Friday, November 29, 2013

Clara Haskil - A Recording Like No Other...

The world of music recognizes Clara Haskil as one of the truly great artists of the 20th century. Her unique language, one of such purity in design and  tonal production, creates  a kind of aura around her playing  that can  belong only to this remarkable artist.
She and her fellow Romanian, Dinu Lipatti, form a duo that gives us some of the most poetic contributions that the world of recorded music can bestow upon the music lover. Ironically, both giants had brief careers; Lipatti, dying in his 33rd year of cancer, and Haskil gaining world recognition only during the latter years of her life.
I know of no great artist who was so absorbed in what she thought of as personal failings for so much of her life, and in actuality she was part and parcel responsible for the delaying  of  world recognition. She constantly derided her own entity, stating in a letter, for instance, to Lipatti that she had " an empty head, as is my wallet." She once wrote that when she prepared to learn a piece of music, then heard Lipatti perform the same music, she simply said ":why try?" and did not pursue that particular music, at least at that particular point in time. She was reclusive and quite depressed much of her earlier years, and only a relatively small number of people knew of her enormous gifts, which, sadly, went on for years, regardless of the great reviews she would receive, however rather spasmodically.
At  one point in time she was given a tape recorder which she  used in her flat in Vevey, Switzerland.  I have a recording of her working on the Beethoven 2nd Concerto. How often does one have the opportunity to hear a great artist practice? I would most strongly recommend that you look for this recording, among others that were released from these tape-recorded sessions in her little apartment, I believe done during the late 1950's. What a revelation!
Do look for these treasures -to be a "fly on the wall" of a great artist is a rarity indeed...


Friday, November 22, 2013

Peter Tchaikovsky - The Mystery Surrounding His Death...

On this day in November,  50 years ago, the American President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy  was assassinated, as the entire world knows. And with the arrival of this anniversary, we are assailed with a plethora of theories concerning the cause of his murder - was it indeed the work of one man? was the Mafia involved? or the military/industrial complex? or political adversaries? and so on...
Well, the absolute chaos surrounding Kennedy's death is but one example of such an event concerning a celebrity - take Mozart, for instance:  was it illness overwhelming a frail struggling genius, as is generally agreed upon? or poison? Why was he buried at a time no one expected it to occur? Why was the sexton charged with his burial replaced at a time when the widow of the genius came to view his grave, having been ill at the time of the burial? Why do we not know where Mozart is buried? His mortal remains have yet to be found.  and so on...
And what about Peter Tchaikovsky?
Is it true that he drank water straight out of a tap during the height of a Cholera epidemic? Did he drink that glass of untreated water at his brother's apartment? or a restaurant? did a "Court of Honor,"  composed of alumni of the composer, proclaim him guilty of homosexuality (the composer was gay, and palpably bedeviled by his sexual preference, calling it "that Thing"), and requested that he commit suicide?  or was it arsenic poisoning?  was it  not  bandied about that small doses of arsenic can result in symptoms that resemble those of Cholera?
Did Tchaikovsky commit suicide? or was there another cause? Arsenic traces can last over a century; however, seeing that the great composer died seven years before the twentieth century began, possibilities may pretty well have been demolished, as regards  any attempt to determine anything specific, in the event that his body is ever exhumed.
And so on...


Friday, November 15, 2013

Man's Art - the Power of the Word, As It Can Appear Amidst Chaos and Violence...

It struck me this day; namely,  how the power of some utterance can, for the moment,  subdue the eddy and turbulence of  an event, even though the words involved are a direct result of the event.
Allow me to attempt an explanation, by way of example:
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted polio during his young years, the devastation of  this rapacious affliction could well  have stultified any further aspirations he held.
But the titanic battle he waged against almost total paralysis resulted in what History has so well recorded; that is, his victory over the pain created by the reality surrounding him.
Interestingly, his connection  with a Victorian poem titled "Invictus"  is well documented. Roosevelt himself had more than once remarked about his attraction to this poem.
"My head is bloody, but unbowed."
"I am the master of my fate."
I am the captain of my soul."
Were these words from "Invictus" the lights in the darkness that helped  guide him into ultimate  personal victory?
Another example of poesy that emerged from  a period of human violence:
In the weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Emperor Hirohito was, of course, aware of the plans to destroy the American presence in the Pacific. There was a moment, interestingly, when he took pause and uttered a statement which were actually words from a Japanese poem - "if all peoples(men)
are brethren, then why are  the winds and waves so restless?"
What was in the mind of the Emperor when he posed this question?
Or, lastly, the words of Isoroku Yamamoto, the mastermind of Pearl Harbor, who a generation before, warned his fellow militarists never to go to war with America after visiting the Texas oil fields and the industries of Detroit, both as a Harvard student and a naval attache, and who prophesied that the next naval war would be decided in the air...
On the 7th day of December, 1941, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when Yamamoto, the head of the Japanese Combined Fleet, received word that the American aircraft carriers were not in Pearl Harbor, and therefore had escaped being destroyed, Yamamoto uttered the strangely  contemplative  words "I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant and have filled him with a terrible resolve."
Did the Admiral actually mean that the Japanese had lost the conflict on that first day?
Barely six months later, the Battle of Midway forever destroyed the plans the Japanese had held to become masters in the Pacific. And it was the air wing of the American navy that scored  the victory.
And so, the words uttered in the midst of violence and upheaval - words of relative quiet; a veritably calm
form of incarnation - just another form; innately, perhaps, of artistic expression??


Friday, November 8, 2013

An Astonishing Musician, Who Wears Many Coats...

One of the most gifted musicians in our day is a man who has the gifts to perform before as diverse a clutch of audiences as anyone I am aware of. He is  a performer, who, at world- level, plays  for devotees of the different forms of jazz available; or bebop; or pop; or the Classics.
Listen to his treatment of  "Over the Rainbow," or listen to his performances with the jazz giant Miles Davis; and, if you can withstand his rather strange postures as he performs, become increasingly  familiar with the range of imagery this genius  can induce into reality.  I believe that you may well become involved in an ongoing investigation of the gigantic vocabulary that the man named Keith Jarrett possesses.
A few years ago, Jarrett appeared at Tanglewood. I was in the audience, and I was witness to a pristine, wonderfully realized  reading of the Mozart Piano Concerto, K. 488,  with the Boston Symphony. AND, Jarrett behaved beautifully throughout the concerto, not once writhing and twisting into various shapes as he customarily does when involved with Bop and Jazz.
If you already know of whom I am writing about, then so be it; however, if you are not familiar with this blazing, gifted iconoclast, then why not turn on YouTube, or get some of his recordings?