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Month: June, 2014

“L’escalier du diable” – György Ligeti‏

one of the benefits of watching a piano
competition, or any recital, or concert,
for that matter, is in finding gems you
wouldn’t otherwise have heard of

at the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International
Piano Master Competition
held only last
month, May, Sun Yutong delivered a
riveting Ligeti, “L’escalier du diable”,“The
Devil’s Staircase”,
great, incidentally, title

here’s Sean Chen doing the same piece, if
you don’t have time for the extraneous
elements of a competition, however
meritorious this exhilarating presentation
might’ve been

cheers

Richard

psst: find Yutong doing the Ligeti at 28:00

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the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition

Thomas Gainsborough - "The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall" (1770)

The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall) (1770)

Thomas Gainsborough

____________


if you’ve missed me lately, it’s because I’ve been
in Tel Aviv for the past week, virtually of course,
taking in the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International
Piano Master Competition
, and they’re not kidding,
every challenger to date has been at the very least
astonishingly dextrous, sparkling even, though
some have been hampered by their own dire
program, with the unfortunate added condition
that, for all, they must integrate one of two
commissioned works that, to my mind, are
completely uninspired

other performers have been astounding, lots
of Beethoven of course, Chopin, Liszt, the
technically utterly daunting

among the moderns Ravel takes centre stage
as an option, with too many, to my mind, of his
tedious pieces,“Gaspard de la nuit”, yawn,
“La [, yawn again] valse”

but Bartok pops up, and Prokofiev, a great set
of variations by Szymanowski, unexpectedly,
and, at one point, a completely irresistible
Ligeti, more of which later

Nikolay Khozyainov starts with the only Ravel
I’ve been able to sit through without getting
impatient, “Gaspard de la nuit” to my mind
should stay there, “La valse” should
immediately stop, but Khozyainov‘s “Pavane
pour une infante défunte”
, or “Procession for
a Deceased Princess” was everything you
would want in a dirge, solemn, transcendental,
transfixing

he follows up with a Liszt to knock your socks
off, “Feux follets”, “Fireflies”, fleet as the night
air, as mesmerizing

the final Rachmaninov sonata reminds us of
how wonderful Rachmaninov really was

watch, listen

Richard

from Beethoven to Pink Floyd


in juxtaposing inadvertently recently
Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”
with Beethoven’s String Quartet no 14
in C# minor, opus 131
, I was once again
struck by how one resembled implicitly
the other, both had achieved structurally
an operatic concert, an original musical
form for each their epoch, a piece of
instrumental music – with, even with
Beethoven eventually, voice – see his
9th Symphony for that – in the form of
opera

stay with me

songs started off as ditties, see, for
instance, in our time, She Loves You“,
the Beatles, in Classical music that’s
the equivalent of a Mozart sonata,
quick, easy to hum along with, and
spirited

then MacArthur Park came along, in
1968, with a song twice the length,
seven minutes and some, of anything
heard before, check out Jimmy Webb,
Richard Harris, and the process

that sounds a lot like Beethoven, I
thought, throw in extrapolations of
symphonic proportions and that
sounds a lot like Beethoven too,
saying, this is not just pretty, people,
it’s potentially momentous, listen

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
Band
then put several compositions
together, without breaks, to give us
the first concept album, an
uninterrupted flow of various musical
ideas held together by an, however
inexplicit, theme

or MacArthur Park“, in other words,
amplified

in 1826, it had been Beethoven’s 14th,
where all this started out, no one had
ever done this sort of thing before,
confounded so intimately contrasting
musical forms, but he’d got it from
the Christian Mass

thus Beethoven, a secular prophet

and thus, in his eminent footsteps,
Pink Floyd, solely, among
contemporary artists, addressing
God

it all seems nearly inevitable today,
but it was 1968 then, a time of, if
you’ll recall, revolution

and all of these had been, for better
or worse, once again, our rallying
cries, anthems, towards a better
world

Richard