Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Violin? Piano? Fits and Starts - The Genesis of a Career in the Arts...

When I was about six or seven, my parents decided upon an introduction to the violin; first, with a presentation of a diminutive form of the instrument  - then, with an introduction to a young lady whose name was Miss Smith.
From that point forward for a period of about a year and a half, I became involved with the unraveling of the mysteries germane to that instrument; then...
a piano, suddenly and without fanfare, appeared in the living room.
And Miss Smith never again appeared.
Enter a middle-aged gentleman, equipped with both a warm smile and very hairy ears(amazing what one remembers!) named Mr. Falkoff, my first piano teacher.
I simply cannot recall one second of my year and a half with Miss Smith, or any of the material for the violin that I must have had to encounter - that memory is simply in another world somewhere.
Her impact upon me, I can only suppose, never emerged into a recognizable form.
And so, for the next five years or so, a really loving and singularly important relationship was formed between Mr.  Falkoff and me. And the piano remains my oldest friend.
Again; for reasons I cannot either fathom or recognize, I returned to the violin; developed a pretty fair level of performance through"self-teaching;" became a member of the orchestra at high school as a first desk violinist, with the apotheosis of my remembrances being the  playing the violin part of the Brahms 2nd Symphony in a concert during my senior year.
All this while joining the Prep Department at Eastman on the piano after a tearful 'goodbye' to Mr. Falkoff and  saying a 'hello' to one of the most important people in this life; namely, Jerome Diamond of the Eastman piano faculty.
I'll never really be able to correctly weigh or appraise the true role of the violin in my development years - for me, it has been and continues to play a rather arcane role  - it simply fits into the whole experience..
And a wonderful example of poesy, in the form of the violinist Ricardo Odriozola, whom I have written music for this past third of a century, finally certifying  the reason as to why the violin was my introduction to the world of music?  And virtually the only instrument I have written for these past years, even though the piano has been my most faithful companion?
Questions that remain unanswered...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Piano Reconfigured into the size of a Pea - a Formal Welcome to Our New Century...

I have been aware of the piano playing of this graduate of the Curtis Institute for some years, and have throughout this period been drawn to her level of performance.
And now; at this particular point in time, I  have become aware of  a reality which informs me that this  wisp of a woman is capable of playing any piece of music written for the instrument.
She is now the darling of the keyboard all over the world, seducing audiences wherever she appears.
Some have called her the most overwhelming performer alive, and cults bearing her name are popping up in the wake of   the locations she has performed in.
She is Yuja Wang.
Picture a  young woman (she is now in her 30th year) bearing a figure of delicacy, dressed  in a form-fitting gown or dress, mostly either red or black, tripping onto the stage on high heels, bowing deeply from the waist, and wriggling onto the bench, sometimes with a  right thigh bared  almost to the hips.
She dispatches the "Hammerklavier" as if it were a fraction of its size, simply due to the gargantuan technical dimension she attaches to whatever she does.
Her veritably nonchalant physical attitude one witnesses during the Prokofiev Third Concerto, or seventh sonata bears  the appearance of a perfect form of denial  in the face of the traditional realities of the massive difficulties connected with these compositions.
And yet there is an aura of some form of substance emanating from her playing that I have yet to identify, in terms of  any form of description I can give myself.
Her playing of the Mozart concerto for two pianos with none other than Menahem Pressler is filled with a message every bit as relevant as that which the the revered artist Pressler, about three times her age, gives us.
The Schubert or Schumann compositions in her repertoire are as ubiquitous as the Horowitz or Volodos transcriptions included in her personal larder.
The principal issue that I am assailed by at this time about this wisp of a woman is a kind of consternation caused by the question "how do I listen to this  musician?"
At this point in time, I am so dissuaded by her Brobdingnagian powers, physically, over the piano, that I have yet to find a source of concentration available, in order to be intelligently capable of listening to the core of her message and specific projection of true language - more specifically; is she a great artist?
Is there a treasure trove , THAT unmistakable, totally non-describable  treasure trove that so few possess, in   her playing of either the absolute or descriptive music that she chooses to perform?
Or is it just a protracted mannerism at a high level that fails to move the atmosphere around me?
Right now, I cannot resolve these questions.

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