Monthly Archives: April 2016

Tea For Two

TeaForTwo

Set up on our kitchen counter are a pair of mugs prior to receiving our respective steaming hot, morning pick-me-ups – my better-half prefers Chamomile herbal tea, yours truly Darjeeling black tea. Family members, who happen to be visiting on holiday, are struck by the fact that one mug is clearly in recognition of Mozart, the other a mixed bag of dedicatees, prominent amongst whom is Beethoven followed by Brahms, Bach and Liszt.

And therein lies the difference between us: we’re both pianists, and Lolita plays Mozart beautifully in spite of the innate difficulty in interpreting his piano works. She’s been a piano teacher of distinction for many years in Calcutta. And now in the JCC,Tenafly (New Jersey),  she has to constantly remind a persistent parent of one of her students that, no, young Johnny isn’t ready yet to take on that easy-as-pie sonata movement of Mozart for the next school recital.

I’ve never taught piano, but have been in a constant endeavor to compete with the best of my peers in the world in the mid- to late-1900’s to hone my pianistic chops. As a result I’ve performed Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in London and the Fifth (“The Emperor”) Piano Concerto in New Delhi; also some of his more demanding piano solos, including the “Waldstein Sonata” in C major. And Liszt continues to be my favorite composer for the piano, and after Beethoven’s The Emperor I must admit I cannot do without Liszt’s Concerto in E flat major, which I last performed in Calcutta.

So despite our divergent musical interests, Lolita and I do share the intimacy of tea-ing together each morn. Which reminds me of another favorite composer of mine, Shostakovich – who can forget his early “Three Fantastic Dances” for piano? – who in a burst of whimsy took on a challenge to compose his orchestral version of that 1920’s popular song Tea for Two (linked here to YouTube.)

For those interested in folklore, I quote from Wikipedia –

“In October 1927, the conductor Nikolai Malko challenged Dmitri Shostakovich to do an arrangement of a piece in 45 minutes. His “Tea for Two” arrangement, Opus 16, was first performed on 25 November 1928. It was incorporated into Tahiti Trot from his ballet The Golden Age first performed in 1929. Shostakovich wrote it in response to a challenge from conductor Nikolai Malko: after the two listened to the song on record at Malko’s house, Malko bet 100 roubles that Shostakovich could not completely re-orchestrate the song from memory in under an hour. Shostakovich took him up and won, completing the orchestration in around 45 minutes.”

 

Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

FeMale PenName

How many of you can name a well-known author or, indeed, a musician, who is a woman but used a man’s moniker as her pseudonym? I’m NOT playing the “woman’s card” here in this heightened political season in the USA, but do care deeply that in the 19th and 20th century literary and cultural scene in Europe and elsewhere it was a “man’s world” that preferred to ignore the aspirations of its female counterpart, particularly when it came to the writing of books and music. The result was that some creative women hid behind a “man’s name” in the hope of attaining fame and fortune without scorn and turpitude being heaped upon them – and a few notables did just that as borne out by this blog post born unplanned yesterday under my fingers and published today for your comments and feedback.

I knew three off the cuff, because of their novels that I’d read over the years, but after delving into the matter further I came across  another two.

Let me kick off this post by listing all of them in chronological order starting with George Sand (see image below of 1864). George_Sand_by_Nadar,_1864I only became aware of her very existence due to my abiding love of and interest in the music of Frederic Chopin, his life and his times.

Over the years I have performed many of his compositions for piano around the world and viewed the world-famous films based on his life that depict in varying degrees of authenticity the inspiring but gut-wrenching part played by the ‘mannish’ Madame Sand in his short existence on this earth.

220px-Indiana,_George_Sand_(Calmann-Lévy)Penname – George Sand
Female Author – Amandine Lucie Aurore Dupin
Novel – Indiana (1832)
Country of Origin – FRANCE

Wuthering_Heights,_1847Penname – Ellis Bell
Female Author – Emily Bronte
Novel – Wuthering Heights (1847)
Country of Origin – ENGLAND

 

Silas_Marner_1Penname – George Eliot
Female Author – Mary Ann Evans
Novel – Silas Marner (1861)
Country of Origin – ENGLAND

 

outofafricaPenname – Isak Dinesen
Female Author – Karen Blixen
Novel – Out of Africa (1937)
Country of Origin – DENMARK

 

Cuckoo's CallingPenname – Robert Galbraith
Female Author – J. K. Rowling
Novel – The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013)
Country of Origin – SCOTLAND

Here’s where I call on all those interested in sharing their own favorites among pseudonymic ‘adventuresses’ devoted to the arts, by scrolling down to the ‘comments’ section of this blog – thanks!

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Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

 

SHKSPR QDRCNTNNAL

williamshakespeareThe whole of the 4/23-24 weekend has been inundated by all things related to a gentleman of towering talent who died 400 years ago on April 23, 1616.

It was on a Sunday, July 13, 1997, that another worthy gentleman, one Arthur Schulman – a cruciverbalist of note – created an ingenious crossword for the New York Times devoted almost entirely to the same genius, but with all the solutions sans vowels. Hence, the subject of the puzzle appeared as SHKSPR, and his sobriquet, Bard of Avon, as BRDFVN; to cap it all, the 1623 publication of his monumental works, First Folio, appears as FRSTFL. In the same genre, I’ve been emboldened to letter my subject heading.

I’m sorry to inform my readers that I have no shorthand way of writing about my favorite playwright four centuries after his death, but I will begin at the beginning with my treasured and doorstep tome of “The Riverside Shakespeare” that bears the dog-eared imprint of my forays over time into two well-thumbed plays – Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice.

threewitchesThe former was more familiar to me since as a teenager I had taken part as one of the Three Witches in my New Delhi high school dramatic society’s amateur production.

At the same time, my twin sister had a minor role in the latter, which I attended at her convent school next door.  We had fun those halcyon days in trying out the Elizabethan cadences in front of our friends and family members at frolicsome birthday parties in their drawing rooms long after the staged events were over.

On a more serious note, I had occasion to visit Germany several times in my mid-40’s representing a U.S. arts education organization. A German friend of mine connected with a similar institution in his country picked me up at the International Airport in Frankfurt on my arrival from New York and sped me in his Mercedes Benz 300 northwards on the Autobahn all the way to Braunschweig, where I would be visiting the manufacturing center of the Schimmel Piano which was interested in replacing some of the aging instruments back home in our member community arts schools.

But first things first: My friend soon after arrival insisted on my going with him to a professional production of Macbeth. My knowledge of the spoken language was meager. Nevertheless, the following evening we repaired toBraunschweig,_StaatstheaterA the imposing State Theater, touting a Macbeth production at its entrance, and I couldn’t have done better anywhere else in the world. (See image alongside.)

At that time, by the way, I could read Goethe, for example, fairly fluently. But, all said and done, I was able to understand most of the dialogue in Schlegel’s translation. Consider for a moment, that his seminal work’s transmogrification took place 200 years after the Bard’s death, so that the end result – to my mind – is to this day not lost in translation, but indeed is even more understandable than the Old English original.

August_Wilhelm_von_Schlegel                                                August Wilhelm von Schlegel
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Afterword
I’ve always admired the opera production of Verdi’s Macbeth, especially that conducted by my favorite Riccardo Muti at La Scala in Milan.

mutiYou may watch all or part of this remarkable YouTube recording. Without doubt, the work is unusual as the only one of Shakespeare’s tragedies to be popular over time in its operatic mode with the general public.

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Memories of Menuhin – A Centennial Offering

Yehudi_Menuhin_43Yehudi Menuhin (b. April 22, 1916 d. March 12, 1999)
It seems like yesterday, but it was many decades ago – in the spring of 1949 – when I first met violinist Yehudi Menuhin and his pianist sister Hephzibah at the downtown New Empire Theatre in Calcutta. The duo had been booked by the Calcutta School of Music for a much anticipated recital program as part of CSM’s annual concert series.

menuhin duo

In remembering Menuhin on his 100th birth anniversary, I’m reminded of his low-key demeanor and old-world charm on and off the stage. I recall a conversation in the artists’ dressing room when I asked him to autograph the evening’s recital program for me. Before so doing, he inquired about my own musical background and aspirations. I said it was my intention to go to London later that year for further studies.

Thereupon, he scribbled a note on the program itself above his signature reading:

Louis, I (re)commend Azim to you as a student.
MenuhinYehudiSignature04

And that was that! I was completely bowled over that it was his well-known pianist brother-in-law, Louis Kentner, that he had in mind. Even though I did eventually go to the Royal Academy of Music, I ended for logistical and planning reasons with becoming a student of Professor Frederick Jackson instead of Kentner.

enescuThe next memorable occasion was in the fall of 1958 when I was attending as India’s sole representative the Georges Enescu Music Festival in Bucharest, Rumania (Enescu’s image is alongside.)

As part of the celebratory concerts, the most prominent one was the performance of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto by David Oistrakh and Yehudi Menuhin (shown here on YouTube.) OistrakhBoth world-class violinists rose to the occasion and gave a spirited rendering of that great work, which was met with thunderous applause by the rapt audience. At the post-concert reception, I was able to renew acquaintances with both Menuhin and Oistrakh (image alongside) – the latter had traveled by the same plane I had taken to get to the Festival. As to the former, I brought Menuhin up-to-date with my own development sans Kentner as a pianist over the past nine years since we’d last met back in Calcutta.

The last time our paths crossed was in Miami, Florida, when he was at the International Airport on his way in from Europe and I was on my way out to London. Menuhin looked much frailer, but still had a spring in his step. I told him about my move to the States in 1975 with my pianist wife Lolita and family of three girls and my career change from piano playing around the world to running orchestras in the USA.

And then, with time running out to board my plane, it was left for me to say au revoir to him and for him to wish me bon voyage.

Sources:
My Field Notes (1948-78); Wikipedia.

Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Maestro Maelstrom – My Top Ten!

[Etymology of Maelstrom: One of the earliest uses in English of the Scandinavian word (malström or malstrøm) was by Edgar Allan Poe in his story “A Descent into the Maelström” (1841). In turn, the Nordic word is derived from the Dutch maelstrom, modern spelling maalstroom, from malen (to grind) and stroom (stream), to form the meaning grinding current or literally “mill-stream” in the sense of milling (grinding) grain:- Wikipedia.]

I’m not consciously attempting to start a maestro maelstrom by sticking my neck out and naming my top ten among orchestral conductors. What cheek some will say! What chutzpah others will explode!! But bear with me as I give some very personal and some purely auditory reasons to tread where others have feared to  – much to their lasting sorrow.

First, both lists below are in alphabetical order. Second, the genre is classical music of whatever era but particularly the late baroque through the post-modern. So here goes, as I throw caution to the winds and place them below in two groups – the 10 “finalists” and the 42 “other notables” all of whom – I may say avowedly – deserve to be part of the top 52, if that were my goal to name one for each week of the year (!)

“FINALISTS”

Barbirolli-John
Sir John Barbirolli (we met in Bucharest and London)
   b.12/2/1899 d. 7/29/1970

beecham– Sir Thomas Beecham (we met in London and Buenos Aires)
b. 4/29/1879 d. 3/8/1961

bernstein– Leonard Bernstein (we met in New York)
  b. 8/25/1918 d. 10/14/1990

Wilhelm_Furtwängler
– Wilhelm Furtwängler
   b. 1/25/1886 d. 11/30/1954

karajan– Herbert von Karajan (we met in Berlin and Salzburg)
b. 4/5/1908 d. 6/10/1989

kubelik– Rafael Kubelik
   b. 6/29/1914 d. 11/8/1966

monteux– Pierre Monteux
b. 4/4/1875 d. 7/1/1864

solti– Sir Georg Solti
b. 10/21/1912 d. 9/5/1997

szell
– George Szell
 b. 6/7/1897 d. 7/30/1970

toscanini
Arturo Toscanini
b. 3/25/1887 d. 6/16/1957
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“OTHER NOTABLES”
– Claudio Abbado (1933-2014)
– Marin Alsop (1956-  )
– Daniel Barenboim (1942)
– Karl Böhm (1894-1981)
– Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
– Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983)
Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013)
– Antal Dorati (1906-1988)
– JoAnn Falletta (1954-  )
– Valery Gergiev (1953-  )
– Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005)
– Eugen Jochum (1902-1987)
– Bernard Haitink (1929-  )
– Istvan Kertesz (1929 –  )
– Carlos Kleiber (1890-1956)
– Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)
– Kirill Kondrashin (1914-1981)
– Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951)
– Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993)
– Lorin Maazel (1930-2014)
(we met in Calcutta and he was interviewed on All India Radio)
– Gustav Mahler (1869-1911)
– Sir Neville Marriner (1924-  )
– Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
(we met in New York)
– Zubin Mehta (1936-  )
(we met in New York and Miami, FL)
– Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951)
– Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960)
(we met in New York)
– Charles Munch (1891-1968)
– Riccardo Muti (1941-  )
– Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922)
– Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985)
– Seiji Ozawa (1935-  )
(we met  in Boston at a symphony seminar there)
– Brian Priestman (1927-2014)
(we met in Miami, FL, and I worked with him there)
– Sir Simon Rattle (1955-  )
– Fritz Reiner (1888-1963)
– Jose Serebrier (1938-  )
(we met in NYC and I worked with him in Miami, FL)
– William Steinberg (1899-1978)
– Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
– Klaus Tennstedt (1926-1998)
– Michael Tilson Thomas (1944-  )
(we met in Los Angeles)
– Bruno Walter (1876-1962)
– Felix Weingartner (1863-1942)
– David Zinman (1936-  )
(we met and I worked with him in Rochester, NY)_________________________________________________

Sources:
The Great Conductors by Harold Schonberg; Conductor’s World by David Wooldridge;
My Personal Diaries

Afterword:
At the beginning, I used the expression “for purely auditory reasons.” Be it noted, I truly believe in a ‘vernal vinyl’ renaissance, and with the start of the benign and welcome spring season here in Englewood, NJ, I’ve spent time in replaying my  records (as distinct from CD’s and other successors of the LP’s) to rediscover the true-to-life sound of the oldies that memorialized the great exponents of orchestral and instrumental music. Indeed, I can spend endless hours over weekends reliving the experience of listening, for instance, to my boxed set of Karajan’s inspiring interpretation of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies – recorded by Deutsche Grammophone – two of which I heard him perform live in Berlin 1970 during the celebration of that composer’s bicentennial.

 

Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Memorable Mission

Today’s New York Times Sunday Magazine crossword entitled “Something in the Water” has an across clue “memorable mission” – and without losing a beat my answer came trippingly off my ink-dripping pen as Alamo!

Photo: Azim Mayadas
Photos: Azim Mayadas

The main solutions included such watery bodies and flowing stretches as Atlantic Ocean, Colorado River, Arabian Sea, Chesapeake Bay, and New York Harbor, all of which I’d become familiar with over the years during my travels here and abroad.

That’s by way of introducing you to my newsworthy trip with Lolita to San Antonio, Texas, starting April 2 when our start-up, NotePerfect Project, participated in the vibrant Annual Conference of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) held this year in the downtown Grand Hyatt Hotel.

mtna conf. boothOur MTNA Conference Booth

Getting there was a no-brainer direct United flight from Newark,  New Jersey; getting back was anything but. However, I won’t bore you with the travel travails of our return trip to Englewood, and will concentrate on the positive of being in unwavering daytime temperature of 80 degrees and above during our 5-day stint in Texas, while our home was experiencing another of those Spring Snows – whatever happened to plain old April Showers?

After being glued to our booth in the Exhibition Hall at the hotel for the first two days of hectic activity, we took time off and experienced the joys of cruising the San Antonio River and ambling up and down the River Walk packed with tourists – and city dwellers! The latter obviously love their environs and treat the hordes of visitors amiably. Noshing seems to be an hourly pastime since cafes, bistros and restaurants abound on both banks of the River that cater to all passing whims and taste buds. My video below sets the scene for any casual stroller of the lazy attraction of ‘doing’ the promenade along the river as seen by sailing the San Antonio River Cruise Scenic Route:

Along the way, I was able to take a close-up video of the historic riverside Aztec Theater:


The culmination, I’d hoped, would be a visit to the Alamo, but while the display of artifacts inside were certainly historical and deserved to be preserved, outside the gardens left a lot to be desired and were a distinct anticlimax for anyone who wandered outside in the summer-like heat. A survivor there was a bunch of cacti in full bloom – a rarity to be sure!

mtnaconf (2)

A word about the music publishing industry. At MTNA, the big names were all there ad infinitum.  (Alongside is a glimpse of Alfred Music’s extensive display.) When was the last time that Lolita and I could browse in one of many music stores – now defunct – in New York City and pick up a sought-after piano score printed by a US, Canadian or European publisher?

                                                                                                                                                    Photo: Lolita Mayadas
Those on display at San Antonio made one salivate for days gone by when all you needed to do was to set some time aside at least once a month and embark on a fishing adventure in the Big Apple to enrich ones home piano library with the old and the new in Western Classical and Modern music scores and literature.

I’ll leave you with my shot of Lolita in shocking pink manning our desk:

IMG_0804 (2)

 

Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas