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upcoming events: Signup for my new OLLI course, "Amadeus: Myth and Reality" at the Osher U Pitt website. The course runs Thursday afternoons, 1-2:50 at Third Presbyterian Church, Shadyside, from Oct. 18 - November 15th Registration is now open for the Fall term!

--Group organ recital at St. Paul's Episcopal, Mt. Lebanon, Sunday, September 23rd at 4 p.m. featuring 4 organists from the South Hills, and one guy from Shadyside (shh!) -- see the poster on the right!

---Service of Compline, Heinz Chapel, also Sunday, September 23 at 8pm I'll be the guest organist playing a quiet 5 minute prelude and one hymn. Then experience the beautiful liturgy in this awesome space! 

Come down for the Open Doors Pittsburgh event, and if you stop by First Presbyterian Church from 2:00 to 2:30 on Sunday afternoon, October 7th, I'll be presiding at the organ, so say hello!

Pianonoise Radio:
All Bach program 

The week's featured recording: (9/21)

Canzona in C
by Dietrich Buxtehude

This week on the blog:    FRIDAY September 21, 2018


It is said that people who can play Steinways can't afford Steinways. And vice versa.

I got my Yamaha from a woman who was making room for her new 160 thousand dollar Bosendorfer so people could play it at her parties. She did not want to be soiled with a 20 thousand dollar piano for the background music her hired pianists would play for her guests to talk over. She didn't play, of course. Perish the thought!

Persons who play other instruments occasionally have this problem as well. The great violinists of the world never own their instrument. Even though they make a good living, it is not enough to lay out several million dollars for a Stradivarius. So they get it loaned to them by a foundation.

The rest of us bozos get by on loaned instruments as well.

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"classic" blog: from July 7, 2014

Pieces in Dialogue: Buxtehude and Bach
...Last spring I played Buxtehude's Praeludium in F, which contains a fugue (it is basically a prelude and fugue, though Buxthude calls all of his concoctions praeludia no matter how many sections there are and no matter what type). I wrote about it last year on this blog, calling it my "new favorite fugue."

One of the things I pointed out then was just how stupid the fugue subject is:

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if one holds a high opinion of these pieces, one tends to assume they must have been written by the great Bach. If one is less enthusiastic about the pieces, it is easy to assign them to some lesser light of the Baroque era....

Either because the composer was not Bach, or was, as I've also suggested, a very young version of the eventual master, ...these items should give us some insight into what may separate a really fine composition from a merely good composition. The aim is not to denigrate the pieces, or to cast aspersions on Krebs, or whomever wrote them. The idea is to see what we can learn along the way in order to sharpen our own apprehension of the musical process.

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Who Really Wrote the 8 Little Preludes and Fugues?

(an investigative blog series)

part one
The F Word

There is a Christian pianist whose online lessons I was reading the other day who had some unflattering things to say about the importance of structure in a piece of music. He pointed out that there were in fact musicians who believed form to be the most important thing about a composition. This was in their eyes what made a piece 'good.' He was offended by this.

Well, he should be. [Would it help if I put sarcasm in italics from now on?] A fluent understanding of the problems of Form isn't exactly second nature to the majority of our Christian pianist hymn-arrangers these days. It is a difficult thing to master for anyone, and it requires much more than moment-to-moment attention to a piece of music. Most people don't know how to listen for it, either. If you are creating a piece of music, it is much simpler to try to make each moment as pretty as you can, and not worry about whether it really adds up to something in the long run. When this same strategy becomes a philosophy of life we call it hedonism. At least, when applied to a musical composition, it doesn't hurt anybody.

My mission here is not to give this gentleman a unilaterally hard time. In fact, if we give his remarks a little more context, I have a good deal of sympathy for his position. Between the two sentences I've already quoted was the characterization that these form-judging musicians think that if you don't like their music it is your problem because you wouldn't know good music if it hit you with a two by four. I've 'adapted' his comments a bit, actually. They weren't so colorful in the original.

But the reason I want to start out with a bit of sympathy is because there are indeed many people who feel that it is their job to sort out the ones who know from the rest of you bozos, the exalted initiates from the boorish mob. This musical Phariseeism is hardly limited to matters of form, but it is a considerable plank in their platform--or their own eyes. This topic is so depressing to me that it deserves its own article.

read on

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