Monthly Archives: September 2016

Fall Is Here!

The Pond in the Fall
Jamaica Plains, MA
Photo by Blogger

the-pond-in-fall

Whether it be North India, North America or Western Europe, the autumnal season is my favorite time of the year - in the Northern Hemisphere, that is! [I'll not be writing in this post about other wonderful fall locales that lie in the Southern Hemisphere such as Australia (New South Wales or South Australia), New Zealand and South America (Brazil or Argentina.]

Let me narrow it down further: The 7,000-feet ‘foothills’ of the mighty Himalayas near Dehra Dun; the storied suburbs adjacent to the center of Boston in New England; or the lochs near Edinburgh in Scotland; or, yet, the magnificent fjords of Norway – each has a special place in my memory for witnessing the colorful changes wrought by Nature in all its glory, as summer gives way to fall at this time of the year.

Narrower still has been the exciting fall trip – one of many over the years that Lolita and I make to the Boston area of Massachusetts where we can visit close family members in Jamaica Plains. Renowned for its modestly named ‘The Pond,’ I took time out one day for a walk around that expansive blue water. On a particular sunny afternoon, I was inspired to write a short piece for voice and piano entitled “Fall is Here,” the frontispiece of which is depicted at the top of this post. The music itself can be heard right here:

The lyrics by me that you may follow as you listen are:

Fall is here,
Summer’s past:
No word yet
Of you, dear,
Since the time
We last met.
Nature’s turning to autumn hues,
Soon all her trees will be bare:
Oh! Darling, lest you lose
Your golden years for e’er.
Come and stay!
No more right,
No more wrong:
Till the day
Turns to night,
Wingéd song!

Afterword: The musical score is now available at “Fall is Here.”

Dear Readers,

You number over 52,000 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 consider making a donation of US $1.00, $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 © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

Romantic Music and Composition

THE VERY PHRASE ROMANTIC MUSIC AND COMPOSITION calls to my mind three virtuoso exponents of the piano, each of whom I got to know – albeit too briefly – with their idiosyncrasies, wit and wisdom during my last two tenures in the 1970’s of working 3 years each for orchestras in the States – namely, the Rochester Philharmonic and the Florida Philharmonic. I’ll be concluding this post with musical references to the latter organization.

arrau3

First and foremost there was Claudio Arrau, followed closely in my tightly knit pantheon of Romantic pianists by Shura Cherkassky and Jorge (George) Bolet.

shuracherkasskyAlas, they are no longer with those of us who hunger and, indeed, hanker for music in the Romantic mold performed by consummate artistes who delve deeply into the very essence of the work at hand, be it a short prelude, a lengthy sonata, or a concerto.

Of course, there is a wealth of discography one may draw upon when in the mood for listening to Romantic music or a composition of the Romance era, but the ‘in-the-flesh’ experience of a live performance can rarely be replicated.

jorge_bolet_1975

Beginning with Chilean-born Arrau (1903-91) – shown in the top picture – after he established his permanent residence in America in 1941, he was already a commanding and consummate pianist in Europe,  much in demand here in the U.S. when not traveling abroad on a demanding concert schedule. During his storied career, he achieved international respect for the stupendous extent of his repertoire and the high finish of his pianism.

Ukrainian-born Cherkassky (1911-95), that small, gnomic figure (pictured center above) who could seem unprepossessing and at times self-effacing, was considered one of history’s greatest pianists, as well as the last direct link to the Romantic piano tradition of Chopin, Liszt, and Anton Rubinstein.

Cherkassky overcame poverty, prejudice against his Jewish origins, and unhappiness from his ambivalence over his homosexuality to forge an impressive touring and recording career, an enormous musical repertoire, and an intriguing personality both on stage and off. From his sensational 1923 American debut tour to sold-out concerts on six continents, Cherkassky retained his brilliance throughout a seventy-five year professional career.

And, finally, there was Cuban-born Bolet (1914-90) – seen above right – who made his American debut in new York in 1933. 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. He was best known for his performances of Franz Liszt, who happens to be my favorite composer as I write. Also, of the three pianists, he was the one I got to admire on a personal level, as he was a continuing presence in Miami, both as a performer and a broadcaster during my tenure with the Philharmonic. We’re seen together when I interviewed him for Miami’s The Fugue of January 1979.

jorge-and-azim

Which leads me to my concluding piece on that institution……..

The excitement of spearheading the resurgence of the Florida Philharmonic is encapsulated in a half-minute video broadcast featuring the orchestra with myself at the keyboard just before the beginning of the 1978-79 Winter Season Concerts. Let me explain…..

At the time, I was much into George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F that he completed a year after his celebrated Rhapsody in Blue. It was commissioned by the New York Symphony Society, which introduced it under the direction of Walter Damrosch, with the composer as soloist, on December 3, 1925. As the new General Manager and a concert pianist to boot, I was persuaded by my British Music Director, Brian Priestman, to be a part of the musical ad by performing the opening of the concerto’s last movement, Allegro agitato, that starts with an ebullient orchestral eruption of color and percussive piano rhythm.

Afterword: Unfortunately, I never got to meet Vladimir Horowitz (1903-89) although I heard him on stage on several occasions. The last time – when he was down in Florida for a concert in Miami Beach – he was, sad to say, not at his best although his Scriabin selection still brought to the fore his deeply romantic interpretation of that composer’s music.

References: Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; Wikipedia.

Dear Readers,

You number over 52,000 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 consider making a donation of US $1.00, $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 © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Borodin and Barber

BorodinA STRANGE COMBINATION, you might say in some dismay – one Russian, the other American! – and, for God’s sake, side by side in the same post. Yet, consider my own music evolution. I got to know the 19th century compositions of Borodin (1833-1887) well before I’d ever heard of the prize-winning 20th century Pennsylvanian composer, Barber (1910-1981).

One thing they do have in common – and that is what most likely attracted me to them – namely, the most popular and lush piece they each wrote was originally part of a larger stellar chamber work for strings.

Samuel_Barber_1944Let’s begin with my all-time favorite, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, which to this day enthralls me whenever I hear it. It began life as the slow movement of his String Quartet in B minor, but was subsequently transcribed by the composer for string orchestra. In the latter version it was fist performed by the NBC Symphony under Toscanini on November 5, 1938. [Please note that the download of the 10-minute movement takes just a minute or less depending on ones internet connection speed.]

A single theme, heard immediately in first violins, dominates the composition. Other groups of instruments refer to it, treat it canonically, then develop it into a powerful climax. At the end of the piece, the theme reverts to its former serene mood. Here it’s performed by the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein conducting.

Just a tad behind the Barber work in my measuring stick of appreciation is Borodin’s Nocturne. It too saw the light of day as the slow movement of a work for strings, this time the Russian’s Andante movement from his String Quartet No. 2 in D major (1881-1885). Its expressive twenty-four bar melody is stated by the cello against syncopated chords. Hear its original version in the quartet right here along with the score, which you may follow on this YouTube recording of Nocturne.

I may mention that I was hooked thereafter on other compositions of our two stalwarts: Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances and Petite Suite for piano come to mind; and on Barber’s side of the coin, I tackled his Sonata in E-flat minor for piano, Op. 26 (1949). It’s a work of large design in which the virile modern harmonic and rhythmic writing of the first movement (Allegro energico) is combined with the eloquent lyricism of the third; and in which a varied modern idiom is harmoniously blended with a classic structure. In sum, a well-known critic of the era, Harriet Johnson,  wrote that this sonata “encompasses realism and fantasy, conflict and resolution, poetry and power.”

Afterword: It was pure coincidence that I published this post on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Barber’s Adagio, in particular, seems to epitomize for me the tragic effect that the dreadful death and destruction wrought particularly on New York City and in a wider sense on the nation. I still recall that fateful day when an acrid odor suffused the air across the Hudson River in Englewood and elsewhere in northeastern New Jersey.

References: Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; Wikipedia.

Dear Readers,

You number over 52,000 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 consider making a donation of US $1.00, $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 © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Of Music, Mining and Manufacturing

[Preamble: Montreal June 1993The 3M’s is what I collectively nicknamed my various strengths in three callings. In many ways they were inextricably intertwined:
I speak, firstly, of my enduring love, music; then, my daily job of overseeing as general manager the second largest mining group of collieries in Bihar and West Bengal managed by 
Bird-Heilgers in my country of origin, India; and, thirdly, after the nationalization of the Coal Industry by the Government of India, as general manager of Indian Oxygen, the largest entity devoted to manufacturing industrial gases in the country.]

Holidaying in Montreal – A Fourth M!
A Favorite of Mine Going Back to 1993

DaddyOMy last year at City and Guilds College of the University of London was marked by the death back home in New Delhi of my beloved father, Edgar (shown alongside) after a short but serious illness. My elder brother, a senior officer in the military, was then in Ethiopia on a two-year assignment, so my widowed mother and bereft twin sister were on their own and sought to have me back home as soon as possible.

It was easy enough for me to discontinue my music studies then and there at the Royal Academy of Music as I had already gained my Licentiate (L.R.A.M. Performer), but I needed to find a job back in India, preferably in a commercial or engineering firm to help the family financially. It was then that a first cousin of mine who was in a covenanted position at a British firm in Calcutta advised me to get in touch with its London office and make an appointment for an interview. I received a cable not long thereafter that I should see its London director Sir Paul Benthall on a certain day at 10:00 a.m. at its location in the City at 108 Cannon Street.

[As an aside, and as my longtime hobby is numerology, I was struck by the number “108” that gave me a favorable vibe because it – namely 1+0+8 = 9 – ‘jived’ with my birth date of “9”! Resourcefulness and excellence in organization are that number’s hallmarks.]

A bit of background may be necessary here: The firm turned out to be Bird and Company. I learned that it had begun operating as far back as 1864 under its founder Sam Bird in Allahabad, India, before he moved his organization to Calcutta in 1870. Over the next eight decades It became well-known throughout the country for its multifaceted commercial ventures with wide interests in heavy and light industries, particularly in Eastern and Northeastern India. It registered in India in the year of its independence in 1947.

Sir Paul BenthallBack to London: I arrived well in time and the receptionist on the ground floor requested me to take a seat in the reception room alongside. Just before the witching hour, a spry tall gentleman entered the front door. He immediately sprinted up the central staircase and disappeared. A moment later the phone rang at the front desk and I was escorted to a corner office on the upper floor. Sir Paul immediately rose to greet me and beckoned me to make myself comfortable at one of two chairs looking out on to the street below. He was utterly charming and spoke passionately of the number of young talented Indians that he and his colleagues had brought into the firm to work for Bird and Company (Private) Limited over the years. If I were hired, it would mean starting off my first business career in Calcutta.

Sir Paul Benthall, K.B.E.

The company’s big branch offices were in New Delhi, Bombay, and Madras, but ‘beginning’ officers of Bird’s all began in the Accounts Department at the Head Office in Calcutta to get a grasp of the company’s breadth, depth and scope. A few weeks later I received an attractive offer of employment that I could not refuse. My family back home was thrilled that I’d be home for a couple of weeks before joining the Head Office.

High Points of my Career with Bird’s (1954-1972)
1955 – Representing Bird’s in December at its Pavilion at the First Indian Industries Fair.

IIF1955 IIF1955(6)
FIRST INDIAN INDUSTRIES FAIR 1955, New Delhi
Bird’s Pavilion: L. Azim conversing with President Rajindra Prasad and
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur; R. Departing the Pavilion with the President and his entourage

                    IIF1955(4)       IIF1955(5)

In Bird’s Coal Mining Exhibit Azim with UK High Commisioner Malcolm MacDonald

                                           IIF1955(7)  IIF1955(3)

Left Panel: Madam Sun Yatsen of China
Right Photo: Azim with Dr. Hatta, Vice President of Indondesia

1964Bird’s Centenary Year was celebrated in part by the achievement of its Coal Group of Companies in attaining an annual output of coal and coke in excess of 2.75 million tonnes. A year earlier, its Loyabad coke plant in Bihar began to manufacture premium coke, which met with a very favorable response from buyers

MINING – 1956-1970:

Pit Head

Pit Head

Joined the Coal Department (created in 1878 with Bird’s first managing agency, Burrakur Coal Co. ) in charge of sales of Coking Coal to Steel Plants in India as well as to those in Australia and Japan. Eventually took over as departmental Head and oversaw a labor force of 20,000 with record production of both coal and coke to keep up with India’s demand for power as part of its Third Five Year Plan (1961-1966.)

MUSIC Highlights

                                                                           Azim in Rio 1957
Azim in Rio
1956:
Competed as India’s Sole Representative at the First International Franz Liszt Competition in Budapest, Hungary
1957: Competed as India’s Sole Representative at the First International Chopin Competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1958: Competed as India’s Sole Representative at the George Enescu International Piano Competition in Bucharest, Rumania
1961: Represented India at the Dmitri Mitropolous Piano Festival and Competition in New York

MANUFACTURING – 1972-1975: Post-nationalization of the coal industry, I joined the Gases Division of Indian Oxygen, Calcutta, and as its General Manager thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of overseeing and maximizing its operations at major centers of production in Madras and Bombay.

By hindsight, and all these years later, the vivid contrast of the soot and grime of a coal mine underground and the almost surgical cleanliness of an oxygen plant has still not been lost on me in my retirement away from it all in another country – the U.S.

Reference
The Cable – The House Magazine of the Bird-Heilgers Group, October 1964, Calcutta

 Dear Readers,

You number over 52,000 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 consider making a donation of US $1.00, $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 © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Of Mendelssohn, Midsummer Magic and Mushrooms

MendelssohnTHE VERY WORD MIDSUMMER conjures up that youthful overture, which Mendelssohn composed 190 years ago at the age of 17. Yes, without doubt it was – and still is – a masterpiece of magic, wonderment and enchantment, that evokes the fairy world of Shakespeare’s play with the most exquisite delicacy.

The Overture, Op. 21, written in 1826 is also noted for its striking instrumental effects, such as the emulation of scampering ‘fairy feet’ at the beginning. Indeed, contemporary music scholar George Grove called it “the greatest marvel of early maturity that the world has ever seen in music”.  Notably, its first British performance was conducted by Mendelssohn himself, three years later on 24 June 1829, at the Argyll Rooms in London.

  • Let’s listen to his Overture here for a few minutes of your time, while I still have your attention: Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s performed here by the Moscow City Orchestra “Russian Philharmonic” and conducted by Michail Jurowski.

But where do “mushrooms” figure in this enigmatic post? Well, this is also the time of year – at least where I sit in Englewood, New Jersey, in the aftermath of a warm and humid day – when, if one’s lucky, you may chance upon one of Nature’s miracles: a fairy ring, also known as a fairy circle, elf circle, elf ring or pixie ring. People once believed that mushrooms growing in a circle followed the path made by fairies dancing in a ring.

A Fairy Ring is found in open grassy places and in forests. For the uninitiated, that is a naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms. The ring occupies a prominent place in European folklore as the location of gateways into the elfin kingdom, or places where elves gather and dance.

Below is a Fairy Ring I photographed virtually in my own backyard not so long ago:

fairy ringPhoto: Azim Mayadas

I love mushrooms as a culinary delight, but I do know the difference between an edible one and a poisonous toadstool – yikes! – when out foraging.

shakespeare3It was Shakespeare who wrote the comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream between 1590 and 1597. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set.

Who would, in this day and age, refute the wisdom of his insight, when all around us we are witnesses to the ever-changing world of make-believe, except that fact is stranger than fiction. I’m sure you’ll agree!

 Dear Readers,

You number over 50,000 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 consider making a donation of US $1.00, $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 © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas