Tuesday, October 12, 2010

free but alone

In the economic downturn I have gone back to music making and music education as best as I can. As the other avenues of gainful employment dry up, it seems that music takes over.
So with that mind I work diligently at my craft. Improving my technique. Renewing my acquaintance to the viola, playing old rep to get it back in my fingers and of course learning NEW rep.

Yes even at this advanced age, I learn new repertoire. When I was young, there was nothing I wanted more than to play Paganini, and when I was a teen there was nothing more that I wanted to play than the big pieces like the Brahms Concerto or the Sibelius Concerto. Now with some level of maturity I find that I gain great pleasure in the little things. A sonata by Mozart is perfection in a small box.

One such example of perfection is the Schumann Intermezzo. The story goes that Schumann came up with the idea of writing a collaborative work with his student Albert Dietrich and the young but talented composer Johannes Brahms. The work was to be a gift for the celebrated violinist Joseph Joachim. Dietrich was to write the 1st movt, Brahms the 3rd movt and Schumann the 2nd and 4th all based on Joachim’s personal motto “Frei aber einsam” (free but alone), thus represented by the notes FAE. Joachim was to be presented with the work and then asked to play it and figure out who wrote which movement.

Joachim sightread the work and without much difficulty figured out who wrote what.
The movement we all have played as violinists is the Brahms Scherzo

The roughness in the slashing nature seems to fire up the younger instrumentalist. However now that I am older I have no interest in this movement.

But then I found the Schumann Intermezzo

To me the small 2 minute piece is pure beauty.

Joachim kept the manuscript private and did not let the work be published till after the death of all the composers. Schumann actually took the two movements he wrote and cobbled them together to make another sonata of his own. However as a single entity, I find the Intermezzo curiously satisfying.

Even when I face the difficulty of forging ahead with a music career that lacks horse power in a market that is ever shrinking, such music provides me with enough joy to continue.

Friday, October 8, 2010

ay marimba

Many years ago, when both Sir Arthur and Mr Spiggott were doing our undergraduate work in the Greater New York area (Mr Spiggott at Columbia and Sir Arthur....ahem elsewhere), I went to Manhattan to visit Mr. Spiggott. We were to go to Juilliard to watch the Juilliard orchestra perform one of their numerous concerts. The soloist was to be a marimba player. Now as musicians we know there are VERY few CLASSICAL pieces for the marimba. As a jazz instrument its cousin the vibraphone has a much bigger range and for me the timbre of the instrument is much BETTER suited to the jazz idiom.

So it was that we would be listening to, for the umpteenth millionth time, the Paul Creston Marimba Concerto.

I looked it up, the year was 1993 and since then i have still heard no other marimba concerto OTHER than the Paul Creston.

So it came as a surprise when I saw the following link on Youtube:

Certainly this young lady does a GREAT job trying to convey the spirit of the piece, however it is hard for me to take seriously the repeated notes.

It does however work better on the accordion:

I have come to be good friends with a number of REALLY great accordion players and have heard them play mozart sonatas, Bach Chaconne all manner of crazy things on their instrument.

As a violinist I do love transcriptions, but please tell the marimba players to stick to the creston and let the transcribing to the accordion players or the Yamaha Electone

I think I want to hire this lady to accompany me the next time I want to play a concerto

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the viola matic

Violists are indeed the butt of most music jokes. When we were in college, we had thought about assembling all the viola jokes and finding someone to publish them. If I had found a publisher, I might have made a quick buck but I might also never get hired for a gig with a violist again.

In this small video I can assure you no violists were injured: