Sunday, February 28, 2010

Out of this world

Today I was listening to the Mozart Clarinet Quintet which came on my clock radio when I was waking up. I am telling you, if you have to wake up, wake up to this. As I wrote on my other Web log, it filled the morning with magic.

Since then I have been thinking about the two great pieces Mozart wrote for clarinet. They are so much like each other, in the same key, with the same mood. I have thought about that before because it jumps right out at you.

They both have these serene first movements and these slow movements that sound as if they come from the next world. The slow movement of the Clarinet Concerto undoes me. I cannot let myself listen to it very often and I am fussy about where and when I hear it. The Quintet gets me too.

Both clarinet pieces also get kind of loopy in the last movement. It is as if Mozart feels this need to lighten up, after the sorrow of those slow movements.

The Clarinet Trio has a bit of that serenity, too. That moment in the first movement when the clarinet comes in, it just soars. That is the Kegelstatt trio, because he supposedly wrote it while he was bowling. Dear Mozart.

I know Mozart was friends with the clarinetist he wrote these pieces for, a man named Anton Stadler. I remember the name from when I was a kid reading books about Mozart. But I do not think that could explain the feelings these pieces have.

Mozart had a special feeling for the clarinet.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The son also rises

Last night I heard Peter Serkin, the pianist, over at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra playing Brahms' First. It was sort of a thrill to hear Serkin with the orchestra. I heard him a couple of years ago but he was appearing courtesy of our Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series. That was a solo recital. He played the Diabelli Variations and a bunch of modern stuff.

Serkin has this boyish look with the tousled hair and the glasses. One thing I liked, he wore the old-fashioned white tie and tails. Looking good, Mr. Serkin! Looking good.

He played the daylights out the concerto. It was perhaps the most strenuous performance of a concerto I have ever heard live, and that includes a few people playing the Rach 3. Serkin just threw himself into those gigantic Brahms chords. A few times just from effort he stamped his foot and thanks to the acoustics of Kleinhans Music Hall you could hear it in the balcony, his foot hitting the ground.

Now this is odd. When the concerto was over everyone in the hall, which was close to full, stood and cheered and brought him back about three times. But he played no encore. I thought that was a little odd.

Would a little Brahms intermezzo have been entirely offensive?

Well, maybe he was tuckered out.

Serkin has had a back-and-forth relationship with the piano. I remember reading how he almost quit, he had a wife and a kid, something like that, and he was just going to live in the country. When I read it, I was thinking, being the son of a big-name pianist has to be a double-edged sword. That is a lot to live up to.

Here is Serkin back in his hipster days. He actually does not look that different.

Even with the difficulties involved, I wonder if he had the choice would he choose not to be Rudolf Serkin's son. Would he choose just to start at the bottom like everyone else?

Also, does he ever wish his dad had not given him the middle name Adolf? It was for Adolf Busch but you have to understand why Serkin does not identify himself as Peter A. Serkin. "What does the 'A' stand for, Peter?" "Adolf."

These were the things coursing through my head lastnight as he heard him playing that Brahms.

Playing the daylights out of it.