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Archive for the ‘Frédéric Chopin’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANIIL TRIONOV-Tiny Desk Concert #691 (January 12, 2018).

It has been quite a while since there had been a classical pianist on Tiny Desk.  And man, what a return.  Trionov is just stunning and he makes some of the more complex piano pieces in musical history seem easy.

NPR’s Tom Huizenga has written a splendid blurb which I’m putting here because he covers far more than I could:

When we invited Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov to play a Tiny Desk concert, we rolled out the big guns. In place of the trusty upright, we wedged a 7-foot grand piano behind Bob Boilen’s desk in preparation for the artist who The Times of London called “without question the most astounding pianist of our age.”

That’s a pretty lofty claim, but watch and judge for yourself. His performance here is extraordinary. Still in his 20s, Trifonov seems to have it all: jaw-dropping technique and interpretive skills beyond his age. He’s also a composer — the night before his NPR visit, he played his own knuckle-twisting piano concerto at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C.

But for his Tiny Desk show, Trifonov focused on Chopin, beginning with the mercurial “Fantaisie-Impromptu” in C-sharp minor, a work that mixes sweeping melody, turbulent passion and wistful repose. Hunching close over the keyboard with feline agility, Trifonov’s slender fingers glide effortlessly. He coaxes the instrument to sing tenderly in the slow central section.

Trifonov follows with a pair of short tributes to Chopin by his peers. Robert Schumann’s “Chopin” accentuates the lyrical side of Chopin, filtered through the German composer’s forward-looking harmonies, while Edvard Grieg’s “Hommage à Chopin” offers volatility, lovingly rendered.

The smartly programmed set is capped with more Chopin, but with a nod to Mozart: the finale from a set of variations based on an aria from Don Giovanni. It gives Trifonov a chance to display his lightness of touch, plus a few pianistic fireworks. Smiling, he treats the tricky filigreed runs and hand crossings as if it were a child’s game. Look closely and you can see the piano shake.

So Trifonov plays four pieces.  The middle two are quite short.

Chopin: “Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66”  This is one of my favorite pieces.  The fast part is jaw-dropping and the slow part is achingly beautiful.  His fingers flow over the keys like he was simply petting a cat.

Schumann: “Chopin. Agitato” (from Carnaval)  Trifonov says Schumann wrote a tribute to Chopin called “Chopin,” which was a portrait of the man.   This is a quiet, delicate piece and it is so much fun to watch his hands float seemingly weightless above the keys.

Grieg: “Hommage à Chopin, Op. 73, No. 5”  This tribute focuses on the more stormy and turbulent aspects of Chopin’s faster work.  It slowly builds in intensity with very fast finger work.

Chopin: “Variations on Là ci darem la mano‘ (from Mozart’s Don Giovanni) – Coda. Alla Polacca”  Chopin wrote a variation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  This is the finale. There are some amazingly intense runs up and down the keys in this piece as well. And again a lot more bouncing around with his left hand to high notes.

This was a tremendous Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: December 13, 2017] Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle

I really enjoyed this third Crafty Cat book.  Anya continues to be an unreasonable character (and I want someone to stand up to her!), but her awfulness allows for some good humor and good setups in this book.

The book opens with Crafty Cat saving an ant after dusting it with glitter (the ant now feels pretty special).  But then it’s soon time for Birdie to get to school.  She tells us that they are picking roles for the class play about butterflies.  Everyone is supposed to pick a bug they want to be:  “Be creative in your choices, we don’t need ten ladybugs.”  Birdie confesses that she is going to be the butterfly she has even crafted a small model of the wings that she can make.

Then Evan shows up.  He rescues a glittery ant from the sidewalk (that was amusing)  and then reveals that he is going to be an ant for the play.  When Birdie says she’s going to be the butterfly, Evan has reservations.  When they enter the school we see 10 students all wanting to be the butterfly–especially Anya.  And image HER surprise when other kids want to be the butterfly–which is her role, after all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHIRIM KLEZMER ORCHESTRA-Klezmer Nutcracker (1998).

I love this klezmer version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

The first 7 songs of the disc are the popular, quickly recognizable melodies from the ballet.  But each song has been klezemerfied–which means minor keys and clarinets and spirited dances that are really peppy.

So even though the musicianship is top-notch, there’s plenty of humor here.  As this review puts it

It combines the zany wit of a Spike Jones with the class and craft of a Duke Ellington and recasts the Nutcracker as a Hannukah classic with images of a dancing Latkes Queen and marching Macabees.

The humor even extends to the titles:

A Klezmer Nutracker

  • Kozatsky ’till You Dropsky
  • Dance of the Latkes Queens
  • March of the Macabees
  • Araber Tants
  • Dance of the Dreydls
  • Waltz of the Rugalah

The rest of the disc is made up of Other Klezmer Classics.  Despite the abundance of Satie, these songs don’t quite do it for me.  They are fine, but Gustav’s Wedding and Romanian Rhapsody are a bit too long.  Although Hungarian Goulash is wonderful

Perhaps I just prefer the songs with which I’m familiar.  Having said that, the second half is full of very good klezmer, so don’t dismiss it outright.

  • Gustav’s Wedding 4:25
  • Romanian Rhapsody by G. Enesco 4:40 (see, these two are too long)
  • Gnossienne 1 by E. Satie
  • Gnossienne 2 by E. Satie
  • Gnossienne 3 by E. Satie
  • Hungarian Goulash (based on Brahms)
  • Nekhome–Solace (after “Prelude 4,” Chopin)
  • Turk in American
  • Russian Bulgar
  • Gymnopedie 3 by E. Satie

[READ: July 9, 2017] 100 Girls

I really enjoyed this book (first in a series apparently), and was about to say it’s really good for an Orphan Black-type premise, and then I saw that it came out in 2005–many many years before Orphan Black. So, three cheers for the originality then.

The book begins with Sylvia waking up from a nightmare.  Right off the bat the drawing style is notable–Todd Demong’s style is really interesting–angular and exaggerated but not “cartoony,” the proportions and angles make the story more hyper-real than cartoony, which is pretty great.

When she wakes up, she hears her parents talking about her…how she has changed and become more difficult.  Her dad blames it on her being a teenager, but her mom thinks its something more.  As she walks to school with her friends, we see that a car is doing surveillance on her. (more…)

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