Funny enough: Victor Borge

December 26, 2014 Comments Off on Funny enough: Victor Borge

Not his funniest 8 minutes, but the only instance I’ve seen of Borge playing with The Beatles AND the Maharishi in the front row.

Pianist Helped Nelson Mandela By Playing Beethoven 4th

December 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

harold-rubensHarold 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.

New Rubinstein Videos

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!”

Finally, the elephants get to tickle the ivories

July 24, 2013 Comments Off on Finally, the elephants get to tickle the ivories

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.

Musicians expected to work for free at London 2012 Olympics

July 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Modern copy of Myron's Discobolus in Universit...

Modern copy of Myron’s Discobolus in University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden, Denmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is the London 2012 Olympics exploiting musicians? 

I wonder what would happen if the athletes were told they needed to donate their labor. Seems like music and sports are roughly equivalent in terms of investment in training, personal dedication, expensive equipment needed, struggle and glory, etc. But we musicians get no help from sponsors.

Thirty years ago my husband got 400 bucks a month from Nike for being a low-tier runner in Eugene, OR.  I think I’m a better pianist than he was a runner, but I would settle for the same rate today.

Nike, where’s my sponsorship?


The Piano Bike Kid

June 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

 Not exactly a  piano, definitely not a kid, but possibly a bike or a bike-like object here in River City. Dezy Walls has brought his singing and piano playing to the streets of Portland. You can read all about it here.

Watch a video, listen to his songs, find out where you can next see and hear him here.

Listening to Music Aids in Stroke Recovery

June 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Vertical cross-section of the human cerebellum...

Vertical cross-section of the human cerebellum, showing folding pattern of the cortex, and interior structures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband Charles had a cerebellar stroke about 4 years ago. He become quite a celebrity in the local hospital. All the neurology students showed up to visit, along with an assortment of doctors, residents, nurses, etc. I guess things were slow  that week on the neurology ward and a guy sitting up in bed building Lego models was a big draw.

Charles is not normally the person you’d go to for a conversation. He’s a “Just the facts, ma’am ,” sort of guy.  But the medical types all wanted his opinion on the weather, the ball game, his lunch and the model he was building.  I’d never seen so much idle chatter in his vicinity. They didn’t care what he talked about, they just wanted  him to speak. Then, once someone got him going, they’d all watch him with keen attention, like they were dogs and he was eating a hamburger.

The talking never failed to please. The crowd would get noticeably cheerier after some remarks on the weather. Then they would move on to the next fascinating skill: Could he touch his nose with his finger? The entire crowd would watch as finger was applied to nose. Breath was held. Eyebrows were raised. Heads were shaken in astonishment.

My husband is a bright man.  He was also an AAU swimmer who swam his way to Stanford on a scholarship. Talking and touching his nose were not previously thought to be his best act. But somehow, having lost a good portion of his cerebellum, talking  and touching his nose became marvels of achievement. People missing what he was missing were not supposed to be doing what he was doing.

Somehow he missed a really terrible accident. Call me biased, but I think  a recently published article hints at why he suffered so few ill effects from his stroke. This article says that listening to music seems to help reorganize the brain after a stoke and repair the damage.

It seems to me that listening to piano music 4 or 5 hours a day must also have a protective effect or else someone near and dear to me would be a  basket case today. All those piano lessons and his wife’s practicing must have made him nearly invincible.

Four years later, he is not only fully recovered from the small effects of the stroke, but is functioning better than ever. I attribute it all to the concentrated doses of piano music he receives every day.

Ask your doctor if piano music is right for you.

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