December 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Harold Rubens was a Welsh piano prodigy, shown here playing for George Bernard Shaw. When he got too old for the prodigy business he moved to South Africa, where he became active in anti-apartheid groups. Working with Nelson Mandela, his piano playing skills were in demand.
According to Norman Lebrecht, writing on Slipped Disc, resistance groups would meet in Rubens’ home, where he could play loudly to cover up the conversations and prevent their being picked up by the secret police.
Lebrecht quotes Albi Sachs: ‘We were meeting in the underground in their cottage in Newlands. We would hear him practising the fourth Beethoven piano concerto, going over it and over and over again while we were doing our secret planning in the room next door. Happily the music was very loud, and if there were any bugs, all the security police would hear would be Beethoven and not us planning resistance to apartheid. Beethoven would have been happy. Such complex and mixed-up feelings in this simple building.’
I wonder about that Beethoven being so very loud. I play that piece and it is impossible to get the right elegant effect if you are too heavy. I guess I won’t be invited to host any resistance meetings around here.
Rubens’ sister was the novelist Bernice Rubens who wrote the novel Madame Sousatska, based on Harold Rubens’ piano teacher in London. It was made into a movie starring Shirley MacLaine as one of my favorite movie piano teachers.
November 18, 2013 § Leave a Comment
You may remember Gunther Schuller. In his youth, he made a big splash in the classical music world by taking jazz seriously and mixing it with classical idioms. It is hard to remember now, but just a short while ago a classically trained musician couldn’t get much respect if he dabbled in jazz.
Schuller did more than dabble. He played with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus. He also was president of the New England Conservatory of Music and has had his works played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic. Those are pretty good credentials from both sides of the aisle.
Schuller almost single-handedly made Scott Joplin’s ragtime piano music a part of every pianist’s repertoire.
Here is a recent story on him in the Dallas Observer.
November 9, 2013 § 2 Comments
Pianists can easily keep playing into their 90′s and still have something to say. Here is Frank Glazer, a student of Schnabel, which puts him in my lineage from Leschetizky, giving a recital at age 98. He played Nov. 6 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“Glazer, 98, is a pianist, composer and music professor, who began playing piano when he was 3 years old and now has spent almost 60 years as a professional performer”. You can read the full article on MichiganLive here.
A review of an August concert in Wisconsin is here. In other words, he plays concerts all the time.
Want to have a great old age? Play the piano.
November 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
About the same time she started taking piano lessons from me, Sherry Green took up fencing. This October she was a member of the USA Veterans team and fenced in the World Championships in Varna, Bulgaria.
The team took the gold.
This is the fourth time she has been a member of the USA Veterans team. In 2005 she came in fifth in the World Championships. In 2006 she was the top-ranked female sabre fencer in the 60+ category.
In 2007, she was on the USA team that went to Sydney, Australia for the World Championships but was unable to compete. The night before the first match, while in line outside the famous Sidney Opera House, she tripped on a messed-up bit of sidewalk and broke her knee. Mad doesn’t even begin to describe her state of mind, as she had to forgo not just the fencing championships, but the opera as well.
September 16, 2013 § 1 Comment
Here’s the hero of my youth and now my late middle age, giving a short class on Chopin. No one has played Chopin better in my lifetime. Here he is, old, blind, magnificent, riveting.
Here’s the second part
“Music is an art of emotion, of nobility, of dignity, of greatness, of love, of tenderness- all that must be brought out in music…. but never show off!”
July 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
One of the horrors of piano history was the killing of elephants so their tusks could be used as the ivory covering the white keys. As far as I know, they never got to play the dang things until now. This video shows an elephant in Thailand jamming on the modern plastics with a human blues player. The elephant deserves a more sensitive accompanist, but is enjoying himself nevertheless.
I would like to play the piano with an elephant, so if anyone knows an elephant who would like to jam, give me a call.
June 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
sorry, you’ll have to click on the link to the video.
Digital pianos have taken over the entire low and middle end of the piano market. They are affordable, portable, available, reliable and you can practice at 2:00 am via headphones. The good digitals are so much better than the junky uprights I played as a child!
But how do they compare with a really good piano, the kind we pianists play now that we are grownups? This little video shows Simone Dinnerstein testing and discussing various digitals. She is rather sweetly critical of several models and pleased with the highest of the high-end Yamahas.