Roni's Journal

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Composition: Piano Concerto for a student

I composed the first movement to a piano concerto for a student (Masha, 10 years old). It's in the Viennese classical style.

Download score: piano part.

I think that playing scales and arpeggios is more fun when they are in the right context.

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Ken tells an amazing story on ensemble playing.

... cello guy totally lost the plot- he couldn't line up his triplets with the syncopated rhythm in the inner voices.

[The 1st violinist] and I started banging our heads like 16 year-olds at a Metalica concert to show the pulse. She glared straight into his eyes like the emissary of death and you could see her mouth moving with viper like precision – "one-two-thre-four-five-six!" and so on.

Amazing story, but I find that those players who can deliver a good performance again and again are the best, and deserve the corresponding title. We often hear and see one-time outstanding performances, and not only in music, but other arts as well (figure skating for example). We then expect the said performer to get better each time, only to find him or her to be really very average. The public doesn't tolerate such disappointments, nor do the critics who prefer fresh meat.

But, nevertheless, well done - on that night!

Of course I agree with you, but there is an entire category of "tales of the unexpected," whether great artists falling flat in concert or not-so-great ones rising to the occasion. I can think of a few truly great musicians where I either love or loathe their performances just based on how much coffee they seem to have had. The ability is always there, but the energy may wax and wane...

So often, it comes down to something as simple as will - great performers have it, almost without exception. In this case, you had two of us who were absolutely determined not to let the thing go south. We were able to pull him up, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that by making us dig so deep, he got us to give more of ourselves than we knew we could. Would I ask him to do it again to try and acheive the same result - no!!!!! But I now know there is something attainable in that passage that I didn't know about before, which I'll have to try to make happen next time.

As it is, I've got plenty of strange tales of concert happenings to share here - hopefully they make an interesting case study of performance issue.

You are right, but you know, with the greatest performers - who are musicians in the full sense of the word - I always find myself so immersed in the music, having to mentally take myself out of it to be able to actually listen to what’s going on, technically. A few minutes later - same thing - I forget myself and the world around. That’s what leaves me literally “speechless”. Not with the average concerts - they get the critique they deserve!

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Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Beethoven - Mitsuko Uchida, Paul Lewis

Patrick reviews Uchida's rendition of Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' sonata.

I wonder what will Uchida's 'Moonlight' Sonata be like?

I have also not got my copy of Paul Lewis playing it, but I have heard it in a recording of his concert. The first two movements were ok. The Presto agitato - not.

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Sunday, 23 September 2007

Hélène Grimaud cancels concert because of piano pedal

Mostlyopera quotes:

Because of a controversy over the middle pedal of a piano the pianist Hélène Grimaud called off a gala concert with the Staatskapelle Dresden briefly before the beginning in Prague on Saturday. The 37-old pianist surprisingly required the organizers of the festival “Prager herbst” on Saturday to adjust the middle pedal. "Since the piano belongs to the Czech Philharmonic Concert Hall, the Festival Management does not have mandate to make such a change", said Festival executive Pavel Spiroch. Helene Grimaud, who is considered to be one of the best pianists in the world, thereupon canceled the appearance. On the program was piano concert No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven. Many of the visitors, having traveled a long way to attend this performance expressed both disappointment and anger, when they were informed of the cancellation before the locked doors of the Concert Hall, claiming the whole incident to be a farce. "The piano is one of the best in Prague", said Philharmonic Concert Hall leader Vaclav Riedlbauch. The Staatskapelle Dresden did not want to offer only half a concert to the public and therefore the entire concert was canceled.

Professional pianists use the middle pedal a lot, especially in fast piano passages.

But this particular cancellation may indicate that something deeper was going on between Hélène Grimaud and the management. The pedal was just one of the better reasons that the public might accept better.

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Friday, 21 September 2007

Beethoven - 'Moonlight' Sonata

Beethoven's "Moonlight sonata", a name coined by German music critic Ludwig Rellstab after Beethoven's death, is one of the most widely known classical music pieces, and has been since it was composed some 200 years ago.

But let us examine it more closely and look at the facts surrounding the piece, find past and future musical connections and, of course, compare and choose the best recordings of the sonata.

Read on: detailed analysis of Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata, and a comprehensive recordings review, all with audio examples.

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Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The classical music world

After reading another one of these "classical music is dying" discussions, I replied:

Many people have no clue about what is going on with the classical music world. The classical music world doesn't really care.

It's not that today's audience is less classical music oriented. It's the young generation that is, and always has been - young people of all times, even hundreds of years ago, were always into popular music - and as people get older, they get to know more classical music, and at some point realise that it's "their thing". Then they try to bestow this 'knowledge' upon their children, and when they fail, they say that classical music is dying.

Grow up!


Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The perfect musical composition

What is a perfect musical composition?

Is it, like the perfect chess game, a 'combination' yet to be found by a computer some time in the not so distant future?

Is it silence?


A perfect musical composition is simply a piece that sounds "just right". It has the perfect balance between the melodic and harmonic shape. If you change or take out even one note from such a piece, you will disturb this balance, and it will no longer be perfect.

When you hear a perfect musical composition, you may feel that you have already heard it before, although you haven't.

So, is there a perfect musical composition out there in the classical music world? Yes. Mozart wrote a few hundred of such. Beethoven also tried. But there aren't that many out there.

Is this 'perfectness' an impartial property? Mostly. The more developed a musician is, the better he or she can notice the imperfections, the weaknesses.

Unfortunately, a bad performance of a piece can greatly affect one's judgement. A performance should conform strictly to the composer's instructions, while being musically alive.

Time is a great 'selector' of perfect musical compositions. Time passes and discards mostly everything. Only the best survives. Unfortunately, not the other way around – many perfect musical compositions were lost amidst the local 'noise' never to resurface again.

The greatest known composers were and remain great not because the public 'loves' them today, but because they have passed the test of time. Mostly, they have passed the test of later great composers. These later composers knew what they were 'selecting'. The public didn't and doesn't.

Most people are wrong about why is any one of the great composers a great composer. Reasons such as 'heavenly music', 'great influence', 'sheer number of works', 'immense popularity' are all wide off the mark. The main factor is the musical perfection achieved by the composer in his compositions.

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