Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wake-up call

Just now I went out to get the paper and I looked at the morning and I got this Gustav Mahler song in my head. Actually the song had nothing to do with the actual day. I get this song in my head every morning. It is funny how you can fall into musical habits like that. It is morning, I get up, I think of this song at one time or another.

I was surprised there were not more takes on this song on YouTube of this song. I would have thought someone would have done something artistic with it because it is so atmospheric, describing a spring morning. Well, the one I found is a dandy: Bo Skovhus with the Bamberg Symphony and a good-looking conductor named Jonathan Nott. Funny, I am hearing a lot about Bamberg lately! We just had thing going in Buffalo where they brought over a film about how they brew beer in Bamberg. The film made the rounds of the taverns and they showed it and had beer tastings. The German filmmaker came along with the film and you could ask him questions.

The Bambergers play Mahler as well as they brew beer. There is no translation but you can get the spirit of the song. And heck, I can more or less translate it from memory. There is breeze in the linden tree (in German songs you are always dealing with linden trees). It's a spring morning. The sun is up. Get up!

And my favorite line, at 1:50.. "And I have already seen your sweetheart."

Your sweetheart is out and about!

If that does not get you out of bed what will?

You get your own inner videos to go with these songs and I always picture the breeze blowing through a village, the birds singing, the people in the streets. You are asleep in an upstairs front bedroom and the branches of the tree outside are tapping on your window and the breeze is coming into the room and stirring the sheets over your feet.

Oh, look. This is darling. (That is what I even wrote, as a comment.) This is a sweet video someone made of the song. The performance, by a singer named Rob Wanders, is kind of amateurish which adds to the charm. Plus it is with piano. All other things being equal I almost always prefer the original piano version to the orchestration. And the piano accompaniment to this song makes the bird trills so pretty.

The concluding image in this second video is especially cute. "Lang schlafer, steh auf!" Long sleeper, get up! There is a comment apparently from the person they show asleep. "That's me in the video! Thanks for using my picture, Rob!"

We would say sleepyhead.

I am one!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Close encounters with Van Cliburn

This morning I have a million things to do so I sit down with my coffee and get set to get started when ...

Work Avoidance 101: How is the concert pianist Stephen Hough doing these days?

Stephen H. keeps this Web log on the Telegraph -- you can find it at right, among my links -- that I love checking into now and then. So I check into his Web log. I am flipping around it, here and there, when I find this ancient thing he wrote on this little film clip of Van Cliburn returning from Moscow where he just won the Tchaikovsky Competition.

Wow, there is so much on YouTube, you know? And new things are appearing every day. You can peek at home movies of Rachmaninoff and Richard Tauber. You can watch cellist Lynn Harrell playing in his rec room. You can watch clips of Chico Marx playing the piano in movies. And these are just a few of the things I have chanced to discover as I wander through life wasting time and avoiding work.

Stephen Hough was charmed by the Van Cliburn clip and so am I.

If you get down in the comments on his Web log, which naturally I did -- I mean, what else do I have to do, you know? -- he mentions having had dinner with Cliburn at Tanglewood and what a charming and humble man he is. Having had my own encounters with Cliburn, I second that.

I would go as far as to say Cliburn is almost otherworldly. It is as if when it comes to privacy he has totally given up. He has come to recognize that he is public property. He is like Niagara Falls, is what I remember thinking. That little video shows the start of that. Practically his whole life, he has been noticed.

When I was down in Texas competing in his amateur pianist competition, he did not hide out, he got right in there among us. I was at his house twice. At his house you were free to wander around, look at whatever you wanted, he did not care. He was there smiling at you, ready to talk. He is kind of saintly and you find yourself feeling protective of him. Well, I did.

A couple of years ago there was this big deal about we were going to send the New York Philharmonic to North Korea, I think it was. The papers were saying that these musical ambassadors would do what Van Cliburn did years ago in Russia, that it would break down walls.

My husband, Howard, said what I am sure a lot of people were thinking.

He said, "Why don't we just send Van Cliburn?"

We should have!

Who can resist him?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Song sung blue

Besides the wild book on Earl Wild I am also going to be reviewing this book on Edith Piaf in The Buffalo News. It is more work than the Wild book, I will say that. But it is interesting anyway.

I like Piaf's no-good, on-again-off-again friend Momone. Wow, this is a coincidence! I am struggling and struggling here to include a picture of Momone on my Web log. But when I tried to download one it attacked my computer and my security system banned it!

Even in the afterlife Momone is causing trouble!

Therefore alas, no picture of Momone.

However I was able to nail a picture of the boxer Marcel Cerdan with whom Piaf was involved.

Piaf is a textbook case of "Smart Woman, Foolish Choices." Anyone else, if you saw this guy...

... you would run in the other direction, right?

Plus he was married!

The author, Carolyn Burke, writes something about how at last Piaf had found this perfect match. I am sitting there thinking, perfect match? On what planet? Even if he had not been wiped out in that plane crash, there would have been no happy ending to that.

Burke includes a couple of details I love.

One is when Cerdan was about to fight "the redoubtable Jake La Motta." Piaf wrote to him, "I'd like to bite La Motta's a--, that bastard."


Another thing, Piaf felt blue because she did not feel that Cerdan felt as bad leaving her as she felt leaving him.

"I thought he suffered when we were apart," Piaf is quoted as saying. "But the day he was to leave, he was singing at the top of his voice in the shower!"

As I wrote the other day:

*** crying ***

That happened to me once in my bad old single days. There was this guy I was seeing and he was out of town and I called him from this pay phone in this jazz club where I was with my friends. Remember pay phones? I am ancient! Anyway, I told this gentleman how much I missed him and how unhappy I was without him.

Then, disaster! The phone did not hang up right and he could hear me laughing and carrying on with my friends, having this wonderful time.

He sat there listening and listening and he got so mad!

Me and Marcel Cerdan, I am telling you. We are trouble!

I am not yet to the end of the Piaf book.

But I can tell you one thing, I can just tell it ends badly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wild kingdom

Oh my gosh, my golly, this new book by Earl Wild.

My friend Michelle, there is something she writes when she is just overwhelmed laughing over something. She writes: "*** crying ***."

So let me do that too.

*** Crying ***

This thing, titled "A Walk on the Wild Side," is 886 pages long. It weighs a million pounds. I find myself needing to tote it everywhere. I took it to work yesterday and everyone was asking, "What do you have in that bag?" I might take it to the gym and use it instead of the weights in Zumba Toning class! I just cannot bear to be separated from it.

Wild just takes shots at everything and everyone. You would not believe it. It is like having him in the room with you. Actually it is like having him as your roommate for the rest of your life. I mean, with 900 pages there is always going to be something new.

He attacks out-of-bounds people like Alfred Brendel. I mean, who in the world mocks out Brendel?

Wild writes stuff like "Do as I say, not as I do, right, Al?"  He also has issues with, I don't know, Krystian Zimerman.And the New York Times music critic. And another New York Times music critic. People nobody in his right mind insults, Wild insults. He is just going for broke.

A while ago I remember reading this book was going to be published by Carnegie Mellon but it appears now to have been published independently through Ivory Classics. Fine, that is the way of the future. We are going to be seeing a lot more of this. Meanwhile I wonder if maybe Carnegie Mellon wanted nothing to do with some of the stuff in here. I mean, you have to wonder.

Adding to the fun, there is a lot that has nothing to do with music. Last night I was reading out loud to Howard this episode about a prim, owlish girl at one of the universities where Wild taught who went and created, out of the blue, this pornographic art exhibit. Howard and I were both *** crying ***. At one point I could not even read. I had to put my head down on the table and catch my breath.

I am going to be writing a more, ahem, exhaustive account of this book shortly in The Buffalo News. So I cannot give everything away. Let me just saw this for now, probably this book should have been aggressively edited and cut but I personally am glad it was not.

It is glorious in its voluminousness!

The book costs $45 but it is worth every penny and then some.

It will entertain you for the rest of your life!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The piano crasher

There is this hilarious site my husband Howard stumbled upon called This guy from Kazakhstan, I think it is, he performs what he calls "acoustic graffiti." Which means, music where it is not permitted.

It is nicer than the visual graffiti in that no one's property is damaged.

And it is just such a kick.

What this guy -- his name is Oleg Lapidus -- does is, he finds an unguarded piano somewhere -- in a highbrow restaurant, say, or a hotel lobby. And he launches competently into an impromptu performance of a loud, showy, demanding piece by Chopin or Rachmaninoff. Impromptu, get it? And here I thought I would be foggy because of giving up coffee for Lent.

Inevitably a security guard or bureaucrat approaches and makes Oleg stop. He puts up no fight. That is part of the fun. He shrugs and obeys. Then he turns to his friend with the video camera and shrugs again as if, what can you do?

This is a piano crash in the lobby of London's Royal Festival Hall.

The site has a bundle of other performances.

Googling around I see that Oleg Lapidus also has a serious site where he offers music lessons. "Oleg Lapidus is a well-established London music teacher."

But his alter ego as the Piano Crasher is what I really love.

On YouTube you get these comments here and there: "Well, the guard had a point. He could have damaged the piano and they cannot afford to take that risk, blah blah blah..."


Too funny.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Home, James

The Scottish composer James MacMillan went to a Tridentine Mass in Amsterdam and he wrote about it for The Telegraph. I like his thoughts. I will never forget my first Tridentine Mass which I went to in October 2007. It changed my life, honest, in the first two seconds.

Everything clicked into place and I just stood there staring! It is a day I would like to live over again, just to feel everything I felt.

Anyway it is fascinating to me to read how the TLM, as it is abbreviated, hits MacMillan, who is passionate and (read the link) kind of a firebrand. His comments on Amsterdam are, shall we say, colorful.

We have performed MacMillan's music here in Buffalo. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta played his "Veni, Veni Emmanuel," which I realize I talked about once before. That performance was before my Tridentine Mass so I was still in my fog, otherwise I would have gotten him on the phone. Well, maybe I did get him on the phone. I am always flying by the seat of my pants and I often cannot remember who I have interviewed and who I have not.

Whether or not I talked to him, whether I understand his music or not, that is a picture of James MacMillan up above. He looks very Scottish, I have to say.

Congratulations, Mr. MacMillan, on your continued exploration of the Tridentine Mass!