Mission Statement

The lightheaded happiness of being a blog-owner has somewhat subsided now (though I’m still more excited about this than I was about any non-musical project for a very long time), and slowly the cold reality started to set in. I took some solid advice from the WordPress tutorials (“get focused”) as well as from my social-media-savvy friends (“get focused”) and decided to get focused.

So, what is it going to be about? In short, detailed listening guides to various pieces of classical music.

Now the long version. It so happens to pass that almost none of my good friends are musicians; I’m a computer geek/Fantasy-SF&F/Dungeons-and-Dragons type of person in my free time, and most of my friends share those interests, rather than my occupational ones. It also happens to pass that at one point or another I desperately wanted my friends to convert to classical music (see the way I see this? :] ). I would make them sit down and would play to them recordings of my favourite pieces, whatever those happened to be at that particular time. I would look eagerly at their faces, or else nervously at the carpet, and would hope to catch some glimpse of the same excitement I felt when I listened to Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” or Bach’s Magnificat or Rachmaninov’s first Piano Concerto. (In their faces, of course, not in the carpet.)

I had one real success case (I realize now it was beginner’s luck) – and the piece that accomplished it was Prokofiev’s second Concerto (Toradze/Gergiev), the first movement. Roy, newly converted (to Prokofiev mostly), had this sort of look on his face as he tried to describe to me the dead, withered tree on a hill beneath the dead, grey sky he saw in the opening theme, and I kept thinking, “yeap, yeap! this is what this is all about”, and was utterly happy.

No other successes followed, though. My friends bore me stoically, mostly with good humour (though once I nearly lost my good humour, when a friend started to sing “kill the rabbit, kill the rabbit” along with the third act of The Valkyrie), but the music just didn’t get to them in the way I hoped it would, and finally I grew resigned to that sad fact (<— nonsense. I kept and kept trying, only it kept and kept not working.)

And then one day it slowly hit me (how’s that for a turn of a phrase?) – that despite my instinctive conviction that classical music was immediately approachable and couldn’t possibly fail to affect anyone who listened to it, there must have been some obstacle, some barrier, that didn’t let just anyone through. (I knew by that time that some, perhaps many, weren’t obstructed by it. I had the incredible opportunity of playing a recital for university students in Lima, Peru, for all of whom it was the first time of being in a classical music concert, and probably one of the first times of ever listening to classical music. We had a conversation in the end, and their reaction (really warm) still counts as one of my best experiences – beside making me feel it was a good recital, it proved to me that classical music could affect listeners without any previous knowledge, after all.)

And so, after another failed proselytizing attempt (Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, which were found completely indigestible), I decided to take a different route. That night I stayed awake for a long time, writing a listening guide to the opening movement of Bach’s Cantata No. 39 (“Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot”). Not just a listening guide of the general sort, but an awfully detailed one, with exact timings of things as they happened – different sections, chorus entrances, changes in instrumentation and tempo; I tried to show every instance of word-painting I could find (many! and some really cool ones which I only discovered while writing), explained briefly what a fugato was and then showed the entrances of every voice, including that extra entrance in the flute just before the end, and the… – shortly, I was on a roll. I don’t know why I chose that particular movement (except that I love it very much), but it turned out to be prime material – so full of things one could point out, that I later felt it was like a peeled mandarine, just waiting for someone to divide it into its segments.

And then I sent it. And it worked! Really, really worked.  And not just with one friend, but with several; and it meant more to me than I could express. Of course, the task looming ahead was much more intensive than just throwing piece after piece at my faithful friends, but for the first time I felt I have possibly stumbled upon a solution. Classical music is beautiful and profound and incredibly powerful, but it’s also really complex at times, and a guide to explain and point out various things as they happen may mean the difference between liking it and feeling drowned by a flood of notes that refuse to make sense.

So now, seeing that I should get focused, I feel it’s a worthy thing to focus on, and this is what I would like to do in this blog – write a few guides like that, with the hope that they might reach some of you who haven’t had many encounters with classical music, but who are ready to invest half an hour in actively listening to what I deeply feel is enormous, exciting and wonderful music.

Well, that’s it for now. Check the blog in a week or so – the first guide will be online.

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I’m a Blogger

So, here I am, sitting at my computer at 02:38 at night, not at all going to sleep (which I really should be doing), and instead, starting a blog. (/mixed feelings of elation and dread).

I’ve been intending to do this for months, but my procrastination never let me, so today, prior to doing this, I sent an e-mail to one of my best friends, saying, “I’m planning to start a blog. Not, like, planning in theory, but planning right now, the very moment I finish writing this e-mail.” I also made a grisly simile to people who post their intentions to do Terminal Things to Themselves and then go right ahead and do it (to make a stronger point, you see). And then I finished writing it, and sent it, and after that there was no way back.

WordPress. A great platform, it is, easy to set up (hard to master? we shall see), very customizable (I’m completely flooded with all the options right now) – and though I’m certain I could waste spend hours customizing everything (and one day I might, so it’s good the option is there), I’ll keep it basic and simple in the first days/weeks/months, and try to concentrate on the blogging instead.

***

So, to concentrate on the blogging instead – I came back from Argentina last week (I’ll do a separate post on that), and was jet-lagging rather badly (and still slightly am) – going to sleep at 5am and collapsing into 2-hour day-naps, and feeling generally groggy and sleepy and confounded during the day. But I’m quickly getting neck-deep into work, so this jet-lag business has to stop, and rather soon (heard that, you jet lag?)

Thing is, you see, this coming month is going to be utter repertoire craziness. To be more specific:

Next weekend is a 3-concert marathon at the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art with Eric Zuber and Ilya Rashkovsky (who won the 4th and 3rd prize at the Rubinstein Competition in May) – we’re playing loads of things, mostly with orchestra (it’s going to be the Israel Camerata with Avner Biron, which is great, as they were really good at the competition, and I’m really happy to work with them again) – I, in particular, am performing:

  • Haydn – D major Concerto
  • Mozart – Double Concerto (with Ilya)
  • Brahms – Sonata for two pianos (with Eric – that’s the Quintet Op. 34 in its previous version, and I rather naively assumed that, having played the quintet before, the sonata wouldn’t be that much work. Yeah, right :] )
  • Chopin – Concerto No. 2

All great works, the Mozart and the Chopin being my personal favourites on that list.

Now, two days after the marathon, I have a series of five recitals – two in Israel (Haifa and Ashdod), and then three in Canada (not enough jet lag for me, eh? But I’m really glad to be going, as it’s my first time there and Canada is a beautiful country and I wanted to visit for a long time, and also as it’s Vancouver, which I heard was a particularly beautiful city; and it’s a really good concert series to boot – the Vancouver Recital Society). The programme:

  • Prokofiev – Sonata No. 4
  • Franck – Prelude, Chorale and Fugue
  • Bartok – Six dances in Bulgarian rhythm
  • Liszt – Sonata

I’ll do a separate post about it too, as parts of it are new, and parts are works I haven’t played for a while, so it occupies large chunks of my head on a daily basis.

But, that’s not all. My last recital in Canada is on the 25th, early afternoon. On the same evening, I take the flight back home (via London). I arrive on the 27th at 05:35 (scheduled) and that very morning I have to rehearse Mozart K488 with the Israel Symphony Orchestra. And it’s completely new, and we’re going to have one rehearsal (though a double one). Then it’s a three day interval (Rosh Ha Shana – the Jewish New Year), and four concerts with them – three in my home town, Rishon Le Zion, and one at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, which is our main opera theater (and it doubles as a concert hall – a rather beautiful one in my opinion; here is a photo taken from the stage: http://images.mouse.co.il/storage/e/7/shlomi-ggg20092211_6250000_0..jpg ) (yeah, I know I can embed photos in the post itself, but all that later.)

So, that’s my plan/occupation/list of challenges for the upcoming month. And I really should be going to sleep now, as it’s 03:14 rather than 02:38, and my consciousness will pang me badly tomorrow.

All the best for now. BG.