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October 11 edition       
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Upcoming events:

Osher/UPITT course: "Composers in Exile: Music in Adversity"
Oct. 17 -- "A Long Way from Home" (Chopin/Gottschalk)
Oct. 24 -- "Three Responses to Tyranny" (Rachmaninoff/Shostakovich/Prokofiev)
Oct. 31 -- "The Artist in Isolation" (Haydn/Scarlatti)
Nov. 7 -- "Subordinate and Subaltern" (18th - 20th c. women composers)
Nov. 14 -- "The meaning of exile"

this week's featured recording (10.11.19) 

Waltz  #9 in Ab, op. 69 n.1

by Frederic Chopin (1810-49)

 This week on the blog:    Friday, October 11, 2019
Composers in Exile
This is one of those weeks when I really could have used a secretary.

I am neck deep in piano music at the moment, and am taking a short break for the weekly blog. Other bits of my life are getting attention if they rise to the level of emergency squared, otherwise they can wait while I practice.

Next week begins a series of lecture concerts for the UPITT/Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This year's ambitious theme is "Composers in Exile: Music in Adversity" and it covers a wide range of styles and periods, playing the music and telling the story of composers who for one reason or another found themselves in difficult situations and continued making their music. I feel like I'm about two months behind in preparation (having also had half-a-dozen other concerts to prepare for this summer and fall, including several I learned about as the year unfolded), yet it does feel like there is a chance this will come off after all.

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first posted August 3, 2018 -- Our new feline, Rosamunda, has graced our domecile for nearly two-and-a-half months. She's very entertaining, friendly, quiet, and has a wonderful purr. The trouble is her musical taste is suspect.

You may find this a trifle, but since one of her humans is a musician this is at least bound to cause some friction. It could be worse, though.

A teacher of mine in college had two dogs that would howl whenever they heard the sound of a piano. I dog-sat for him one week and if you wanted to practice you had to lock the dogs in an upstairs bedroom and turn the radio on loudly to a country music station (no pianos). When you returned a couple hours later the dogs were hanging out listening to country. It was surrealistically amusing.

Rosie doesn't whine when I play the piano. In fact, she seems to tolerate it rather well. But she's no fan of the organ. I can tell because,

feed me the next part. Or just feed me.

The right notes at the right time

"with regard to organ playing, there is nothing to it. You simply strike the right notes at the right time and the instrument plays itself."
                                                             --J. S. Bach

When it comes to accompanying, it is necessary to multi-task. Of course, you have to be able to turn pages and play simultaneously, often finding clever ways to play the entire passage with one hand while doing so. But more to the point you have to be able to listen to your choir (or soloist) as well as listening to yourself.

As soon as somebody needs help, you've got to be able to provide it. In the course of a standard choir rehearsal, I almost never play the written out accompaniment. This is because generally I am helping one section or another with their notes. I may be playing the voice parts instead of the accompaniment, or some combination of each.

But even if the choir is singing alone, without the aid of the piano, I may step in to help at any time. We encourage the choir to do as much singing alone as possible, even in places where the piano would be there for them in the performance of the music. This is to help strengthen their sense of their own notes, and so that the director and I can listen more carefully to the sound they are making. The point, after all, is to make sure they can do it. They are mostly amateurs, and they don't spend several hours every day practicing. But they can sound quite good when they work at it.

ready, ...on three!  one, two...



I've always thought of artistic endeavors as more of a marathon than a sprint, which might be one reason you won't see any piano playing at the Olympics. It isn't that people haven't figured out how to make piano playing a competitive sport; they've just never been able to draw the ratings necessary for it. But imagine if they did put it on television.

For one thing, you would have to have a pair of announcers telling us all everything the pianist did that wasn't exactly up to par. You can't trust people to hear wrong notes themselves--I've made a career out of making mistakes that people are either too polite to point out or are too subtle for anyone without intimate knowledge of the score to hear in the first place. And when improvising, one can always take a missed note and make it sound intentional. It all depends on what you do in the moments immediately following.

And yet, in ice skating,

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