Monthly Archives: October 2016

Poor Liszt!

Franz LisztPOOR LISZT! With all of his sparkling compositions, musical innovations and staggering virtuosity as a pianist – not to mention the 130th anniversary of his birth on October 22 – it is still fashionable in some corners to bad-mouth him.

A Gramophone critic recently related the story of how his book publisher balked at the idea of including Franz Liszt in a collection of 50 great composers. Judge for yourselves, in this multiple posting of performances of his works by world-renowned pianists that I have cobbled  together here in his immortal memory.

I have consciously split my musical presentation below into two parts )1-4 and 5-9); and each part’s component pieces are hotlinked to a performance on YouTube:

I The Virtuoso-cum-Romantic (1850-1864)
1. Etude d’execution transcendentale No. 10 in F minor (Evgeny Kissin) (1854)
2. Widmung (Dedication) [Schumann-Liszt (Kissin)1858)
3. Consolation: D flat major (Barenboim)  (1850)
4. Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (Agustin Anievas) (1861)
II The Visionary (1865-86)

5. Vier Kleine Klavierstücke (Four Little Piano Pieces)(Eduard Kiprsky)
  I in E major Adagio (1865)
II in A flat major – Moderato (1865)
III in F sharp major –  Adagio (1873)
IV in F sharp major – Andantino (1876)
6. Nuages Gris (Grey Clouds) (Andre Laplante) (1881)
7. La Lugubre Gondola I (1882) (Maestoso-allegro)
8. En Rêve (In a Dream) (Alvaro Ordonez) (1885/86)
9. Sunt Lacrymae Rerum (They’re the tears of things)  (1877)
Afterword:
Some of this material I’ve drawn from a Music Appreciation Class that I gave to a roomful of seniors at the Southeast Senior Center in Englewood 5 years ago on October 25, 2011.
Then, I was able to perform all the pieces listed before the ‘dreaded’ Depuytren syndrome severely affected my right-hand fingers that no multi-visits to experts have righted in spite of invasive operations.

Dear Readers,
You number over 58,000 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!

Oktoberfest – Oriental Style

No! This has nothing to do with the annual German festival, Oktoberfest, but it’s that time of year back in South Asia when India is alive with its time-honored festival – Dussehra! What’s that you might ask? Let’s dig into a bit of history for a moment.

dussehra-greeting-card

In a nutshell, Dussehra is a joyous festival in India, celebrated after nine sacred nights of Sharad Navratri. Following Navratri, on the tenth day is Dussehra, which is also known as Vijayadashami. That signal event celebrates the triumph of good over evil, as on that day the Lord Rama – the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu – killed the 10-headed demon Ravana, and Goddess Durga killed the buffalo demon Mahishashur.  That’s quite a mouthful to swallow, but bear with me as we untangle the mysterious other – but ever present – world of Indian mythology in everyday life.

People all over India enjoy celebrating Dussehra with great enthusiasm. Indeed, it is an auspicious day for its people. As a result of the fact that the actual day is calculated according to the Lunar Calendar, its celebratory date depends on the year. Thus, this year – 2016 – the festival was celebrated in India on October the 11th.

Other points to note are that –

  •  Dussehra is also well known by the name of Vijayadashmi, which means “victory on the tenth day.”
  • Dussehra is also celebrated with great enthusiasm in other neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Malaysia.
  • The large effigies of the demons Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghnath are burnt on that day amid the noisy setting off of myriad firecrackers.

Dear Readers,

You number over 55,000 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

 

In a Musical ‘Trans’

THE PREFIX ‘TRANS’ has recently acquired an independent, stand-alone status. Indeed, in mod with-it lingo you may now use it as a noun for a person of a certain ilk or state of evolution without batting an eye.

However, I’m devoting this posting to that Latin prefix when used specifically with the suffixes ‘-scription’ and ‘-scriber’. Even with the noun ‘creation’ I have occasionally used ‘trans-‘ to form my own particular neologism in my blogosphere since launching it a couple of years ago.

But let’s get back to basics! I’ve long been entranced, may I say transfixed, by the wealth of magical musical transcriptions of works by eminent composers that are performed with aplomb by nimble-fingered musicians – mainly pianist-  or violinist-transcribers. For the uninitiated, “a transcription is a subtle arrangement of a musical composition for an instrument or instruments other than that for which it was written.” It is not just a straightforward arrangement, which is a more literal reproduction of an original score.

Take as an example that Bach’s chorale preludes have received so much attention from our pianist-transcribers. Other organ works of Bach have been fairly ransacked from Franz Liszt’s day to our own, by none with greater insight and mastery than by Busoni. One may then conclude that the task of an inspired arrangement – read transcription – is justified as it is creative, serves in its own way to interpret and illumine the original – and leaves one, as it were, in a ‘trans’!

Now let’s get down to piano transcriptions created and performed by such virtuosi as that romantic master, Earl Wild, who illustrates my reasoning.

earl-wild

For instance, Earl’s recasting of George Gershwin standards is a pearl of cascading notes interlaced with the enchanting themes of each tune or song. Then there are his ‘takes’ on the music of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, and on and on.

Listen now to his enduring rendition of Johann Strauss II/Tausig’s Man lebt nur einmal (One Lives But Once):

Another pianist, Priya Mayadas, is my youngest daughter.
priyamayadasjpgShe imparts her selection of a beautiful transcription with just the right feel for, and lilt of, Old Vienna.

Below is a live recording of her recital in Weill Recital Hall/Carnegie Hall, New York of violinist Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesleid (Love’s Sorrow) taken from his Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen (Old Viennese Dance Melodies) and arranged for piano by Sergei Rachmaninoff:

References: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians; My Miami Journal

Dear Readers,

You number over 55,000 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

My Alpine Attitude in Altitude

The Top of Europe and its Sister Mountainsjungfrau-mapDouble Click on the Graphic above to
see the  Alpine Range in all its Majesty

SOUNDS LIKE A BLAST FROM THE PAST, but the clarity of my recalling a series of events that occurred over six decades ago remains undimmed because it instilled in me a determined attitude in altitude beyond my wildest dreams that still informs my psyche.

In my early teens I was daunted by heights after unsettling bouts of acrophobia: They had been quelled and then uprooted during my school summer holidays spent with young male members of my family on climbing some of the lower ranges of the Himalayas that included those encircling the Vale of Kashmir. But a Swiss “stroll” – not “roll!” – spent a world away on a student trip organized by my high school in Kent, England, almost undermined my hard-fought determination.

I was one of two dozen boys who had signed up with our local school group of would-be mountaineers: We would be scaling the heights of the Alps and thereby following in the pioneering footsteps of the first post-war expedition the youthful group had mounted in 1948. We assembled at London’s Victoria Station to catch the boat train en route to Switzerland. The journey to Ostend passed uneventfully and calmly. Then after  a walkabout there, we were off on a 12-hour journey, confined to the air-tight compartments in the carriages that were fitted with hard wooden seats.

We were glad to stretch our legs at Basel at six the following morning, when a certain Herr Zellweger, who was awaiting our arrival on the platform, greeted us and helped the school contingent through the border barrier into Switzerland. In the station buffet we quaffed portionen of hot chocolate before boarding the train for Interlaken. Soon we ran into heavy snow squalls, but by the time we reached the well-known Swiss town there was a fine drizzle falling from a low obscuring mist, which made the adjoining  Lake Thun look cold, forbidding and uninviting.

Interlaken and Backdrop

interlaken

We reached our ultimate well-appointed destination, the Pension Schoenfels, in good time before lunch: The hotel is situated almost a stone’s throw away from the River Aare,  which connects Lake Thun to Lake Brienz. Thereafter we set out – many of us in shorts in spite of the weather! – for the little village of Saxeten over in the next valley at 3,700ft.  The climb up the winding cart track was steep for our very first afternoon, but was good training for the stiffer climbs that were yet to come.

The next morning proved to be cold and wet, so we repaired to downtown Interlaken and made mental notes of the things we hoped to buy on our proper shopping expedition later in the week. With the barometer rising and after a meal we set out on foot up the valley to Lauterbrunnen. We reached the meeting point of the Black and White Luetschinen, aptly named Zweiluetschinen, in less than an hour and rested awhile before intrepidly tackling the steep climb off the roadside and through the woods to Isenfluh – an abrupt climb of about 1,400ft. that made us perspire freely! Then after viewing dumbfoundedly  the Staubbach Falls we hurried  off to catch the 6.30pm train back to Wilderswil.

The next morning dawned fine with a deep blue sky and hardly any wind, so we started off on a really hard climb to the Schynige Platte, 6,770ft. – as per the signpost a mere
4 3/4-hour effort, but that was in ideal conditions. The steep path zigzagged up through pine woods and at about 4,000ft. we reached the first snow, which made the avenues through the trees look like a virtual fairyland. When we arrived at the Schoenegg Hut at about 5,000ft. the trees ended and a great expanse of deep hard snow stretched out before us.

The view on the south side that met our eyes as we passed over the brow of the crag was magnificent: There before us in the bright sunshine was the whole range of the Alps  – the lovely Jungfrau, Eiger, Moench, and Lauteraarhorn along with all the others. That cheered us no end and we lunched in a sunny spot three-quarter an hour from the summit. There I was complimented for making the difficult climb in ordinary shoes. For the record, I had forgotten to pack my boots in Kent and had telephoned from Victoria that they be sent on.  Nevertheless, my climbing time of 4 1/4 hours was not to be sneezed at. In the evening back at the hotel, I took time out to compose what my schoolmates referred to as “a musical saga of our adventures” – a Swiss ‘Stroll’ Skit!

On Tuesday, snow was falling again, but as the barometer was rising we decided to risk the weather and travel up to Grindelwald by train. The town is situated in a large rock-basin about 3,200ft. above sea level. Mountains tower on all sides – some to over 12,000ft., believe it or not!

wetterhornA pity that heavy snow clouds obscured the view some of the time, but occasionally we gained an inviting  glimpse of glistening peaks, as we walked up to the Hotel Wetterhorn (pictured alongside) where we ate our packed lunch and downed copious jugs of hot chocolate to combat the freezing cold as best we could.

Eventually we hiked through the Alpine woods to the foot of the upper Grindelwald glacier, reaching down to 4,400ft. We crossed the valley below, then struggled up to the Chalet Milchbach.
chalet-milchbach

There we had a good view of the bluish-colored ice and could see a herd of ibex like tiny dots up on the Wetterhorn. On the way back we spotted some chamois as well. We reached Grindelwald with enough time for a spot of tea before catching our train to Wilderswil.

staubbachOn Wednesday, we walked passed the Staubbach Falls, the highest in Switzerland: The water drops no less than 980ft. in a single leap over and down the vertical rock and becomes a fine spray before reaching the bottom – hence the name!

Next, we saw the Truemmelbach Falls, which are actually inside the mountain: We took a lift up 200ft. and went through an opening in the mountainside. The water swirls and roars through huge cracks in the rock at a terrific rate and is finally arrested by a pool at the bottom. In spite of developing clouds, half way back to Lauterbrunnen, we were blessed with a sudden clearing that permitted us to get a beautiful, awe-inspiring view of the Jungfrau and its ‘sister’ mountains alongside.

Our last day, Thursday, was one of the warmest we’d experienced. After shopping for mementos, such as music boxes and watches, we had dinner earlier than usual. Then, remarkably, just before checking out, my boots arrived by post with a price-tag of 2s. 6d, which I had to pay before I boarded the coach with my school chums. We reached Basel around midnight, and left Herr Z. happy after we assured him that he was famous in England – at the very least in the County of Kent!

The wooden seats were as hard as ever, and – as the sun was up at about five o’clock –  sleep was a trifle short. However, we arrived at Ostend dead on time. We boarded the ferry boat and indulged in a sound sleep thankfully during a calm crossing. We finally reached Victoria just before 9 p.m. and so ended an enjoyable holiday with myself regaling in a positive attitude toward altitude.

References:  My Diary; Dartford Grammar School Newsletter.

Dear Readers,

You number over 55,000 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