Friday, August 26, 2011

The first thing you hear in the morning

On Facebook a lot of people like to post music in the morning. I think they should be careful about that.

What you listen to in the morning cannot be just anything. You have to be careful!

For one thing it can set your tone for the day. When I am on my way to work I try to be particular what I listen to. If I am in the car it cannot be anything too deep. This is not the time for Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony or some soul-searching music by Schubert. If the classical station plays something too deep in the morning I get aggrieved. I try to keep CDs around for my drives in. My commute is short, usually only about 10 minutes. That is life in Buffalo!

This morning the station was playing Dvorak's Eighth Symphony. I tuned in during the last movement. So that was what I heard starting out. I was listening to it driving down Nottingham Parkway, and I was thinking about how there is one part in it that I always think Dvorak did not quite get right. He has this nice Brahms-like theme going and it's wonderful but for a minute there I always think it flies off the tracks. You can hear it here at 8:37, 8:38.

Ha, ha! That should be a whole separate post, criticizing the masters.

Somewhere during my drive it turned over to Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony, Semyon Bychkov conducting. WNED-FM is going over former music directors of the Buffalo Philharmonic.

I was thinking, the "Italian" Symphony is tremendous morning music. It is bright and full of energy and gorgeous but at the same time you will not crash the car. The slow movement is calming but not wrenching. That was what was playing when I got to work.

I am trying to think of what else I listened to during the course of my day. At one point at work I was riled and had a few minutes to take a break so I admit it, I listened to Pennario playing his arrangement of the Emperor Waltz.

I often self-medicate with music, who doesn't? Listening to Leonard makes me feel good and I am happy that when he decided to make an arrangement of a Strauss waltz he chose the one that has always been my favorite. I like that nostalgic main theme, then those sweeping middle melodies.

What other music did I hear today? It is interesting to ask yourself that and try to remember.

I did not do much other listening during my work day because I was doing other work.

After work I went to Zumba class and danced to a number of songs including the fabled "Pause" by Pitbull that we have been discussing.

Between Zumba and my mom's house I listened to Schubert, that new CD I may have mentioned by Gyorgy Tchaidze. Schubert is probably too deep for the car but I stayed away from the "Wanderer" Fantasy and listened to the sonata and the short pieces and they made me feel good.

My mom and I went to the movies and saw "Larry Crowne" (bad title, hard to remember). The soundtrack was rock and none of it stuck in my head.

On the way home from that I did not feel I would do the Schubert justice so I listened to some piano music on the radio, I do not know what it was, but it was calming and sounded like bells.

End result, as say here in Buffalo ...

Guess what was on my brain when I walked into the house just now?

The Dvorak Eighth Symphony! The first thing I heard in the morning. That theme, I was singing it.

After everything else I heard! And you know what, that happens a lot.

Watch out what you listen to first thing in the morning.

Choose it wisely!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The 'Pause' that refreshes

You know how every once in a while life throws you these coincidences?

Last night I was driving home from seeing Jackie Jocko down at the Hyatt and I had Schubert's "Die Schone Mullerin" in my CD player. No big deal, this CD -- Dietrich Henschel is the singer -- has been living in the CD player for the last couple of weeks because I cannot get my act together to put in anything else. But as I neared my house the song "Pause" came on.

As I pull into my driveway I am thinking, I love this song.

This is one of the superior songs out of "Die Schone Mullerin." Well, one of the superior songs ever.

I can sing no more, my heart is too full.

And that enchanting line about what if a bee flies by and rustles the strings of the lute with its wings.

I walked into the house thinking about that song, turning it over in my mind, thinking how great it was. I got on YouTube and checked out a few versions. Some are too fast for me. I like this song slow and daydream-like.

Wow, who knew, there was even a version for flute and orchestra?

I sat there, listening. Then I realized, isn't this funny?

I had started the day writing on the Web log about Pitbull's "Pause."

Now it was the end of the long day and here I was listening to Schubert's "Pause."

It is even the same in both languages!

Let us take time to consider that.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A nickel in the National Jukebox

The greatest work distraction ever has been invented. It is the Library of Congress National Jukebox!

What the Library of Congress has done is, it has loaded up a million of recordings from the early 1900s and put it up there for you to access. There is opera and blues, to name two categories I love. There is a lot of other stuff too. Wait, what is this? There is an interactive facsimile of the 1919 Victrola Book of the Opera. How about that? All this is free aside from that you have to consider that, like everything else, we pay for it with our taxes. It is very easy to use. I tried it just now when, you guessed it, I was supposed to be working.

"Warning: Historical Recordings may contain Offensive Language." It reads.

Hahahaa. As if today's recordings do not! That is a good one.

They should have heard the song I danced to in Zumba class yesterday! It was by a band called Pitbull. I asked. The Zumba version is a little cleaner than the real version. Well, I digress.

Naturally, you know me, I put a virtual nickel into that National Jukebox and went looking for the most politically incorrect thing I could find.

Al Jolson is a good place to start. I give you "The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life."

Ha, ha! I do not want to give it all away but it is great when he rhymes "Spanish onion" with "bunion."

What else? I love the title "Movin' Man, Don't Take My Baby Grand!" But that does not sound offensive enough for my purposes.

Oh, I see. For the really un-P.C. stuff you want "Ethnic Characterizations."

"I's Gwine Back to Dixie," performed by -- got to love this -- the Haydn Quartet. This is kind of sedate number, mournfully harmonized. Wow, is this one a window into the past or what? It is strange to hear these voices of long-dead men suddenly coming out of your laptop.

Equal strokes for equal folks, here is "The German's Arrival." It is a 1906 by a singer named Frank Wilson. It spoofs a German immigrant. Ah, this must be the reason for the disclaimer. They are afraid German-Americans are going to riot in the streets and turn over police cars.

Ha, ha! I wish I could catch more of this song. All I can catch so far because of the surface noise is yodeling and mention of breweries. But it sounds like a classic!

I read once that in the vaudeville era, ethnic groups would go to vaudeville shows hoping to hear themselves roasted, because when they did, it signaled to them that they were included, that they were in the club. Times have sure changed since then!

One thing that reminds me of, a few years ago there was that movie "The Wedding Crasher." Owen Wilson would crash weddings and hustle the bridesmaids, if I remember correctly. Anyway, I read a little essay in a women's magazine that, my heart went out to the writer. She was a woman of color and she regretted that the movie had not included an African-American wedding. And I saw in that essay a flicker of the old vaudeville era: a wish to be in on the joke, to be "in the club." Unfortunately people are so afraid to offend now and my guess is that was why an African-American wedding was not in that movie.

Back to the Library. One more before the work day closes in, why not? Let me see what I can find.

Here is an early corny recording, like something out of an old movie, of "My Old Kentucky Home." Odd, but inevitable, to see this in the "Ethnic Characterizations" category. Is it, considering this is a solo violin, no voice? The Library of Congress is playing it safe.

OK, here we go: "An Evening at Mrs. Clancey's Boarding House." By the Victor Vaudeville Company. In 1908.

This is not so much a song as it is a skit. All those brogues! And the conversation they are having! I would not want to reprint it here but it is fascinating.

It is amazing to hear these old recordings.

Talk about a window to the past!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sister act

There is this elegant new movie out that I am looking forward to. It is called "Mozart's Sister" and it is a fantasy about when Mozart was a kid and toured Europe with his father, Leopold, and sister, Nannerl.

I love how the 18th century looks in movies. You do not see the, ahem, outhouses and other inconveniences. You know what, just thinking out loud here, but those scatological references in the Mozart family's letters that raise everyone's eyebrows now, those references were very much of their time. Talking about s--- was probably much more accepted then because heck, it was all around you.

Anyway, the movie looks beautiful and anything about Mozart generally gets my vote.

The only trouble is, the movie starts out saying "The True Story of Mozart's Sister." It is very far from the true story and I do not know what the filmmakers were thinking, making that claim. I mean, come on, from what I gather from the trailer ...

...  it has her having a romance with the Dauphin in France. I am sorry about that picture of the trailer! It is early in the morning where I am plus it is Monday and I absolutely could not help it.

Also the movie exaggerates Nannerl's talents. She was talented but not compared with Wolfgang. Nothing personal, it is just that lightning does not strike twice like that.

Wolfgang was off the charts as far as humanity goes. It is ridiculous to imagine that his sister was just as talented, just as it would be ridiculous to imagine that if he had a brother, the brother would be as talented.

It worries me that this movie's story will become accepted as fact, the way aspects of "Amadeus" became accepted as fact when they were not.

Also the trailer ...

... shows footage of a nun behind a grate, and I suspect an agenda involving feminism and the Catholic Church. The nun is heard saying to Nannerl, "Imagine how our lives would have been different if we had been boys." I can imagine where that discussion is going and I suspect it will be both offensive and boring.

Plus people who do not know anything about religion or history are going to be shocked at the sight of the grate which will make it look as if the nun is in prison. You know the movie is going to capitalize on that.

Oh well. I guess that illustrates the never-ending fascination with the Catholic Church as well as with Mozart. That is good news to me.

The movie does look beautiful, in a perfumed and candle-lit way.

And the music should be good!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wang Dang Doodle, part 2

We return to the subject of Yuja Wang and her slinky mini. We are honored to have a comment by the pianist Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont. He is an Internet buddy of mine. Here he is playing Janacek's beautiful "In the Mists."

That goes great with coffee at 6:15 a.m., I will say that! That pretty much sums up my reality.

Speaking of which, I caught myself writing "In a Mist" and then I corrected myself to "In the Mists." Then I sat there staring at it, thinking, wait, I thought it was "In a Mist," not plural.

Then I realize "In a Mist" is by Bix Beiderbecke.

That is a pretty piece! Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont should play it. Bix does a nice job with it there. I did not know Bix Beiderbecke played piano as well as cornet, you know? That is a great Heinie name by the way. Bix was short for Bismarck.

And there was his sidekick, the great saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer. They did this great laid-back record which I love. Lester Young used to love it too. He carried it around in his car trunk everywhere he went. I read that once.

Where am I? Now I am really in a mist. In the mists. How did I get here?

I was talking about Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont!

This will teach me to write on my Web log before I have finished my first cup of coffee.

Pierre-Arnaud is a great Blog-o-Land buddy because he is a pianist out there now, operating, and he knows a thing or two about how the world works. I am more expert about the piano world before I was born than I am about the one we actually live in now.

Monsieur Dablemont reminds me that we discussed sort of business once before, on his Web log, which we did. And he makes the point in a comment on the post that perhaps it is not up to Miss Wang what she wears.

I had not thought about that and perhaps it is true.

Perhaps her management made her wear that mini.

"But I do not want to wear it!"

"Wear it!"

Perhaps her management also made her wear that Russian fur hat for her Rachmaninoff album, pictured above. I am sorry but I find that picture so obnoxious! I would rather she just wore a mini.

You know what, I do not even know how I even got onto all this. It is hardly news any more when someone walks out on stage practically naked. There are so many young women musicians out there being marketed in pretty much the same way. It is getting almost impossible to stand out from the pack and if Yuja Wang's promoters did indeed make her wear that mini that must have been their objective.

Speaking of which, if it was, they have really succeeded, you know?

Look at all this ink!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The things that we can't see

The other day I got a new CD by a pianist named ... what was he named? It does not really matter because the post is not actually about him. His name is Georgy Tchaidze. He is Russian, from St. Petersburg.

Georgy Tchaidze's CD is all Schubert and he "gets" Schubert. He plays the music simply and well. And anyway, I put on my headphones at my desk at work and then I just ...

... sat there.

Broadsided by Schubert.

It happens sometimes. I think: how did he come up with this music?

How did God speak through this ungainly, pudgy young man who lived 200 years ago?

I get tears in my eyes listening to this stuff. I did not even know this one sonata very well. Parts of it I knew, but not the whole thing. And still I sat there, just broadsided. Caught unawares. I could not believe it.

We have a line at Mass when we say that God made all things visible and invisible. Visibilium omnium et invisibilium.

Schubert saw the invisibilium. Maybe not the omnium invisibilium but he saw things normal people cannot see.

I am sure of it.

There are these "Three Piano Pieces." I mean, listen. This guy Tchaidze is not on YouTube playing this piece so I give you Enrico Pace. Because he has hair like Schubert in the picture up above.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Yuja Wang dang doodle

As a music critic who is a woman I feel I must weigh in on this tempest in a teacup going on about pianist Yuja Wang.

Wang apparently played the Rachmaninoff Third at the Hollywood bowl wearing a minidress.

Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times wrote about the situation. Anne Midgett of the Washington Post takes issue with him.,

I like both critics but I go with Swed on this one.

My belief is, if you want to play the Rachmaninoff Third wearing a micro-mini, go right ahead. It's not as if it is surprising or anything, especially in the case of Yuja Wang whose out-of-the-gate-running CDs have already proven her to be something of a show-off. We will be seeing more of this kind of look with the proliferation of young beautiful skinny classical musicians. Anyway, there will be nothing we can do to stop it.

If you want to play Rachmaninoff in your underwear, I guess it is still a free country despite the efforts of certain people, and I am not so naive as to think anything I am going to say is going to make any difference.

Just do not be surprised if someone comments on it.

I read once where Liberace ...

... said, "Go ahead! Stare! I didn't dress like this to go unnoticed."

Yuja Wang could say the same thing.

I think she should.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The pianists in the crystal ball

It is funny, every summer I think I will be depressed when the details start arriving about the fall concerts.

Then the details arrive and I feel as if I can't wait!

It happens every year. And this year it happened today. I got the schedule for Slee Hall, at UB, and I made a face, because who wants to think about fall in the middle of August? Well, I do, that's who. Because I opened the booklet and could not believe it.

"Wow," I kept saying. "Wow!"

They have a medieval/Renaissance concert at Christmas time with the New York Virtuoso Singers. I am ready to start listening to medieval and Renaissance carols now, this minute. I am just so psyched. Isn't this funny, I was just writing about the Middle Ages today, and my wacky participation in them, on my other Web log.

I will have to wait for the spring for this but Richard Goode is coming. He is a pianist I am crazy about. That is a great moody picture of Richard Goode I found on the Internet somewhere.

Hmmm, I have interviewed him twice already. I wonder if I can get away with interviewing him again. Perhaps not. "What's her name again?" he will ask. "That sounds familiar. Mary Kunz ... Mary Kunz Goldman ... Oh, I remember. Her again! Forget it, I've already talked to her twice."

I will get around this difficulty by phoning under a different name.

Back to the schedule. They are bringing back Robert Levin, another pianist I think is great. Last time he was here I trailed after him all the way to the airport! My friend Phil was taking him to the airport and let me climb into the back seat.

That concert Robert Levin gave with his wife was one of the greatest piano concerts I ever heard. They played Rachmaninoff, I forgot what else, I was just sitting there loving it.

Alas, I have interviewed him already too. But only once. Maybe I can get away with a second time.

My piano teacher Stephen Manes is also coming back. I do not have to wait that long for him. That is in September. He is doing a Viennese program. Berg is listed and I wonder if it is the Berg Sonata. I played the Berg Sonata with a lot of help from him. That is a piece I love.

I am going to to go every piano concert I can this year and report on it all.

So much to look forward to!

So much music, so little time!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Misty watercolor memories

Last night I went to the Pine Grill Reunion, the free jazz concert on Buffalo's East Side, and I caught Houston Person, the great saxophonist.

Houston Person, playing the same ol' beat-up looking sax he always plays, played an unusual jazz number. He played "The Way We Were."

It goes great on saxophone as you can hear here. Hear, hear!

It is perfect for Person's way of playing which is natural and conversational. Unfortunately that YouTube clip, which comes from another time and another place, cuts off the beginning of the melody. But it gives you an idea of what Houston can do.

As long as I have known Houston Person he has been an old man. That is strange because I remember first seeing him, I think, 10 years ago. He used to come to Buffalo's Calumet Arts Cafe with Etta Jones, his wife, or girlfriend, or whatever she was. Those evenings were glorious. Then we heard them both at the Pine Grill Reunion several years ago, just a few weeks before she died. He is just a wonderful natural player. That is a quality I love in Pennario's playing and it is not as common as you think. There are so many artists, both in classical and in jazz, who over-engineer things.

"The Way We Were" is a pretty song. Marvin Hamlisch is a good songwriter. Nice guy, too. See, I cannot say he is a nice person because writing about Houston Person that could get confusing!

We had a blast with Hamlisch here in Buffalo when he was our pops conductor for a few years. Well,  I did, anyway. I do not know if everyone did!

Once I had the idea for a story to trail around after him for a day. It was hysterical. This BPO staffer drove us around in a little compact car. You had big Hamlisch getting in and out of this tiny front seat. I was his briefcase carrier, was another thing. It was never discussed but every time Hamlisch and I got into this little car -- I was in the back seat -- Hamlisch would hand me his briefcase.

He got cookies from somewhere and was handing me cookies in the back seat. I remember that too.

Fond memories of Marvin Hamlisch! And Houston Person.

And the way we were.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The two faces of Robert Schumann

Today is the feast day of St. Eusebius. That is a name that I used to think Schumann made up. Because Schumann had those two dual personalities, Florestan and Eusebius.

Then I found out Eusebius was a real name. The way I found out was, I came into possession of some hoary old volume of music, and the editor's name was Eusebius something or other. Ha, ha! If you did not know a real Eusebius existed that is a great way to find out.

But Eusebius was a saint who was persecuted and died in exile. That is the man himself up above! There was also a Pope Eusebius who was a saint from the fourth century. His feast day is in September.

So many Eusebii, so little time! I took Latin so I know it is one Eusebius, two Eusebii.

Was Schumann a Gemini, with these two personalities? Let me check. Yes indeedy he is. He is June 8. I am June 1. We are exactly a week apart.

How come scholars have not made more out of Schumann being a Gemini? I mean, I know astrology is only entertainment and hokum but this is a classic.

You can hear Schumann's two personalities throughout "Carnaval." And this is nifty -- you can listen in on a piano lesson about "Carnaval" with Andre-Michel Schub. Free piano lesson from Andre-Michel Schub! I am in. I interviewed Mr. Schub once and I loved him. When I mentioned I played the piano he asked what I was playing! Only two pianists, I think, have done that in the course of my career. One was Andre-Michel Schub and the other was Harry Connick Jr.

Schub sings and all the people who write comments are giggling about that. He is a bit of a dual personality himself when you think about it, you know? "Andre-Michel" is so French and "Schub" is so German. No word on whether he is a Gemini like Robert Schumann and me. Anybody know?

Meanwhile, what a cute lesson. It makes me want to find time to practice "Carnaval," work it back up.

But first I have to figure out what to name my two personalities.