Friday, July 31, 2015

Daniel Barenboim Plays Mozart - In the Event That You Are Not Aware...

A few weeks ago I entered a blog on the creation and design of a new piano by the acclaimed Argentinian pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim.
I neglected to add other important information (at least to me!)  at that time, because of the possible import and significance that may come out of this new piano.
And that is, the stunning emergence of Barenboim in his later and latest recordings of Mozart's sonatas.
This virtuoso has always included Mozart in his years as a soloist of importance; however, in the past few years, his stature as a truly definitive addendum to the distinguished  group of  great  Mozart performers  that this past century has preserved should be acknowledged.
I wonder if, by way of his increasingly deepening  perspectives about the ways of Mozart, Barenboim arrived at the need, through his personal dictum, of a new piano design. Was it Mozart? Or Schubert?
At any rate, his readings of Mozart, and wonderfully comprehensive view of the journeys created by the composer's sonatas, have led me, for the first time, to wish for  a publication of  nothing but the second movements of these masterpieces to appear before my eyes, so that I could establish a kind of communion with the inner core of a composer who could create such power in such a brief span.
I extend special thanks to Daniel Barenboim for his  stunning insight.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Salvador Dali - A Pithy Statement Or Two, Along With His Art...

The Famous Spaniard left not only examples of a rather singular art form, but also a number of  views by way of the written word, such as:
"Have no fear of Perfection - you'll never reach it."
Of the collection of terse expressions   Dali  contributed to the Coming Man, the statement  above is the most easily understood by the gifted artist, while at the same time constitutes  the artist's most inscrutable and beckoning  issue.
As I remember, when I first went to the dictionary to read the multi-faceted array of meanings connected to the word Perfection, I became immediately aware as to the  reality that so much of what is written about the word cannot be attached to the world of the artist.
If all the notes played in a recital are 100% accurate, is the performance perfect?
Or, if the interpretive material  is totally embraced by the player; or by  one member of the audience; or twenty;  or both player and audience in simultaneity; is it perfect?
How can Perfection be ascertained as a reaction to what was played, or composed, or painted, or danced to?
Why did Artur Rubinstein record  the 51  Chopin Mazurkas three different times , starting in the 1930's and ending in the 1960's? (Actually, there are at least 57 Mazurkas, but Rubinstein decided, it seems, to exclude some of the juvenilia of the great composer). He then uttered the understatement of the century by saying "I think that I can play them a little better now."
Was he pursuing, innately or otherwise,  that Thing we call Perfection?
How many times did Horowitz record his transcription  called "Carmen Variations?"
1927 (a piano roll)
1928 (first disc recording)
1947
1957
1968
1978 -
Was he pursuing, innately or otherwise, the same goal that Rubinstein, or ANY  gifted artist pursues? Was Horowitz pursuing , as a composition, a constantly improving form of his transcription(there were changes in each recording we hear). Or something in his PERFORMANCES of  this transcription? Or both aspects?
In a master class at Edinburgh University in 1983, the great Cuban pianist Jorge Bolet addressed the six young pianists he had chosen to work on the first movement of the Rachmaninoff  3rd piano concerto.
He addressed these young aspirants after they had performed in this class.
"You know," Bolet said,  "you and I  have chosen a crazy profession." The six young pianists then looked at one another and snickered. Bolet then went on to cite the reason for the word 'crazy.' He continued by dealing with a goal issue that would, or  could,  never be realized - the goal issue, of course, was Perfection.
But Bolet demanded that this Eye on the Prize be relentlessly  pursued, as there is no other recourse of action available to any  thinking  artist.
We in the arts  are, essentially, Quixotic in what we do, or strive to do.  The character that Cervantes gave us will always be alive and well.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

A Paucity of Time; A Plethora of Incandescence - A Handful of Artists...

Upon my poring over the work of Van Gogh recently, a gentle nudge reminded me that  the Van Gogh the world knows was given to us during,  approximately,   the last thirteen years of his life.
Then that nudge guided me to a parallel miracle in music; namely, all but the last half dozen of Mozart's symphonies had been committed to paper  by age 31 and a half. ( Beethoven had given us his first symphony at age 31 and a half).
Handel;  literally 'confining' himself for just a few weeks in order to extract, from his core, the 'Messiah'. It took him about 24 days to write the work down . Though  the first  score  has a number  of 'blotchy' smudges and some errors, it is fantastically true to what we hear today, over two and a half centuries after his self-imposed 'imprisonment' in order to get  it down on paper - amazing!
Schubert;  after having formed a mountain of  Through - Composed(different music for each stanza) music  sagas for the voice, along with great numbers of strophic(the same music for all the stanzas) lieder ( he wrote at least 600 songs that we know of,  in both forms),  let alone symphonies and marvels for the piano etc., etc.; then mulling over the possibility of making an assiduous  study of counterpoint  during his 31st year. The final year of his life.
There are a few others who visited for such a brief time, but left us with so much -
Cantelli?
Kapell?
Lipatti?
The list goes on; but not too much longer.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Trio - 3 Human actions: Their Weight; Their Implications...

The  trio: A Tyrant; A Group of Scientists; A Towering  Artist-

One: Josef Stalin, as we know, ranked with Hitler as one of the 20th century's   great  despots. His particular form of paranoia was gargantuan and consuming; the result being his overwhelming fear, mostly baseless, of conspiracy at all levels. One of his constant fears was the danger of  Germany and Britain merging  in order to destroy the  Soviet system.
The results: His mistaken views of conspiracy led him to state, despite warnings  by a group of his generals, of an imminent attack by Germany - "Hitler will never attack me alone." His unfounded fears of conspiracy led him to a state of relative complacency, making it possible for Hitler to wreak havoc in Russia during the early phase of his invasion  on June 22, 1941.
Fortunately for the West, Stalin's refutation  of the possibilities of war in  that year prompted Hitler to make his ultimately fatal decision to occupy Mother Russia. So; ironically, Stalin's statement emanating from his titanic battles with ungrounded fears made it possible for Hitler to eventually lose a two-front war which he asserted he would never promulgate.
And so a new Dark Age was averted, insured by the paranoia of one of history's darkest figures.

Two: Shortly after Nazi Germany was defeated in May of 1945,  the scientists involved with the Manhattan Project, which was created  to  undergo a race with Nazi Germany in the quest for the atom bomb, took a vote to determine if the project to uncover the power of the atom should go on, now that  Germany had surrendered. Predictably, the vote was a resounding 'yes'.
What if the group had decided to cease the search for  atomic power?
Soviet Russia would have, it would seem, uncovered the secret first.
What would our present day be like?
The irrevocable need for  the scientist to consummate a search once begun is an elemental reality - for that, however horrific the power of the atom proved to be in  August  1945, over Japan,  was  the reason for that 'yes' vote.

Three:  Three  monosyllabic words uttered by Pablo Picasso, in Nazi-occupied Paris:
"No - you did."
Probably the most powerful statement made by an artist, in the 20th century.
The meaning? Its implication?
I invite you to visit my Nov.3, 2007 blog, which you can find on my archives list, available on this blog site.



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Friday, July 3, 2015

Eidetic Imagery; NOT Eidetic Memory... Mendelssohn? Mozart?

In a recent documentary I watched on the saga of Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla, the issue of the eidetic imagery of Tesla came up by way of some of the examples which came storming out of the mind of Tesla.
Briefly: Tesla was an  electrical and mechanical engineer and an inventor; all wrapped up neatly in one human package. Tesla was a contemporary of Edison, and worked for and with him for a period of time. Tesla  became an opponent of the fabled inventor by way of his championing alternating  current as the reigning core of electrical transmission, chiefly in commercial modality. Edison believed in direct current as the superior core; and so the two inventors became foes. History has proven Tesla correct, obviously.
What is engrossing is the parade of lurid  images that formed consistently in Tesla's mind - some were such images as the transformer, let alone the overwhelming advantages of alternating current, both of which entered the outside world AFTER the images scurried across the mind's eyes of Tesla - arguably among  the most compelling examples of what we call futurism.
What came to mind while watching this documentary was the name Da Vinci, and his sketches of objects which were burned into his mind long before they came into existence.
And Mozart's statement "I can see an entire symphony on the head of a pin."
And Mendelssohn, at age 17, beset by the need to write his "Midsummer Night's Dream" in an incredibly short time, after having read, in both English and German,  Shakespeare's masterpiece. It is  of  really deep interest to me, what with the  numbers of Mozart's youthful miracles available, that Grove called the  Mendelssohn  overture  "the greatest marvel in early maturity that the world of music has ever seen."
Again Mozart - "The music? It is already here. All that is needed  is to write it down."
There are many statements available dealing with eidetic memory; for instance, Mozart being able to memorize an entire composition upon one hearing, as were Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Bernstein; to cite other examples.
But there seems to be more written about eidetic memory than the specific, separate issue of  eidetic imagery. Am I  mistaken?
 To be sure, photographic memories are indeed among the most impressive examples of human gifts.
But; for me - brilliant, deeply etched images created before they  enter Reality  - 
Charles Ives, in his "Unanswered Question," coping with the three issues of existential interrogation - "Who Am I? What Am I? Why Am I Here?"
The first  two questions beguile me, especially...

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Friday, June 26, 2015

A New Piano - The Jury Is Out...

About a month ago, the acclaimed Argentinian pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim announced the creation of  a newly designed piano, which will bear his name.
To my knowledge, there are two Barenboim pianos extant; one which the pianist will use in future recitals and concerts, the other in  the possession of the Belgian piano maker Chris Maene, who built it for Barenboim.
The little I know of its design:  there is a different positional involvement with the strings, which are in a separated  vertical or horizontal relation to one another, rather than in diagonal opposition positionally, which has been the 'norm'  essentially  from the beginning.  That must mean that the ' blending' created by sympathetic vibration and other aural aspects engendered  by diagonalizing string groups are either gone or altered. Additionally, bridge design and the grain disposition in the sounding board have been redesigned.
All I can gather at this early point is that either hand can now develop its own 'blending,' as opposed to the  overall  simultaneity in blending that is and has been germane  to the piano since the 19th century.
As I know   so little  about the palpable tactics available on the Barenboim piano, my above observations can be classified only, at best, as tentative or suppositional. There is a tiny segment  of Barenboim playing this instrument on YouTube, which gives no clue as to differentiation,  as You Tube cannot pick up the results of design change.
I  can only presume  that Barenboim will now call out to pianists of renown to try the instrument out, in order  for   Maene and  Barenboim  to garner reaction to what supposedly is a piano of  a distinctive lyricism not  heretofore available. As Steinway  itself is a supporter of the Barenboim initiative, the presumption must be that it is not a quest to make a "better piano" than Steinway; rather, to create a different experience  for the coming pianist.
My first and only truly significant  question:
If this new design takes hold, will it mean a change of direction  in the interpretive process? Will the spiritual/intellectual fiber of the pianist (especially the more important performers among us) create a new tactic as reaction to what they now hear, regardless of 'tradition' or the  generally incorporated Expected?
What is of interest to me is that Barenboim, it seems,  received his need to redesign the piano about four years ago,  after playing on a  recently redone  piano, owned and played by one Franz Liszt.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Art of War - The "What If" Game... Some Great Historians Play It -

This date, in 1941; an event that, arguably, has done more to fashion the shape and function of our times  than any other happening, took place:
On that fateful day, the nearly 3000 mile border into the Soviet Union was ripped asunder by about three million men in the greatest land invasion in War's history - this decision by Adolf Hitler, in the face of a two-front war Hitler earlier declared he would never  enter into, certified his ultimate defeat, and the elimination of   an abyss  of a  "New Dark Age" (words of dire warning by Winston Churchill}.
I remember Steven Ambrose, one of the great historians, hypothesizing about Hitler's  possibly  seeking to make a second(!) alliance with Stalin  later in the conflict(- remember the Ribbentrop -  Molotov Pact of 1939, less than two weeks before Hitler invaded Poland, setting the entire world afire?). The issue with Ambrose was the ultimate control of the port of  Antwerp, and Ambrose, in fact indeed speculated, which kind of surprised me - I have that speculation of Ambrose on tape. It can be found.
MY speculation (in question form, of course, and however miniscule it may be)-what if Hitler had  indeed beaten the Soviet Union;  over approximately one sixth of the land surface on our planet, for his vaunted Lebensraum??
What if there hadn't been the "Arsenal of Democracy" available?
What if the Impossible had happened?

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