time and concentration; before the hands are ready to paint the picture, the brain must be able to decipher the language and understand the vocabulary." In this movement the listener hears the sounds of nature outside at night, as a peaceful, mysterious background of insect, frog, and muted bird cries. It is positively amazing writing for the piano. I discovered a video by Andras Schiff playing and explaining his thoughts on this movement; I think you might enjoy watching as I have. Then, in reading Barbara's discussion about this movement, perhaps my favorite comment by her (and one the has stayed with me for the last several days as it applies to all we do as pianists!!) is her thought "once (this piece) begins to take shape, the imaginative possibilities are infinite, and then the fun begins! The pianist can explore the sound possibilities of the instrument; with every performance, the piece will change, especially when playing on a different instrument or in a different hall. THE PIANIST ALWAYS MUST LISTEN ANEW AND ULTIMATELY LEARN TO TRUST THE EAR. UNLIKE THE PAINTER, THE PIANIST NEVER COMPLETES THE PAINTING. AS WITH THE SOUNDS OF THE NIGHT, EACH NIGHT REMAINS A SEPARATE MEMORY." I am rather awed by the beauty of this thought...........wow. Please enjoy watching and listening to Nathan Carterette perform: "Musiques Nocturnes" here in this video.
I love reading about new music albums in ALL genres, don't you?! Have you heard the release from jazz pianist Carla Bley called Life Goes On? This is an article from The Guardian that gives some description. Also for your listening pleasure, another article is titled "Feline groovy: cats in classical music - 10 of the best"......I promise not to neglect our favorite canines in the future!
In continuation of thinking about good practice habits, I thought I'd re-post some thoughts from last month.....
We are going to focus on good practice habits in November. We will begin with some great motivational thoughts from pianist-teacher-composer Seymour Bernstein:
*Look upon your talent as something uniquely yours and develop it.
* Productive practicing is a process that promotes self-integration. It is the kind of practice that puts you in touch with an all-pervasive order.
*One thing is certain: your progress will be proportionate to the quality and quantity of the effort expended.
*Being at the piano allows an emotional response not just for music, but for life.
And from piano pedagogue extraordinaire Marvin Blickenstaff:
*Music is EXPRESSION. This is the most important concept for musicians to understand and practice.
*We study the piano for the sake of expressing what it means to be a human being.
We will continue throughout November to think about good practice habits, and I will continue to share with you my insight on practicing developed over a lifetime of being at the piano. Music study has given back to me more than I can say, and I will always encourage you to feel the same!
Self doubt......hm-mm-mm. Something most all of us can struggle with from time to time, in so many ways. I have been greatly enjoying doing some remote drawing classes with my son Tom, a high school art teacher in Bethesda, MD. I have, however, been feeling unsure of myself, critical of the results I see on the page. So, I had a bit of an"Ah Ha" moment watching a video that Tom sent and INSISTED that I watch (he asks his students to watch!) I am so glad that I did, as it was both inspiring and motivating. Although this video seems to pertain more to visual art creation, I kept thinking how it is positively apropos to piano study! I link it here with a nod to my son; please do watch it yourself! Continuing to think along the lines of motivation, I spent time this week watching a webinar produced by the Frances Clark Center, and given by the wonderful piano pedagogue, Marvin Blickenstaff. His discussion was on planning for teaching at the Intermediate level, and he made many wonderful suggestions, but one of the most poignant to me was his comment that we, teacher and student, need to discuss "Expression" in music. Marvin made a point to say that "We study music, we study the piano for the sake of expressing what it means to be a human being." Music is expression - this is the most important concept for musicians to understand.
Please ponder, and then see my blog for September 13 to learn what the pianist, composer, and teacher Seymour Bernstein says about motivation! Dear students, I appreciate and applaud your efforts, you may always be certain of that!