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It’s amazing, my bond with Rachmaninoff grows ever deeper. He has truly become the voice of the divine for me. Such a beautiful soul.

It was thus that i came across some recordings of the Rachmaninoff Preludes and Etudes-Tableaux, by the mysterious and engimatic English pianist, John Ogdon. Now i’d heard of him before, as mentioned by a very dear – and sadly former – friend: wolfgang. He’d mentioned Ogdon to me on a few occasions, embellishing his engimatic and somewhat tragic life, as only wolfgang could. I did not truly listen to what he played me at the time, because i was quite impressed by the technically difficult piece he’d played for me, and the facility with which Ogdon seemed to go through it (the piece was Balakirev’s Islamey).

On the other side of this equation, are the Rachmaninoff Etudes-tableaux, which like many other things that are going on currently in my life, are a taste only recently aquired. It is odd, as much as i have always adored Rachmaninoff, i always had some difficulty in appreciating his Etudes Tableaux. Until i found this recording of the completes etudes by John Ogdon.

I will give you a sample. It’s a couple of excerpts from the Op.39 No.5. The first part is the beautiful opening with the main melody, and then a small fade out as i brough in the absolutely divine climax of the etude (if this doesnt bring tears to your eyes, i dont know what will) where he recapitulates the main theme in the left hand along with typical vintage rachmaninoff chords in the right hand. Just magnificent:

So, why did Ogdon have this effect suddenly on me? I dont know. There is no secret that he was one of the trugly greats of all time, in terms of his technical wizardry on the piano. But he also had a highly musical sense. Why try and dissect a beautiful thing? He was genius. That is what genius, someone who can give you somethign that no other can.

He somehow is able to produce a sound so clear that you can hear every single note, and yet at the same the volume of sound he generates is incredible. He holds the entire piece, which is not exactly easy, so coherent thanks to his technical facility that he can actually attend to the musicality with more ease perhaps than others. and finally there is his insight. Taht is the intangible.

Anyways, sadly, as is too often the case, his life was marred by tragedy. The gentle giant that he was, he underwent a severe mental breakdown in the 70′s and was hospitalized for many years. When he finally came back out, in ’83, he was different, although he continued to play and record (along them his high praised recording of Sorabji’s famous, or rather infamous, Opus Clavicembalisticum, almost 5 hours long, and arguably the most difficult piece ever written for the piano).

Here is a very nice documentary on John Ogdon, found on youtube. Enjoy:

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It has become – at least for me – impossible to seperate Paris, Amelie Poulain, and Yann Tiersen‘s Music (even though he is originally from Bretagne). What the two latter part of that tripod give me is in inexplicable sense of happiness without reason, without argument. That is true in fact with much Tiersen’s Music. Here is one of my absolute favourite pieces – if not THE favourite – called “La Noyee” (the drowned person), which is an apt title, because it certainly is able unleash a dam of tears each and every single time, not because of sadness or happiness, but because … i dont know why!


03:56 – April 01, 2007

[tags]yann, tiersen, amelie, poulain, paris, music, accordion[/tags]

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I had one of those moments in life which are as beautiful as they are rare, when you are truly MOVED by something. 

Have you ever wondered what the Slogan of this blog means, when it says:

Never stop being amazed

It’s not a cheesy line from a sports shoe advertisement. Even if it has been made into that, it is not meant in that spirit.  Nor has at anything to do with the content of the blog. Not really. It’s a philosophy and way of life.  While that is an entire discussion unto itself, the idea is that one lives in a way that you are surprised at all times.  Can you imagine it? you can be surprised at the most simple of things.  Think how full of wonder the world becomes, every single moment?

To achieve this, we must unlearn everything we know, and most importantly, MOST IMPORTANTLY, live without expectations.  I cannot tell you how many times in my life this has hit me.  Whenever (almost without fail) i have gone into someting with expectations, i have been disappointed.  On the other hand, the most amazing, memorable and pleasants moments of my life, are when i have gone into an event without the slightest expectation. 

Many of these such incidents have been when i’ve gone to a concert not knowing what to expect.  The first was the first time i went to a piano recital.  It was the immitable Vladimir Ashkenazy.  He was playing the piano sonata no. 17 of beethoven (the tempest), which i’d never heard.  By the end of that piece i was felt nearly out of my body.  Another such incident was the first time i heard the 3rd piano concerto of Rachmaninoff live, being played by at-the-time-unknown-to-me russian virtuoso Boris Berezovsky. It was as though Rachmaninoff had been reincarnated.  I could list some others, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

One of the greatest things about living in Paris, is the fact that on any given night of the week, there are at least 3 or 4 classical concerts, either free or quite cheap in various churches or small theatres.  Tuesday nite i went to the small but nice Salle Cortot, because there was a program of 3 young pianists, playing around 30 minutes each.  It was free, and some of the pieces were ones which try to not to miss a chance at seeing live (there was a chopin scherzo, rachmaninoff’s vocalise, etc.) but there were also some pieces i didn’t know, or didn’t care for.

The first kid, 17-year russian, did some liszt and rachmaninoff, with more theatrics than should be allowed at his age.  Technically he was fine, but nothign moving. But then again i wasn’t expecting anything of that order from a bunch of no-names.  The second was a japanese-american girl of 21, a prize-winner at some smaller scale international competitions.  She was alreayd much better than the russian teenager.  Her chopin scherzo was commendable if not memorable.  She also played an apparently famous piano sonata by Samuel Barber (1949) which i had not heard about, but was pleasantly surprised by (because i can’t stand much of modern classical pieces). 

The last pianist of the night was a round-faced bony-cheek young Jie Chen.  Much like the others, and not surprisingly, she was an unknown name.  A petite and delicate little lady.  The first piece on her list was a Busoni transcription of a Bach Chaconne.  While i had heard of ‘the chaconne’ before, i’d always glossed over it.  I shouldn’t have. From the first note she played i knew somethign was going to happen.  Ironically enough during the first two pianists performances i was casually wondering to myself, what is it that sets one pianist apart, makes one stand out in yoru memory and the other not? And i was unconciously lamenting the fact that it had been some time since i’d truly been moved during a performance of live classical music (despite the long list of world famous performers i’d seen in teh past two years). 

There is something about Bach.  There is one Bach, and only one.  No other composer is like Bach.  No other composer of his own era, nor of any other era quite has what he has. It’s not even something expressible.  He was/is visionary.  He wrote baroque music but he was so far ahead of his time, with a voice so unique and so beautiful, that i dont know if you can even put him in that era.  For me, this aspect of Bach sometimes comes out when other composers of other eras take his music and adapt it.  The best example i can think of this, is the Liszt’s transcription and varaitions on Bach’s “weinen, klagen, sorgen, zagen” cantata.  It is a divine piece of music. other examples could include the motif for Brahms beautiful and haunting fourth symphony.

One of the modern composers who had a great relationship with Bach, was the italian supervirtuoso Feruccio Busoni.  He did numerous transcriptions for piano of Bach, cantatas, chorale preludes.  The haunting Chaconne in D minor, is one of them.  The original, part of the Partita number 2, is a visionary piece of music for the violin.  The Busoni transcription is just as incredible, possibly even more beautiful, becuase of the richness of the piano sound.

And so i sat there, stunned for 12 minutes, unable to help the tears welling up in my eyes, feeling my entire body vibrating, about to float away. I am so glad i had no idea to expect that.

Thank you Jie Chen.

So, now for you listening pleasure, Here is the lovely and incredibly talented french pianist Helene Grimaud performing the Bach-Busoni Chaconne in Dm (BWV 1004) (turn your lights off, and just sit back and listen):

[dailymotion 4dL1FSavD82u75OYS]

And here is violin original by the legendary Jascha Heifetz

[tags]classical music, piano, bach, busoni, chaconne, grimaud, heifetz[/tags]

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Yesterday, sadly, Legendary Russian cellist who became one of the symbols of the resistance against Soviet rule, the man who played his cello at the berlin wall as it came down,  Mstislav Rostropovich, died at the age of 80. 

It always feels so sad, when a wonderful musician of his kind dies.  But we shoudl remember that it was a privilege to be alive when he was and to be able to hear him. 

And regardless, musicians such Rostropovich never die, because they will live on through their music

01:59 – September 16, 2006
01:59 – January 16, 2007

[tags]slava, rostropovich, mistislav, russia, cello, cellist, [/tags]

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All those who celebrate NOEL, happy holidays to you!!

For our musical interlude today, a vintage bit of that clown prince of the piano, Victor Borge.  I’ve got a lot of other good stuff from this guy, he’s jsut wonderful.

08:14 – October 28, 2006

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I’ve decided there is simply not enough music on this blog, especially when music is such an important part of my own life.  So i am going to have regular musical intervals, mostly classical, mostly piano, mostly things i wish i could play and i can’t yet. (i must be careful that it is not mostly Evgeny kissin either),

So for our first interlude, Here is evgeny kissin interpreting one of Scriabian’s most beautiful Etudes (Op. 8 No. 12).  It is not the ultimate interpretation (that is reserved for Horowitz in his 1987 return to moscow concert), but still it is very beautifully done.

08:57 – April 20, 2006

[tags]scriabin, etude, kissin, evgeny, piano, pianist, performance, concert, recital, classical[/tags]

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Beautiful Words

Malheureusement, on vie dans une monde ou l’arbre qui tombe fait plus de bruit qu’un forêt qui pousse.

(English Translation: Ufortunately we live in a world where the one tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows)

I heard Abd Al Malik say these in and interview yesterday. He is an award winning french rap artist and a fascinating character and an intellectual.  He has a life history which is just as fascinating. 

This was his answer regarding a question regarding the riots that took place last year in the rough suburbs of paris and the whole idea of the mal-integration of the people from arabic and african origins into the french society.  There is no response which could be more apt, beautiful and simple.  Especially one that comes from someone who lived and grew up in one such neighbourhood.

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Jack White and the Raconteurs

DUDE!!! i didn’t know but Jack White has a new band called The Raconteurs. I just saw it on Conan O’brien. And not surprisingly, it’s pretty damn good.

Wow, Does this mean that the White Stripes are no more??

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  • Filed under: Music
  • 25 steps to The Blues

    Finally, It has arrived. It is here. We have it now. Ladies and gentlemen, i present you: How to Sing the Blues.

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  • Filed under: Music
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