Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Carl Czerny - Listening to Piano Exercises

Carl Czerny [CHAIR-knee} 1791-1857
Czerny was born the year Mozart died and died the year Elgar was born. He fits into a unique position in terms of efforts and time. Most pianists run across him in terms of his exercises. Here's what I have to say: If you're going to play them, hear them played first and actually play them with some consciousness that these too are music. Specifically, they are piano music that shows us some of the amazing sounds and colors the piano is capable of. Is there anything particularly interesting in any of Czerny's vast output? What of his other serious compositions? They all sound like second rate Beethoven. But how second rate are they? Just because we are all very conversant with the sound and feeling of Beethoven or Schubert doesn't mean that the lesser lights of the first Vienna school aren't worthy of further attention. Through these exercises, we are given a view into the scope of emotional expression those of the times considered the pianos of their times capable of rendering. 

 We present to you, for your amusement, the following from Carl Czerny's vast output, among the composers with the most opus numbers. Imagine all the works of Beethoven reaching from the floor to the top of your chair. Czerny's would reach past the ceiling. Sometimes, just because you publish a lot, doesn't mean that you survive, but in the case of Czerny, who was able to play by heart any of Beethoven's piano sonatas, and from whom most of us can actually trace our piano teachers, he did manage to survive, which is saying quite a lot these days.

Carl Czerny - 40 Studi Op.299
Version 1  Version 2

Czerny Carl - The School of Legato and Staccato 50 Studies for Piano op. 335 complete

Czerny Carl - The Art of Finger Dexterity 50 Studies for Piano op. 740 complete

Carl Czerny - 30 Studi Op.849


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chopin Waltzes Complete - Alex Szilasi

Chopin Waltzes Complete - Alex Szilasi

These performances from a few years ago.  Every now and then, I have to do something for the art that this blog is chiefly about; pianist; the art of the piano, both playing it, and anything and everything to do with the great music written for it.  Few know that there are more waltzes than usually show up in a Dover edition.  Henle's has them all.  Henle is my choice for any serious work on any of these.  I like the sound and character of this Pleyel piano too, don't you?  The pianist has some very good ideas concerning atmosphere and interpretations of some of the dreamier and dramatic passages.  It's not just the same often tired renditions we've maybe accustomed to.  This pianist seems to have picked up on the benefits of studying and playing Liszt too.  It shows to great benefit here.  Enjoy.   

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In Search of the World's Greatest Pianos – James Pavel Shawcross

Why "In Search of The World's Greatest Pianos"

Shigeru Kawai SK-EX
1930 Steinway "Golden Age"
Hamburg Steinway
1966 Steinway D
Blüthner Model 2
Blüthner Model 1
Bosendorfer Imperial Concert Grand 97 Key
1903 Mason & Hamlin CC "Golden Age"
Mason and Hamlin BB "1993" 

Friedrich Grotrian

Young Shawcross plays a modified version of Chopin's fantasy Improptu on all these pianos. Of course nothing compares with having the experience in person, but you get the varieties of piano sound in all the registers. Every piano has a unique personality and most pianos on the high end are nice personalities. Some old pianos have wonderful personalities too, but they are harder to come by as time passes. Then of course some pianos have downright weird personalities. Those are the kind piano technicians sometimes discuss among themselves.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rameau: Le jardin de monsieur Rameau | Les Arts Florissants

Rameau: Le jardin de monsieur Rameau | Les Arts Florissants

A few years ago, well at least a decade now, this group performed at Alice Tully in NYC and I never forgot them.  These are like some of the true joys in my life, to hear such things in person is even more gratifying.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Publicly Funded Artists as Government "Attack Pets" - Stefan Molyneux

Now Stefan is a jabber box and can talk and talk and talk before delivering his punchline, but in the meantime he is saying some of those things that really and honestly need to be said.  Whose responsibility was it for any of the Impressionist painters to challenge the "system" that existed at that time?  It was they themselves.  They went out there and certainly found their paying audience.  Ever wonder why there are so many paintings of little girls by Renoir?  Because he got paid to do them.  He got a reputation for it and he earned his living thereby.  The others had their struggles, but that is what makes true artists and true art apparently.  

My oldest and dearest friends are among musicians and artists of various kinds.  But they all manage pretty much to make a living on their own without too much public money required.  Frankly, a lot of them may be alienated from society and that's why they're artists.  There were according to a psychologist friend of mine from another lifetime ago, certain unhappy people in this world for which normal human life would often be a great burden; artists, psychics, homosexuals and mystics.  These people may or may not have other disabilities.  A huge percentage of the public suffers innumeracy as well as illiteracy and more than you think can't possibly write by now because of the technical devices we all use.  Imagine losing the ability to write or never having learned, but knowing enough about how to use texting to get away with it.  There are such people, I assure you. 

Of course, if artists really want to be artists, they have to figure out how best to get attention and to sell their work.  That goes for composers too.  How do arts and artists survive?  I think the first question any artist needs to honestly ask is whether their art is actually any good at all.  Can anything they think they're accomplishing actually stack up favorably against known masterpieces in whatever their field of art happens to be.  If you are copying or extracting from someone else of known fame and caliber, or some school that you might happen to like, will it seem to the people who know the market for such artifacts that your efforts are mere affronts to that original school?  Where there is anything less than some kind of objectification, even of arts and artistic mastery, then matters of artistic value are pretty impossible to value.

If there is any objective reality, and I assure everyone that life itself would be impossible without it, then any artistic venture has its necessary risks and where there are none or where patronage is wanton or proscribed for some political objective of the state paying for the art ... then frankly, a lot of trash is the usual result.  How can one tell the difference?  VERY easy.  If one hears someone play the piano or a guitar or sings or dances or has painted pictures or made sculpture or made anything of any known artistic product, the question is one of enjoyment: I liked that, I want to hear more of that, I enjoyed seeing that, I would be willing to travel many hundreds of miles from home to experience that.  You know what's artistic and makes money?  Summer arts festivals at all possible levels.  The most monetarily successful tell one the true state of most people's willing artistic tastes.  

Of course, if one really wants to plan ahead, one will need economic lifeboats.  We need a concerted effort to get this project off the ground as it is to ultimately make public funding for most things obsolete: HERE.

Be seeing you.           

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The State of Beethoven's Piano Concertos

In the world of classical music, some concerts can be recent and have happened 20 years ago. We'll hope to be more recent, but some things are pillars of the musical universe simply because they are indispensable. Beethoven is universal because we have periods in our own lives when we are young, when we are middle aged, when we are no longer young, etc. and he speaks to all those aspects of our lives so well. All that is truly and intimately humanly possible in Western musical terms Beethoven accomplished with surprising eloquence which is still appreciated today. Here we'll bring to attention some recent extraordinary performances.
First Martha Argerich plays Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Opus 15 which he wrote when he was a young man of 26 or 27 and just beginning to have the first premonitions of his coming deafness. Arguably Argerich plays this as well as it can possibly be done, especially the second movement, which she sings along with the orchestra. The piano chosen is a Steinway D with a remarkably sweet tone. The cadenzas she uses are extended. The one to the third movement sounds familiar, the one for the first movement did not. This appeared in July of 2014 but probably dates from 2009 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Second Martha Argerich plays Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Opus 19 which Beethoven wrote when he was between 17 and 19 years old and probably in Bonn, published after the first, so it became the second. In any event he gave it its first performance in Vienna when he was 24. It was a dazzling piece for a young man to play, many dashing episodic passages, most of it very young and lighthearted with a serious middle movement Argerich arguable again plays as well as it could ever be done. This performance from the 2009 season at Verbier Festival & Academy. Notice again the way Argerich sings the phrases in ways uncommon to most Beethoven playing, very effective all the way through. She has a nice Steinway D here as well: thinking it is in fact the same piano. Do I like the tone of this piano? Yes, indeed I do. She uses extended cadenzas here as well.
Third the Piano Concerto No. 3 in c minor, Opus 37 which dates from when Beethoven was rounding 30 years old and he himself introduced it to the world in his 33rd year. Here we hear from Fazil Say, building a reputation as one of the strong pianists of the day. He plays this with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and this was placed on line in 2015, so the performance could have been very recent. The cadenza is very extended and unknown and might even be Say's own. He almost wants to make the link between Beethoven and Chopin or others of the romantics. It's effective and demonstrates Say's technique well. We have noticed the care and spirit given to playing the slow movements in these works and that's the case here as well. We have our modern pianos to thank for much of this; greater dynamics and sustain. They are capable of really singing the lines that Beethoven could have only imagined with the pianos available at his time; much of the power and depth of this music would have to wait until after Chopin had lived and died before we'd see modern pianos, imagine.
The fourth is, as many know my personal favorite among these pieces. For those who know it well, how about a chamber effort? Here is the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Opus 58 which Beethoven wrote in 1805-6 when he was 35 or 36 but was first heard in public in one of the most important first concerts in all musical history. It took place on 22 December, 1808, as Beethoven turned 38. It marked his last appearance as soloist and certainly he was going deaf by then. It was at this concert that this concerto as well as his fifth and sixth symphonies and the Choral Fantasy were all played in one marathon performance for the ages at Vienna's Theater an der Wien, which dates from 1801 and still stands. We hear it here in a performance for piano and chamber strings, an arrangement by Vinzenz Lachner, performed at St. James's Paddington, London, probably soon before it appeared here in 2015. (We'd usually like to give performers credit where possible. Names were not posted as to who played what)
Beethoven's fifth piano concerto was later given the name “Emperor” which is superfluous. Anyway here is Seong-Jin Cho playing it with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Yes, Beethoven's music is very popular in the far east. Here then is Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major“Emperor”, Opus 73 which Beethoven wrote in Vienna between 1809 and 1811. Beethoven turned 40 in 1810 the year both Chopin and Schumann were born. This concerto was first performed by Beethoven's patron and pupil, Archduke Rudolf (yes, nobles could and did play pianos and violins back then) on 13 January 1811 at the Palace of Prince Joseph Lobkowitz in Vienna, followed by a public concert later that year on 28 November at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig under Johann Philipp Christian Schulz, the soloist being Friedrich Schneider. This concerto remains one of those pieces that honestly if you manage to hear nothing else at a live classical music performance, it will really make an impression. Of course most of Beethoven's greatest works certainly give one an unforgettable impression when heard live; something like, “I can't believe it's real,” or something fathoms deeper is the usual result. Beethoven frequently surprises one with, “Gee, I had no idea he was so great,” or “after all, he was Beethoven.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thirteenth Interview - Aware and Bugging In

Well, Hello!
How are you?
Not sure, to tell the truth.
What's New?
Not sure anything is.
What's been bugging you?
Maybe it's a kind of slow burn out. But on another level, it's been like a slow burn, like I'm smoldering just on the point of fire, but it's all just under the surface.
What have you been doing?
Following the real time reality show America Pick A President 2016 and its aftermath.
You know, I'd have preferred not to pay any attention at all.
So what got your attention?
What most got my attention were the allegations regarding ritual satanic child abuse and satanic rituals among people in high places. Everything else really pales in comparison. I had personal awareness of this issue from the 1980's when I was living in New York City. It is very real.
OK. So, you decided to step out of the …
I decided to vote for Trump. He's not perfect, but we can and will put his feet to the fire and already he seems fully aware of the real divide and everyone expects him to act quickly accordingly.
You are basing this on what?
Let's put it this way, I never knew my father in law who was a famous builder in New York; he was responsible for building some big projects there. His mother owned and ran their company. I'm certain she knew Trump's father. All the personal allegations against him I knew to be lies, totally false, libelous and trash talking. I knew so because of direct personal contacts I had with his employees long before we ever heard of him running; they all highly respected him. In fact the level of loyalty I encountered everywhere regarding Trump was and is surprising anywhere but especially in New York.
You have more to say about this? (Didn't think it important)
Well, I just have never seen the like in my life. Trump's performances before the public have been nothing short of astounding. He seems to run almost without script, he hasn't much of one anyway, and is the only politician I can ever remember asking his audience to love him, to love this country, etc.
Well, so what? (mild disgust showing)
I guess we're all so jaded that love for much of anything seems …
To have grown cold? Yes we know. So what are you hot about?
Well, you know I was cursed with a mission; to get people to start using other money. I seem to have been spending as much time writing on this subject here and watching the present system trying to survive or scheduling its next inevitable crash on the next president's watch, while meanwhile for the last 25 years the whole economy has sucked, unless you were lucky enough to catch a trend and even then it was very short lived. Where's the economic traction? There isn't any. I have some pity for those of my grandchild's generation, if we don't have something better.
Don't you trust Trump? (derisive tone)
Trust him to do what? To fix what cannot be fixed? No. I voted for him only because the other candidate was criminally objectionable. But nobody deserves any trust that isn't earned. He's certainly no different in that regard than anyone else.
And music? (brighter tone)
Still Chopin and only Chopin. Looking forward to more practicing and might even have some piano students in the new year.
Well, that's encouraging.
I also renewed contact with Andrew Violette.
Oh? (More hopeful)
He's written a new symphony. It was difficult music but I honestly understood it. He's stuck to traditional forms and put them to a kind of kaleidoscopic or prismatic harmony with rapidly changing tonal centers so you don't ever quite know where you are and yet the entire thing is actually tonal. There are real melodies, real episodic development and some barely concealed slapstick and satirical gestures. Andrew seems as ever a composer who intends to get his audience to laugh. This may in fact be a quintessentially American contribution to formal composition. Other romantic composers can and do get their audiences to cry, sometimes from spellbound joy and other times for the suggestion of intense grief or profound sorrow. But few have set out to intentionally make their audiences laugh. I think it a very important detail worth mentioning.
Can we hear it too?
Why yes. It's here   Andrew calls it a Sonata but he's being modest. It even has four movements, is of appreciable length and I think/hope that it becomes known as his First Symphony and may he write many more. I bet each one following this one will be even more tonal than this one. It's a kind of trajectory he might be taking.

You think there is anyone who could play this?
Oh yes, there probably are people who could and the live performances of these kinds of things are even more revealing than mere recordings of the raw synthesized source sampled sounds at click rate tempi. I already advised Andrew to slow down the second movement enough so that the more vigorous figures that later show up in it stand out more. It's really a remarkably wonderful piece. I appreciated and applaud the wittiness and fun scattered throughout, and why not? Music should make us laugh some too.
So, any chance of Andrew and you teaming up on anything?
Nothing except for me promoting him as much as possible. There aren't many daring to do what he does these days, or for that matter as well as he does it.
OK, so what else is going on in your life?
Well, I have had a budding partnership that may have just died on the vine, we'll see.
What can you tell us?  Come on, how do you really feel about her?
I will always love her. I cannot not love her in fact. When I love, I love for keeps. But that doesn't mean one can keep what one cannot have for whatever reasons. Love is real. Elections, no matter how intensely fought -and this one was probably the most intense I have ever seen- cannot ultimately separate us from those we truly love.
Are you sure?
I certainly hope so. There ARE good people everywhere. Everyday life usually confirms this. Life does and will go on.
Do you feel better?
A little.
Good. I'm sure that time will heal all.
I sure hope so. Thank-you.
Merry Christmas!