Category Archives: Classical music

The time is out of joint: Chris Impey on the tick-tick-tock of the stately clock

Steven Weinberg wrote a famous book, “The First Three Minutes” on the early stages of the universe.  The same universe became transparent to light some 370,000 years later.  There are other landmarks in post-Big Bang time going down to bewildering fractions of a second.

But the early universe was very hot, very dense, and gravitationally very different from the comfortable-to-us 1 g we experience today on the surface of the earth.  Einstein has convincingly shown that spacetime is accordingly divorced from that human experience.   Clocks, for example, are affected by gravity and satnav constellations have to take this into account.  Did the first three minutes flow the same way three minutes flow in the here and now?  I sent that question to Chris Impey’s online office hour and he kindly answered.  It is a tantalizing response and one that will require substantial further study to fully appreciate – perhaps finally diving into the guts of GR.   It makes me wonder even more intensely why we anthropomorphize those intervals the way we do.

Youtube Channel: Astronomy State of the Art

Composer Toru Takemitsu has set the general idea to music.

Youtube Channel: Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa

 

World Piano Day: Deutsche Grammophon’s virtual festival

COVID ravages the world. America bails out Boeing, Wall Street, and if all goes to plan, assorted chunks of 45’s cancerous financial empire. Meanwhile, Germany rolls out support to its artists and musicians, a nod to what that nation holds dear and what it finds worth defending.

In honor of a plague-affected World Piano Day, the German record label Deutsche Grammophon virtually brings together a number of celebrated pianists to help us remember that our mostly corrupt, degraded, and base species nevertheless has had moments of glory.

Artists include Maria João Pires 0:00 Víkingur Ólafsson 21:15 Joep Beving 40:38 Rudolf Buchbinder 01:05:39 Seong-Jin Cho 01:25:24 Jan Lisiecki 01:44:02 Kit Armstrong 02:14:19 Simon Ghraichy 02:46:18 Evgeny Kissin 03:17:43 Daniil Trifonov 03:26:00.

Update 3/31/20: Well, so much for DG’s benevolence.  The video has been marked Private.

 

Chicken in the deadpan pickin’ out dough: Lord Vinheteiro takes on Rossini

Move over Igudesman, make way Joo.  And roll over Beethoven while we’re at it.  He’s hampered by a broken hand at the moment but before he fell to a mechanical bull, Lord Vinheteiro had some fun with a rubber chicken.  Maybe more than is strictly legal.  Always great to see opera get it in the chops.

Youtube channel: Vinheteiro

 

Theme and Variations: Nahre Sol adapts and explains ‘Happy Birthday’

Pianist Nahre Sol delightfully explains sixteen levels of pianistic complexity in about ten minutes.  That doesn’t mean there are only sixteen but, damn, what a lower bound for the recreational pianist to aspire to!

Youtube Channel: Wired
and the separate Nahre Sol Youtube Channel

Sol is in good company.  Here are Mozart’s Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” which we know as something else.

Youtube Channel: Canacana Family

 

How to Masterclass like a Sir: Schiff teaches Schubert

I’ve studied Schubert’s Op.90 E-flat Major Impromptu off and on for years, long before I was ready for it.  In fact, I’m still not.  With expert teaching, even novices can use the great repertoire to learn and develop technique as a complement to scales, pedagogical exercises, and short pieces.  Up and coming pianist Martin James Bartlett has, at the age of 22, a mantelful of awards and a promising career ahead of him.   This Impromptu is no challenge for his considerable technique.  Nevertheless, Knight Commander András Schiff gently guides him towards bringing out the orchestral colors hidden in the piece, to bow a percussive instrument like a viol, and frees Bartlett’s voice without imposing his own will on the young musician.   Schiff’s legendary dry wit never oversteps into unkindness, except of course to the very late Carl Czerny who often takes it in the shorts in Schiff’s Guardian Lectures on the Beethoven Sonatas. It is gratifying to see that the steps to improvement at ones own level often recapitulates those of experts.   This is education at its finest.

Youtube Channel: Royal College of Music

 

Triple Point: N’Kaoua on Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner

Pianist Eric Ferrand-N’Kaoua discusses the mutual influences of three renowned composers and Liszt’s dual role as creator and transcriptionist.  Bugs and Elmer sneak around 10 minutes in … “O Bwunnhilda, you’re so wuvwee//Yes I know it I can’t help it…”

This revolutionary and/or romantic music is played  in the baroque Grand Salon of l’Hôtel de préfecture du Rhône in the city of Lyon.  The French know how to do government buildings.  English subtitles available through the Youtube cc icon.

Youtube Channel: EFNKPiano

 

Eight Songs for a Mad King

I don’t like vocal music and I don’t particularly like this all that much.  But, what a right proper anthem as the U.S. continues its descent into savagery with an unstable, unchecked Mephisto at the helm.

Eight Songs for a Mad King by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Performed by The Psappha Ensemble:

with Kelvin Thomas, soloist
Conrad Marshall – flute
Dov Goldberg – clarinet
Richard Casey – piano
Tim Williams – percussion / cimbalom
Benedict Holland – violin
Jennifer Langridge – cello

Youtube Channel: The Psappha Ensemble

 

 

A Major good time: ‘The Trout’ at RHUMC

From l to r: Benjamin Lash (cello), So-Mang Jeagal (piano), Kaelan Decman (double bass), Justin Woo (violin), Kevin Hsu (viola)

Amateur musicians are justifiably in awe of their professional counterparts.  We struggle with rhythm, tempo, dynamics, intonation, and sight reading.  They’ve mastered all that and more at an  early age.   It is all maddening especially the sight reading part.  I’d do a deal with Mephisto in a heartbeat if I could do that without actually working for it.  But, on the positive side, we schmoes reap the benefits of the pro’s superior talent and diligence in concert.   The USC Thornton School sent five graduate students to Rolling Hills last Sunday for a rollicking ‘Trout Quintet’ to a packed and savvy house.  Fine ensemble playing by a group that assembled and converged for this event.   It was damned hard not to hum along, especially with the fourth movement.  Video/audio to be posted if made available.

Happy Halloween: Ruggiero Ricci plays Paganini

I was fortunate to see Mr. Ricci give a couple of masterclasses in the early 2000s through the Jascha Heifetz Society.  He was in his eighties and yet young violinists in and around Los Angeles received his patient, undivided attention over some long days.   Here he is playing “Le Streghe (The Witches)” by the calculatedly diabolical Paganini.   Piero Bellugi conducts the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI di Torino.

Youtube Channel: prbllg