Friday, September 27, 2013

Memories of Youth - Igor Stravinsky and 'the Herd'??

I was, as I recall,  a sophomore in high school when I first heard a composition, titled Ebony Concerto,  that for me at that time, was a revelation; namely, in  that the piece was commissioned by a great  Jazz clarinetist Woody Herman, and that the commission was directed to Igor Stravinsky, to be performed initially by Herman's band, which was called  The Herd. Unlike Beethoven, who was totally undaunted by writing music for sopranos in his Ninth symphony that some of these ladies called "impossible to sing,"  Stravinsky DID have some trepidation concerning some of the complexities in certain rhythmic areas that might be too much for jazz musicians.
However, the recording, which was released in 1945  or 1946 proved that the Herd could handle the Russian Giant's complexities. For me as a teenager, it was a positively staggering experience to hear this combination of  the music of one of the 2oth century's  most powerful and controversial composers meshing so well with a jazz band.
Why not listen to a truly unique musical experience?
Incidentally, not long after, the legendary jazz pioneer Benny Goodman collaborated with Stravinsky as clarinet soloist in the Ebony Concerto.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Some Words by Mozart - Could They Represent an Unanswerable Question?

Whenever  I hear the music of Mozart, I am beset by the conviction that no matter how familiar I am with the work I am hearing, it is as if I am listening to it for the first time. No matter how well I am connected to where the music is headed, I am invariably beguiled by the delight of Discovery.
Whenever  the music of Chopin surrounds me, I am intrigued, no matter how well I know the music, by  the creation of a  new facet  on the  jewel we call 'beauty' that appears for the first time, which results in a deeper understanding, for me, of the power which Beauty imparts to the human spirit.
The language of Beethoven seems to be one of words; words I cannot unravel and turn into a form I can  distinguish -  and yet, for me, Beethoven is talking to me. The power of his statement is intractable, so far as any description I can intelligently convey to myself, let alone to any other human.
Is Music; WAS Music Man's first language? Perhaps a linguist can give me some kind of view, which, at best, can only be speculative, it seems to me.
Mozart, in answer to a question asked of him, or BY him, uttered the following:
"The music? It was already there. It just had to be written down."
Did Mozart mean that, for him, the mystery of the language revealed itself as he wrote; or,
is it possible that he felt  the music indeed was there before his 35 - year visit took place?
I do not attach myself to the Occult or any other supernatural aspect. Nor am I connoting any form of religiosity to the  writing of this blog. It is simply a little review of my sense of absolutely vertical awe I possess whenever I am, in any form, involved with the music I hear, or the paintings I can gaze at; or the other examples of the forms of imagery Man  has within him.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Three Giants of the Piano - A Remembrance...

After having offered over the past few years over 510 articles in this blog called Aphorisms, I have decided to review for the reader the basic reasons for these articles:
As you know, the articles are products, in non-technical terms, of subjects that come to mind at a given moment, and  are produced without resorting to any written or published material, save for two or three that demanded word-for-word extractions to fortify the subject chosen; for example, the exact words of  a military officer from Napoleon's army  who visited Beethoven.
Briefly,  my premises are, generally:
To discuss a not-well-known aspect of a famous  person  or incident, or
To discuss a not-well-known person or incident.
After all, History has a proclivity to be short legged or short winded, and it is rather easy to forget about the existence of a powerful contributor to, say, the history of  the Lively Arts. That is why I often bring up names that may well have become obscure after a relatively brief period.
For example; I now bring to you the names of three musicians who, in my view, were vital links in the chain of Germanic traditions as they pertain to the piano:
Edwin Fischer, Wilhelm Kempff and Paul Badura-Skoda should be remembered for their contributions to the interpretive lexicon which includes Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Although such creative geniuses as Chopin and Liszt, let alone others, have also been wonderfully  recorded by these three, the central reality of intrinsic value to the possibilities built into the great German structures left to us by the first four composers I mention above should, from  my perch, serve as immortal precedents of discovery, for the ages.
As an aside, Paul Badura-Skoda (who is still among us)  was a student of Fischer, who was also an acknowledged pedagogue. Fischer  included  Brendel and Barenboim as students(I should discuss these two as well sometime soon!)
Some of you probably know of the trio centered in this article;  however, for those of you who may not be familiar with Fischer, Kempff and Badura-Skoda should get to become familiar with their work and values.


Friday, September 6, 2013

A New Recording - A Flaming Virtuoso Meets A Master of Virtual Evanescence...

In his  performances of some of the vaunted transcriptions of Vladimir Horowitz, the Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos  is dizzying in his pyrotechnical language - personally, I had never contemplated that there would be  another Horowitz after Horowitz,  in my time -  how wrong I was, and am. Listen for yourself.
What is now essentially as enthralling is the reality  of  a recording of music just as evanescent and translucent as the transcriptions of Horowitz are of steel and concrete. I write of the music of one Federico Mompou of Spain. And yes, Arcadi Volodos is the performer.
The composer Mompou was vaguely known by me; that is, until the violinist Ricardo Odriozola brought for me the reality of the genius of this composer, for which I am eternally grateful. For me, Federico Mompou is the only untrammeled Spanish answer to Debussy and French Impressionism. His wonderful way of inferring musical ideas to the listener, plus his luscious  harmonic vocabulary and the splaying forms of linear design combine to form, for me, a voice of unique design. A voice, in my view, which should be heard far more than it has thus far. After all, how is it that such luminaries as Michelangeli  and Rubinstein have recorded some of  Mompou's works? And there are others who have played and recorded  this composer's music.
The release date of "Volodos Plays Mompou" was, I believe, in May, though world dissemination of this disc  may  still be incomplete at this point in time. For those interested, it is a Sony disc.
A thought, unrelated to be sure, just struck me as I write  this blog.  Recently, I had written about the great Brazilian pianist Guiomar Novaes and her composer/architect husband  Octavio Pinto, both of whom had studied with the great teacher Isidor Phillip in Paris, and I had mentioned that one of my teachers at Eastman had studied with Phillip as well, followed by me  one and a half generations later.
Well, I now  recall  that Mompou had also studied with Phillip, and entered the Conservatoire with another student who turned out to be the great pianist Jose Iturbi, with whom I studied for a brief period when Iturbi was in the States. I was most assuredly in rather fast company!