Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Fierce Urgency of Now

MLKI was in the midst of improvising on the piano this past weekend, when unbidden a tantalizing phrase leaped out of my subconscious mind that wouldn’t leave me until I abandoned the instrument and wrote it down on my computer. There followed a stream of consciousness that in turn led me inexorably to my Yamaha MIDI: there in fairly short order I composed an impromptu piece with an incessant, almost fierce, undercurrent of repeated notes in the left hand, leading to a contemplative midsection of peace and quietude. Not for long, because something within me demanded that I return without delay to the urgency of now.

I recall that some years ago in my native India I was moved to compose a song in remembrance of the late Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Peace” on the anniversary of his assassination. As is well known, Mahatma GandhiGandhi led India to independence through nonviolent civil disobedience.  I was fully aware of the role that movement had  played in another iconic world figure’s life – that of Martin Luther King, Jr., whom I had long admired for his role in the civil rights of  African-Americans in my future home, these United States. So, perhaps, it is not surprising that on a certain day in October 2015, those two remembrances coincided to spark my creative effort in composing “The Fierce Urgency of Now” subtitled Impromptu in B-flat  Minor.

Dear Readers,
You number over 16,000 since January 2015, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $5.00, $10.00, $15.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

________________________________________

The Lisztian Leslie

I speak of a prolific Lisztian exponent on the 204th birth anniversary of the great composer on October 22, 1811. The Australian whose recordings of Franz Liszt are legendary is Leslie Howard. Leslie Howard 2009In 1986, to mark the centenary of Franz Liszt’s death, he gave a series of ten Liszt recitals in London’s Wigmore Hall. By excluding Liszt’s arrangements (fantasies and transcriptions) of other composers’ works, and by selecting only the final versions of Liszt’s original works for solo piano, Howard was able to represent Liszt’s entire solo piano oeuvre in ten mammoth recital programmes.  He has been described by The Guardian as “a master of a tradition of pianism (that is) in serious danger of dying out”.                                                                                                              b. April 29, 1948

The series ran at first to 94 full-length CDs, and earned Howard a place in the Guinness Book Of Records for completion of the largest recording project ever undertaken by a solo recording artist (including pop artists). (The second volume of works for piano and orchestra included a bonus disc, not counted in the series numbering, which contained Ungarische Zigeunerweisen, a work for piano and orchestra by Liszt’s favourite female student Sophie Menter: Liszt’s exact involvement in the work is unknown, but he probably helped Menter in the composition of the solo part in the year before his death; the work was orchestrated seven years later by Menter’s friend Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who conducted Menter in the premiere the following year).
The last disc of the Liszt series was recorded in December 1998, and released on October 22, 1999, Liszt’s birthday anniversary. Since completion of the project, three supplementary volumes were released (the third of which is a double CD) as further Liszt manuscripts came to light. The total number of CDs in the series is now 99.
A boxed set containing all 99 discs was issued by Hyperion Records in 2011 in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Liszt. On a personal note, I have in my CD collection Leslie’s recording for Hyperion of The Late Pieces, a total of 30 pieces many of which are seldom heard on the concert stage. Of note are first recordings of 3 pieces – Abschied: Russisches Volkslied, Der blind Sanger, and Ungarns Gott.
For your delectation, I’ve selected one of my favorites, St. Francis Walking on the Water, in which the ebb and flow of the waves is portrayed realistically: it is performed here by Leslie Howard in this YouTube recording: Legende No 2 St Francois de Paule, S175.
Another pianist, who knows his Liszt instinctively, is the young Swiss-Chinese phenom, Louis Schwizgebel whose performance of Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s song Der Erlkoenig is astonishing in its authenticity: Der Erlkoenig.

Dear Readers,
You number over 16,000 since January 2015, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $5.00, $10.00, $15.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

___________________________________________________________________

Miller Memories

In my home library, I have a tattered paperback held together with sticky tape. It’s a Dell First Edition of Six Great Modern Plays including Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, a 1947 play by him that was twice adapted for film – in 1948 and again in 1987. All My Sons Trailer (1986)

I’m remembering it on a very special day, the centenary of his birth on October 17, 1915. His picture alongside dates back to 1966.

Arthur_Miller_1966

According to Wikipedia sources, “the play opened on Broadway at the Coronet Theatre in New York City on January 29, 1947, closed on November 8, 1947 and ran for 328 performances. It was directed by Elia Kazan (to whom it is dedicated), produced by Elia Kazan and Harold Clurman, and won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, beating Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. It starred Ed Begley, Beth Miller, Arthur Kennedy, and Karl Malden and won both the Tony Award for Best Author and the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play.”

In my later years, I was able to actually see another of his memorable plays – View from the Bridge. Between Broadway, New York and – across The Pond – in the West End Theatre District of London, I’ve managed to indulge myself in Miller’s sterling output of memorable plays.

Dear Readers,
You number over 14,000 since January 2015, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $5.00, $10.00, $15.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Otto Deri – Oh Dear!

Memory is short when it comes to remembering some of Western music’s noteworthy men and women of the past. In that gap of amnesia I would interpose the name of Otto Deri – Oh dear, some of you musicians out there might sigh! But let me delve into more than a bit of history via a reprint bequeathed to me in 1972 by a companion pianist of note, Lisl Starri, an Austrian who spent much of her adult life in India, Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta performing widely with orchestras – and in recital – in those major cities of India.

It was in what is now known as Kolkata that my wife and I really got to know Lisl, and with our mutual Parsee friends, Victor and Jer Viccajee, we’d gather in the latter couple’s garden of an evening to discuss Western classical music and its waning influence in India. In that context, and in talking about programs for piano recitals on one occasion, Lisl brought up the name of – you guessed it – Otto Deri. He was born this day, October the 5th in 1911, and grew up to be a fine cellist, but his musical interests were not confined to that instrument alone but to exploring the music of the 20th century during his long career.Otto Deri

That worthy gentleman, she said, deplored the fact that the late compositions of Franz Liszt were performed only rarely, and recommended their serious study since, as he pointed out, in those pieces Liszt’s conception of melody, rhythm, and harmony were quite novel and anticipated Debussy, Ravel and Bartok.

One particular piece he’d mentioned to Lisl was a rarely performed work from Liszt’s Annees de Pelerinage (Years of Travel) – Sunt lacrymae rerum. I told her I’d never heard of it and in short order contacted the local store for Western music scores to import it for me from Europe. When it arrived weeks later by airmail, I was soon immersed in its other-worldliness on my Bechstein upright.

Out of the blue, a short time later I learned from the Hungarian Embassy in New Delhi that I’d been invited to participate in the First Franz Liszt International Piano Competition in Budapest that September (1956). When I received the official invitation, enclosed were the requirements for the competition including – believe it or not! – Sunt lacrymae rerum, a non-elective that all contestants had to perform en mode Hongrois.

I was overwhelmed and got down to concentrating on that compulsory work in preference to my favorites of Waldesrauschen, the E flat major Piano Concerto and the D flat Concert Etude.  My practising paid off and although I didn’t win big, my performance of Sunt lacrymae rerum was given a special award for a deep heartfelt understanding of what it stood for – “There are tears for things.” Here it’s performed by my late friend Lazar Berman on YouTube: Sunt lacrymae rerum.

In my teen years I’d already dug into such exhilarating compositions as the great Hungarian’s Two Concert Etudes, the 12th Hungarian Rhapsody, the Piano Sonata in B minor and the Mephisto Waltz. The last of these seduced and enticed with its sensuality, and another friend, Agustin (‘Gus’) Anievas, who is still very active in the concert world gives a remarkable account in an April 14, 207 recording of the Waltz – judge for yourself!

So far as I was concerned, those pieces appeared at different times in my recital programs, live on stage and on All-India Radio.  But on my return to Calcutta from Budapest I concentrated on Liszt’s so-called “late pieces” that foretold the atonalism of the 20th century. Even today, some of them sound jarring and disjointed and others downright lugubriously so as per their titles. The Liszt Society Publications (Late Piano Works) is a one of a kind edition with such titles as Csardas Macabre, La lugubre gondola, and Trauervorspiel.

Afterword
I first met Gus Anievas in Rio de Janeiro in 1956 when we were both competing in the First International Chopin Piano Competition. Since that time we met up once again in New York in 1961 and forged a friendship that has lasted over the years, despite the fact of our living in two difference continents, America and Asia, for over two decades.

Dear Readers,
You number over 14,000 since January 2015, when I first began to put “some of my thoughts, written down” and posted them in the blogosphere. Since that time, many of you have urged me to seek support of my site and my writings by way of donations.

 My blog is about my life. It’s about what I’ve learned through the span of my life. It’s about things I love, and things I know and things I have experienced. I am humbled that so many of you want to join with me in my reflections. If you like what you find here, if it inspires or informs or amuses you, then I am content.  
It would mean a lot to me if you would please consider making a donation of US $5.00, $10.00, $15.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!