Friday, March 27, 2015

Fritz Kreisler and Serge Rachmaninoff - Yes; Together...

For those of us  who follow the great musicians as they emerge into greatness and then leave us, so many of them, thankfully,  have visited our planet during  the Recording Age, and have therefore  enhanced our lives with  rich legacies we can summon at our wishes.
Of course, Kreisler, the great Austrian violinist, and Rachmaninoff, the legendary Russian pianist and composer, have left us with many unforgettable examples of  their gifts. as soloists.
However, some of you may not be aware of a handful of recordings they produced as a duo  in 1928 at the Camden recording studios. Even though they had met back in, I believe, 1903, it took a quarter of a century for them to decide on recording works for piano and violin by such masters as Beethoven, Schubert and Grieg.
Kreisler's  golden sounds and Rachmaninoff's  unique coolness form a language that can never be replicated, in their recordings  of music for  these two instruments. Very often, great soloists who perform chamber music simply overpower the intent of the music by way of the  hubris naturally attached to any great soloist. This is not the case with these two giants, who form a chemistry that is beyond traditional expectation. Do listen this to Miracle. 


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Horowitz and Brahms - Adversaries?? How?...

One of the few recordings made by Vladimir Horowitz and his father-in-law Arturo Toscanini was the immense Concerto in  B flat by Johannes Brahms, which the composer  often referred to as  a "tiny wisp."
This particular recording has often been considered by countless listeners as the most important contribution given to history, as it pertains to this concerto of four movements. As a child, I recall thinking of it as a kind of symphony with piano, probably because of its particular dimensions.
When I get to listen to this recording, along with other recordings of  Brahms played by Horowitz, what comes to mind automatically is the brouhaha  surrounding  remarks, made more than once by Horowitz regarding his personal station concerning his playing of this composer. He, in different ways, felt 'uncomfortable' (his own word)  whenever he performed  the music written by Brahms for the piano.  I cannot uncover   any specific reasons that Horowitz ever divulged for his 'discomfort'. At times he actually said that he did not like playing Brahms in public. For instance, upon his learning and performing the Brahms Second Concerto, his exact words were(he said this two years before he passed away in 1989) "It is not a concerto for me. I never liked it very much, and I played it so badly, and my ideas about the music were so different from Toscanini's... I didn't enjoy rehearsing this performance at all."
And of the First Concerto, Horowitz said "I admit its great message, but it is not my kind of music."
Listen to the Horowitz recording of Brahms' great B flat minor Intermezzo - for me, it is positively ravishing, in its certification of late Brahms at its pinnacle. And yet, Horowitz positively squirmed while playing this and other brief masterpieces of the late Romantic.
So, why did Horowitz play Brahms throughout his career?
Perhaps, his statement about the Brahms First Concerto that I included above; namely, " I admit its great message" is the reality that like all great artists and their commensurate integrity, dealing with the truth  about Greatness, no matter the discomfort for whatever the reason -  that Greatness  must always be recognized for its existence.
Whenever I listen to Horowitz, I think of the different demons that pursued him, and were woven into the fabric which constituted HIS greatness...


Friday, March 13, 2015

Fusion in Music - George Shearing At His Best...

The popular song "My Ship," written by Kurt Weill for the Broadway show "Lady in the Dark," is not generally remembered in our time. It may be the reason that the great pop pianist George Shearing chose it,  in one of his most compelling examples of  the fusion between  the Classics and pop music; a process he promulgated and championed better, arguably, than any other pianist I know of.
In his performance(which is recorded) Shearing begins with "The Engulfed Cathedral" by Debussy, note for note, for a short period. Then Shearing seamlessly causes Weill's tune to appear on the aural  Debussy tapestry - what is essentially as impressive as Shearing's legendary gifts of Fusion , it seems to me, is his choosing of "My Ship," a tune rarely heard. This  can allow the listener, from my view, to be drawn into an even higher sense of the merging of Weill and Debussy, simply due to the state of unfamiliarity of the pop tune. The result can be, especially for the listener who has never heard "My Ship" and has, at best, a partial  conversance with the piano music of Debussy, that the tune was actually  written by Debussy, rather than Weill.
Is that why Shearing chose a tune not generally remembered?
At any rate, this creation by the wonderful British pianist is one of his most important contributions given to the process of  Fusion.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Mozart, the Niaux Caves, and Other Questions That Defy Their Answers...

The words written in this particular blog are merely musings that occasionally swirl around my milieu from time to time, in various forms and shapes; then simply vaporize - so please do forgive my particular form of involuntary Quixotism:
Periodically, when it is necessary to gaze into a mirror, the sense that the image I see represents the greatest mystery in my consciousness.
In my composition "Enigma" for violin and piano, I attempt to represent the Three Questions "Who am I?"
"What   am I?"  "Why am I Here?", and the piece does not truly end, as there are no available answers to me. The great American composer Charles Ives dealt with the same issue  in his "Unanswered Question," written in 1908.
Then I can find myself meandering to, say, Mozart, and two letters, which contain statements that are either cryptic or incredibly open and simplistic - I cannot choose between the two:
"Everything's composed - but not written yet."
"The music? It's already there - it  just has to be written down."
Jerry Saltz,the music critic, is simply blown over upon his visit to the Niaux Caves in Southwestern France, when he gazes upon cave drawings that are about 13,000 to 15,000 years in age, that demonstrate Linear Perspective, which art history books state  did not come into being until the Renaissance. In actuality, some of these ancient drawings contained examples of Reverse Perspective, which  induces the viewer to see smaller subjects closer than larger ones.Saltz has written about his defining encounter with these wall and floor drawings, if you'd like to read about his experience.
Man and his Art;  arguably, his most powerful languages-
Is there a Form or Shape to the limits of this creature, that we behold in the mirror?
Just Who? or What are we?
My mirror tells me nothing.What I see tells me absolutely nothing.
Oh, well...