Tea For Two


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



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