Monthly Archives: November 2015

Radu Lupu is 70!

radulupu Radu Lupu – born 70 years ago on November 30, 1945 – is a Romanian concert pianist. He is the winner of three of the most prestigious awards in the field of classical piano, the George Enescu International Piano Competition, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and Leeds International Pianoforte Competition.

Lupu was born into a Romanian-Jewish family in Galați, Romania, the son of Meyer Lupu, an attorney, and Ana Gabor, a linguist. He began piano studies in 1951, as a six-year-old, with Lia Busuioceanu, making his public debut in 1957, at age 12, in a concert featuring his own compositions. After completing high school in Galați, and graduating from the Popular School for the Arts in Brașov, where he studied harmony and counterpoint with Victor Bickerich, Lupu continued his piano studies at the Bucharest Conservatory (1959-1961) with Florica Musicescu (who also taught Dinu Lipatti), and Cella Delavrancea, studying also composition with Dragos Alexandrescu.

At the age of 16, in 1961, he was awarded a scholarship to the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied with Heinrich Neuhaus (who also taught Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels), graduating in 1969, at age 24.

Lupu’s concert appearances and recordings for Decca, though infrequent, consist of a limited repertoire, but have been consistently acclaimed. Although trained in the Russian pianistic tradition, he is particularly noted for his interpretations of the great 19th century German and Austrian composers, especially Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven, and Mozart from the 18th century. He is also noted for performances of works by the Czech Janáček, and the Hungarian Bartok.

Three years after Lupu made his American debut in 1972 with the Cleveland Orchestra, with Daniel Barenboim conducting in New York City, and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with Carlo Maria Giulini conducting, he performed a pair of Winter Season concerts with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, NY, under the baton of David Zinman. As the Assistant Manager of RPO, I picked Radu up from the local airport and drove him to his hotel. Thereafter I had plenty of opportunities (during his four days of rehearsals, local site visits under my wing and concertizing in our midst) of exchanging personal reminiscences with him: that included the fact that I’d competed at the very First Enescu International Piano Competition in Bucharest 9 years before he did – with very different outcomes! He took a joint first prize, while I, an Indian going by my stage name of Lewis (Azim) lost out by quite a margin to a Chinese pianist named Li (Ming-Qiang)! Also, we shared that one of our favorite solo pieces was by Schumann (heard here in a YouTube performance by him of Träumerei.)

Castelul_Peles,_SinaiaFurthermore, I regaled him with my fond memories of touring the bucolic Rumanian countryside after the competition: the Carpathians, the Bucegi Mountains, and Sinaia, situated at 2,600 feet above sea level, where I stayed at the Composers’ Union Lodge with a magnificent view of the nearby Peles Castle, pictured alongside in the autumn.

Lake HerastrauAnd, of course, Bucharest itself, where a broad expanse of water, the lovely Lake Herastrau, used for both boating and swimming, helps to enhance the beauty of an already poetic setting

Indeed, on my return to India thereafter, I was prevailed upon by a prominent Calcutta magazine to share with its readers my first-hand experience of Radu’s country and its musical tradition that eventually was published. You can read all about it here: Rumanian Reminiscences.

Whilst Lupu has performed with all of the major orchestras of the world and at major music festivals, he is somewhat of a reclusive figure. He has regularly refused to grant interviews to journalists for over 30 years. In one rare published interview, originally from 1991, Lupu expressed his philosophy of music-making as follows:

“Everyone tells a story differently, and that story should be told compellingly and spontaneously. If it is not compelling and convincing, it is without value.”

In his concert performances, Lupu does not use a piano bench, but instead an office chair. That propensity has inspired reams of jokes at his expense, but no more so than when the subject of fun was the legendary Canadian Glenn Gould, who used to use an extremely low bench that brought his face and hands almost up to keyboard-level without in any way detracting from the experience of his performance by an hypnotized audience of aficionados.

In my task as the factotum backstage, and in Radu’s case, I had to make sure that the chair of choice was free of squeaks and groans in spite of his vigorous and untoward leaps off and on to it in performing fortissimo passages of the concerto score. Needless to say, Radu was radiant at both concerts supported fully by David and his brilliant conducting.

References: My Diary; Wikipedia

Dear Readers,
You number over 17,000 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 $2.00, $5.00, $10.00, 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

__________________________________________________________________

 

Ballpark Memories

Back in the day – in 1985 to be more precise – I was completing a decade in these United States without ever having witnessed a ballgame in the flesh, as it were.

I had learned by then that, apart from being an American metaphor for ‘approximate’ in such guesswork phrases as a ‘ballpark figure,’ it was the national pastime played by men and their kids right next to our family home: Whether we happened to be in Rochester NY, Miami FL, or Englewood NJ, “the boys of summer” would be much in evidence around us pursuing their weekend sport of choice.

Back in India, for me and my ilk the equivalent sport would invariably be cricket, which only recently is making its way, albeit peripherally, into the sports-loving public’s conscience in places like New York and New Jersey that have substantial Indian immigrant populations.

Then, out of the blue, we received an invitation from our dear friends in Rochester to hurry over to that fair city for a long weekend.

frontierfieldphotoThey would put all of us up in their double-storied house and we would repair on Saturday to a ballgame in Frontier Field, pictured alongside, to watch a Rochester Red Wings game.

Rochester_Red_Wings_2013_cap_insigniaRochester_Red_Wings_2013_logo

We arrived well before it started, so I had the pleasure of a chance meeting with my former Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Englewood, Jack McKelvey, who had recently been elevated to the Bishopric of the Rochester Episcopalian diocese. He and his wife Linda were sitting lower down in the stands, but Jack bounded up the stairs to meet me halfway. We exchanged pleasant memories of the past and brought ourselves up-to-date with our respective family’s ‘doings’ – he sure made my day!

Or so I thought: It wasn’t very much later, when my family had settled into their seats – our three daughters in the row in front of and below those occupied by our hosts and us – that the first ball was thrown. All of a sudden, our eldest daughter, Ayesha, bobbed her head down and there was a distinct thwack when some projectile hit me, sitting just behind her on the left of my chest. I passed out wordlessly and crumpled up with my wife alongside shrieking for help.

It wasn’t long, I was told afterwards, that an emergency crew with a stretcher plucked me from my seat, rushed me out of the stadium, bundled me into a waiting ambulance and with sirens whining and warning lights flashing took me to the Strong Memorial Hospital. I was ensconced in the ICU  and thankfully the good doctors who treated me for a quasi-traumatic but not lasting injury released me a couple of hours later to return to the tender care of my wife and hosts. To this day there is what is now a faded bruise mark that sometimes brings to my mind that I was lucky to have not been more severely hurt by that errant baseball.

Afterword
Just a short while back my Rochester friends sent me an August 12, 2015 cutting from the local Democrat and Chronicle that had the heading “For fans, risk at the ballpark.” It set off a chain reaction in my mind and reinforced my decision never to tempt fate again by attending a baseball game. The statistic that popped out of that article was cited by a physics professor at the University of Rochester, Steven Manly: For a fan sitting 120 feet from the plate and at about the same plane, a line drive coming off the bat at 95 mph will reach the seat in 9/10ths of a second.

“You have a second, at best, to react, ” said Professor Manly.

Dear Readers,
You number over 17,000 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 $2.00, $5.00, $10.00, 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

__________________________________________________________________

 

Paris Threnody

Paris

Paris Threnody is an elegiac piece in A minor that I composed in the wake of the awful massacre last Friday, November the 13th, of 130 Parisian citizens by murderers of French and Belgian background belonging to the self-proclaimed terrorist Islamic State.

As a college student in London in the 1950’s I invariably took in the City of Light (photo of 1951 above) during my many summer holidays spent hitchhiking in Europe, usually accompanied by my best friend, Gerard, of Lyons. He taught me how to savor the best that a French restaurant had to offer, as his mother was a Cordon Bleu when it came to the cuisine of that fair land. We also visited Brussels in Belgium and the French Riviera and parts in between to partake of the various excellent wines that the region had to offer.

En route to settling in the USA two decades later my family spent a few days in Paris, so that my wife could convey to our three girls what France had done in contributing its language and culture to so many parts of the world, including Pondicherry in our native India.

In some small way, I offer the above audio of Paris Threnody as an effusion of my grief in a positive, if not joyous vein, because that’s how the melancholic chords end quietly – in a tierce de picardie from A minor to A major.

Eiffel Tower

Dear Readers,
You number over 17,000 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 $2.00, $5.00, $10.00, 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

_____________________________________________________________________

Season of Song and Togetherness

Yea, ere long we’ll be amid a tradition of family togetherness, a joyful Season of Song including Thanksgiving and Christmas right through New Year’s Day!

[powr-countdown-timer label=”New Year’s Day Countdown”]

I can recall that back in the day and half a world away with the cold settling in, we’d foregather around the piano of an evening and sing our favorite tunes from a bound copy of the “Daily Express” Community Song Book. That publication proudly proclaimed in its Foreword  that it was launched on the night of November 20, 1926 when 10,000 people assembled in London’s  Albert Hall for the occasion.

The opening narrative continues thus: “There were a few minutes of shyness, strangeness and timidity. Then suddenly, the spirit of song took complete command of the enormous audience. The chorus of voices swelled and volleyed round the great hall in London, and in that moment was born the astounding social movement that swept over the country like a prairie fire……Requests poured in from all corners of the land that other centers should be given the opportunity of enjoying first-hand the wonderful thing which London had so successfully inaugurated. Soon villages and hamlets began to organize their own Community Singing: Churches, clubs, institutes, workshops, schools – practically every place where men and women gather – joined in.

Just three months on (into the New Year of 1927) saw Britain turned into a land of song, and the whole country in the grip of a new force, the social consequences of which were incalculable.”

Fast forward to the 1950’s, and half a world away, to independent India: As part of the Christian minority there, we welcomed foreign visitors as well as Hindu and Muslim friends and neighbors into our home in the cold months of November or December and we expected, without reservation, that all would attend our singalongs at our jolly festive parties. Those happy events favored such staples drawn from the British Isles and beyond from the New World: Welsh: All Through the Night, The Ash Grove; American: Camptown Races, Polly-Wolly-Doodle;  Scottish: Annie Laurie; Auld Lang Syne, Comin’Thro’ the Rye; English: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (sung here by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with Gerald Moore at the piano); Irish: Cockles and Mussels, The Minstrel Boy; and, of course, in December such Carols as: O Come All Ye Faithful, and Silent Night, Holy Night – in the original version composed by Franz Xavier Gruber and sung here by the Innsbrucker Capellknaben (The Boy’s Choir of Innsbruck, Austria.)

For the record
I have a special affection for Innsbruck, having spent some quality time there during my extensive musical and sketching trips in various European capitals and concert venues.
Innsbruck Austrian Sketchbook 1952Dear Readers,
You number over 17,000 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 $2.00, $5.00, $10.00, 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

_____________________________________________________________________

November Honorees – Aaron, George and Benjie

This has nothing to do with the upcoming, long Thanksgiving Weekend – the magnet each year for marketers of all stripes who woo the masses to visit countless American retailers. No, on a musical level, it permits me to sit back and heave a sigh of relief as I recall fondly three of my favorites in this blog amongst a slew of friends and erstwhile colleagues: I give them thanks for sharing their great gifts with such mere mortals as this writer and those in the world around us – in the USA, UK and India.

In chronological order according to their birth dates, I’d like to list them below: you will see later on that each of the gentlemen played some part in my own part-time career as a composer, pianist, musician and orchestra manager for two of them were world-famous composers and one a  brilliant pianist.

Aaron Copland b. 11/14/1900 d. 12/2/1990 – Met up in Rochester, NY (1976)
Jorge Bolet b. 11/15/9014 d. 10/16/1990 – Met up in Miami, FL (1978)
Benjamin Britten b. 11/22/1913 d. 12/4/1976 – Met up in New Delhi, India (1956)

Aaron_Copland_1970Aaron was, in my opinion, at his most brilliant as a conductor of his own works. When he was the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s guest artist for a week in the summer of 1976 and as part of the ArtPark Festival near Buffalo, he led our orchestra through some of his most enduring works, those that have stood the test of time and consecutive generations.

Soon after arriving in November 1975 in Rochester as its Assistant General Manager, I bought a Buick four-door sedan, which my family and I immediately nicknamed Black Beauty. It was the vehicle I used to pick up guest artists from the airport or the railway station, as well as to squire them around on our many run-outs with the orchestra members trailing us in two coaches: yes, I always arranged for two – one for the “saints” or non-smokers and the other for the “sinners” or you-know-who without my having to elaborate upon their social habits or life choices.

On another run-out, the RPO was on tour through a number of stops along the interstate highway right up to the extreme end of the North Country – Ogdensburg! Aaron was always a wonderful companion to have on our hours on the road and never seemed to tire: he was as fresh as a daisy after a quick clean up and refreshment or two before appearing on the concert stage. A few lucid, homey, non-technical words to the audience about the program, and he’d be ready to start the concert. People always loved the rendition of his own well-known compositions, particularly, the music to his ballets, Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid and Rodeo. Other than those was my favorite, which you can hear here via YouTube – Fanfare for the Common Man with Conductor Alsop and The Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra at the London Promenade Concerts in 2012.

I recall on one occasion, we’d just concluded a sold-out concert performance in which Billy the Kid brought the audience to its feet in rapturous applause. After we’d bundled into Black Beauty for the journey back to Rochester, Aaron soon required some sustenance and I pulled into the parking lot of a brightly lit diner. As we walked in the door, there was a startling round of applause, much to Aaron’s amazement. It turned out there were a number of people there who’d just been to his concert. In response to his quizzical look, I whispered to him, “Billy the Kid’s in town!” and that was enough for him to grin mischievously and bow sweepingly to the diners before we settled down to some much needed pick-me-ups and victuals.

Jorge_Bolet_1975

Jorge (“George” to Anglophiles) I got to know and admire when I was the Florida Philharmonic’s General Manager in Miami. Just before then, in 1974, he’d come to national attention at the age of 60 with an amazing recital in Carnegie Hall. Later on I lost touch with him as he left for Philadelphia to head the Piano Department at the Curtis Institute where he himself studied as a child prodigy on a scholarship. He soon made his American debut in New York in 1933. One year later, his country, Cuba financed a European tour. In 1937 he received the Naumburg Award, and in 1938 the Josef Hofmann Award from the Curtis Institute.

During World War II he served in the United States Army. Resuming his concert career after the war, he became one of five American musicians invited for a four-week tour of Western Germany as guests of the German Republic in 1954, the first time a foreign government served as host to American artists.

Jorge was best known for his romantic repertoire that included the works of Liszt, Chopin and Schumann. His performance of the Liszt’s transcription of Schumann’s dedicatory song Widmung reflects to perfection his soulful, songful genius: Listen now to his interpretation of Schumann-Liszt “Widmung” and judge for yourself…….

Benjamin Britten 1968

Benjamin (addressed as Ben or, more fondly, Benjie!) was quite another kettle of fish – and a brilliant one at that! Remarkably gifted in music from childhood on, he completed major works by the time he was sixteen – a symphony, ten piano sonatas, and six sonatas. Some of the melodic material form this juvenilia was gathered into his Simple Symphony in 1934.
Here’s the second movement performed by the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and enjoy the freshness of youth in its light and joyful interpretation: II Playful Pizzicato
From 1930 to 1933 he studied at the Royal College of Music in London, where his teachers included John Ireland and Arthur Benjamin.

In 1939 he visited the United States and lived there three years before returning to his native land. However, during his time Stateside, Aaron Copland and he got to know each other well and corresponded on musical matters and on the business of music.

aaron with benjie

Of several letters archived in the Library of Congress, a copy of a missive from Aaron to Benjie is displayed alongside.

aaron-benjieBen often composed with particular performers in mind. His most frequent and important muse was his personal and professional partner, the tenor Peter Pears. As a celebrated pianist and conductor, performing many of his own works in concert and on record, he also performed and recorded works by others, such as Bach’s Brandenburg concertos,
Mozart symphonies, and song cycles by Schubert and Schumann.

Together with Pears and the librettist and producer Eric Crozier, Britten founded the annual Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. In his last year, he was the first composer to be given a life peerage.
The Delhi Music Society, of which I was a member, in collaboration with the British Arts Council in the capital, was successful in bringing the Britten-Pears duo to the capital for a series of song recitals. They not only performed in the local concert hall but also in the Gymkhana Club – the erstwhile watering hotel for the Brits of the lost Empire! There, Ben and Peter mixed congenially with the embassy crowd as well as the hoi-polloi scattered around the ballroom converted into a recital hall. That task was delegated to an army of turbaned and red-costumed ‘bearers’ who after completing their physical chore of moving furniture and seats reverted to their real occupation of ensuring that the milling crowd were well-served with drinks and finger-food when given a chance in between servings of Brittenesque songs delivered lustily by the renowned tenor and his life partner at the piano. I’m not sure how the duo took to the unusual setup, but they were not deterred from giving a fine account of their combined talents on the quasi-stage.

Dear Readers,
You number over 17,000 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!

________________________________________