Monthly Archives: October 2017

Indian-Americans in Western Classical Music

As far back as December 1995, the widely read news magazine India Today published an article by Lavina Melwani entitled Cultural Symphony in which she drew attention to the growing number of Americans of South Asian origin who were making a name for themselves in the Classical Music field.

(Clockwise from left)
Indira Mahajan, center, at the Glimmerglass Opera
Odin Rathnam; Robert Gupta; and Priya Mayadas: rising stars

In particular, she mentioned Priya Mayadas, then 28, as being one of “those fast-becoming-familiar names. Winner of the Young Artists of the Year Award from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Mayadas is a successful concert pianist in New York. She has been playing since the age of three, and at nine received the Student Composer Award from Broadcast Music Incorporated.”

Melwani went on to write that Priya “didn’t have to look far for inspiration. Father Azim and mother Lolita Mayadas were both well-known concert pianists in India and ran the Calcutta School of Music. ‘Priya is a reflective musician with a finely honed and expressive technique,’ says David Buechner of the Manhattan School of Music.”

“So how does it feel to be a minority in such a mainstream profession? ‘Being an Indian female is a bit unusual,’ says Mayadas. ‘I feel rather special.'”

As to her parents, they were remembered much earlier by Aveek Sen, a violinist, concertgoer and Western Music critic in Calcutta, India: in an article entitled “Requiem for a Lost City” published in 1990 he bemoaned the loss of the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra in the 1980’s; also, the departure of “Lolita and Azim Lewis Mayadas — the unforgettably charismatic and distinguished first couple of music-making in Calcutta — who (at a 1972 music festival) gave a two-piano recital, playing Stravinsky, Brahms and Rachmaninoff.”

The couple, with three daughters in tow, emigrated to the United States in 1975 and settled down initially in Rochester, New York, where Lolita taught at the Hochstein School of Music and Azim was hired as the Assistant General Manager of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Three years later the family moved to Miami when Azim was appointed General Manager of the Florida Philhamonic and Lolita became his Administrative Director.

Despite the heavy work load, they found time to give two-piano recitals locally and in surrounding South Florida venues. Memorable was the reception accorded to them in West Palm Beach, which was already familiar to Azim, as he had occasionally programmed orchestral ‘run-out’ concerts there or in neighboring locales up and down the Atlantic coast.

After three years in Florida, they moved back to the Northeast, this time to New Jersey, first Teaneck, then Englewood, their ‘home-town’ now for over 35 years. While in Teaneck, Lolita was hired in 1981 as Executive Director of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and a year later Azim as its Managing Director in charge of Institutional Membership.

Thereafter, they ran with the ball and built a near bankrupt non-profit organization into the powerhouse it is today. They retired from NGCSA in 2001, but still continue to work at matters close to their heart: Lolita at her newly formed NotePerfect Project and Azim at his blog on a wide-ranging matters of concern to him and to those around him – pros and cons!

References: Wikipedia; My Diaries

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 in just over 2 1/2 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 you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!
Copyright © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

Howard Ferguson

Howard Ferguson (21 October 1908 – 31 October 1999) was an Irish-born composer and musicologist. He composed instrumental, chamber, orchestral and choral works. While his music is not widely known today, his Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 8 and his Five Bagatelles, Op. 9, for piano are still performed. His works represent some of the most important 20th-century music to emerge from Northern Ireland.

Ferguson was born in Belfast and attended Rockport School in Holywood, County Down, where his musical talent was recognized, leading to several school prizes. The pianist Harold Samuel heard him in 1922 and encouraged his parents to allow him to travel to London to become his pupil. Following further studies at Westminster School, Ferguson entered the Royal College of Music in 1924 to study composition with R. O. Morris and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He also studied conducting with Malcolm Sargent and formed a friendship with fellow-student Gerald Finzi.

His early compositions such as his Octet of 1933 (scored for the same forces as Franz Schubert’s octet) met with considerable success.

During World War II, Ferguson helped Myra Hess run the popular, morale-boosting series of concerts at the National Gallery. From 1948 to 1963 he taught at the Royal Academy of Music, his students there including Richard Rodney Bennett and Cornelius Cardew. He regarded Bennett as having an astonishing natural talent, though lacking a personal musical style.

His music has a haunting, searching quality, as if a deeply personal question is being asked, but never answered. In the song cycle Discovery, the surrealistic poetic language of Denton Welch (“What are you in the morning when you wake? A quacking duck, a quacking drake?”) is the ideal spark for Ferguson to express such private questioning in his aphoristic, fleeting settings. Ferguson produced what is probably one of the greatest British solo piano works of the twentieth century, the stormy and passionate Piano Sonata, Op. 8, inspired by the death of a friend. Of his two violin sonatas, the second emerged after a long silence just after World War II; the ferocious energy of its finale has a spirit of escape and liberation, a suppressed voice finally speaking (Ferguson had not had the time to compose during the war due to his other commitments). His miniatures, such as the Four Short Pieces for clarinet and piano and the Three Sketches for flute and piano, have a crystalline intensity, as if hinting at much larger works  – Anton Webern was a composer he admired, even if stylistically Ferguson’s own work belongs to the sound world of twentieth century Romanticism. Ferguson was always highly self-critical as a composer: after writing the large choral work The Dream of the Rood in 1958-9, he received a commission to write a string quartet. It was during the composition of this that he felt he was merely repeating his previous work, so he destroyed the sketches and gave up composing, saying that in his relatively few works he had said all he wanted to say. For the next decades he concentrated on musicology. His editions of such repertoire as early keyboard music and the complete piano sonatas of Schubert are outstanding, with a meticulous attention to detail which make them authoritative.

In his later years he lived in a white-painted converted farmhouse in Barton Road in Cambridge, his quiet hospitality legendary. He wrote a cookbook in the 1990s, Entertaining Solo, which commemorates the remarkable welcome he gave to so many friends, as does the memoir mentioned below. In the same decade he also prepared an edition of letters between himself and the composer Gerald Finzi, which is an invaluable source of information on the professional lives of Ferguson and his circle. Late in his life, a friendship with the German singer Reiner Schneider-Waterberg led to his rediscovering a song written in 1958 as part of incidental music for a William Golding play, The Brass Butterfly, and subsequently rearranging it for counter-tenor and piano (originally harp) as “Love and Reason” (1958/1994), a moving postscript to a compositional output whose great characteristic is powerful emotions expressed through superb and strictly controlled craftsmanship.

Afterword
I was studying with Prof. Frederick Jackson at the Royal Academy of Music in the early 1950’s for my Licentiate (L.R.A.M. Performers) and was glad to meet Howard Ferguson as I was learning some of his piano compositions. I fondly remember getting under my fingers his striking, short Five Bagatelles opus 9 (1944) – played here on YouTube by none other than the legendary Dame Myra Hess – some of which I enjoyed including in my recitals in India, Europe and the States, oftentimes as an encore to the delight of my audiences.

As per Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians on the composer, “His music is distinguished by boldness and freedom of the ideas, by a consistent lyrical impulse. And by an independence of current fashions and conventions.”

References: Wikipedia

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 in just over 2 1/2 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 you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!
Copyright © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Günter Grass

Günter Grass
(10/16/1927 – 4/15/2015)
AP Photograph 2007

Günter Grass was born in Danzig, Germany, 90 years ago on October 16, 1927 and died on April 15, 2015. He was a preeminent German writer and playwright, excelling also in poetry and the fine arts. Throughout his career, he sought to re-examine Germany’s troubled past.

The recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature, Grass’ most famous work is the 1959 novel “The Tin Drum”, which was also made into a film and won the 1979 Palme d’Or. “The Tin Drum” was the first book in the Danzig Trilogy and was written in a style that was an amalgam of magic and realism.

In 2006 Grass published the first of 3 autobiographies “Peeling the Onion”, creating controversy when he revealed in an interview that he had been a member of the Waffen SS.

Afterword:
In April 2015, I published a blog entitled “Günter Grass – Blunt and Forceful in Calcutta!“: He had died on April the 13th that year, and I tried to recall the brief time we had spent together in that vibrant Bengali city well-known throughout India and internationally for its cultural diversity of musicians, filmmakers, poets and painters.

References: Wikipedia; My Diary

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 in just over 2 1/2 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 you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!
Copyright © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Camille and the Carnival of the Animals

Who was Camille? Find out if you haven’t had occasion to listen to The Carnival of the Animals as a young or veteran concert goer.

As a teaser, alongside is a mug shot of the composer – he’s no other than Saint-Saëns!

b. October 9, 1835
d. December 16, 1921

I fell for his music when back in India as a youngster I first heard The Swan, the penultimate section of the 14-section suite for two pianos and orchestra.

Many years later it was a dream come true, when as the General Manager of the Florida Philharmonic in Miami, USA, I programmed Le Carnaval des animaux at one of our ‘open-air’ concerts, which I organized especially to take place at the City Zoo. The weather cooperated fully and the audience adored it as being one of its best experiences. Indeed, if I may say so, it was un succès fou – a huge success! Listen now to a youthful orchestral ensemble (Symphony Orchestra of The Stanisław Moniuszko Music School in Wałbrzych, Poland, with Małgorzata Sapiecha conducting) performing the last two sections of The Carnival of the Animals on YouTube: The Swan and Finale.

Not long after, the Florida Philharmonic performed the composer’s  “Organ” Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, for orchestra and organ at the Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale that was recorded for the sake of posterity with Diane Bish , the brilliant organist. Listen now on YouTube to the Finale, performed by Diane on the massive Möller 23,511 pipe organ with the West Point Military Band at the Academy Chapel in West Point, New York.

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (b. October 9, 1835 – d. December 16, 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era.

Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. After studying at the Paris Conservatoire he followed a conventional career as a church organist. Twenty years later, he was a successful freelance pianist and composer, in demand in Europe and the Americas.

As a young man, Saint-Saëns was enthusiastic for the most modern music of the day, particularly that of Schumann, Liszt and Wagner, although his own compositions were generally within a conventional classical tradition. He was a scholar of musical history, and remained committed to the structures worked out by earlier French composers. This brought him into conflict in his later years with composers of the impressionist and 12-tone schools of music. Although there were neoclassical elements in his music, foreshadowing works by Stravinsky and  Les Six – Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Germaine Tailleferre  – he was often regarded as a reactionary in the decades around the time of his death.

Saint-Saëns held only one teaching post, at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse in Paris, and remained there for less than five years. It was nevertheless important in the development of French music: his students included Gabrie Fauré, among whose own later pupils was Maurice Ravel. Both of them were strongly influenced by Saint-Saëns, whom they revered as a genius.

References: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewens

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 in just over 2 1/2 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 you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!
Copyright © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Gustav Mahler Gains Musical Heights

Composer Gustav Mahler (pictured alongside) was appointed 120 years ago today, i.e., on October the 8th, 1897 as the director of the Vienna Court Opera. That was after a series of increasingly important appointments that brought him to Europe’s leading opera houses in Prague, Leipzig and Budapest. Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper).

During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky.

Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Mahler’s œuvre is relatively limited; for much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor. Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler’s works are generally designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists.

Those works were frequently controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Second Symphony, Third Symphony, and the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. Some of Mahler’s immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler.

The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955 to honour the composer’s life and work.

Afterword: I had the distinct pleasure on four occasions to visit each of the opera houses, which fell under what some described as Mahler’s autocratic rule of their musical destiny. In the case of the Vienna Opera he lifted that company to an imperial position among Europe’s opera houses. During that period, he also conducted the Vienna Philharmonic, proving himself no less remarkable as an interpreter of symphonic music than of opera – and just as intransigent in his demand for ideal performances!

As to his own symphonic creations, the most frequently performed are the first, second, fourth, fifth and ninth. But who cannot be moved by the sheer eloquence and deeply moving pages of the Adagio of his Symphony No.9 in D minor.

References: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewens

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 in just over 2 1/2 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 you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!
Copyright © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

Back to Bax

Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax KCVO was an English composer, poet and author. After reading this post, I hope you’ll agree that this neglected composer needs to be seen more on our concert programs and heard more in our concert halls.

Here’s a summary of his sterling background:
Born: November 8, 1883 · London, England
Died: October 3, 1953 · Cork, Ireland
Compositions: Symphony No. 2 · Tintagel · Symphony No. 7 · Symphony No. 3 · Symphony N…
Education: Royal Academy of Music

Bax was born in the London suburb of Streatham to a prosperous family. He was encouraged by his parents to pursue a career in music, and his private income enabled him to follow his own path as a composer without regard for fashion or orthodoxy. Consequently, he came to be regarded in musical circles as an important but isolated figure.

In 1900 Bax moved on to the Royal Academy of Music, where he remained until 1905, studying composition with Frederick Corder and piano with Tobias Matthay. Corder was a devotee of the works of Wagner, whose music was Bax’s principal inspiration in his early years. He later observed, “For a dozen years of my youth I wallowed in Wagner’s music to the almost total exclusion – until I became aware of Richard Strauss – of any other”. Bax also discovered and privately studied the works of Debussy, whose music, like that of Strauss, was frowned on by the largely conservative faculty of the Academy.

While still a student at the Royal Academy of Music Bax became fascinated with Ireland and Celtic culture, which became a strong influence on his early development. In the years before the First World War he lived in Ireland and became a member of Dublin literary circles, writing fiction and verse under the pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne. Later, he developed an affinity with Nordic culture, which for a time superseded his Celtic influences in the years after the First World War.

Between 1910 and 1920 Bax wrote a large amount of music, including the symphonic poem Tintagel, his best-known work. Perhaps the best known of all his orchestral works Bax’s Tintagel is a vivid tonal impression of the castle-crowned cliff of Tintagel in Cornwall. Here the legends of King Arthur and the scenic grandeur of the Atlantic Ocean fired Bax’s imagination into producing some of the most vivid sea music ever written.

Bax himself wrote that the music brought, “…thoughts of many passionate and tragic incidents in the tales of King Arthur and King Mark… and that the piece ends as it began, with a picture of the castle still proudly fronting the sea and wind of centuries”

During this period he formed a lifelong association with the pianist Harriet Cohen – at first an affair, then a friendship, and always a close professional relationship. In the 1920s he began the series of seven symphonies which form the heart of his orchestral output. In 1942 Bax was appointed Master of the King’s Music, but composed little in that capacity. In his last years he found his music regarded as old-fashioned, and after his death it was generally neglected. From the 1960s onwards, mainly through a growing number of commercial recordings, his music was gradually rediscovered, although little of it is heard with any frequency in the concert hall.

Afterword: As an alumnus myself of the Royal Academy of Music, London, my professor there, Frederick Jackson, urged me to get acquainted with ‘Arnold’s superb compositions’ whenever I got the chance. As a result of the orchestral works, I became attached to Tintagel heard here on YouTube and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones. The Celtic music is played by a Celtic ensemble. Enjoy!

References: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewens

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 in just over 2 1/2 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 you would please consider making a donation of US $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

 

 

Max Bruch and Hebrew Melody

An unusual mix for a German composer was that as a Protestant he happened to be deeply moved by traditional Hebrew melody. I’m speaking here about Max Bruch, who was born in Cologne on January 6, 1838 and after a notable career as both composer and conductor died this day, October 2, 1920 in Friedenau near Berlin.

Bruch is best known for his excellent Violin Concerto in G minor, the Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra, and the Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra. My particular favorite happens to be Kol Nidrei, which he never presumed to write as a work of Jewish music: he only wished to incorporate Jewish inspirations into his own compositions. Here it is on YouTube performed by cellist Jacqueline Du Pre with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra: Kol Nidrei.

Indeed, Bruch wrote in a letter to cantor and musicologist Eduard Birnbaum (December 4, 1889): “I became acquainted with Kol Nidrei and a few other songs (among others, ‘Arabian Camel’) in Berlin through the Lichtenstein family, who befriended me. Even though I am a Protestant, as an artist I deeply felt the outstanding beauty of these melodies and therefore I gladly spread them through my arrangement.

…As a young man I had already …studied folksongs of all nations with great enthusiasm, because the folksong is the source of all true melodies—a wellspring, at which one must repeatedly renew and refresh oneself—if one doesn’t admit to the absurd belief of a certain party: “The melody is an outdated view.” So lay the study of Jewish ethnic music on my path.”

Bruch’s Violin Concerto was introduced in Coblenz on April 2, 1866, with Otto von Koenigsloew as soloist, and the composer conducting.

References: Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; Wikipedia

Dear Readers:
You number over 75,000 in over two-and-a-half years ago back in early 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 $1.00, $2.00, $5.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
And thank you for being a regular reader of the Azim Mayadas Blog!

Copyright © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas