Monthly Archives: February 2017

Chopin and Chopsticks

[I’m sill catching up with lost time on my revived blog, but fortunately only a day behind in commemorating the birthday anniversary – February the 22nd – of my  favorite composer Frederic Francois Chopin.]

That child’s tune for piano in waltz-time, Chopsticks, started me off on the family Bechstein upright in the late 1930’s when I was a three-and-a-half year old kid.  From the two forefingers needed to punch out the catchy ditty I soon graduated to pieces requiring all ones fingers. Fortunately, as a result of assiduous exercises, I was soon able to play octaves with both hands. In my later years, I was happy to learn that an interesting set of variations on that two-finger tune was written collectively by four Russian composers in 1880 – Borodin, Cui, Liadov and Rimsky-Korsakov. By the way, for the second edition of these variations, Liszt – believe it or not! – contributed one of his own.

Chopin was the first to make the prelude famous in piano literature. He wrote 26 such pieces, 24 in Op. 28 (1836-39), one in Op. 45 (1841)), and another published posthumously. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed playing all of them with, of course, some favorites. Many are in a tormented mood, reflecting the composer’s state of mind on the island of Majorca, where they were written. Here is an audio of the heartfelt Lento piece in F sharp major:

Chopin wrote 169 works, of which only a handful are not for solo piano. He’s the only great composer not only to make piano music his creative world, but also to have concentrated mainly on smaller forms. He knew his limitations. Nevertheless, most of his compositions are masterworks, even if miniatures. And an outstanding trait of much of his music is its national Polish character.

Reference: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; My Album.

Afterword:
My first public foray with Chopin works was on November the 3rd in 946, when at the age of 13 my debut piano recital took place in New Delhi at the Town Hall on Parliament Street that was the closest venue to a concert hall at that time.

Azim Lewis Mayadas at 13
(Click on the photo to enlarge it)

The rather hefty program of 14 works included 5 Chopin pieces (Prelude in C minor, Nocturne in C# minor, Valse Brillante, Valse in E minor, and Polonaise in A flat); a sonata each by Beethoven and Mozart, a Bach prelude and fugue, and 2 compositions by Azim.

Dear Readers,
You number over 68,000 in just over 2 years ago back in February 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, with the advent of the New Year 2017, 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 the next twelve months.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

 

Stellar Meeting of Slavic Minds

[Due to the fact that in early February my blog went on the blink for the very first time since its birth two years ago, the online team that hosts it eventually worked things out and I am now happily back to posting, although a music topic dear to me missed its anniversary – the death on February 7, 1994 of the famous Polish composer, Witold Lutoslawski.

What follows is a purely personal account of my being hosted by Witold in Warsaw , as well as being introduced by him to his cellist friend, the great Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich (known universally as Slava) whilst they were in the ‘throes’ of putting the final touches to the Pole’s Cello Concerto.]

The Cello Concerto was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. It received its world premiere at London’s Royal Festival Hall on October 14, 1970 by Rostropovich (to whom the piece is dedicated) and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Edward Downes.

To back track to the late 1960’s, I was pursuing a mercantile career in my country of birth, India, as a ‘box-wallah’ – a derogatory term for any employee of a commercial firm (usually British) in Calcutta. I still maintained my pianistic credentials in the small, but vibrant, Western Music segment of cultural life in that teeming city on the Hooghly River  – both by way of regular All-India Radio broadcast recitals as well as concerts with the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra. In 1969 I heard from New Delhi, the capital, that the Government of India would like me to represent it at the Warsaw Festival of Contemporary Music. “Warsaw Autumn” – as it was dubbed – was created in 1956, during the thaw that followed years of Stalinist dictatorship.

I accepted with alacrity, as it gave me the opportunity of catching up with the latest in modern Western Music. From the very moment that I arrived in the Polish capital, I immersed myself in the series of mind-boggling concerts devoted to avant-garde music , some of which I’d never heard before, but also to what I call modern classical music, into which category Lutoslawski’s genre of composition fell.

It was at a post-concert reception half way through the festival that I was introduced to the composer, who graciously invited me to visit him at his home before I returned to India.  I was  excited to learn that he’d just completed  a concerto that his dedicatee, Rostropovich, was programmed to premiere in England.

Then, out of the blue, my host suggested that we visit the Warsaw Ghetto, portions of which had survived the brutal bombing of the capital during World War II. It was a solemn moment for me as we trod parts of what remained of a once thriving Jewish quarter of Warsaw in the 1940’s.  I found out for myself that to this day it is one of the most haunting and historically poignant places to visit in all of Poland, and for good reason.

Ghetto Wall Remains
The map on the wall says it all with frightening immediacy

Before World War II, there were over 400,000 Jews living in Warsaw, and by 1942, all members of the Jewish community were forced into the German-constructed ghetto, demarcated by a 10-foot-high (3-meter high) wall circling around a specified sector of the Jewish district.

Before I left Poland, I was delighted to meet Rostrapovich, who was in town to help put the finishing touches to the work that would once again thrust Lutoslawski to the forefront of European orchestral compositions in the modern era when Slava performed it for the first time in London in the autumn of 1970. Here is the last 2-minute segment of the Cello Concerto’s Finale on YouTube with Yo-Yo Ma.

Afterword:
Some five years after the events described above, I had moved to the United States and after a three-years in the administration of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York, I became the General Manager of the Florida Philharmonic in Miami.

In that capacity I had the opportunity of booking Rostropovich as the soloist in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, but in an interregnum between conductors the only one available as a guest was Mehli Mehta, the father of Zubin Mehta. Before striding onto the concert stage, Slava turns to Mehli and says forcefully, “Watch me throughout, understand!”

After the concert. we repaired with some honored guests to a swanky local hotel, which I’d alerted earlier. We were a round dozen seated around a large circular table and the mood was joyous as the concert performance had turned out, despite earlier misgivings, to be a success. Then, in the midst of much bonhomie and banter, Slava literally hoisted himself unaided onto the tabletop with a glassful of wine in hand and, with a twinkle in his eye, began belting out a rustic Russian folk song with scores of other diners at surrounding tables looking on in wondrous amazement. After all those years, that scene remains embedded in my memory.

Reference: Wikipedia, My Diary.

Dear Readers,
You number over 68,000 in just over 2 years ago back in February 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, with the advent of the New Year 2017, 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 the next twelve months.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

 

 

 

An Experiment in Modern Music

[The editors of the Cambridge Music Handbooks opined that The Rhapsody in Blue (1924) established Gershwin’s reputation as a serious composer and it has since become one of the most popular of all American concert works.”]

The composition in question by the American composer George Gershwin premiered in an afternoon concert on Tuesday, February 12, 1924, held by Paul Whiteman and his band Palais Royal Orchestra, entitled An Experiment in Modern Music, which took place in Aeolian Hall in New York City. Many important and influential composers of the time such as John Philip Sousa and Sergei Rachmaninoff were present. The event has since become historic specifically because of its premiere of the Rhapsody.

The purpose of the experiment, as told by Whiteman in a pre-concert lecture in front of many classical music critics and highbrows, was “to be purely educational.” It would “at least provide a stepping stone which will make it very simple for the masses to understand, and therefore, enjoy symphony and opera.”

The piece itself is for solo piano and jazz band, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects.It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe, himself an American composer as well as an arranger and pianist. Several times he included the original 1924 scoring, “theater orchestra” setting published in 1926, and the symphony orchestra scoring published in 1942.

Here is Geshwin’s performance of the Rhapsody in Blue on YouTube for you to enjoy its anniversary of 93 years ago.

George Gershwin
26 Sep 1898 – 11 Jul 1937

Afterword:
My own ‘romance’ with Gershwin’s compositions began when I heard the performance of his Piano Concerto in F in New York in 1975. When I took over managing the then Florida Philharmonic in Miami, I introduced a promotional TV ad for the FPO’s 1976-77 Winter Series by recording the opening of the finale, a gay, ebullient eruption of color and rhythm.

Reference: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen, My Music Albums.

Dear Readers,
You number over 68,000 in just over 2 years ago back in February 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, with the advent of the New Year 2017, 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 the next twelve months.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

Fritz and Liebesfreud

[A year ago, February 2, 2016, I included a summarized bio of my favorite violinist, Fritz Kreisler, in a blog devoted to five famous musicians born in the month of February.

Lately, I came across Kreisler’s obituary in the New York Times dating back to 1962 with some new information of which I was not aware, and I’m therefore moved to pen below a fuller account of my Western Music World idol of the 19th-20th century – there’ll never be one like him again!]

Fritz Kreisler (born February 2, 1875 in Vienna, Austria) appeared as a child prodigy in his hometown, then attended the Conservatories of Vienna and Paris.

KreislerIn his twelfth year he received the Grand Prix for violin at the Paris Conservatory. One year later he toured the United States in joint recitals with the pianist, Moriz Rosenthal, making his American debut in Boston on November 9, 1888. After returning to Vienna, he abandoned music and studied medicine at the Vienna Academy. Then, tiring of medicine, he went into the army and served for a year as an officer of an Uhlan regiment.

However, in 1899 he returned to his first love, although his return debut in Berlin did not get the recognition he desired. It was back in the U.S. over the period 1901 and 1902 that he won acclaim with his grace and charm, musical perception and humanity.

World War I interrupted his music career as he served with his Austrian regiment. He returned top the concert stage with a recital in New York in 1919 and for the next two decades he maintained his status As one of the world’s most highly honored and beloved performers.

Kreisler wrote a library of charming pieces for violin many of which have become staples in the repertory. They are too many to list here, but here is a romantic example of the great violinist’s popular compositions – Liebesfreud – in which you’ll feel Love’s Joy while listening to this performance by Mikhail Barash on YouTube.

References: Wikipedia, New York Times.

Dear Readers,
You number over 67,000 in just over 2 years ago back in February 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, with the advent of the New Year 2017, 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 the next twelve months.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!