March is coming, spring is not far behind, and that means piano recital. I’m pleased to report that Michael Brown will be returning for a concert (Saturday, March 28) and, the next day, a demonstration on musical interpretation (Sunday morning, March 29). Michael has chosen a diverse program with Haydn and some French works that pay homage to Haydn, a bit of Copland/Bernstein, and one of his own compositions. We’ve also got an “Improvisation” by cult Russian composer, Nikolai Medtner, who is undergoing a revival these days, and with good reason.
Nikolai Medtner (1880 – 1951). One wag online noted the uncanny resemblance to George Constanza.
This concert will be in a private house in Newbury and will inevitably be sold out; get your tickets early.
For those of you who would like to know more about the pianist’s interpretive process, on Sunday morning, March 29 from 11:00 to 12:30, Michael will give a demonstration on how he arrives at interpretive decisions using pieces from the previous evening’s program. He’ll address questions of what a musician does when confronted with a piece of music and how one makes artistic choices concerning color, phrasing, and voicing on that most orchestral of solo instruments, the piano. Like the concert the night before, this event will almost certainly be sold out so make sure you get tickets to this early. (Please note that the concert and lecture/demo tickets are sold separately.) In case you'd like to get the music in your ear before the concert, I asked Michael to provide links to the program. Classical music is perhaps different from other art forms in that it gets better the more familiar you become with a particular work. Listening to Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony, I find the hairs going up on the back of my neck in advance of the surging climax (oh, those horns!) that rolls over the listener like a gigantic wave. Like a child playing in the surf, I want to rush back in to ride that wave over and over. Music that thrilled me growing up provides the same visceral thrill decades later.
Listening to Sibelius is just like surfing
We process music differently than the other arts because it is ephemeral and exists only in time. There are a handful of books I re-read regularly but I need to wait years before returning. And while I love the cinema, I eventually tire of even my favorite movies - whereas there is no limit to how many times I can revisit a late Beethoven quartet.
Ok, fine, so maybe there are a few films I never tire of watching
Here are Michael’s YouTube suggestions. The accompanying notes are mine.
Joseph Haydn - Fantasia (Capriccio) in C Major, HOB. XVII:4 András Schiff in this delightful recording doing what András Schiff does so well. https://youtu.be/TiypwRAnJQQ
Claude Debussy - Hommage à Haydn The titan of Russian pianists, Sviatoslav Richter, and one of the greatest pianists of all time. https://youtu.be/M4psZipV4nE
Maurice Ravel - Menuet sur le nom d'Haydn Vlado Perlemuter, the Lithuanian-born French pianist in a poignant interpretation. https://youtu.be/oBhQTcYcplY
Maurice Ravel – Miroirs "Alborada del gracioso” is the third movement of “Miroirs.” Here is Richter again; look at those hands! https://youtu.be/OePeT12EJ14
Nikolai Medtner- Second Improvisation, Op. 47 Michael playing a preview of some of the Medtner from the Newburyport recital. https://youtu.be/ho1Emq6KYRk
Michael will also be performing El Salon México by Aaron Copland arranged by Leonard Bernstein. If there is any work for which you don’t need a preview then this is it. Any Copland/Bernstein arrangement is music we already know; as Americans, this music is in our blood.
Finally, in case you can’t get a ticket to the concert, St. Paul’s (in partnership with NCMF) is presenting a piano trio recital on April 18 on its newly acquired Steinway Model B concert grand. More on that soon but here is a hint – the trio prominently features a precocious sophomore cellist at Juilliard.
Like father, like daughter (don’t tell her I said that)
If Bach is God, Beethoven is Man. Where Bach speaks of eternal truths and the mysteries of the universe. Beethoven defines the essence of what it is to be human. I’ll show you in 40 seconds of music.In 2018 we played Beethoven’s string quartet, Opus 130. The fifth movement, titled “Cavatina” by the composer (a cavatina is a type of song) begins and ends with a slow melody that sandwiches six extraordinary measures. Over those measures he writes “beklemmt.”
As we all hunker down indoors, “socially distanced” and grimly tracking the progress of COVID-19 across our communities, I thought some kind of distraction might be welcome. In particular, I’ve been thinking about revisiting favorite works from the last nineteen (!) seasons of NCMF. Of course, any such list of favorites will be highly subjective. One friend recently provided me with his personal ranking system:
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