13th Death Anniversary of Russian Musical Phenom

Lazar Berman was born on February 26, 1930 to Jewish parents in Leningrad. His mother, Anna Lazarevna Makhover, had played the piano herself until prevented by hearing problems. She introduced her son to the piano, he entered his first competition at the age of three, and recorded a Mozart fantasia and a mazurka that he had composed himself at the age of seven, before he could even read music. Emil Gilels described him as a “phenomenon of the musical world”.

When Berman was nine, the family moved to Moscow so that he could study with Aleksandr Goldenweiser at the Conservatoire. The following year he made his formal debut playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1941, students, pupils and parents were evacuated to Kuibishev, a city on the Volga, because of World War II. Living conditions were so poor that his mother had to cut the fingers from a pair of gloves to allow him to continue to practice without freezing his hands.

His playing of Chopin is well documented, in both a concert film and a DGG recording of the polonaises from the 1970s. He subsequently began to acquire a small international visibility. At the age of 12 he played Franz Liszt‘s La campanella to a British audience over the radio; in 1956 he won a prize at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Belgium, with Vladimir Ashkenazy; and in 1958, he performed in London and recorded for Saga records.

Although he was known to international music aficionados who had heard the occasional recording on the Russian Melodiya record label, as well as those who visited the Soviet Union, he was not generally well known outside Russia before his 1975 American tour, organized by the impresario Jacques Leiser. His now legendary New York debut at the 92 Street Y, where he played Liszt’s Transcendental Études, struck the music world like lightning. (Listen here to his performance of  Harmonies du Soir – the 11th Etude.) He became an overnight sensation. Before that, he had been generally restricted to the Soviet concert circuit, playing on old and decrepit pianos to audiences of varied degrees of interest. Invitations to tour outside the Soviet Union were ignored by the Soviet state concert agency, Gosconcert. He lived in a tiny two-room apartment in Moscow, with a grand piano occupying an entire room. But after his 1975 tour, he was immediately in great demand, with Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, and CBS vying to record him. He recorded the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto with Herbert von Karajan, as well as broadcasting it on international television with Antal Doráti, to mark United Nations Day in 1976.

Most of his British appearances came in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In December 1976, he performed music by Sergei Prokofiev and Franz Liszt at the Royal Festival Hall.

Afterword: On a personal note, I had a long association with Lazar starting in 1956 as a competitor at the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in Budapest, Hungary, and continuing in the USA with his solo performances in New York, New Jersey and Florida.

Lazar died on February 6, 2005, survived by his third wife, Valentina Sedova, also a pianist, whom he had married in 1968, and a son, the talented violinist and conductor Pavel Berman.

References: Wikipedia; My Diary

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, 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, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Copyright © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

Pope Pays An Emotional House Call

[It’s Monday, February 3, 1986, and Pope John Paul II pays an emotional house call  at the home for the dying established by Mother Teresa in Calcutta on the third leg of his 14-city sojourn across India.

Mother Teresa
(August 26, 1910 – September 5,  1997)

Pope John Paul II
(May 18, 1920 – April 2, 2005)
After a 40-minute tour of the facility founded by the Nobel-laureate nun, the pontiff says the 120-bed hospice is a sacred place where “the mystery of human suffering meets the
mystery of faith and love.”
Mother Teresa appears enlivened by the papal presence despite her generally frail health at the age of 75, and says the Pope’s visit to see “the poorest of the poor” in her south Calcutta home makes this “the happiest day of my life.”]

On his arrival in India’s largest city on that memorable Monday 32 years ago, the Pope was greeted by more than 100,000 people lining his motorcade route from the Dum Dum airport to Mother Teresa’s home, known as the Nirmal Hriday Ashram. The sandstone structure, located on the grounds of a Hindu temple, has taken in nearly 50,000 homeless and gravely ill patients since its founding in 1952.

The Pope was escorted through the ashram by Mother Teresa, stopping by each of the 86 occupied beds to bless the patients. The vast majority of them were Hindu, but the Pope gave each a rosary.

He also helped the Missionaries of Charity sisters serve a modest evening meal of wheat bread, potato curry and sweet curds to the infirm. “I don’t know who he is,” said one emaciated patient, “but he must be a big boss.” Here are some notable dates before and after her death:

  • August 20, 1993 Mother Teresa hospitalized with malaria
  • September 13, 1997 Mother Teresa’s State Funeral held in India
  • October 10, 2003 Mother Teresa of Calcutta is beatified by Pope John Paul II
  • September 4, 2016 Mother Teresa canonized by Pope Francis in a ceremony at the Vatican

Afterword:
Long before the 1986 Papal visit, I had been a resident of Calcutta working in a mercantile firm and housed in a company apartment block that was a 20-minute walk away from the Ashram , which I passed by fairly frequently. Also, as the executive of the company’s charitable trust, I used to hand-deliver during my term as trustee an annual donation by way of a check made out to the Missionaries of Charity office, seen below:

I never met the now sainted Mother in the flesh, but was fully aware, almost on a daily basis, of the unbelievable role she played in easing the life of Calcutta’s poor in its teeming slum districts.

References: Chicago Tribune Correspondent Bruce BuursmaEncyclopedia Britannica; Wikipedia; On this Day Website

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 just over three years ago, 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, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Copyright © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

 

Amahl in America

Gian Carlo Menotti, the Italian composer, whose operas gained wider popularity than any others of their time, died on this day – February the 1st – in 2007 in Monaco at the ripe-old age of 95. His realistic operas on his own librettos represent a successful combination of 20th-century dramatic situations with the traditional form of Italian opera. Menotti used largely traditional harmonies, resorting at times to dissonance and polytonality to heighten dramatic effect.

Mebotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera in one act with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by NBC and first performed by the NBC Opera Theater on December 24, 1951, in New York City at NBC studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, where it was broadcast live on television from that venue as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America. Here’s a YouTube scene “Do You Know A Child” from it.

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Menotti wrote Amahl with the stage in mind, even though it was intended for broadcast. He said: “On television you’re lucky if they ever repeat anything. Writing an opera is a big effort and to give it away for one performance is stupid.” The composer appeared on-screen in the premiere to introduce the opera and give the background of the events leading up to its composition. He also brought out director Kirk Browning and conductor Thomas Schippers to thank them on-screen.

Amahl was seen on 35 NBC affiliates coast to coast, the largest network hookup for an opera broadcast to that date. An estimated five million people saw the live broadcast, the largest audience ever to see a televised opera.

Menotti wrote his first opera, The Death of Pierrot, by the age of 11. He studied at the Milan Conservatory and in the late 1920s emigrated to the United States, where he continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia (1928–33), at the suggestion of Arturo Toscanini.

There he met Samuel Barber, who became his lifelong companion and frequent collaborator.

Although Menotti worked extensively in the United States, he retained his Italian citizenship.

References: Encyclopedia Britannica; Wikipedia; On this Day Website

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, 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, $5.00, $10.00, or whatever amount you deem fit to sustain my work.
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Copyright © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas

You Are A Genius, Schubert

Franz Schubert – Frontispiece Black & White Photo
Printed at Leipzig in Bosworth Edition of
Schubert Album

Franz Schubert ( born in Vienna, Austria, January 31, 1797 – died there,  November 19, 1828) was only 31 when he passed away, yet had composed over 600 works, a fraction of which were published within his lifetime. The son of a school teacher he lived most of his life in obscurity in Vienna. It was only after his death in 1828 from typhoid fever and probably syphilis that the extent of his composition was discovered, published and performed.

Schubert is particularly known for his melodies and songs, writing over 500 of the latter. Some of the most famous include The Erlking, Mignon songs from Goethe and those based on Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake. Schubert wrote 8 more or less completed symphonies, though his most well-known is perhaps his Unfinished Symphony of 1822.

The elder Franz Schubert was a man of character who had established a flourishing school. The family was musical and cultivated string quartet playing in the home, the boy Franz playing the viola. He received the foundations of his music education from his father and his brother Ignaz, continuing later with organ playing and music theory under the instruction of the parish church organist. In 1808 he won a scholarship that earned him a place in the imperial court chapel choir and an education at the Stadtkonvikt, the principal boarding school for commoners in Vienna, where his tutors were Wenzel Ruzicka, the imperial court organist, and, later, the composer Antonio Salieri, then at the height of his fame. It was Salieri who said to Schubert: “You can do everything, for you are a genius.” Schubert played the violin in the students’ orchestra, was quickly promoted to leader, and in Ruzicka’s absence conducted. He also attended choir practice and, with his fellow pupils, cultivated chamber music and piano playing.

From the evidence of his school friends, Schubert was inclined to be shy and was reluctant to show his first compositions. His earliest works included a long Fantasia for Piano Duet, a song, several orchestral overtures, various pieces of chamber music, and three string quartets. An unfinished operetta on a text by August von Kotzebue, Der Spiegelritter (The Looking-glass Knight), also belongs to those years. The interest and encouragement of his friends overcame his shyness and eventually brought his work to the notice of Salieri. In 1812 Schubert’s voice broke; he left the college but continued his studies privately with Salieri for at least another three years. During this time he entered a teachers’ training college in Vienna and in the autumn of 1814 became assistant in his father’s school. Rejected for military service because of his short stature, he continued as a schoolmaster until 1818.

The numerous compositions he wrote between 1813 and 1815 are remarkable for their variety and intrinsic worth. They are the products of young genius, still short of maturity but displaying style, originality, and imagination. Besides five string quartets, there were three full-scale masses and three symphonies. His first full-length opera, Des Teufels Lustschloss (The Devil’s Palace of Desire), was finished while he was at the training college. But at this period song composition was his chief, all-absorbing interest. On October 19, 1814, he first set to music a poem by Goethe, Gretchen am Spinnrade (“Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel”) sung here in 1984 by Jessye Norman – Soprano and accompanied by Phillip Moll – Piano: it was Schubert’s 30th song and in this masterpiece he created at one stroke the German lied  or ‘art song’.

The many unfinished fragments and sketches of songs left by Schubert provide some insight into the working of his creative mind. Clearly, the primary stimulus was melodic. The words of a poem engendered a tune. Harmony and modulation were then suggested by the contours of the melody. But the external details of the poet’s scene—natural, domestic, or mythical—prompted such wonderfully graphic images in the accompaniments as the spinning wheel, the ripple of water, or the “shimmering robe” of spring. These features were fully present in the songs of 1815. The years that followed deepened and enriched but did not revolutionize these novel departures in song. During 1815 Schubert also continued to be preoccupied with his ill-fated operas: between May and December he wrote Der vierjährige Posten (A Sentry for Four Years), Fernando, Claudine von Villa Bella, and Die Freunde von Salamanka (The Friends of Salamanca).

At this time Schubert’s outward life was uneventful. Friends of his college days were faithful, particularly Josef von Spanun, who in 1814 introduced him to the poet Johann Mayrhofer. He also induced the young and brilliant Franz von Schober to visit Schubert. Late in 1815 Schober went to the schoolhouse in the Säulengasse, found Schubert in front of a class with his manuscripts piled about him, and inflamed the young composer, a willing listener, with a desire to break free from his duties. In the spring of 1816 Schubert applied for the post of music director in a college at Laibach (now Ljubljana, Slovenia) but was unsuccessful. His friends tried to interest Goethe in the songs and in April 1816 sent a volume of 16 settings to the poet at Weimar. It produced no result. At length, in December 1816, Schober persuaded Schubert to apply for leave of absence. Despite his father’s reluctance, he obtained the leave and subsequently spent eight months with Schober, living in the home of his friend’s widowed mother.

Early in 1817 Schober brought the baritone Johann Michael Vogl to his home to meet Schubert. As a result of this meeting, Vogl’s singing of Schubert’s songs became the rage of the Viennese drawing rooms. His friendships with the Huttenbrenner brothers, Anselm, a composer, and Josef, an amateur musician, and with Josef von Gahy, a pianist with whom he played duets, date from these days. But this period of freedom did not last, and in the autumn of 1817 Schubert returned to his teaching duties. He wrote to his friends of himself as a verdorbener (“frustrated”) musician. The two earlier years had been particularly fruitful. Songs of this period include “Ganymed,” “Der Wanderer,” and the Harper’s Songs from Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. There were two more symphonies: No. 4 in C Minor, which Schubert himself named the Tragic (1816), and the popular No. 5 in B-flat Major (1816). A fourth mass, in C major, was composed in 1816. The year 1817 is notable for the beginning of his masterly series of piano sonatas. Six were composed at Schober’s home, the finest being No. 7 in E-flat Major and No. 11 in B Major.

It is said that Schubert’s place in the history of music is equivocal, for he stands between the worlds of Classical and Romantic music. He can, however, be considered as the last of the great Classical composers. His music, subjectively emotional in the Romantic manner, poetically conceived, and revolutionary in language, is nevertheless cast in the formal molds of the Classical school—with the result that it has become increasingly apparent that Schubert more truly belongs to the age of Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart than to that of Schumann, Chopin, and Wagner.

Afterword: My future mother-in-law, Sudhira Bhagat, presented her daughter Lolita with the Schubert Album when she was still a teenager: I borrowed it and took to the beautiful Impromptus, Op. 90 Nos. 1, 3 & 4 and Op. 142 Nos. 3 & 4 some of which I included in my own piano recitals over the years of concertizing in India and abroad.

References: Encyclopedia Britannica; Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; On this Day Website; my Piano Music Library.

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 since January 2015 three years ago, 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, $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 © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Aquarian Anniversaries – January the Thirtieth

I’ve always been fascinated by genealogy and numerology, particularly when they intersect in an unusual way to create a new reality – or, mayhap, illusion?

(b. January 30, 1888 – d. 1950)

TODAY IS MY FATHER’S 130TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY, and I’ve therefore published today for members of my family, here and abroad, a biography of his distinguished public life and stellar career in India.

The book was written for me and my twin sister by our brother, Lt. Gen. Misbah Lewis Mayadas, and bequeathed to me prior to his passing away in Dehra Dun, Uttarkhand, for transcribing his finely cursive manuscript dating back to 2002 – during his post-retirement time spent farming in McCluskieganj, Bihar – into prosaic print for today’s discerning reader.

At the same time, I’m drawn to the fact that my favorite among American presidents is Franklin Roosevelt , who was born on January 30, 1882 – an Aquarian like my father.

(b. January 30, 1882 – d. 1945)

Not surprisingly, I was attracted to Jon Meacham’s 2003 book Franklin and Winston as a means of gaining an insight into the great American’s background and thinking during the course of his epic friendship with that symbol of the British people during World War II, Winston Churchill. As a young man I had enjoyed the no mean task of reading the six volumes of WSC’s The Second World War that still reside in my living-room library, transplanted whole along with other gems of English literature from my homes in Calcutta to Englewood, New Jersey, via Rochester, New York, and Miami, Florida.

In any case, I have no way of and no aptitude for emulating Meacham’s powerful portrayal of his famous characters, but that does not mean that I cannot attempt to draw a certain symbiotic relevance between the two Aquarians, who are the subject of this blog.

Without being pedantic, the common traits seemed to have been that each was to a lesser or greater extent –

  • An original, independent, human being
  • Always fun to be with; forever involved in helping others and fighting for causes; an intellectual conversationalist, and a good listener
  • A deep thinker; someone who loved to help others, was able to see both sides of an issue, and could easily solve problems
  • Because of the desire for freedom and equality for all, someone who tried hard to ensure freedom of speech
  • And without being flip, someone who was fond of a good cigar in the company of good friends and a stimulating drink!

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 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 $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 © 2018 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

 

BeeGee Twins and Barry Gibb

BeeGees 1970

BeeGees 1977

I’d just arrived in Miami a month before the beginning of the 1978-79 winter season of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra as its newly appointed General Manager, and the local movers and shakers were determined that I got to know some of the leading lights among the orchestra supporters straightaway. As part of the meet-and-greet plan laid out for me, FPO president Bob Paul and his attentive German wife Christa invited me one day to join them at a cocktail party held in the spacious ocean-front residence of a Board member. Among the invitees of  some well-known citizens and luminaries were included the pop group BeeGees, whom I’d heard about while in New York, but only peripherally. They had just come to Florida from their Australian home and turned out to be a blast at the event.  Being a twin myself, I was happy to speak at length with group members Maurice, the guitarist, and his twin brother Robin, the singer-songwriter. For the record, the twins were born this day December 22 in 1949 in Douglas, Isle of Man, U.K., but unfortunately neither lived to a ripe old age – Maurice died of cardiac arrest in 2003 aged 53, followed by Robin in 2012 of colon and liver cancer aged 62.

On a happier note, co-founder, Barry (born 1 September 1946) was the musician and record producer of the group, which in 1960 moved to Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia. There it evolved into the BeeGees, which Barry formed into a successful rock act beginning in 1966 until the early 1970s, and then as prominent performers of the disco-music era in the late 1970s. Barry’s known for his high-pitched falsetto singing voice. Here’s a YouTube presentation of BeeGees’ singing Still Waters – that was twenty years ago in 1997!

For services to music, Gibb was made a CBE (Commander in the Order of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace on May 27, 2004.

Afterword:
It turns out I was prophetic in remembering just a week ago one of my musical heroes without realizing that he would be knighted in England by Queen Elizabeth.
Thus, CNN (along with other news channels in the US and abroad) reported December 30, 2017 that BeeGees co-founder Barry Gibb has been awarded a knighthood by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in her 2018 New Year Honors List.

It also noted that: Gibb, the 70s disco pioneer …..said he was “deeply honored, humbled, and very proud” to be recognized.

“This is a moment in life to be treasured and never forgotten. I want to acknowledge how responsible my brothers are for this honor. It is as much theirs as it is mine,” Gibb, 71, told the UK’s Press Association.

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 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 $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 © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Hill Station to Hill Station

Himalayas at Dusk from MussooriePanoramic View of Mussoorie

What a difference sheer distance can make, when two locales, each over 6,000 feet high happen to be situated some 1500 miles apart! Intrigued? If so, read on.

I was born in an Indian hill station, Mussoorie, 6000-plus feet up in the North Indian foothills of the Himalayas (pictured above) and known for its natural beauty and waterfalls. Among them is my favorite, the Kempty Falls (the name probably derived from the English compound-word ‘camp-tea’!)
The Falls were developed as a tourist destination by a British officer namedJohn Mekinan, around 1835, and are situated on the hilly tracks of Uttarakhand 13 km from Mussoorie on the Chakrata Road: A stream of water running throughout the year starting from the southwest of village Banglow ki kandi moves northwest and falls from 4,500 ft. Splitting into five other cascades, the water falls a further 40 ft. The area around it is dominated by high mountain ranges at an altitude of 4500 feet.

Another favorite spot for me was Landour further up the hill from downtown Mussoorie as it is where St. Paul’s Church is situated and which I always visited over the years when holidaying in Dehra Dun with family members.

Not surprisingly I’ve always enjoyed the climate that enticing places like Mussoorie enjoy in the world – both close to home as well as those further afield, or more accurately in other countries. Mixed in with that climatic observation is the fact that in one of my earlier careers I was involved in the tea industry as the managing agency I worked for had as one of its many corporations the Assam Sawmills and Timber Co., which was the largest manufacturer of tea chests in the country. As a result, in my role  as a senior  company executive, I visited many tea gardens in Assam and  West Bengal in the Northeast, and Nilgiri in southern India, during which time I learned of another important source of black tea: the neighboring island of Ceylon – now known as Sri Lanka.

Came a time when a person whom I first met in New Delhi at a diplomatic party intrigued me with fascinating stories about his homeland – both about its ancient history as well as its modern day developments. I speak of the late Sir Richard Aluwihare, who was Ceylon’s distinguished ambassador to India during my three-year managerial stint in the Indian capital. I got to know him and his family well and it came to pass that one day out of the blue he invited me to his family estate in Matale for a holiday during which time I would have an opportunity of visiting not only neighboring tea gardens including famed Nuwara Eliya as also well-known archaeological sites in the northeast.  I accepted his kind invitation with alacrity, and not many months later I found myself in Colombo, the capital, en route to Matale and other destinations in the hinterland for a glorious fortnight’s respite away from the enervating heat of  summer in my homeland.
                                                        Aluwihares at their home in Matale EstateAfter Matale, I went by bus to the uplands and via Kandy for a busy round of visiting tea gardens  in the vicinity of Nuwara EliyaI’m an avid golfing fan, although I do not play the game.

So in my itinerary I included the famed NE Golf Club dating back to 1889 and set in a part of the island known as “Little England.” The course is located at an altitude of 6,000 ft above sea level: It is an 18 hole, 6,070 yd, Par 70 layout.

The area is also not far from four water
falls. I managed to get to one of them, Devon Falls, before heading north to Anuradhapura for an unforgettable viewing of ancient sculptures – one of Lord Buddha in the ‘lotus’ posture, another of the divinity reclining – and a magnificent Stupa.

On the return trip I spent a couple of days in Columbo and met up with Mrs. D’Silva, the Aluwihare’s daughter, whom I snapped with my Leica camera in her drawing room.

She was an accomplished pianist trained at the Julliard School of Music in New York City. We therefore had a lot to talk about the idiosyncrasies of our favorite composers and specifically about the interpretation of their well-known piano pieces.

Afterword: Nuwara Eliya, which – from a climatic point of view – bears  comparison with the lower heights of the Himalaya, has the peculiar advantage of possessing a spacious plain intersected by a running brook of pure water; whereas the convalescent hill stations of Missouri and Simla consist of abrupt ridges with scarcely a vestige of table land on which to build or plant.

References: Wikipedia, My Diary & Photo Albums

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 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 $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 © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Puccini Pavilion

[While growing up in New Delhi, India, I was used to hearing music pervade the household, whatever the season – be it during the Capital’s colorful springs, hot summers, wet monsoons, cool autumns or cold winters. Even as a pre-teenager, I recall our trusted gramophone being primed with 78 rpm recordings issued by His Masters Voice (HMV) of famous Western Classical musicians – instrumentalists and operatic singers – filling our drawing room with the lush unforgettable music of their world-renowned performances.

That was mainly due to my parents’ abiding love of music – Mummy’s bent was for listening to piano compositions, Daddy’s proclivity lay elsewhere – in operatic arias! In my blog posts beginning January 2015 I have devoted quite a number of hours writing about my favorite pianists and their unforgettable performances, so it’s about time that I turn to the human voice as portrayed so marvelously in the world of opera. ]

Today, I am taking the 93rd death anniversary on November the 29th of my best loved opera composer, Giacomo Puccini, to celebrate his Madama Butterfly that premiered in Milan, Italy on February 17, 1904.

Puccini was the last descendant of a family that for two centuries had provided the musical directors of the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca. Puccini initially dedicated himself to music, therefore, not as a personal vocation but as a family profession. He was orphaned at the age of five by the death of his father, and the municipality of Lucca supported the family with a small pension and kept the position of cathedral organist open for Giacomo until he came of age. He first studied music with two of his father’s former pupils, and he played the organ in small local churches. A performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, which he saw in Pisa in 1876, convinced him that his true vocation was opera. In the autumn of 1880 he went to study at the Milan Conservatory, where his principal teachers were Antonio Bazzini, a famous violinist and composer of chamber music, and Amilcare Ponchielli, the composer of the opera La gioconda.

On July 16, 1883, he received his diploma and presented as his graduation composition Capriccio sinfonico, an instrumental work that attracted the attention of influential musical circles in Milan. In the same year, he entered Le villi in a competition for one-act operas. The judges did not think Le villi worthy of consideration, but a group of friends, led by the composer-librettist Arrigo Boito, subsidized its production, and its premiere took place with immense success at Milan’s Verme Theatre on May 31, 1884. Le villi was remarkable for its dramatic power, its operatic melody, and, revealing the influence of Richard Wagner’s works, the important role played by the orchestra. The music publisher Giulio Ricordi immediately acquired the copyright, with the stipulation that the opera be expanded to two acts. He also commissioned Puccini to write a new opera for La Scala and gave him a monthly stipend: thus began Puccini’s lifelong association with Giulio Ricordi, who was to become a staunch friend and counselor.

After the death of his mother, Puccini fled from Lucca with a married woman, Elvira Gemignani. They lived at first in Monza, near Milan, where a son, Antonio, was born. In 1890 they moved to Milan, and in 1891 to Torre del Lago, a fishing village on Lake Massaciuccoli in Tuscany. This home was to become Puccini’s refuge from life, and he remained there until three years before his death, when he moved to Viareggio.

In 1908, Puccini devoted himself to La Fanciulla.del West (The Girl of the Golden West.) Its premiere took place at the Metropolitan in New York City on December 10, 1910, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. It was a great triumph, but he admitted that “writing an opera is difficult.”However, he really didn’t understand contemporary events, such as World War I. In 1917 at Monte-Carlo in Monaco, Puccini’s opera La rondine was first performed and then quickly forgotten.

Always interested in contemporary operatic compositions, Puccini studied the works of Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, and Igor Stravinsky. From this study emerged Il trittico (The Triptych; New York City, 1918), three stylistically individual one-act operas—the melodramatic Il tabarro (The Cloak), the sentimental Suor Angelica, and the comic Gianni Schicchi.

His last opera, Turandot, is the only Italian opera in the Impressionistic style. Puccini did not complete it, as he was suffering from cancer of the throat. He was ordered to Brussels for surgery, and a few days afterward died with the incomplete score in his hands.

Solemn funeral services were held for Puccini at La Scala in Milan, and his body was taken to Torre del Lago, which became the Puccini Pantheon. Shortly afterward, Elvira and Antonio were also buried there. The Puccini house became a museum and an archive.

The majority of Puccini’s operas illustrate a theme defined in Il tabarro: “Chi ha vissuto per amore, per amore si morì” (“He who has lived for love, has died for love”). This theme is played out in the fate of his heroines—women who are devoted body and soul to their lovers, are tormented by feelings of guilt, and are punished by the infliction of pain until in the end they are destroyed. In his treatment of this theme, Puccini combines compassion and pity for his heroines with a strong streak of sadism: hence the strong emotional appeal but also the restricted scope of the Puccinian type of opera.

Each Puccini opera has its distinctive ambience. With an unfailing instinct for balanced dramatic structure, Puccini knew that an opera is not all action, movement, and conflict; it must also contain moments of repose, contemplation, and lyricism. For such moments he invented an original type of melody, passionate and radiant, yet marked by an underlying morbidity; examples are the “farewell” and “death” arias that also reflect the persistent melancholy from which he suffered in his personal life.

Puccini’s approach to dramatic composition is expressed in his own words: “The basis of an opera is its subject and its treatment.” His conception of diatonic melody is rooted in the tradition of 19th-century Italian opera, but his harmonic and orchestral style indicate that he was also aware of contemporary developments, notably the work of the Impressionists and of Stravinsky. Though he allowed the orchestra a more active role, he upheld the traditional vocal style of Italian opera, in which the singers carry the burden of the music. In many ways a typical fin de siècle artist, Puccini nevertheless can be ranked as the greatest exponent of operatic realism.

Madama Butterfly, Puccini’s opera in three acts (originally two acts) (Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa) premiered at La Scala opera house in Milan on February 17, 1904. The work is one of the most frequently performed of all operas.

Puccini and his librettists, Illica and Giacosa, took steps to introduce an element of realism into the new opera. Illica even traveled to Nagasaki to investigate local color, while Puccini set about researching Japanese music. His music for the opera reflects what he had learned and even makes a few direct references to the Japanese songs he had been exposed to. To delineate the American characters, Puccini often used a bluff forthright manner of expression, and he occasionally worked in bits of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

For all his care in composing the opera, Puccini was stunned at its reception on his home turf. The opening-night audience openly jeered, booed and hissed throughout the performance. Madama Butterfly’s Japanese theme was mocked, and its tragic heroine was derided as a secondhand copy of Mimì from La Bohème. Nevertheless, he and his librettists began extensive revisions. The new Madama Butterfly, which reached the stage in Brescia, Italy, on May 28, 1904, was a great success. Two more revisions would follow, in 1905 and 1906, before the opera reached its definitive form. All versions included “One Fine Day,” which remains one of the best-known arias in the soprano repertoire. Listen to it here sung on a Victor recording of September 20, 1922 by none other than Amelita Galli-Curci – Un bel di vedremo.

Afterword: While a student in London University (1948-51) I spent one summer holidaying in Italy and took the opportunity of visiting Viareggio, Lucca and Torre del Lago Puccini. The experience of following in the great composer’s footsteps was overwhelming and fortified my commitment to taking every opportunity while abroad to listen to his captivating and enduring operas.

References: Brittanica; My Diary

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 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 $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 © 2017 Azim Lewis Mayadas

 

Earl Wild: The Romantic Master

Earl Wild – American pianist, composer, transcriber, conductor, editor and teacher

Born: 26 November 1915, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died: 23 January 2010, Palm Springs, California

I got to know Earl Wild during my three years as General Manager of the Florida Philharmonic in Miami from 1978 through 1981 and enjoyed his company – and piano recitals – on many occasions.

According to the New York Times Music Critic Harold C. Schonberg, Mr. Wild was in the forefront of the Romantic revival,” and cited his championship of Liszt — at a time when Liszt was out of favor among many pianists — as one of Mr. Wild’s most crucial contributions to modern pianism.

“By any standards,” Mr. Schonberg wrote, “Mr. Wild has one of the great piano techniques of the 20th century, and with it a rich, sonorous tone.”

Wild was celebrated for his robust technique and rich tone, championing the sweepingly virtuosic music of Rachmaninoff (whom he knew personally) and Liszt. But his repertoire stretched to include Bach and contemporary pieces. He also won recognition for his many arrangements and transcriptions of songs and tunes by other composers.

Here, for example, is his performance via YouTube  of Liszt’s Waltz on Themes of Gounod’s “Faust” recorded on February 28th, 1988 at the age of 83-plus no less. Then, there are his scintillating renditions of Liszt’s La Leggierezza and Chopin’s Etude Op. 25, No. 2.

In 1986, he was awarded the Liszt Medal by the Hungarian government, in recognition of his long association with the composer’s music. His last concert performance was at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on Feb. 5, 2008, when he was awarded the President’s Merit Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

He is certainly the only pianist to be invited to play at the White House before six consecutive Presidents (beginning with Herbert Hoover). In 1939, he became the first pianist ever to give a live solo recital on US television. Remarkably, in March 1997, he also became the first pianist to give a live solo recital on the Internet. In 1942 Wild was the first American-born musician to be invited by Arturo Toscanini to appear with him (in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue), making him the youngest soloist ever engaged by the NBC Symphony.

Background:
Though born into an unmusical family (his father was in steel, his mother was a hat designer), Wild’s pianistic genealogy was distinguished: at 11 he was accepted as a pupil of Selmar Janson, himself a pupil of Scharwenka and d’Albert (who had studied with Liszt); later he took lessons with Egon Petri (a pupil of Busoni), Paul Doguereau (a pupil of Paderewski and Ravel) and Helene Barere (wife of the Russian virtuoso Simon Barere). This foundation enabled him to maintain playing well into old age. He rounded off his celebratory 85th birthday recital in Carnegie Hall with d’Albert’s finger-crunching Scherzo. His 90th birthday recital in Carnegie Hall showed that his playing had lost none of its colour and vigour. He gave his final recital in February 2008 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles when he was awarded the President’s Merit Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Afterword:
Here is the beginning of Wild’s delightful transcription, which I have on my old Ivory Classics LP recording of Liebesleid by Kreisler/Rachmaninoff – enjoy!

References:  Wikipedia; My Diary

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 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 $5.00, $10.00, $15.00, 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

 

 

Indira Gandhi Birth Centenary – India’s First Woman Prime Minister

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi née Nehru was born this day 100 years ago on November 21,1917. She was an Indian stateswoman and a central figure of the Indian National Congress. She was the first and, to date, the only female Prime Minister of India. Gandhi belonged to the Nehru–Gandhi family and was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian prime minister. Despite her surname Gandhi, she is not related to the family of Mahatma Gandhi. She served as Prime Minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian prime minister after her father.

Gandhi served as her father’s personal assistant and hostess during his tenure as Prime Minister between 1947 and 1964. She was elected Congress President in 1959. Upon her father’s death in 1964 she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting. In the Congress Party’s parliamentary leadership election held in early 1966 (upon the death of Shastri) she defeated her rival, Morarji Desai, to become leader, and thus succeeded Shastri as Prime Minister of India.

As Prime Minister, Gandhi was known for her political ruthlessness and unprecedented centralization of power. She went to war with Pakistan in support of the independence movement and war of independence in East Pakistan, which resulted in an Indian victory and the creation of Bangladesh, as well as increasing India’s influence to the point where it became the regional hegemon of South Asia.

Citing fissiparous tendencies and in response to a call for revolution, Gandhi instituted a state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 where basic civil liberties were suspended and press was censored. In 1980, she returned to power after free and fair elections. She was assassinated by Sikh nationalists in 1984, less than a month before her 67th birthday. The assassins, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, were both shot by other security guards. Satwant Singh recovered from his injuries and was executed after being found guilty of murder.

In 1999, Indira was named “Woman of the Millennium” in an online poll organized by the BBC.

Afterword:
It was during Mrs. Gandhi’s tenure as Minister of Information and Broadcasting that I was called upon to provide her with the means of getting to the Bihar coalfields. I was then the General Manager of Bird & Company’s Coal Department with extensive coal mines in West Bengal and Bihar that made them the largest producers of coking coal in the country used by the steel industry in India and exported to Japan and elsewhere abroad.

Via an urgent telexed message I received from our New Delhi Office,  Madam Minister needed to travel immediately on arrival by air from the Capital at Calcutta’s Dum Dum International Airport to various parts of the coalfields on an important mission, and the only sure way for her to stick to her tight schedule was by private plane, which could air-hop to various small airstrips without much ado.

I was pleased to meet Mrs. Gandhi on her early arrival off the Indian Airlines plane and escort her to the Company 8-seater aircraft, which Bird’s had placed at her disposal. She insisted that I accompany her on the outward trip and so for most of that morning, I had the opportunity of speaking to her about our industrial role in the the economic development of the Eastern India states for nearly a century.

References:  Wikipedia; My Diary

Dear Readers,
You number over 70,000 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 $5.00, $10.00, $15.00, 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