Friday, September 25, 2015

Only When Great Music and the Great Performer Are One...

I sometimes  grapple with and  wonder about  Time and Space when I am witness to the fusion of great performer and  great music.
When I hear, for example, the Arietta by Grieg; or "Chopin" by Schumann, either of which amounts to one page of manuscript, I  am the bearer of precisely the same kinds of reactions and sense of presence as I do when I hear, again for example, the "Hammerklavier"  Sonata by Beethoven or the Second Piano Concerto by Brahms, either of which consumes the  greater part of an hour.
The nature of impact of connection and spiritual/emotive gravitation seem to result in the same kind of reality, it seems to me, that sleep gives; namely,  upon falling asleep and awakening, which could be a period of three minutes, or six hours -  there seems to be a sense of  NO time, as we normally  encounter time measurement  - by the second, minute, or hour.
When Andsnes plays Arietta, or Serkin plays "Hammerklavier,"  I undergo the same  kind of immersion, seemingly, of "no time" - whether it be a minute or 45 minutes.
Great Music without the attendant Great Artist; or, vice versa -  none of the above would or could exist...


Friday, September 18, 2015

"The Art Of -" How Words Can Be Their Own Music...

I've shared the world of Imagery with you, primarily by way of  music, in these blogs. And as you know, I often delve into other forms of human creativity as well.
Why not touch upon  the blend of words, rather than music this time around?
Here are some of my favorite examples of  creative giants among us:

"True terror is upon awakening, and realizing that the country is being run by your high school class."
Kurt Vonnegut

"Every old person has a young person inside who wonders what happened."
Terry Pratchett

"Karl Marx was right. Socialism does work. It's just that he chose the wrong species."
Edward  O. Wilson, naturalist. One of the world's authorities on the social network of  ant colonies.

"What we have learned from history is that we have not learned from history."
Benjamin Disraeli

"Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you'd stay out and your dog would go in."
Mark  Twain

"T.V. is very educational. The moment someone turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book."
Groucho Marx

"There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule."
Mark Twain

And  what about some examples of pure humor, without any philosophical weight attached?
The great comedian, Stan Laurel, of the immortal Laurel and Hardy  team attaining world-wide fame during  the second and third decades of the 20th century, first had become a protege of Charlie Chaplin before he came to America, and was, in actuality, the genius behind the famous series this culture knew so well some eighty years ago. His unique sense of color in the form  of humor was so pure that his statements were inculcated into most  of the scripts  surrounding that pristine form of  his utterance. For instance:
In one of the films, he is a kind of detective looking for a young lady by the name of Mary Roberts. Well into the story, his frustration is measured by his approaching a  lass he had never before seen, demanding an answer to " I want to know why you are not Mary Roberts!"
In another movie, he had just met a person he had not seen in twenty years, and ejaculated "do you remember how dumb I used to be? Well, I'm better now."
His most poignant statement came after an assiduously deep conversation with his partner Oliver Hardy about the mysteries of Life. After a pregnant pause, Stan Laurel  fastens his bleary, vacant  eyes directly onto the camera, emits a deep but gentle sigh and informs us that "life isn't short enough."
Just a few of my favorites concerning another creative form that human genius can and does  drop into our hands...


Friday, September 11, 2015

A Compendium of Lesser Known Facets of Powerful Figures in Human History

I thought that it might be fun, as  a form of digression from the usual blog format, to glue together a number of  lesser known aspects of some the figures of the past millennium   that I have written about during the past seven or eight years:
Dwight D. Eisenhower -The General chosen by President Roosevelt to lead  the 20th century's most important  military operation called Overlord, which history has named  "D" Day, the beginning of the liberation of  Occupied Europe. Also, the bearer of a speech(his farewell as President)warning of a  military/industrial complex, which was the first  prescient forewarning of a new and dangerous time we are the inhabitants of.
Eisenhower  loved to paint, and did so to assuage so many pressures created simply by being a rung on the ladder of history. He was really quite good at painting - take a look. There is, I believe, a permanent collection at Eisenhower College. And there are other paintings hanging elsewhere.
Wolfgang Mozart - how many composers could work on as  many as a half dozen works simultaneously?
Not many - imagine the beginning and completion of  his last three symphonies in one summer (1788), which includes his longest symphony (the "Jupiter"),  his final work in the symphony form, whereas it took
Johannes Brahms - about 21 years to begin and end his first symphony.
I am NOT comparing; simply noting- a gentle reminder that each of us is a fingerprint. Brahms was and is one of the greats.
Reinhard Heydrich - a  member of the Hitler Hierarchy , and, arguably, the most efficient incarnation of pure evil outside of Hitler himself. I have always felt that had he not been assassinated in 1942, he would very well have become Hitler's successor upon the tyrant's suicide in 1945.
This monster's father had founded the Halle Conservatory of Music in Germany, and was himself an accomplished violinist, who could have followed his father's footsteps -sadly, Fate led him down a different road. If you want to know pure evil, read about  this man.
Frank Sinatra - One of America's best remembered pop vocalists, especially in mid-20th century. His recordings continue to be heard around the world today.
Ever see his paintings? There are  many hanging today. I think that you will be happily surprised at his gifts as a painter; especially if you happen to be a fan of his.
Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl -The only person in history to work for both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler - really! Imagine being called, in the 1920's, "Hitler's Pianist."  Look him up - truth can indeed be stranger than fiction. 
Muzio Clementi - When Beethoven died, the authorities who entered his home to list the possessions of the great composer found that in his personal music library, Beethoven had more of Clementi's piano music than Mozart's. Why? This builder of pianos was a composer as well, as you know. But do be reminded that Clementi may well be considered the first of the "modern" composers of the piano - the first true 'romantic?'
Adolf Hitler - If  the young Hitler been able to effectively paint the human figure into his watercolors, would the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, which had twice rejected him, have allowed him entrance?
The twentieth century would then almost assuredly have taken on a totally different form.
There are many more examples of multi- talented figures - George Gershwin and Tony Bennett, for instance, and THEIR painting abilities -and so on and so on...


Friday, September 4, 2015

The Beethoven Violin Concerto - A Genesis That Reads Like A Novel...

There  are, and have been, for the greater part of  two  centuries,  the countless performers and listeners who have considered  the one violin concerto by Beethoven to be the existential quintessence in the form called 'Violin Concerto.'  The defenders of the assertion that this work is without parallel as a dialogue between violin and orchestra are as much a reality in strength and number today as was the case, say, a century ago.
Those of you who may not be familiar with the saga surrounding the Concerto's  emergence will find the story quite fascinating; and so, read on:
To begin with,  there is evidence that a 22 year-old Beethoven had been toying with the idea of committing a violin concerto to paper, as there is a fragment of a first movement, which is all that we have - how far the great composer went beyond the fragment may never be known.
But Beethoven's "follow-through" is given us in 1806, when the debut of a full fledged violin concerto took place.
And the 1806 debut, performed by a  well-known violinist of the day; a fellow named Clement, is the only time that this  piece was performed publicly - until 1844.
Yes, indeed - this was the same work that the entire world is so conversant with today. Difficult to believe, but this masterpiece almost did not make it.
The 1806 debut was met with general indifference, and the event went quickly into obscurity.
Just a few months later, the composer Clementi suggested that the violin work be rearranged as a piano concerto, which Beethoven did shortly thereafter. For those of you who may not know of the piano version(Beethoven therefore has six piano concerti to his credit!) please find it as opus 61a.
The revivification of the original violin concerto of 1806 took place in England in 1844, with a large chamber orchestra from London conducted by no other than Mendelssohn. The violinist was the giant-to-be Joachim - aged twelve, I believe.
And we have known it ever since.
I have sometimes wondered whether Clementi suggested the re-working of the violin concerto into a piano concerto because:
he sympathized, as a composer, and offered the suggestion as a form of  palliation in order to alleviate the pain of disappointment that Beethoven may have  been going through; or - he actually  thought that it might succeed more efficiently as a piano concerto - well, I cannot find verification of either of my premises.
Oh, well...
By the way; a  recording of the piano concerto, known otherwise as the  violin concerto was done in 2012 by none other than Daniel Barenboim - Do listen to 'What Might  Have Been' as opposed to 'What Is' - 
Thank Fate for Mendelssohn!
He 'found' Bach for us in 1829 - was he responsible for 're-finding ' Beethoven's masterpiece in 1844?

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