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Archive for the ‘Robert Schumann’ 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: JOSHUA BELL & JEREMY DENK-Tiny Desk Concert #568 (September 30, 2016).

After hearing a pianist and then a violinist, it was fun to hear a duet of the two.

Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk are masters of their crafts.  Although I did not know that:

Bell and Denk have been chamber-music partners for 10 years, and they’re a bit wound up on Brahms these days. They’ve released a new album, For the Love of Brahms, and they’re performing the music, along with that of Brahms’ friend Robert Schumann, in concerts.

They play three pieces, two Brahms, and one Schumann.  And they all sound spectacular.

Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 3, IV. Presto agitato
“You gotta love Brahms,” Joshua Bell says, a little short of breath. He’s wiping sweat from his brow after the big rock ‘n’ roll conclusion to the composer’s D minor Violin Sonata. Bell and the astute pianist Jeremy Denk play it with all the turbulence and tenderness Brahms demands, and it’s an invigorating way to open this Tiny Desk concert. [I love that the focus jumps back and forth from violin to piano, with interesting riffs and trills from one then the other.  I also love the way the melodies seem to creep around and sneak up on us].

Schumann: Romance, Op. 94, No. 2
Contrasting with the fiery Brahms, Schumann’s Romance, Op. 94, No. 2 unfolds like a song without words. Bell makes his 1713 Stradivarius sing, capturing the bittersweet tone of the music. When the theme comes around for the second time, he lightens bow pressure for a more intimate, almost whispered disclosure.

Brahms (arr. Joachim): Hungarian Dance No. 1
Another of Brahms’ close friends figures prominently in Bell and Denk’s final offering. Violinist Joseph Joachim was something like the Joshua Bell of Brahms’ day, as well as the man for whom the composer wrote his Violin Concerto. Joachim’s gift to Brahms was creating piano and violin arrangements of the composer’s Hungarian Dances.  Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1, powered by a sweeping theme and chugging piano topped with pearly descending runs, whisks you to a smoky café where gypsy fiddlers battle for supremacy. Starting off on the low G string, Bell’s tone is as rich as dark chocolate, the feeling a touch wistful.  [I really love Hungarian dances.  It seems like every composer’s take on Hungarian music is excellent.  I love how the violin plays a very simple yet dark melody and the piano sprinkles in all of these descending notes in a fairly dramatic scale.  And then of course as all the dances do, it speeds up, careening around in wild abandon and fun.  Wonder what made Hungary such a lively place].

[READ: June 13, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta

I rather like that the Lunch Lady books are sequential and mildly dependent on each other. Of course you can read them in any order you like, but reading them in the proper order allows you to see some continuity between books.

In the previous book, Dee mentioned that the author of the Flippy Bunny series was coming to the school. And in this book he does.

The kids are super excited that Mr Scribson is going to be there to read and sign books.  He is something of a primadonna though as he is upset that the reading will be taking place in the gym.  After his presentation, he signs books, but when Hector brings him a very old copy of the book Scribson says “I don’t sign opened books.”  Hector who has always love the Flippy Bunny books is devastated). (more…)

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