Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations 0p. 42

Ik heb al mijn hele volwassen leven  een haat/liefde verhouding met de Corelli variaties, maar nooit echt de moeite genomen ze te studeren. Ongeveer een jaar geleden ben ik dan toch eindelijk daar mee begonnen. Vladimir Asjkenazi heeft een interessant visie op dit stuk. De variaties staan bijna allemaal in d mineur, slechtst twee staan in Des majeur.Hij zegt hierover:”Intimate lyricism that is closed, doesn’t lead anywhere, an island of warmth in the sea of gloom and darkness. Hij zegt verder: “na zijn vlucht uit Rusland trekt de componist zich terug uit het wonder en de luxe van het leven in het algemeen. Tot die tijd stond hij open voor het leven.De weelderige harmoniek maakt plaats voor een bijzonder ingenieuze nieuwe harmoniek, die “naar binnen sluit”, steeds donkerder. Van ” giving and more giving”  gaat hij steeds verder naar binnen. Een componist drukt iets essentieels van het leven uit en tegelijkertijd een angst voor de dood, een onbestemde, donkere dreiging en angst voor de duisternis.In die zin zijn dit geen variaties ,maar een metamorphose, een boog die begint met  de presentatie van het thema(jaja, we weten het zo langzamerhand wel: is niet van Corelli…)in zijn meest simpele vorm tot en met een bijna improvisatorisch coda. Daartussen in: gecondenseerde expressie, niet het hart op de tong meer, maar introvert en met subtiele harmonische “kleuren”.

Rachmaninoff heeft dit werk zelf op recitals voor publiek gespeeld en het werd nogal lauw ontvangen… hijzelf zei hierover : “Ik liet me leiden door het publiek; als het gekuch heviger werd, sloeg ik de volgende variatie over, ik heb ze tot nu toe nooit allemaal in het openbaar gespeeld hierdoor.

Heel jammer, want  met dit stuk sloeg hij ook pianistisch gezien een nieuwe weg in: minder noten, zoekende naar nieuwe vormen van expressie, die weliswaar op de romantische school gebaseerd zijn ,maar ook invloeden van de Amerikaanse cultuur verraden .Hij was bijvoorbeeld een enorme fan van de beroemde jazz pianist Art Tatum, die hij, als het even kon, bezocht in de nachtclubs waar deze fenomenale pianist optrad.

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An interview with the great super virtuoso pianist Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938),who is famous ( and notorious… ) for his incredibly complex arrangements of,  for  instance the Chopin etudes. Not many pianists can play them. However, I notice a kind of revival of interest in these crazy ,but gorgeous and brilliant works. The most amazing fact for me is that the man was practically self-taught !
The following is from an interview he gave in 1928 for Etude Magazine:
“Knowledge, character, culture, education and thoroughness are the great determining factors. It makes no difference whether you get these in school, college, conservatory or not— get them you must or suffer the consequences. Better not concern oneself about the moderns until the classics have been mastered. If you want to bathe in music, don’t worry about the Greeks of musical art when there are oceans of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin.”
“what is self-taught?
“The very word ‘self-taught’ may easily lead to misunderstandings which are difficult to correct. In a broad sense, all artists of high achievements are ‘self-taught’, notwithstanding the fact that they may have spent years with teachers. On the other hand, there is some difficulty in conceiving one who is wholly un-taught. We are all susceptical to impressions that come from the outside. We may not receive direct instruction through regular lessons; but we absorb ideas and information from all manner of sources.often this process goes on unconsciously. It does seem, however, that there are some people who have such marked innate gifts and understanding of basic artistic principles that it is difficult to account for their achievements unless one is to accept the oriental theory of re-incarnation.
How, for instance, is one to explain the genius of Mozart or of Schubert?In mere childhood they were developed far beyond their elders. Surely no teacher could possibly have taught them all that they knew in such a brief period. It should be remembered , however, that these are altogether exceptional cases.
With the majority of pupils, a thoroughly schooled and ably trained teacher can shorten their periods of work enormously and spare them from making fatal blundersin the path of progress. Even imagines that a great teacher with a great name will carry him to triumph unless he (the pupil) supplies 90% of the effort (the motive force) , he is doomed to disaster.
Technic Developed
“Now here is an astonishing thing. Although I never practiced studies and exercises of any kind in the ordinary sense, I achieved a peculiar reputation as a great technician. But I make a marked distinction in the matter of technic. To me technic should include everything that has to do with the craftsmanship that leads to a beautiful, artistic and soulful performance. The finger mechanism is to my mind only a small part of technic; for the word should embrace phrasing, touch, expression, nuance, rhythm, and so forth.”

Composer : Peter Lunow           from”sketches for flute, cymbalom and double bass” ( 2012) . Marieke Schneemann,flute

Michiel Weidner, cymbalom

Ernst Glerum, double bass

Takemitsu( 1930-1996 ), de eerste Japanse componist die erin slaagde een wereldwijd publiek te bereiken, zei :

“From John Cage I learned life – or I should say, how to live and the fact that music is not removed from life. This simple, clear fact has been forgotten.Art and life have become separated and specialists are concerned with the skeletons of methodology. Aesthetics led us to music without any relationships to live sounds, mere symbols on paper.”

 

mythe en waarheid

Ik kwam een interessant artikel tegen van ene Alexander Poznansky over Tchaikovsky. Sinds enige tijd zijn alle archieven in Rusland  voor het publiek vrijgegeven.Alle complot theorieen (gedwongen zelfmoord…) blijken hierin niet voor te komen. De mythe dat de man constant ondraaglijk leed, door zijn homosexualiteit, komt in dit artikel in een heel ander licht te staan.

DeVictoriaanse moraal onderdrukte elke vorm van sexualiteit, maar in Rusland golden ook andere opvattingen, die meer op status gebaseerd waren dan op moraliteit.

Tchaikovsky was al tijdens zijn leven een gevierd en beroemd componist en kreeg volop erkenning . De tsaar   gaf hem jaren lang een toelage omdat hij zijn muziek waardeerde.Hij had vele vrienden, hartstochtelijke affaires  en waardevolle vriendschappen .Kortom , hij had een vol en kleurrijk leven Natuurlijk waren er altijd roddels en geruchten over zijn sexuele leven ,maar het beeld dat hij altijd leed, komt niet overeen met de werkelijkheid, als ik Poznansky’s artikel lees.

Op het eind schrijft hij :

“An inquiry into the personality of any great artist is imperative if we want to deepen and enrich our appreciation of his or her achievement, since it allows us to respond in a more complex and powerful way to the emotional and psychological issues involved in the creative process and their artistic resolutions. In the case of Tchaikovsky, his inner longings, which we cannot fully comprehend without studying the realities of his life, had a bearing on the striking and peculiar emotional poignancy of his music, which is either extolled, or berated as “sentimentalism”.Ultimately this kind of study will enable us consructively to reconsider the whole set of musicological cliches about the man and perhaps even his status in the cultural Pantheon, as well as the relevance of his work to our present day cultural and spiritual concerns. ”

 

 

Ninth Piano Composition Competion Fidelio

fotografie: Evelien Lodewijks

Ene Antonio Ruiz Asumendi nodigde mij uit mee te doen aan een pianocompositie concours dat hij elk jaar organiseert via internet. Dit jaar was de negende keer. Ik las wat commentaren op zijn initiatief (Piano CompositionCompetition Fidelio) en besloot mee te doen. 180 deelnemers uit 29 landen en de deelnemers waren tevens de jury (behalve voor hun eigen werk uiteraard).

Ik heb de eerste prijs gewonnen met een van mijn Astorwalzer.  Het feit dat mijn muziek over de hele wereld werd gehoord, en om ook nog de eerste prijs in de wacht te slepen, geeft me een gevoel van erkenning.

 

memorisation

It’s one of the great romantic images, isn’t it? The solo performer alone on an empty stage, faced with that huge black beast of a full-size concert grand piano, armed with nothing but his or her memory and willing, well-trained fingers?

 

There is a lot of snobbery surrounding memorisation, and yet it’s one of the most absurd things pianists put themselves through. We have Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt to thank (or blame!) for the tradition of the pianist playing from memory, and both were significant in turning the piano recital into the formal spectacle it is today. Before the mid-nineteenth century, pianists were not expected to play from memory and playing without the score was often considered a sign of casualness, or even arrogance: Beethoven disapproved of the practice, feeling it would make the performer lazy about the detailed markings on the score; and Chopin is reported to have a hissy fit when he learnt that one of  his pupils was intending to play him a Nocturne from memory.

Few pianists today would dispute the legacy of Liszt and Clara Schumann, and now playing from memory is almost ‘de rigeur’, so much so that if you go to a concert where the pianist plays from the score, you may hear muttering amongst the audience, suggesting the performer isn’t up to the job or has not prepared the music properly. Which is of course rubbish: sometimes, especially in contemporary or very complex repertoire , it is simply not possible to memorise all of it. Interestingly, memorisation has actually limited the range of repertoire performed in concert: many soloists won’t commit themselves to more than a handful of works each season because of the burden memorisation places upon them( as pianists, we have to learn more than double the number of notes of any other musician!).

 

There are sound reasons for playing from memory and it should not be regarded simply as a virtuoso affectation  ( the ability to memorise demonstrates a very high degree of skill and application ). It can allow the performer greater physical freedom peripheral vision more varied expression and deeper communication with listeners. But the pressure to memorise (a pressure which is imposed upon pianists from a young age and reinforced in music college or conservatoire ) can also lead to increased  performance anxiety- I have come across a number of professional pianists who have given up solo work because of the unpleasant pressure to memorise and the attendant anxiety. The late great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter gave up playing without the score when he reached his 60s as he felt he could no longer rely on his memory, and both Clifford Curzon an Arthur Rubinstein both struggled with memorisation.

 

While each individual will have his or her own particular method of memorisation, pianists in fact utilise four types of memory, all of which must be employed when learning music:

VISUAL MEMORY:    human beings use this part of their memory function to record large amounts of information, such as faces and colours and everyday objects. Music is made up of patterns and shapes, and the pianist uses visual memory to “picture” the score, as well asto recall the physical gestures involved in playing.

AURAL/AUDITORY MEMORY :  this is what enables us to sing in the shower! Music is an assortment of sounds, arranged in a certain order. The pianist uses aural memory to know e/she is  playing the correct notes and to anticipate what he/she will play in the next few seconds.

MUSCULAR/PROCEDURAL/KINAESTHESIC MEMORY: the ability to recall all the movements, gestures and physical sensations required to play music. Muscular or “procedural”memory is trained by repetitive practice: just as the tennisplayer practices his/her over-arm serve in exactly the same way each time to ensure the fingers land on the right notes every time.

ANALYTICAL/CONCEPTUAL MEMORY: the pianist’s ability to fully comprehend, absorb and retain the score through his/her intimate study and knowledge of it.This involves understanding structure, harmony, dynamics and nuances, phrasing, reference points, modulations, repetitions, etc., as well as the context in which the music was composed, whether it is Baroque, Classical or Romantic, for example. This “total immersion” in the score  should result in a rich, multi-layered awareness of it.

 

Many young students rely, often unconsciously, on auditory and visual memory, or on auditory and muscular memory, and many can play very competently from memory. However, to play expertly from memory and to ensure that one’s ability to download and deliver music very accurately is completely secure, all four aspects of memory must be trained and maintained.

I have noticed a growing trend: more solo pianists (Alexandre Tharaud is a notable example) are now using the score (accompanists and collaborative pianists tend to use the score, with the assistance of a page-turner, or the modern alternative of an iPad or tablet with a score-reading app. It is possible to perform from the score, and to deliver a quality performance which is rich in expression, gesture, and musicality. Well-managed page-turns with the assistance of a discreet page-turner, should not detract from the performance, and after all, isn’t a concert fundamentally about communication, between performer, composer and audience? If you get that right, nothing else should matter.

 

 

 

 

zingen met geestelijk gehandicapte tieners

Vandaag werd ik uitgenodigd om een ​​groep geestelijk gehandicapte jongens en meisjes te ontmoeten. Of ik “iets met muziek ” wilde doen. Daar sta ik dan met een toetsenbord en allerlei plannen en strategieën en instinctief  voel ik dat ik alles overboord kan gooien en Sinterklaasliedjes kan spelen en zingen. Het trekt onmiddellijk de aandacht en men begint aarzelend mee te doen. Een boom van een jongen van begin twintig, opent zijn strot en ik weet niet wat ik hoor: een volle, krachtige stem, die me kippenvel bezorgt.  Een meisje van dezelfde leeftijd, doet liever kerstliedjes. Gaan we de volgende keer doen, maar ik weet wat ik moet doen: de volgende sessie neem ik veel liedjes  mee en de staf medewerkers zingen ook mee. Voor mij een enorme uitdaging om mijn eigen hoofd leeg te maken, de tijd te nemen en  aandacht te  geven aan iedereen. Verder heb ik geen doel, geen lesplan of strategie. Het enige dat telt: ga mee met de stroom en heb plezier.

thought and word

You don’t have to have words to think.Thoughts are primary, not words and thoughts are the language the subconscious can understand. There is no point in trying to communicate with the subconscious in the language of the intellect. Fortunately, humanity has preserved one means of universal expression through art.We do not need words in order to understand works of art. Everyone can understand the language of the heart. This is the language of things created with love and passion.. When a person walks towards their innermost dream through the right door, i.e. does the thing that suits their soul best, they become capable of creating a masterpiece. This is how art is born.       Vadim Zeland

 

techniek en expressie

Franz Liszt: “Het kan me niet schelen hoe snel je octaven kunt spelen. Wat ik wil horen is de galop van de paarden van de Poolse cavalerie voordat ze kracht verzamelen en de vijand vernietigen.”

Maria Callas: “Before you sing a phrase, you always prepare it in your face and give it to the public, have it read in your mind, in other words: you think of the phrase, you prepare it on your face and then you actually perform it. That is the beauty of bel canto; offering it to the public and having the public reading your mind and then actually hearing it”

Debussy, a painter in sound

 

 

“The history of musical analysis is full of expressions like “a kind of sonata form” , “a sort of rondo” which reveals the desperation of the writer to fit any and every piece into a predetermined form. But in any decent work of art, form is a by-product of material, subject-matter and workmanship, not a process of filling a template, like a dot-to-dot drawing or a do-it-yourself tapistry”.

Stephen  Walsh