Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Anaga

I know I've put up one picture from my hike in the Anaga in a previous post, but it was such a gorgeous hike that I'm putting up more.  (Need to inject some beauty into my life in the form of blue skies and greenery, since pre-spring in Iowa has been consisting of grey skies and brown grass and very dirty snow which has not quite melted away.)  

Teide in the distance.  

Looking south to the Atlantic Ocean.

The last three pictures are from the hike on Llano de los loros.  

Sunday, March 9, 2008

irritation with Blogger

I have just tried three times unsuccessfully to upload pictures from my Canary Islands trip. Grrrrr. Blogger, why must you thwart my plans? I'm totally awake, since it's really 9:53, and not 10:53 as the change of time would have me believe, and for once I can actually take some time to post a few more photos with commentary about the trip.  Why aren't you working? Why?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A post about music, surprise, surprise.

Last night I went to hear Frederic Chiu play in Washington, IA. Washington, Iowa, yes, you read that right.  Frederic Chiu played there.  I was especially interested in hearing him because his recording of the complete solo piano works of Prokofiev (yes, COMPLETE) is pretty freakin' amazing. I was stoked that he gave a recital so close to where I live. My friend C., who is another pianist, also went.  

Chiu's program:

5 Chopin etudes -- Op. 25, 1; one that I don't know well (C. if you're reading this, please tell me which one); Op. 10, 4 then 3; Op. 10, 12.  

Debussy -- something or other from Images Book II (the program is in my car and since it's only 22 degrees outside, I'm not going to fetch it).

Ravel -- Un barque sur l'ocean from Miroirs

Prokofiev -- 3 of Chiu's own transcriptions from the Lieutenant Kije Suite, then the Toccata (almost a favorite piece of all time and space)

Beethoven/Liszt -- transcription of Symphony No. 5

Chiu has recently released a recording of that Beethoven symphony.  His programming (he seems to be going around the country doing these "community outreach" concerts) was sort of geared toward that -- in the first half of the program, he wanted to demonstrate the different colors that the instrument is capable of generating, and then end literally with the piano as symphony.  

Most of the concert was very enjoyable.  I have to say, though, that the Aeolian Harp etude was his throw-away piece.  As he was playing it, I could feel myself sinking in my seat and thinking, "C. is going to hate me for dragging him out to BFE and making him pay $15 for this subpar performance."  Well, it was the first thing on the program, I guess he needed to warm up.  After that it improved significantly. :)   The piano, however, certainly left something to be desired. First of all, it wasn't 9 feet. Yeah, that probably means nothing to you if you're not a pianist. But even a 7 foot Steinway (someone told me it was that size, but actually, I think it was even smaller than that) pales in comparison.  This particular Steinway has been rebuilt, but since it's housed in this barn of a community center with no heating or humidity controls, some pitches were out of tune, some mildly and some wildly.  And there was a huge sound-sucking-up-curtain behind the piano.  So a certain amount of was imagination was required while listening, you know, for places where the bass should ring a little (or a lot) more, etc.  But because he played so well and his intentions were overall pretty clear, that actually wasn't a problem -- because I really could hear (albeit in my mind) what it would have sounded like in ideal conditions. Now that's artistry.

Highlights of the program for me:

Op 10, 4.  In two places the left hand sixteenth note phrases rushed. But that is forgivable because the etude is just so damn hard.  And more importantly he played it with great clarity at his amazingly fast tempo.  

Ravel.  The beginning and ending of this were so beautiful they were orgasmic. Really, I almost cried it was so beautiful.

Prokofiev.  Everything was played extremely artistically, I thought. And Prokofiev runs a close second to Brahms in the favorite composer category.  I especially like his transcription of the Romance from Kije.  He really captured the orchestral colors.  (And afterward I bought a copy of these transcriptions for only $15!) 

Beethoven.  To paraphrase Chiu, audiences of his day thought Beethoven was a crackpot.  I don't know about that, but it did make me laugh out loud. Certainly Beethoven knew how to hammer home a freakin' cadence.  Good grief.  I think he could have been a bit more succinct with this symphony. But anyway, back to Chiu, his octaves were incredible.  They were so unbelievably good that C. started to laugh in his seat next to me, sort of an oh-my-god-can-you-believe-a-human-being-can-do-that laugh.  It makes me and my recital program that has its share of octaves pale in comparison.  

And his pedaling didn't bother me, but he didn't keep his heel on the floor! What was so weird about it is that earlier that very same day I sat in on a masterclass in which an experienced performer (Chopin B-flat minor sonata, first movement) also did not keep her heel on the floor. I don't know what that's about.  

Sadly, I have no pictures, because I've been forgetting my camera at home.  For about a month.  

It was a good concert to go to, in part because this week contained some suckiness of the devastating magnitude.   That Ravel definitely made me feel better.  Current soundtrack is Indigo Girls Rites of Passage, which I always and forever identify with, in part because I am a slow learner. Speaking of slow learner and octaves, major panic has started to set in for my recital.  I feel totally unready.  I think because there are some really technically challenging parts for me in the Ginastera.  Like the many measures of parallel chromatic third triplets at quarter note = 160, and which I now struggle to make clean at 112.  8 weeks.   On the plus side, today I played the Liebermann concerto for the first time in approximately forever. The first time through was rough.  The second time through I remembered a lot more without the help of the score.  And, very happily, when I played the Maccaber Dance, my slow tempo was at 104, whereas previously it had been around 88.  Good.  Hmm, maybe I should take before and after recital pictures of my forearms.  

Now listening to: Christopher O'Riley's transcription of Radiohead's (nice dream).  

And a postscript to the Puzzle Mastering post of a few weeks ago.  I ran into Joe the other day, who'd been our conductor.  He asked if I'd be interested in playing it again in the fall, this time with three performance opportunities (not as much cash as before, but still some remuneration). Since I've already put in the time .... 

and hey, I'll get to hang out with Superman's Dad again!