Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gershwin's greatest song

 The other night a bunch of us were lying around listening to Guy Boleri playing the piano and he got on a Gershwin kick. And he played "Of Thee I Sing."

What a dazzling song, I was thinking. The beauty and dignity of the melody! The song starts with those gentle chromatic notes and then rises. So beautiful and bittersweet.

When it was over, as if reading my mind, my brother George spoke up.

"Gershwin's greatest song," he said.


Ella Fitzgerald gives it a nice uptempo performance.

 But I like a more slow and dignified performance of this song. Maybe it is the title. The version by Sarah Vaughan up above is not bad. But she fools around with the song's opening which I do not like. Sing it the way Gershwin wrote it, you know? You are not going to improve on Gershwin even if you are Sarah Vaughan.

I am a Sarah Vaughan fan with a lot of Sarah Vaughan vinyl. But I don't like this performance as much as many of her others. Still on YouTube it is the best I can find.

Oh man, listen to this. Here are outtakes from Sarah Vaughan's "Of Thee I Sing."

"I'm not with it tonight," she says. And: "I don't feel like being here. I'm just tired."

And: "There's a lovelight .... sh--!"

Am I a perceptive listener or what?

I knew something was wrong!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Mozart caused Buffalo's Blizzard of '77

Son of a Clementi-playing sea cook, I fell off the Music Critic Blog wagon and I missed Mozart's birthday.

Well, that is OK because he did not celebrate it either.

He celebrated his Name Day which as we have already determined is Oct. 31, the feast of St. Wolfgang.

That is when people should celebrate! That is when the classical station should play Mozart all day long and when people should hold concerts and lectures.

The heck with Hallowe'en!

You know what, I would settle for any day as long as I could sit down and actually listen to something. I mean the way I used to when I was a kid. This is the problem with making music your business. You never get to listen to it just for the heck of it. Maybe you never will get to ever again.

When I was a kid I would put on my big '70s headphones and just be lost to the world. I knew all the Mozart piano concertos inside out and even though I played the piano I did not stop there. Playing the piano myself was never the point. I knew the string quartets inside out too, and the viola quintets, and the symphonies of course, and the serenades, and the violin and horn concertos, and the clarinet music, and a lot of the operas.

My sister was laughing to me the other day, "Mary, remember when you caused the Blizzard of '77?"

And I said: "Haha, yes, I remember that!"

That is the Blizzard of '77 pictured above, in a great shot from this site I found. You could touch the traffic signals! All thanks to me. What happened was, I prayed for a snow day, a day off from school, on January 27 because it was Mozart's birthday and I knew the classical station, WNED, would be playing Mozart all day. I used to pray for Mozart's birthday off every year but that year, 1977, I prayed particularly hard. And we got the day off.

Not only that but we got the next two weeks off! During which time I not only touched traffic lights, I listened to A LOT of Mozart.

You always wondered what caused the Blizzard of '77.

Now you know!