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August 16th edition
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Upcoming events:

Sun. Aug. 25   at Piano Day Pittsburgh, Heinz Hall, 6 p.m.

Sun. Sep. 15   3 p.m. Violin and organ concert
                        with Violinist Devin Arrington
                            at Heinz Chapel, Pittsburgh

this fall's Osher/UPitt class, "Composers in Exile: Music in Adversity" will run from October 17 through November 14   register now at the OLLI website
this week's featured recording for 8.16.19
The Battle of Prague

by Frantisek Kotzwara (1730-1791)

about this piece

 This week on the blog:    Friday, August 16, 2019
Playing with fire

It's the eerie music that runs through the subconscious of every conservatory musician. The fear of injury.

Fingers are muscles. Muscles can be pulled. Strained. Stressed. And if not attended to, bad things can happen. Career ending things.

The problem being that the "attending to" part usually involves not using said muscles. Not practicing. This is a no-go for a lot of young folks trying to cram for an important performance. And when you are young they are all important performances. So they just go for it.

One very talented individual went for it. He was scheduled to play Bach's Goldberg Variations at a Conservatory Convocation. It was his last performance. For several years, anyway. Possibly for good. (don't know for sure)

I've seen the t-word happen to a few musicians who were my colleagues at the conservatory. It was usually very talented, very industrious ones. It didn't necessarily end their careers, but it may have sidelined them for a while.

See, the t-word is cumulative. Once you've got a full-blown case of it, even taking a break for months, or years, doesn't really work very well. Only an hour of practice can bring it roaring back. This is what makes it so frightening. So much that I call it the t-word.

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The Sunshine Composer Answers his Critics 

picture of Moszkowski

Was he just too nice to produce great art?

"I took my first step before the public in my earliest youth", writes Moszkowski, "following my birth, which occurred on  August 23, 1854. I selected this warm month for the event in hopes of a tornado, which also plays so prominent a part in the biography of great men. This desired tempest, in consequence of favorable weather, did not occur, while it accompanied the birth of hundreds of men of much less importance. Embittered by this injustice, I determined to avenge myself on the world by playing the piano...." 

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When Is a Piano not a piano?  

How most of our greatest pianist-composers didn't know how to write for their instrument, according to some of our mediocre academicians


I recently came across an edition of Nocturnes by John Field whose preface contained yet another repetition of the idea that many of our most revered composers wrote music for the piano that was not "pianistic," or well suited to the piano, as opposed to music written for the piano that would have been better suited to, say, the ukulele. In this case, of course, the editor was saying it to suggest that his hero, Mr. Field, who was a contemporary of Beethoven, and a generation after Mozart, may have indeed written the first truly pianistic music ever, and that his is a major achievement.

All gratitude to Mr. Field aside (and some of his Nocturnes are quite beautiful, by the way) I have for years found this kind of statement annoying. It was made by a Doctor of Musical Arts (like myself) but that doesn't keep it from being a gross generalization, and in many ways, just plain wrong. Besides, I fear that many of us, because our time is taken up perfecting our skills in musical execution, do not necessarily know what we are talking about when it comes to matters of history or analytical thinking, these matters being reserved for persons in the theory and musicology departments!

Just what does it mean when something is, or is not, pianistic?

read on


first posted Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You've come to the right place...I guess

The other day I made an astonishing discovery that should rock the scientific community. You remember how some computer was supposed to have passed the Turing Test last week?

Ok, I'll back up. If you didn't hear about this, the Turing Test was proposed by a computer scientist named Alan Turing in 1950 in  a paper in which he discussed the possibility that computers would one day possess (or be able to "fake") artificial intelligence. He proposed a test. Put somebody on one side of a wall and have them ask questions of two different parties. One of them will be a computer. Based on the computer's answers to the questions (written out and passed on to the person doing the "judging") if that person is fooled into thinking that they are conversing with an actual person, then the computer has passed the Turing Test. Last week, it was claimed (some say rather weakly) that a computer actually had, finally, passed this test, for the first time.

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