Sunday, June 18, 2017

Absolute Music - That Miracle Language Without Need for Words...

I thought that it  would be of value and interest to my senses, if I were to listen to a substantial number of recordings of the Mazurka by Chopin, opus 63, number 3.
For me, this gem in c# minor ranks among a small number of the best that Chopin had written in this form. And, along with my having performed it and having used it in my teaching over many years, I decided to enhance my sense of perspective by invoking a saturating mode through a century of various recordings of this masterpiece; something I had planned on doing but never got around to  pursuing.
What came out of this  hour or so of performances that started with post-Lisztian  pianists through giants of our time resulted in a  brilliantly illuminated reminder of how the word 'semiotics' can apply to music - how Interpretation and  Opinion are truly bedfellows.
As an example, the wild difference of opinion as to how to create the message of this music, say, between Rachmaninoff and Rubinstein; or,  Cortot and  Horowitz will invariably form a wide admixture of argumentation.
That wonderful form of consternation coming out of a reality that some totally unknown pianist would deeply move me, directly after hearing one of the historically acclaimed titans creating a stance that did not do a thing for me -  quite an experience  in my endless pursuit of some form of reason.
I remember recording, back-to-back, a series of about seven or eight different  performances of  the  two cadenzas written by Rachmaninoff for his first concerto;  my reason for doing so being my need to witness the resulting reactions on the part of the pianists  to the manner in which they had dealt with the material leading up to the cadenza, which usually can serve as a  a kind of certification of how to package and 'tie with a bow' the meaning of that first movement. It was a collection of staggeringly different 'opinions' of how to construct the movement leading to that cadenza.
So - which of what we hear is  'right'? Or should that question be wrestled with at all?
For those of us involved in this art form - it seems that argumentation is an automatic need, and serves as one of the core values in the  pursuit of answers which must accompany the tactic of 'what to do with those notes'...
What say you?


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

73 Years Ago This Day...My Second of Two Addenda

A time of remembrance on this 6th day of June is that other 6th day of June in 1944, when some 5000 sea-going vehicles appeared off the coast of Normandy. We call it D - Day.
What followed has been recounted by book, film, and personal memory countless times.
What may be lost due to the immensity of both size and ultimate meaning of Operation Overlord, led by a future American President(Eisenhower), is the process of transition, from the American experience.
May I cite just a tiny handful of numbers , all coming into view within a period of four plus years?
When the Selective Service Act came into being in the United States before this country went to war, and the draft was activated, almost 9 percent of the young men were deferred  from regulation military service because of their dental conditions.
During this period, the standing army of the United States numbered around the same as that of Portugal, or Romania (also spelled Rumania).
When D-Day occurred, among the Allied troops landing on the beaches, were some 73,000 Americans, all of whom were discharged from their boats on that first day.
And within five days, about a third of a million troops had been disgorged onto French soil.
As a musician, I continue to marvel as to what Man can achieve with the powers given.
Ironically; sadly  - what this species can achieve, on its dark side, cannot be pushed away...


Saturday, June 3, 2017

An Addendum Having Nothing To Do With the Arts...

As we approach the 6th day of this month, our thoughts, for many of us, will become directed to Operation Overlord.  The beginning of the liberation of  Western Europe from the evils of Hitler obviously was one of the primary events connected with the shaping of history which continues into  our time.
But this week also heralds the 75th anniversary of another event which, arguably, may be considered as an equal in import to Overlord;  and that is The Battle of Midway- to explain:
Only four months after Pearl Harbor, the spectacular  Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and other cities of Japan so stunned and infuriated the Tojo government that their reflexive decision was to extend their domain further east into the Pacific so as to make it impossible for the Americans  ever again  to attack Japan by air. The island of Midway, an American possession,  was their choice of occupation.
What the Japanese did not know  -  a portion of their naval code had been deciphered  by American naval intelligence.
The result, in a four day operation, was that the invading Japanese fleet was led into a trap that destroyed four of their aircraft carriers.
Gone forever was the offensive naval  arm of the Japanese Empire - there was no way that they could win this war.
And so, even though it required an island-hopping operation that lasted until Okinawa was occupied in the spring of 1945, and the decision to use the Bomb was implemented, the Battle of Midway only 6 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor decided the final outcome.
How stunning the web spun by a look into historiography can be...

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