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"Leave your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which, like all progress must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything. Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity; that alone is living the artist’s life; in understanding as in creating…

There is here no measuring with time, no year matters and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening.

Like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer…"

--Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

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Video files
Michael Hammer, piano

Miroirs (video files)

The bad news is that the sound quality of these files is absolutely wretched. They come from a recital I gave ages ago which was not audio recorded. Only a VHS tape survived, which I transferred to digital more recently (to see if I could do it, actually). If you keep the sound down low enough you might be able to stand it. As compensation, you will be able to see me play (from about 15 years ago!)  Sometime I hope to replace these with a more sonically pleasing performance.

night moths

Oisseux tristes
sad birds

Une barque sur l'océan
a boat on the ocean

Alborado del gracioso
the comedian's morning matinee

La vallee des cloches
the valley of the bells

Maurice Ravel wrote his first large-scale work for piano in 1905. Lesser known than its successor, Gaspard de la Nuit, Mirroirs baffled the critics who could not follow its form or understand what they saw as a lack of melody. Although hardly constant in Mirroirs, the frequently touching and sometimes elegiac melodies which suddenly spring up during each movement (such as in the closing moments of Le vallee des cloches or Une barque sur l'ocean) add an emotional core to the cycle that its critics refused to find in the works of Ravel. But the pieces are more: vivid sensations and descriptions of the natural world or one's experience of it, given to us by an artist who was able to experience intensely the world around him and who had a very sophisticated ear. One can hear the flutter of the night moths (in what is probably the hardest movement to get one's ears around at first), feel the waves under the boat on the ocean, or experience the sorrowful tolling of the bells or the strangely melancholic birds. There is a unifying sighing motif throughout the cycle, but the repetition of the opening ideas toward the end of each piece marks the form as fairly traditional, at least for the careful listener. Perhaps the critics could not hear the overall architecture for the dizzying details, much as, when viewing a work by an artist who uses an endless variety of exotic colors, we may forget to notice that the picture itself is really not so unfamiliar. If you are new to this work, perhaps your ears will need time to adjust, and with several hearings, the work's beauty will become apparent. In such a case, I recommend starting with the fourth movement, the rhythmic and humorous (though not with pathos) Alborado del gracioso, the Comedian's Morning Matinee. If it looks like it is fun to play, that's because it is!