Celebrating the 111th birthday of the great Chilean-born pianist (and later a longtime resident of Douglaston, NY) Claudio Arrau by revisiting one of our “Great Chopinists” episodes from Radio Chopin. Listen to the episode here or read below: Read more
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa backstage at the Kennedy Center with Yr Hmble Srvnt and WDAV supporter Catherine Connor. Next day I had an hour on stage with KTK hosting her “exit interview” at the New Zealand Embassy, courtesy of the Washington Performing Arts Society. (For all of her trips to DC this was the first time the native Kiwi had ever been there, and the Embassy folks were suitably thrilled!). A fascinating discussion that sadly was not taped (I know, I know, but those were the ground rules…). More later on our discussion.
Charles Gounod’s opera, Faust. Act One, Scene One: Faust sits alone, bitter, despondent, reflecting on a life spent in a futile attempt to find the meaning of existence. He resolves to take his own life and is raising a vial of poison to his lips when …outside a joyous peasant chorus stops him.
When you listen to a moment right in the middle of one of Chopin’s most evocative Mazurkas, you hear unisons. Chopin used to fuss at his students over those brief bars. Wilhelm von Lenz writes:
“Nobody ever managed to satisfy him with these unisons, which have to be played very lightly; the chords were an easier matter: but these unisons! ‘They’re women’s voices in the choir,’ [Chopin] would say, and they were never played delicately enough, never simply enough. One was barely allowed to breathe over the keyboard, let alone touch it.”
This has to be a childhood memory. The Mazurka in B-flat minor is redolent with nostalgia from start to finish, and how it ends! If biographer James Huneker hears correctly, Faust’s impulse returns, only this time it’s the whole earth and the scene is set in a sorrowful heaven:
“Sweet melancholy driving before it joy and being routed itself, until the annunciation of the first theme and the dying away of the dance, dancers and the solid globe itself,” he writes, “…as if earth had committed suicide for loss of the sun. The last two bars could have been written only by Chopin. They are ineffable sighs.” – Jennifer Foster
“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!
Fun story to write for NPR Music’s Classical pages about a great concert this Spoleto season at the newly-redone Dock Street Theatre, with a stellar cast including pianist Inon Barnatan, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and violinist Livia Sohn….
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:
Episode 50 of Radio Chopin considers the saga of the wonderful Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter…“My parents met through Chopin’s music. It was during a party. Fifty years ago. My father was playing — as an amateur pianist — some Chopin waltzes in a party and my mother was there and that took her attention! That’s why she got in love with him. And that’s…that’s the reason why I say that if it wouldn’t be for Chopin music I wouldn’t be here!” Check out the story…and why many consider her part of the new generation of Great Chopinists…here.