Friday, January 27, 2017

Events Lurking in the Shrouds 0f History - How Some of Them Form Far Greater Stories...

Some time back, I wrote a blog concerning two of Man's most ubiquitous bedfellows; namely,  war and music - both  of these elemental entities have accompanied us, seemingly, virtually from the Beginning of this  Experience.
Thought I'd play a kind of  'game' germane to the above, and ask you to join in by either agreeing or disagreeing with the impact of  the lesser - known events I bring up:
 On a day in 1829, a  20 year- old must have  scratched his head (metaphorically?) as he pored over some of the manuscripts of one  J.S. Bach(I believe this moment took place in a library in Leipzig), and muttered that  the "B" minor Mass by the  Baroque composer had been performed just once  a century before(1729). This 20 year-old  vowed to have this music performed once again, which did indeed take place. The response was so strong that he arranged for another performance, and the music of Bach became known to the common man - thus, the Cult of Bach began, and has been going on ever since.
 The 20 year-old was Felix Mendelssohn.
I read somewhere that many years later, Mendelssohn was said to have uttered the following statement - "it took a Jew to discover this great Lutheran." I have no idea as to whether the statement is apocryphal; ,however, it does indeed show up in more than one   tome I have encountered.
On a day in April of 1942, the Doolittle Raid over cities in Japan took place. There was less than significant damage wrought by the bombs; however the militarists ruling Imperial Japan were thunderstruck by the event, as no such  event  would be thought  possible after the destruction at Pearl Harbor.
The knee-jerk reaction on the part of the Japanese hierarchy was to plan on extending their empire further eastward so that no such raid could again occur, and so they planned on invading and occupying the American territory called Midway island.
What was not known to the Japanese - their naval code had been  deciphered enough by American Naval intelligence to make the Midway plan known. The results:
The American forces were lying in wait for the Japanese to appear, with  the Japanese suffering what was to become a fatal wound ; that is, the sinking of four aircraft carriers, which made it impossible for the Japanese to conduct an offensive war in the Pacific from that day on,  which resulted in their inevitable defeat in 1945.
On a particular day  a  few  years ago, the eminent pianist Daniel Barenboim announced to the musical world the emergence of a piano designed by him and crafted into existence by a master  piano builder from  Belgium. At the time, there were just two of these pianos in existence; one in Barenboim's studio, the other in the possession of  the piano maker.
The difference in tonal production and pedaling techniques was announced by Barenboim himself, mainly through a different positioning technique of the strings and an altered approach to the makeup of the sounding board. The results, if accepted by performers and others of influence, could alter the very way of dealing tactically(interpretively) with the standard repertoire. I can only assume that 'the jury is still out' about what effect there can or will be in the playing of the likes of a Schubert, or a Beethoven etc.
One day we will know...
On a September day in 1940, on one of the air raids conducted by Hitler's Luftwaffe over England, one of the planes accidentally dropped some bombs in  the London area, this for the first time. Prime Minister Winston Churchill then demanded that the British reciprocate by dropping bombs on the city of Berlin, which was done.
Similar to the Japanese reaction to the Doolittle  Raid, The Germans were thunderstruck  - Hitler was incensed and demanded that London undergo what  was to become the London Blitz.
By diverting his air force from the attacks on the radar stations and airfields, which had brought England to within just a few weeks of defeat (Churchill's own admission), the raids on London made it possible for the British airmen to recover sufficiently to make it impossible for Hitler to invade England by way of Operation Sea Lion.
Thereafter, Hitler turned to the East and invaded  Russia with an undefeated England at his back.
Hitler  himself had more than once cautioned that a two-front war  would be fatal to Germany.
And so it was...
There you have lesser known events which have formed great changes in the direction of the Road Traveled  called History - of the examples listed above, we will have to wait for an answer to the question surrounding  the  Barenboim Piano.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Lives as a Composer - A Purveyor of Untrammeled Unoriginality...

Among  my pursuits as a musician, I  have occasionally written music for piano or violin, some of which has been recorded, mostly in Europe. Composition is listed, on my list of priorities, at the  lowest position, for a reason I have discussed in previous blogs;  specifically,  that  I have never felt comfortable while composing, and have done it, especially during the middle and latter phases of my experiences with music, very few times.
One exception, however:
I have a grand daughter who is playing 'cello and has fallen in love with the instrument. Her discoveries connected with the instrument, as a high school student, have led her into an increasing  curiosity about the great composers of the past three centuries, and prompted her to ask me  some  months ago "Papa, could you kindly write something for  me in the style of Bach?"
Which I did, after asking her to listen to the first Bach Suite for unaccompanied 'cello.
So she did learn the piece I wrote for her  under the guidance of her 'cello teacher, whom I had contacted to inform her about my writing the music.
About two months later I received another request to write something for her in the style of Mozart, which I did, using the rhythm of the primary theme of the "D" major Rondo by the Master.
Followed by Chapter three; namely, "Would you kindly write a piece for me in the style of Chopin?"
And so I  plied her 'cello with the atmosphere of a Nocturne. which seemingly pleased my favorite  young   'cellist.
And now, I am faced with yet another task of proving that I have finally found  my niche as a composer:
A few days ago, I received an E mail from  -
you guessed it.
"Hi Papa! When you have time, could you write something for me in the style  of Tchaikovsky?"
At least some recognition has been given me, even though it falls neatly into the category embedded  in the title of this blog...


Monday, January 2, 2017

Bartok at the Bar - A Remembrance...

The workings of the mind can defy description at times. The following morsel from my memory bank serves as an example:
Just a couple of days ago, this event leaped back into my consciousness after decades of  absolute somnolence - how and why this had been totally forgotten  for so long a period  is beyond any power of reason I possess.
When on my Amerika Haus tour  in Germany, I visited a section of downtown Frankfurt with some friends, and we came across a little Hungarian restaurant with  the words "Dios Teszta" printed on a sign in the window. First of all, be assured that none of us knew what these words meant -what prompted us to enter this little place was the sound of piano music.
A few tables, and an equally small bar constituted  the interior.
And a piano - an old upright close to the bar, and a middle-aged gentleman playing  what sounded to me like a folk tune in the Hungarian idiom.
We were led to a table by a fellow  who was also the waiter, who spoke English quite well, and recited a brief   list of dishes available, including those two words we saw on the sign on the window. He informed us that it was a classic Hungarian favorite composed of pasta and walnut. and the specialty of the house. I do not recall, of course, what else we ordered. But we must have enjoyed the meal, as nothing leaps into my memory up to this moment.
But the reason for my recalling this event was not the food, but the pianist at the bar. Sometime during the meal he  began to play some of the music of Bartok - sections of the composer's music, interrupted by various little Hungarian  folk tunes, in obvious random - imagine! - a medley of little tunes, interlaced with some of the quieter Bartok I was familiar with.
I found myself  at the bar, hoping that this man spoke English - he did.
He had studied for a short time with Bartok in New York, toward the end of the composer's life. And he fed me other information about his brief  experience with  the great musician. I did not press him in any way. I just listened to him talk.
To be brief, I visited this little place a few times by myself, and remember playing the Allegro Barbaro of Bartok on the upright (it was the only music by Bartok that I knew at the time). Hours of eating Dios Teszta and discussion about music...
That's all I can recall - I do not recall asking this man more about himself. I knew absolutely nothing more about him than you, the reader.
And that's all that I can recall - WHY did this event recur after all these years?
It's the ONLY time that I have ever eaten  dios teszta - this event did occur. This special form of pasta, and this man playing Bartok at a bar...