Radio Chopin is Halfway Home! Episode 100…


So, for episode 100 of Radio Chopin, we thought we’d visit Chopin’s original home, in the Polish town of Zelazowa Wola.

“Today, trees – and pianos – remain the story of Zelazowa Wola. The park surrounding the manor includes more than 500 species of trees and shrubs. Piano teachers make pilgrimages here to put “Chopin acorns” in the pockets of their promising students. Inside, there are three 19th-century pianos; outside, there’s a modern grand, where every summer, there is a daily Chopin recital, from soloists ranging from greenest amateur to the most established pro.”  Nicely told, Mike McKay!

Episode 100: Zelazowa Wola

The Mozdzer Motor

Fascinating visit with the remarkable Polish jazz pianist Leszek Mozdzer on the Spoleto Festival, as we recorded an interview between him and Jennifer Foster in the Cato Center.  Here’s the link to the program:
Spoleto Today 2010 June 1

Great dissection of how he channels Chopin into “the Mozdzer Motor” – and his John Cage-like habit of putting drinking glasses, combs, and even his own CDs on the piano strings to combat boredom.  Oh, and along the way we revealed to Mozdzer his unwitting hand in creating the Spoleto Today theme song!

We even had the chance to shoot a little video:

And here are more “Chopin Impressions” from Mozdzer:

Chopinomics in the Marketplace

Image“How much would you pay for a piano lesson with Chopin? His fee in 1832 was 20 francs. Highway robbery if you’re an ordinary piano teacher – but the instructor in question was The Genius in Vogue, and the price was considered a bargain…..”  Our Radio Chopin series has caught the ear of the public radio business show Marketplace, which today aired around the nation Jennifer Foster’s piece on “Chopinomics.”   Hear the piece for yourself!

Episode 4: Chopinomics

Radio Chopin: The Journey Begins

Image We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin’s birth this year at WDAV with an ambitious new series:  Radio Chopin.  No fewer than 200 two-minute stories about the music, the people, the events, and the stories surrounding the “poet of the piano.”  Our midday host Jennifer Foster is at the helm, and I imagine you’ll be hearing from all of the WDAV voices between now and Dec. 31.  Heck, we’re even building an entire website for the project.  What an adventure!   Stay tuned, and enjoy Episode 1 by our multimedia producer Jeffrey Freymann-Weyr, concerning a famous, if mispronounced, little Waltz…
Episode 1: The Minute Waltz: A Mispronunciation and a Dog Named Marquis

Bravo for Brubeck

Nice to see Dave Brubeck get a well-deserved honor yesterday…the legendary jazzman came to Washington DC to honored with the Ben Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy – a sort of “lifetime achievement” award for Americans going abroad. The award was launched last year by our piano-playing Secretary of State, who noted at the ceremony yesterday, “As a little girl I grew up on the sounds of Dave Brubeck because my dad was your biggest fan.”

Here’s the link to the entire half-hour ceremony, courtesy of State’s website.

Or you can listen here to Brubeck’s moving comments about the emotional experience of playing in Poland for the first time a half-century ago….

AND listen to what he played when he put his “cold hands on this cold [and slightly out-of-tune] piano:” Dave Brubeck: Dziekuje (Thank You)

There’s also a very nice article about Brubeck’s incalcuable impact (with a wonderful slide show) as an overseas jazz ambassador during the ’50s and ’60s here.

Aspen in Winter – the Vladimir Feltsman File

In the summer months, there’s probably more music-per-capita-per-minute in Aspen than anywhere else on the planet – The Aspen Music Festival & School crams 350+ concerts, lectures, and events into eight or so weeks between the end of June and mid-August. But the place doesn’t go entirely dark after Labor Day…your humble correspondent was on hand Wednesday night for the opening of Aspen’s Winter Series that takes place in 500-seat Harris Concert Hall. Most of those seats sic Festival appearance. Part of that appeal, I suspect, is how profoundly uncategorizable hewere filled Wednesday for a recital by pianist Vladimir Feltsman. Feltsman has long been an Aspen favorite – in fact, he’ll be back in the Meadows this summer for his fourteenth consecutive Mu is – he’s gone through his “big burly Russian” phases, playing concertos by Tchaikovsky et al; he’s embraced the keyboard music of J.S. Bach with a vengeance, with some compelling readings (and recordings) of the Partitas and Inventions; and last fall he presented a cycle of Mozart’s piano sonatas on a fortepiano – that is, a modern replica of an instrument that Mozart owned – a piano built in the 1780’s by Viennese manufacturer Anton Walter.

But that’s not how we first found out about Vladimir Feltsman. Twenty years ago, he was a reluctant celebrity of the Cold War, after the U.S. State Department and President Ronald Reagan personally took up his cause for emigration. (Feltsman had applied for an exit visa in 1979 and his career was subsequently put on ice by Soviet authorities). Feltsman’s first commercial recording, of the 24 Preludes by Frederic Chopin, in fact, was recorded in 1984 inside the American Embassy in Moscow, and subsequently smuggled out of the country in a diplomatic pouch and released on CBS Masterworks – back when the phrase “two-record set” was a big deal. By the summer of 1987, the Americans had made enough noise, and the Soviets felt enough heat, to let Feltsman go…and suddenly there he was in the White House, giving his debut American performance with the President and First Lady leading the applause.

Needless to say, with that kind of attention, there was, in the words of the New York Times, a firestorm of publicity – not to mention curiosity – about Feltsman the artist. Was he truly the next Horowitz, or merely being played as pawn in the East-West political struggle? You could hear passionate arguments on both sides. Hard to imagine that all happened 20 years ago – or that Feltsman’s own website blandly states that “Mr. Feltsman emigrated to the United States in 1987, and that same year, his debut at Carnegie Hall immediately established him as a major pianist on the American scene.”

Major pianist, yes, but I think one happy enough to pursue his own unique path. He’s a sophisticated, searching, and accomplished pianist, but I suspect that he’s had enough “celebrity” in his career. It’ll be interesting to see if and how Feltsman chooses to commemorate those headline-grabbing events of the summer of 1987.

P.S. Back on the subject of the headline – Aspen was one of the first places I know to have its own Town webcams – you can even move them around to create your own custom views of the town. It’s a great bookmark when you’re bored!