Monthly Archives: September 2015

Remembering Gandhi’s Anniversary in Song and Verse

Bapu

Mahatma Gandhi (“Bapuji”)
– Father of the Nation –
b. October 2, 1869 – d. January 30, 1948
[Sketch by 13-year old Atul Tandon in 1994]

The song below was composed by me to
the commemorative verse “Peace”
written in 1994 by my late mother
Zenobia Lewis Mayadas

By clicking on the hotlink below, you will be able to follow the words along with the music.

Gandhi Birthday

Andante con moto
Peace and harmony
So good for ones soul.
Love and Unity
These should be our goal.
Gandhiji taught us,
non-violence will win
Destruction and wars
in God’s sight a sin.
He won our freedom
Without sword or strife,
So spread his message
For a peaceful, fruitful life.
Animato
See social justice,
Reaches the oppress’d
Tolerance, mercy
Towards the depress’d
God’s gift of Nature,
Brings peace to mankind,
It heals his sorrows,
It soothes his mind.
Spend golden moments
In meditation
And social service
To serve the nation.
A tempo
Unity is strength,
The need of the hour –
Our massive nation
Needs this for its power.
Seek cultural values
With justice and truth
For human rights strive
It’s bound to bear fruit.
Animato
Friendship with nations
a trial is well worth
Most of us desire
goodwill, peace on earth.
A tempo
Peace with dignity
is everybody’s dream
Peace and Unity –
these must reign supreme.

________________________________

 Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Autumn Turning Trees – and Heads!

‘Twas in the Fall of 1981 – after returning from a three-year orchestral stint in South Florida (a state I remember temperature-wise as being blessed with three seasons: warm, warmer and hot) – that I first experienced the dazzling power of autumnal Nature in the Northeast.

At the time, I kept a spiral notebook on the green cover of which I had scrawled 1981-82, and the first entries cover the month of October 1981 in three segments:

A. Early turning trees
B. Early-to-middle turning trees
C. Late turning trees

And here they are in the order of their colors as I observed at the time:
A.  October 9 – 11
SUMAC                  red to purple
SHABLOW           reddish to bronze
WILLOWS            yellow – green (below)
WeepingWillow
ASHES                  yellow – green
LOCUST              ——–do——–
BLACK GUM      ——–do——–

B. October 16 – 18
maplejpgSUGAR MAPLE bronze, orange and red

[My favorite pix – alongside and its leaves below – as I simply adore maple syrup atop various goodies on the breakfast table or at Darjeeling teatime.]mapleleaves

SASSAFRASS    orange to scarlet
CHERRY             reddish
SOUR GUM       brilliant red (below)

Sour Gum TupeloBIRCH                yellow
HICKORY          yellow

C.  October (late)
OAKS                dark red to brown

WHITE ASH    yellow (alongside)White Ash

PEACH             yellow to bronze

CHEMISTRY
Due to diminishing daylight hours and dropping night temperatures (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) chemical processes in the leaves slow down: these involve three pigments – chlorophyll, carotinids and anthocyanines.

Briefly, with less light, a tiny layer of new cells develops at the base of each leaf, cutting off its water supply, and decomposing chlorophyll (that gives leaves their green look.) As a result, carotinids become more pronounced coloring some trees orange and yellow.

Also, sugar produced by other leaves is converted into anthocyanine, which turns leaves bright red and purple.

So there you have it – chemistry lesson’s over!

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

 

Harvest Moon and the Fall

Harvest Moon 2015

Triple Whammy of Blood Moon, Super Moon and Harvest Moon 2015!

The NASA photo alongside, taken the night of September 27, 2015, says it all.

The very phrase ‘harvest moon’ brings to my mind a haiku by the poet Kikaku, albeit in a different time and place – my English transcreation follows the original Japanese:

Meigetsu ya:
tatami-no ue ni
matsu-no-kage

Harvest moon-shine:
On straw mats the pine
Shadows entwine

The same phrase evokes the approach of Fall and its effect on Nature here on terra firma. Once again, I’m beholden to a Japanese poet, Priest Saigyō, who wrote  a tanka – a traditional Japanese poetic form – that I have attempted to transcreate by capturing its sound and sense in the following lines :

Crickets a-chirpful:
With the nights becoming chill
And th’approach of Fall,
Their voices begin to go
And ever more distant grow.

[The poetry of Saigyō (1100-1241 A.D.) is well-known for its clearness and simplicity, and especially for its appreciation of nature and life. He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest masters of tanka poetry and his life and works became the subject matter of many narratives, plays, and puppet dramas.]

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Father and Son Duo – David and Igor Oistrakh!

Igor OistrakhI’ll reverse the order and begin with the son, Igor. As Concert Manager of the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra in the 1970’s, I invited him to be the soloist in a concert as part of its 51st Winter Concert Series beginning September 22, 1973 (program cover shown alongside.)

Igor was then 42 years old and already a world-class virtuoso violinist following in the footsteps of his renowned father, David.

 

[Igor and David often played together, deeply impressing their audiences with their near-perfect ensemble playing in works by Bach, Vivaldi and others. Indeed, it has been said that their duo sounds like the playing of a single violin.]

After the sold-out concert, Igor autographed a number  of programs including mine.

IgorAutograph

He then repaired to the Mayadas residence in Ballygunge, Calcutta, for a gala reception attended  by the Governor of West Bengal and other dignitaries.  When he arrived in the porch of the driveway, my wife Lolita and I were there to welcome him. He stepped out with his violin case in hand, and to help him exit gracefully, I took the case and slung it over my right shoulder, which almost suffered a dislocation! Apparently, to ensure the safety of his valuable instrument during his world travels, he had placed it in a custom-made solid Soviet steel casing weighing a ton! Nevertheless, his companion – also Igor, his accompanying pianist  – jumped in betwixt us and deftly removed the offending object. It took awhile before I was able to intermingle with the guests and handle a Scotch and soda without spilling its contents.

Igor Oistrakh and Azim Lewis

Igor Oistrakh and Azim at a post-concert gala reception held at Azim and Lolita’s residence in Calcutta, 1973

During the lively party, and through an interpreter, I was able to inform Igor that – purely by accident – I had met his father, David, 15 years earlier on my way to Bucharest for the 1958 Georges Enescu Music Festival. My flight from India to Rumania had without adequate warning to the passengers been diverted to Sofia, Bulgaria. It was just before landing there that the intercom came alive and we were informed that an important personage, who had missed his connection earlier due to bad weather, was being picked up. Who was it? Igor asked. David Oistrakh! I replied. His son split his sides in laughter.

David, it turned out, was attending the same Festival as I was, but he was due to perform the Bach Double Violin Concerto with Yehudi Menuhin the very next night, while I was merely an honored guest of the Festival. On landing at the airport, David was welcomed by Festival officials, and I was asked to hop into the Russian Zim limo as well. All’s well that ends well!  The performance I recalled later on was a unique blend of two striking personalities interacting with each other that resulted in an immensely satisfying musical experience.

Oistrakh

For the record, David was born on September 30, 1908, so his birth anniversary is next week. In honor of that I end with a 1967 video of his playing a particular favorite of his – the riveting cadenza from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto, Op. 99. The composer in 1955 had dedicated the work to David, who gave the première performance in Leningrad on October the 29th. The cadenza gives considerable attention to an ostinato figure on which the passacaglia for the third movement (Andante) is built upon.

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Henryk – Multilingual Musician’s Musician

Henryk Szeryng was born in Żelazowa Wola, Poland, on 22 September 1918 into a wealthy Jewish family. [The surname “Szeryng” is a Polish transliteration of his Yiddish surname, which nowadays would be spelled “Shering” in the modern Yiddish-to-English transliteration.] I had the distinct pleasure of visiting that small village, lying 29 miles west of Warsaw and with a population of less than a 100, when I attended a music festival in the Polish capital. I didn’t realize at the time that apart from being the birthplace of Frédéric Chopin, Żelazowa Wola – with its picturesque Masovian landscape, including numerous winding streams surrounded by willows and hills and the Utrata River – was also where Henryk Szeryng first saw the light of day.

Henryk_Szeryng_(1964)Henryk started piano and harmony lessons with his mother when he was 5, and at age 7 turned to the violin, receiving instruction from Maurice Frenkel. He then studied in Berlin with Carl Flesch (1929–32) who immediately recognized his talent. On to Paris where he  continued his studies with Jacques Thibaud at the Conservatory, graduating with a premier prix in 1937.  By that time, Henryk’s playing was already powerful and his technique brilliant. He seemed to be sensitive to every nuance and played with a bright tone and a convincing expressiveness.

Many years later I met with Henryk in an official capacity. As the General Manager of the Florida Philharmonic in Miami, I had booked him as one of our featured performers for the Winter Season and was at the International Airport to receive him off the airliner and take him to his hotel. The next couple of days he seemed to mix seamlessly with the people of that mostly Spanish-speaking city and with the multiethnic musicians on stage during rehearsals. I then realized he was amazingly multilingual, being fluent in seven languages. Indeed, it was that rare gift that influenced General Wladyslaw Sikorski – the Premier of the Polish government in exile – to ask him to serve as his liaison officer and interpreter. When he accompanied Sikorski on a mission to Mexico in 1941 seeking a home for 4,000 Polish refugees, the positive reception moved Szeryng so deeply that he decided to become a  naturalized Mexican citizen, and did so in 1946.

In 1960, Szeryng was named Mexican Cultural Ambassador. In 1966, by which time he had moved to Paris, he was designated Honorary Director of the Conservatory of Music in Mexico City, and a Henryk Szeryng Music Festival was held in his honor in that city. He returned to Mexico twice a year and traveled on a diplomatic passport as Mexico’s official cultural ambassador, but lived in Paris for two decades, then spent his last five years in Monaco.

Szeryng died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Kassel, Germany, on 3 March 1988. He was buried at Cimetiére de Monaco, the headstone bearing the concluding bars of the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No.2 for Solo Violin (Henryk’s Version on YouTube. )

Sources: Violins and Violinists by Franz Farga; Wikipedia; Azim’s Personal Notes.

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Antonín Dvořák – the Most Versatile Composer of His Time!

dvorakAntonín Leopold Dvořák (September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904) was a composer born in Muehlhausen in then Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic.) Following the example of Bedřich Smetana, Dvořák frequently employed aspects, specifically rhythms, of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvořák’s own style has been described as ‘the fullest re-creation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them’.

Dvořák displayed his musical gifts at an early age, being an apt student of violin playing from age 6. The first public performances of his works were in Prague in 1872. Then,  in 1874, he first made a submission for the Austrian State Prize for Composition, including scores of two further symphonies and other works. Brahms, unbeknownst to Dvořák, was the leading member of the jury and was highly impressed. The prize was awarded to Dvořák for 1874 and again in 1876 and in 1877, when Brahms and the prominent critic Eduard Hanslick, also a member of the jury, made themselves known to him. Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, Simrock, who soon afterward commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances,  Op. 46. IMG_0371

These were highly praised by the Berlin music critic Louis Ehlert in 1878, the sheet music (of the original piano 4-hands version) had excellent sales, and Dvořák’s international reputation at last was launched.

Dvořák’s first piece of a religious nature, his setting of Stabat Mater, was premiered in Prague in 1880. It was very successfully performed in London in 1883, leading to many other performances in the United Kingdom and United States. In his career, Dvořák made nine invited visits to England, often conducting performances of his own works. His Seventh Symphony was written for London. After a brief conducting stint in Russia in 1890, Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory in 1891. In 1890-91, he wrote his Dumky Trio one of his most successful  chamber music pieces. In 1892, Dvořák moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City.  While in the United States, Dvořák wrote his two most successful orchestral works. The Symphony From the New World spread his reputation worldwide. His Cello Concerto is one of the two or three most highly regarded of all cello concerti. Also, he wrote his American String Quartet, his most appreciated piece of chamber music. But shortfalls in payment of his salary, along with increasing recognition in Europe and an onset of homesickness, led him to leave the United States in 1895 and return to Bohemia.

Dvořák’s ten operas all have librettos in Czech and were intended to convey the Czech national spirit, as were some of his choral works. By far the most successful of the operas is Rusalka. Among his smaller works, “Songs my Mother Taught Me” is sung here on YouTube by Jeannette McDonald: https://youtu.be/rlfLaFZLltk 
IMG_0376and his Humoresque No 7 – heard here as a piano solo on a YouTube version: https://youtu.be/WmAZoexenx8 – is particularly famous; it is an infectious, whimsical piece, which is also familiar in transcriptions, and belongs to a set of eight compositions, Op. 101 (1884).

Because so many of his compositions, classic and light, are widely performed and recorded, he has been described as “arguably the most versatile… composer of his time.”

Sources: Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen;
Wikipedia; Azim’s Personal Notes.

Afterword
It was on February 22, 2012, that Lolita and I spent quality time during our fortnight in the Czech capital, Prague, visiting the beautifully appointed  Dvořak Museum so full of the composer’s memorabilia and artifacts pertaining to his creative process. There were instruments and manuscripts galore, as well as black-and-white and sepia-toned photos of his trips abroad, especially to England and the USA. I took the pictures shown above of two of his published composition-covers, namely, Slavonic Dance and Humoresque.

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas


End of Summer Memories – in Sketches!

From one’s childhood onward, it’s not uncommon to hear ad nauseam that a picture is worth a thousand words. May I interject:  We may be heading inexorably toward the long Labor Day Weekend, that putative end-of-summer big event; it entices amateurs and professionals to whip out their photographic gizmos to record the sublime to the ridiculous of families enjoying the fading rays of summer on vacation.

But, and that’s a big but,  for there are certain times of the year that may resonate more resoundingly – is that a tautology? Times that foreshadow the good times to come before the inevitable denouement in September. In my book, memorializing those meaningful lazy days means not shooting ad lib with a video cam or  clicking with a digital camera as we are wont to do these days, but reliving those magical times by putting pen to paper literally so as to record a memory of an unforgettable scene or two. No! Not for me an iPad, nor an iPhone or other whiz-bang modern device: each of them cannot quite capture what’s in ones mind’s eye when viewing a sight that is a rarity to behold.

Such was the case in the summer of 1952 when I, in company with other members of the Swiss Club of CentYMCA,  the Central Young Men’s Christian Association in London, went on a fortnight’s trip to the Alps, taking in parts of Austria. For me the vacation proved to be exhilarating, because it gave me the singular opportunity of exploring some of the mountainous terrain in an around Innsbruck and the Inns Valley, as well as making an excursion to the capital, Vienna.

Innsbruck Austrian Sketchbook 1952

15th-21st June 1952
Innsbruck View of Left-wing of Hofburg from across the Renweg Square

Inns Valley Austrian Sketchbook 1952

 

Vienna Austrian Sketchbook 1952Inns Valley View looking up the Inns Valley from Gasthof Hochbrunn (Arburg bei Schwaz)

 

21st-25th June 1952
View of the Ehg. Karl Denkmal (foreground) and the Kunsthist. Museum (background) from the Heldenplatz

 

Afterword
62 years earlier, my granduncle Sam Atham never failed to record his peregrinations in Europe (1893-1890) in pen and ink.

SAMHUMOR

The examples above are typical of his humorous greeting cards he mailed to India from Europe: they clearly indicate that he surpassed his grandnephew in the art of drawing.

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Stella – ‘Star of India’ Art

Painted Delight

My wife, Lolita and I, were paying one of our not infrequent visits to Philadelphia, when we took the opportunity of – once again – visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art. [That venerable institution is one of three in the Northeast that we as a family keep on our must-see radar screen, the others being the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Boston Art Museum.]

The occasion in 1986 was the exhibition Painted Delight, a dazzling show of 138 jewel-like miniature Mughal paintings put together masterfully by the emeritus curator of Indian art, Stella Kramrisch, who was then just four months shy of 90. stellaThis was to be her last curated show; she died at her home near Philadelphia on September 2, 1993, and this posting is in memory of an incomparable scholar of international repute for more than half a century. And be it noted,  that people in India treat Stella virtually as a Star of India, a goddess. Also, the Republic of India bestowed on her its Padma Bhushan, the third highest  civilian award, in 1982.

                                                                                                               b. May 29, 1896 – d.September 2, 1993

Not to be outdone, the Smithsonian Institution in 1985 awarded her the prestigious Charles Lang Freer Medal.

Professor Kramrisch’s sterling effort was to ensure that every one of those 138 paintings on display dating from the 15th to the 19th century came from a Philadelphia collection. No wonder then that the three-month run, as part of the overall Festival of India 1986, drew attention to the fact that during Stella’s 18-year curatorial tenure, the Art Museum had become one of the leading American repositories of Indian art.

A bit of background is necessary for you to understand Professor Kramrisch’s place in the scheme of all things pertaining to the art of India, with particular focus on the life and times of the 16th century Mughal Emperor Akbar.  So here goes….Akbar

Born in Mikulov, Austria, on May 29, 1896, Stella Kramrisch was about 10 when her parents moved to Vienna. One day she came across a translation of the Bhagavadgita , (lit. “Song of the Lord”),  a 700-verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata.: “I was so impressed it took my breath away.” She had found what she wanted to do in her life.
She enrolled at the University of Vienna, studying Indian art, Sanskrit, anthropology and Indian philosophy, and earned her doctorate of philosophy in Vienna in 1919. When she became the first professor of Indian art at the University of Calcutta in 1923 and published “Principles of Indian Art” in 1924, Professor Kramrisch laid the foundations for the systematic study of Indian art.

She personified that in-depth study in a series of books that followed: “Indian Sculpture” (1932), “A Survey of Painting in the Deccan” (1937), “Indian Terracottas” (1939),
“The Hindu Temple” (1946) and “Arts and Crafts of Travancore” (1948).
Hindu Temple
From 1932 to 1950 the professor co-edited the Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art. From 1937 to 1941 she lectured on Indian art at the Courtauld Institute in London. In 1950 she moved to the United States, where she was both professor of South Asian art at the University of Pennsylvania, and curator of Indian art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1964 she was appointed professor of Indian art at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.     

 The Hindu Temple Cover

Sources: Stella Kramisch, Wikipedia, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas