Saturday, June 18, 2011

Discovering Leif Ove Andsnes – A Pianist After My Own Heart!

 Leif Ove Andsnes - Grieg (Mountain Top)

A friend in France, a piano teacher at a conservatory there, posted a link to a documentary this pianist had done, of which there were supposed to be 8 parts. Well, actually I was only able to find the last 6 and the complete documentary he did. The entire thing doesn't appear on the internet yet so I will have to find it and view it in its entirety, since it is so good. Before this, I'd never heard of him, but then he was born in 1970.

Andsnes, or Leif Ove as he seems to prefer, is among other things a proponent and exponent of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907). He has recorded the Lyric Pieces on Grieg's own Hamburg Steinway B, the kind that used to have raised lettering on the signature Steinway diagonal spur in the plate of the piano. It's Grieg's birthday on the 15th of this month, so Grieg's music is now well over 100 years old and still holds up remarkably well.

And of course, wouldn't you just know it, he has played one of the truly underrated gems in the piano literature, Grieg's eternal and unforgettable Notturno:

Leif Ove's documentary was important in many respects, it was beautiful – using many scenes from Norway, it conveyed Leif Ove's view of pianism, as including the qualities of silence as much as sound, indeed Leif Ove says that we are overloaded with sound and cannot endure silence, that we need to listen for silence, for what it does to clear the mind and bring relaxation, inspiration, etc. He also spoke of the sound during the moments of a piece as being as significant as the whole piece, of the notes constructing an enclosure for the silence inside, all sorts of wonderful ideas which he could execute as he plays in what I must say is a deeply poetic style to my hearing as well as being technically precise. You can hear the way he has paid attention to this idea of musical moments as in this piece:

This awareness of episodic sound qualities in the music he plays enables Andsnes to learn the most complex music as if he's breaking everything apart into moments and then stringing them together. The effects produced are in some instances unfamiliar, but always effective and often more satisfying to the ear and the mind. The documentary shows some of Leif Ove's preparation for his première in St. Petersburg, Russia in the same beautiful concert hall featured in a previous post about Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony played there. His ambitious choice, the Third Piano Concerto of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 - 1943) , which is my favourite of his concertos for among other reasons that it was written to be premièred in New York. 

Well, I couldn't find that performance anywhere either, but there is this one he played with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Lionel Bringuier, who I've never heard of either.

What you are going to hear is remarkable, as if all of the various sinews of Rachmaninoff's music are made distinct and have their unique and personal moment for you and everyone else to appreciate them. This includes the ways Leif Ove mingles the piano's line with those in the surrounding orchestra as Leif Ove says, and I agree, this work is splendidly orchestrated. Here is a frank reading, not overly gushing as some play it, completely on top of it technically, played in the same spirit as if this were Bach almost, so precise but more letting you have just that little extra time to hear everything. At times the sense of it is so thrilling that you are more sure than anything that you have heard a new and distinct way of interpreting not just this concerto but all the rest of Rachmaninoff as once Byron Janis' interpretation thrilled me. .Just listen to this man play the piano!  What he does is often breathtaking!

It should be duly noted that in most instances Leif Ove Andsnes is shown playing Steinway pianos, more than likely built in Hamburg. They are very difficult to beat at producing just what he wants. However the piano he used for the Mountain Top shots was a Bösendorfer as they have a distinct tail design no one else uses. CORRECTION: I took another look at the piano and got a good look at the fallboard and the name on it revealed it to be an old Ibach grand!  Alas, Ibach, once the oldest piano making business in family hands for six generations had to call it quits a few years back.  They are still great pianos! 


Thursday, June 16, 2011


ELIICA, an electric supercar, is quite a story. Of those whose passion was evident in the making of this story in the videos which appear on You Tube, I want it to be known that we are impressed with your achievements, that we share your great and obvious happiness in what you have accomplished, and we look forward to greater things from you in the years ahead. Congratulations from friends around the world who you will be helping!

Enjoy this incredible story.

Eliica - Super Electric Car - Part 4 of 5


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Walking Into Massachusetts from New York

In memory of my wife Desiree Pardi
an amazing woman, loving wife, caring doctor, a true gift
'This moment shall never come again – embrace it.”
October 29, 1967 – September 6, 2009

This plaque is affixed to a bench on the trail in Taconic State Park, New York. It was I am sure placed there through some special bequest, signifying as it were to the rest of the passing world, that someone had found this place among the most blessed on earth. (I even wondered if perhaps the ashes of the dearly beloved young Dr. Pardi might not be scattered about?) A blessed place, where everyone along the path was friendly and the path would have been passable to all able bodied: at least it seemed that way to us, my friend from the city and I, as we walked the path leading to variously named Bash Bish falls, or Copake Falls, the tallest falls in Massachusetts accessible only by this trail from New York. That trail starts here:

This past winter had been cold and the first parts of spring cool and rainy. The canopy of foliage and the swift running stream in the comfortable air invigorated with plenty of oxygen as you walk the faily easy path which leads to the falls.

The water was very clear and the air filled with the sounds of falling water, the rush of the stream a continual gushing susurus.

And as we walk along, my friend and I spoke of the legend behind this place, a Mohican legend, concerning a woman named Bash-Bish who had been unfaithful to her husband and forced into a canoe to be thrown over the falls when she was supposedly rescued through the aegis of a cloud of white butterflies.  

Bish-Bash escaped for a while but eventually came back where she was married to a chief or strong man of the tribe.

But try as they might, Bish-Bash and her husband couldn't conceive. Meanwhile from the first marriage, Bish-Bash had given birth to a daughter called White Swan. This daughter eventually come of age but had been rebuffed by her first love.

Then, you come to the border and this sign welcoming you into Massachusetts.

Then it's not long and you see the falls through the trees. I've seen the biggest at Yosemite in California, so these are really small falls to me, but the last time I was here, it was the end of summer and the falls, the stream, everything seemed to be carrying less water. So this day, the 4th of June of 2011, turned out to be one of the best times to come here, in spite of the mottled grey overcast sky and mild inconclusive temperatures. You never know here at any time whether you'll have rain or sunshine.

Finally, Bash-Bish Falls, aka Copake Falls, the highest natural falls in Massachusetts, where legend has it that a Mohican maiden and her daughter chose a mutual suicide pact to bring to ends their unhappy lives. The chief or strong man married to Bash-Bish supposedly dove in to the pool below the falls to try and save them, but he died in the process and neither woman's body was ever recovered. Again, the cloud of white butterflies seemed to be involved, de-materializing them.

Thus it was that I returned to this falls, maybe fifteen years since my last visit. We were struck by the kindness of the people on the trail, by the kindness of the benches here and there along the trail, which would be easy enough for most senior citizens in good health. Sometimes a musician needs a little immersion in nature. I was certainly thinking of phrases from the music I am attempting to add to my repertoire as I walked up and back (or in and out of the gorge in which the falls is situated in the low old Taconic mountains which are hills everywhere else). Every now and then, we need to get away to refresh ourselves.