Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bliss with Biss and a full-day excursion on a mountain

I'm really enjoying the concerts at Heinz Hall this season. I've been to all but one so far. Mozart's 22nd piano concerto played by Jonathan Biss was a beautiful pleasing experience, particularly the middle movement. It started out solemn, with the piano pushing that theme. Drama was heightened frequently with the orchestra alternately trying to lift the spirits, until the piano again returned to a dolefulness that eventually prevailed, as the orchestra eventually followed suit. While listening, I enjoyed watching with my binoculars the exquisite playing by Biss. His hands flowed effortlessly over the keyboard. I was watching 4 hands play at once, his and the reflection in the wood.

What journey takes 1 day, 4 years and 1 hour to complete? That would be the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss which followed after the intermission. It was a story, a tale, told in huge fashion, with the largest complement of musicians I've ever seen assembled in one place; and they were all packed onto the stage of Heinz Hall this very night, to perform this grand tone poem, taking almost an hour to execute. I've read that this tone poem by Richard Strauss depicts a full-day excursion on a mountain in the Bavarian Alps. It took Strauss 4 years to complete this sweeping masterpiece. Some of the early sections which represent sunrise, the ascent, entry into the forest and wandering by the brook were very pleasing to me -- a joyous flowing music which I wouldn't mind hearing over and over again. In fact, I will, someday, because this concert was recorded and will be released on CD, and I will most certainly buy one myself.

Near the end we hear an ominous timpani roll and a clarinet melody, describing the calm before the storm, then trombone chords with descending strings bring home the thunder and tempest. I noticed a lengthy section of what appeared to be rolled steel -- it was thunderously rolled producing spacious sound effects. Now that's what I call a one time only instrument. (see photo).

One of my favorite parts of the entire tone poem came at the very end: night. Perhaps those marvelously soft descending melodies stuck in my mind because that was the last thing I heard, but I think it is because those melodies are so catchy, I whistled a bit of them all the way back to my car.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alpine Symphony - Richard Strauss

Eine Alpensinfonie
My images, only one I actualy made in the Alps, can you guess which one?
My interpretation of the scenes...
  • Night
    Moon over Murrysville
  • Sunrise
  • the Ascent
    Cucumber Falls
  • Entry into the Woods
    tiny mushroom
  • Walking along the Brook
    Fern over a lazy river
  • at the Waterfall
    Ohiopyle waterfall
  • a Visual Feature / apparition
    grant me 3 wishes
  • on Flowery Meadows
  • on the Alp / Pasture
    I Can't stop loving you..
  • Wrong Path through the Thicket
    Don't leave now...
  • on the Glacier
    reflections of grass
  • Moments of Danger
    Hercules waiting for his replacement
  • at the Summit
    Austria / Österreich -- 1982
  • Vision
    alive and bright
  • the Fog Rises
    a grand day
  • the Sun is Gradually Obscured
    Something beautiful awaits!
  • Elegy
    beautiful day
  • Calm before the Storm
  • Thunder and storm, Descent
    Moss at Buttermilk Falls
  • Sunset
    Subtle shades enhanced
  • the Journey Ends
    sunset the other day
  • Night
    3 planets

Eine Alpensinfonie

Apparently Strauss viewed his work as more than descriptive, Austria / Österreich -- 1982but rather "philosophical" --
"in it there is: moral purification through one's own strength, liberation through work, and the worship of eternal, glorious nature."

I believe that through current financial and political strife, this symphony is a perfect way to cut through all the events of the world which may overwhelm. Today we can learn to abide or respect these words. What better way to deal with the overwhelming political conflicts than through 'moral purification through one's own strength,' for one's own truth and compass should not be deflected by everything around us. We should stand for ourselves and walk, as if we were on an alpine journey, through the strife with a smile on our face and our own strength to guide us and keep us moving with grace. Keep in mind this symphony was completed and performed in Berlin and Philadelphia during WWI. That fact seemed to escape the abridged historical guides I've read.

'Liberation through work' - this enduring ethic is timeless. Now we must imagine the work that Strauss put forth to complete this magnificent and grand symphonic poem, the height and breadth of a grand and majestic alpine mountain. His own liberation was through his work to complete this epoch in epoch times. We should emulate his resolve!

'The worship of eternal, glorious nature.' - In the final analysis, this is the one true saving grace for all of us. A common theme that none can deny, a simple base upon which we can all stand in agreement, that the beauty of nature is worthwhile. So to hear this beauty in such a grand and aural poem as the one fashioned by Strauss and played by our symphony is an experience I anxiously await. I hope the experience I can grasp and hold on to, to undergo a sort of transformation of spirit in our own uncertain times of turmoil. We don't need change, we need a beautiful expression to hold on to, a moral regeneration to our own deeply held beliefs, a work ethic to grasp and employ in times ahead. Our liberation will be one of truth and beauty through nature.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pittsburgh, Bohemia and the wild wild west

Three completely different pieces were presented at tonight's concert. Since two of them were presented in the first half, and I've never heard them before, it is difficult for me to remember all the aspects I know were floating through my mind at the time. "The Good Life" made its premiere. Well the good life started out cheerfully, full of smiles, and it ended up that way, and along the way there was strife. But what I remember was the quality of the music. The Mendelssohn Choir was fabulous, as were the soloists, and mixed with the symphonic music, the combination made a big impact on me. I wish I could hear it again for comparison and to reinforce my impressions. To me the music was fun, not in the same sense as the symphony to follow the intermission. It was purely a joy to listen and to watch this beautiful composition performed so beautifully. I was smiling the entire time.

The links, photo and post concert chat probably do a better job than do my words.

After the symphony I joined some friends at a restaurant across the street, including my friend who I've known since 1980, originally from Romania where he grew up. I wondered if Romania was part of the original Bohemia, the home of Dvorák. His reply was that from America, it might appear they were the same, but not so close from over there. However, they were neighbors in a sense. My analogy was to compare Dvorák with my friend. Now we know that Dvorák came to America and stayed a while. Here he wrote much of the symphony we heard tonight. My friend, from Romania, came to the USA by escaping the communist rule when he was still a youth. But my idea is that they both came here and were impressed by the vastness, perhaps by reputation of being 'big' or by actually experiencing our breadth. Perhaps this symphony represents the idea of America, our freedoms, our vastness, our individualism, and our wild wild west. My friend tells me of a story when he want on vacation out west and played the 4th movement of this symphony again and again. His description is that the force of this movement eloquently describes this land. I've had that same idea myself. Now the historians tell us differently, that Dvorák didn't experience that directly, but wrote much of this in New York. That his symphony was sort of an email message back home because he was homesick. That version isn't very romantic. I like my version better: What is to prevent us from believing that his imagination did not conceive of this vastness when composing? It is the idea I like to keep, to have and to hold in my particular imagination of this symphony, the beauty of the land, the country and the music seem to all go together, however it might have come about. It just is, and it is, beautiful!

Well we discussed this at the table, and another fellow who was born in the Czech Republic (Bohemia) agreed with my idea that we should best listen to music, especially new music, and interpret for ourselves what it means, without influences from the written words to tell us what the music is really supposed to mean. Art is abstract, and why force people into a mold of understanding. I listen first, form my own opinion, using my own creative mind to do the interpretations and colorations. Then I read the notes to see what it was 'supposed' to be, and I compare. Sometimes they are the same, but more often than not, they differ, and what's wrong with that. It's supposed to be fun and entertaining. I guess it's the individualist in me, the wild wild west rugged individualist, that likes to play it my way, without being told, that feels that way, but I found at least one other who agreed at the table.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is a new country

reflections of grassDvorák New World Symphony.
This music invokes these words in my soul.
One must hear the music to understand the words, as I do. Written today, but heard in my mind many times before, while listening to this beautiful music.

1st movement

Come with me,
hear with me,
stand with me,
see with me,
a country..


yes, my country,
blend with me gently,
green and sultry,
roll with me bluntly


so heavenly blue,
as refreshingly new,
and everything grew,
oh forever renew


sweet, my country,
love the land nearby
flying as a buckeye
meandering into the sky
hovering over my eye


as my country,
living beneath a tree
as my country,
living as free as me


don't you see it
don't you hear it
don't you sense it
now in transit


as a country,
wide expansive country
live a country,
as a new world country

2nd movement

This is my country,
land that I do love,
growing free, part of me,
gather what I'm of.


Come with me
see with me
what we dearly love
slumbering above


This is my country,
revel in my land,
mountains high, rivers ply,
footsteps in the sand

3rd movement

consummate freedom
try my liberty,
passionate nectar
quaff me heartily,

crystalline humor
wit is levity - brevity - remedy

4th movement

This is a new country,
tranquil as a dove,
one new world discovery,
forever a land that I love

Welcome to my country,
seen high from above,
this land is an ecstasy,
said highly enough, I love

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Revered again

As is my wont, I'm writing poetry to psych myself up for a Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert this weekend. These are my words, just written to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff : Symphony No. 2revered again

Revered again

Often when I'm up against a wall,
and the very simple words I scrawl,
easily reveal my thoughts to you,
as words I hope that do enthrall

Exposing whence my sleeping heart did fall,
back out onto center stage again,
and the wonder of our dream as when,
I could really have that kind of gall

dares to tell
that kind of truth
in this very soft and cloistered world,
can be cheered
but not revered
until they're mired
in dire understandings least unfurled

Abstract wisdom of the past is clear,
mixed with current subtle sounds I hear,
probing rhythm of my thoughts appear,
I'm trusting you my dear

Reveal our truth
inspire trust as freedom
unaffected nature as simplicity

I believe Pittsburgh is projecting wall art on the buildings this weekend:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Seeing is Hearing

Behold what wonders I observed last night. Seeing and hearing brought several new dimensions to this experience. Listening to a live performance gave a magnificent dynamic range to my ears. Not only is this range greater in frequency, but subtle changes in volume, attenuated on a recording, are often intensified at Heinz Hall. Sounds not heard on the radio the night before, were easily detected and enjoyed. For instance, the beginning of the Mahler Symphony was so slight, that I did not hear it at all on the radio until it was well underway. Then came the three trumpet calls from well off stage. That was barely audible on the radio, easily heard and enjoyed at the concert.

Try this: go to a symphony concert and watch an individual instrument throughout a performance, see the sounds. Somehow our minds are able to focus, and seeing becomes hearing, as astonishing as this may seem. For instance, in the Titan Symphony, I watched the harp from time to time. The beautiful plucking was easy to perceive once my attention was so directed. Later, I would automatically know that sound, and know it was the harp, even without seeing anymore. This became a memory of the sounds and an association, perhaps a visual association, which stuck around and built upon my knowledge of the orchestra and individual instrumentation. Watch the string section. Their fluid rhythmic motions bring sweet harmony and melody alive. I'll hear their phrasings on one side, and pizzicato on the other, then sometimes reversed. Occasionally the principals will play a section of the score, their motions pronounced along with the music, accenting and drawing my attention. Seeing is hearing.

So many different instruments were used with the Adams composition and the Symphony. This amazing array and assortment is fascinating to peruse. If seeing is hearing, then it is also true that hearing is seeing. In the Adams: 'Short Ride in a Fast Machine' I am instantly hearing, then seeing the amazing score driven initially by a wood block making time. There were 2 flutes and piccolos, 2 oboes and English horns, 4 clarinets, 3 bassoons and contrabassoons, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, woodblock, triangle, xylophone, crotales, glockenspiel, suspended cymbal, sizzle cymbal, snare drum, pedal bass drum, large bass drum, large tam-tam, tambourine, 2 synthesizers, and strings. What fun it was to see and hear each of these being played in such a synchronized form, making the difficult seem like a breeze.

Again, in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, I was able to see the music, only this time it was the soloist Joshua Bell that drove this point home. He made his red violin sing for joy, bringing it figuratively alive. The notes stored in his mind have become more than a simple sequence, but a fluid continuity of form brought out.

And finally, it was Maestro Honeck who epitomized the ultimate universal language of motion and form, conducting the entire whole of the symphony as if the sounds were emanating from the very tip of his baton, and merely reflecting through the musicians and amplified back to the audience, in a sublime metamorphosis which transcends temporal reality and enters the realm of the interminable.

Come to the symphony, and see and hear for yourself!

Friday, September 26, 2008

resoundingly beautiful

resoundingly beautifulLet's place the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto next to the Mahler Titan Symphony, and see what we might find.. A penultimate comparison of Russian and German style. These thoughts are mine, with little influence from the published descriptions; I like to add my own thoughts and impressions of the music with undue external prejudices. These impressions heard tonight on the radio broadcast of the PSO at Heinz Hall.

Is the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto monumental? They say that Beethoven and Brahms' concertos are monumental, but I'm here to interpret my own impressions. I care less if it is monumental, because I know it is beautiful, as a flower is pretty and aromatic. I leave the logic, issues and reason at work. It is night now, I'm trying to escape from the doldrums of the mundane and into the magical mystical world of classical music.

I'm finding such wonderful emotion and feelings in the music that make my heart and fingers race. The music is like a cacophony of insects buzzing all around the assortment of blossoms in my garden. Often so abundant, quick and racing, then occasionally only a single voice is heard, like a butterfly darting and bounding up, down and around in impossible patterns and eloquence, defying gravity, inertia and logic. But the harmony is there, and the relationship to the rest of the nature is abundant and smoothly combined with divine melody and dramatic flair. The culmination of this amalgamation is joy.

Mahler's Titan Symphony no. 1. überwältigend. Es hallt wider. It reverberates with natural splendor. A compelling, sweeping robust composition. The beginning, a fresh morning dew filled experience with nature's sounds awakening. The second movement, my mind envisions a resounding scherzo full of melodic character. The third movement, a stunningly subtle cross over, Bruder Martin - Frère Jacques - ding dong ding. The fourth movement, complex, seemingly overwhelming. Overall, a vast, mind-blowing experience, yet never overly vexing nor audibly saturated. Altogether a truly a titanic composition, in range, breadth, depth and pastoral style.


FairiesThere are several reasons why I began to learn German 15+ years ago. I have a German sir name, 1/4 of my ancestry stems from Germany. I visited Europe many years prior, and intend to return; I wish to converse with the people / Leute. But the biggest reason was this: to understand the language that is behind much of the classical music I love. Other than the great masters from Italy, I am most fond of the classical music written by Austrian and German composers. Some of that music has inspired me so much, that I have a desire to understand the words behind this music. One such composition is Beethoven's 9th symphony.

Lest you think I'm off topic for this weekend's concert, I will show a few links: Mahler and Honeck, both from Austria, both with the native German language. So that is my tie-in, my juxtaposition, my reason for listening, learning and writing. The German for juxtaposition is Nebeneinanderstellung. One really cool thing about the language are these really long words, it can be broken down thus:

Neben - next to
einander - an other
stellung - position

Nebeneinanderstellung - next to another position - juxtaposition

So here I am standing next to myself, writing in two languages, listening to several compositions on the radio, and marveling at the beauty.

Let's place the Tchaichovsky Violin Concerto next to the Mahler Titan Symphony, and see what we might find. Let's place Friday night's performance (which I will hear on the radio) next to Saturday night's performance which I will hear in person at Heinz Hall... to be continued...

Incidentally, Einstellung can mean employment, amongst other translations. Let's hope Manfred Honeck's employment and tenure with the PSO is a resounding success!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I'm looking forward to the auspicious beginning of Maestro Honick's career with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this Friday and Saturday. Friday's concert will be simulcast on WQED FM 89.3

Indeed it is beneficial for Pittsburgh and fortunate for me to hear some of the music from many composers from his home town of Vienna, Austria, including Beethoven, Strauss and Mahler. Although I am quite familiar with most composers of classical music, somehow Mahler has escaped my hearing almost completely. I can't quite say why that is, but this weekend's propitious opening of the Mellon Grand Classic series offers for me a unique opportunity to kindly right my unfortunate oversight, with Mahler's first symphony: "Titan."

It is advantageous to listen to Mahler's music at Heinz Hall where the acoustics bring the sounds alive. His music overlaps the Romantic (1815 - 1910) and the Modern (1900 - 2000) periods of classical music, which might be part of the explanation as to why I've not heard Mahler's works, my preference previously tending to preceding eras (Baroque, Classical and Romantic). I find that when being introduced to music previously unheard, the best way to persuade my ears as to the profundity of the experience is with live music. That's why I urge everyone to attend for themselves, find out what I'm referring to by listening at the concert. The radio is nice, but it's not the same thing as being there.

Of course if this is not reason enough for you, then consider that Joshua Bell will be performing the solo with the PSO in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. Additionally we will hear Short Ride in a Fast Machine, a pounding thriller sure to thrill, composed by John Adams, one of the most influential composers of our time.

Honeck on TV

Tonight the moon shone bright while thrushes migrate in the nighttime sky. I peaked out to see the beauty, but only for a minute, because I didn't want to miss a special television program on WQED on incoming conductor and Music Director Manfred Honeck, of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

I was impressed by the goals of our new maestro. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially it was often stated in the program that his goal was to convey great music. He would not be satisfied unless the audience left the concert hall remembering the music. To him, it seemed, that the music always came first.

This show was well produced, and the first half filmed in the city of Vienna, Austria, Maestro Honeck's home. He originally grew up in the country, a man of my own heart. I visited Austria in 1982, and was well impressed with the beauty of the the countryside as well with Vienna the city (Wien in German language).

I'm also impressed by his mastery of the English language. I myself have been learning German for quite some time, but I profess that my skills are no equal to his English ability. His speaking style, a slower and more deliberate method more like those of Austria than Germany, and the timbre of his voice, show the warmth of his personality. They claimed he is a musician's conductor, being concerned with the needs of the musicians, apparently he is very popular with the musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Having seen Maestro Honeck conduct last season, and watching the program this evening, I find his goals, temperament, style and abilities quite the perfect match for a conductor that I can welcome with open arms to Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

brevity is the soul of wit

Yesterday while driving home from playing Ultimate Frisbee, I listened to a beautiful violin concerto, described by Ted Sohier of WQED 89.3 as being the world premiere recording, perhaps not heard in over 200 years. "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief:" Why not bring this beautiful concerto to our ears, live, next season at the PSO? And perhaps the solo performer of this CD would be interested:

Franz Clement: Violin Concerto in D Royal Philharmonic / José Serebrier
Rachel Barton Pine, baroque violin

Franz Clement's name has come down to us as the dedicatee of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, but a year previously, in 1805, he wrote his own Concerto in D, and it's a major find. This is no orchestrally challenged, formally dysfunctional, tasteless virtuoso vehicle, but rather is a full-blown classical concerto nearly as long (40-plus minutes) as the Beethoven. The melodic material is consistently attractive--and just as importantly, equally interesting harmonically. Deftly scored, and of course wonderfully written for the violin, its lyricism clearly anticipates Beethoven's own work of 1806. It goes without saying that Rachel Barton Pine plays the work with the style and elegance that it deserves.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Beauty divine

watching and waiting

This morning while driving to work I was listening to Rachmaninoff Concerto N. 2 - II. Adagio sostenuto on WQED FM 89.3. (here are a few links to other performances)

It is beauty divine! I urge everyone to listen to this romantic concerto, especially the second movement in particular. I always experience goosebumps with this fantastic music, and this morning was no exception!

My last post on this music inspired poetry

Monday, September 15, 2008

Musical Chairs

Pittsburgh Symphony/Heinz Hall as viewed from outside the grand tier seating area and down to the stage where bokeh shows a harp and more:
grand tier and bokeh harp


In symphony season soon to start
I snapped a shot from stage to sight
bokeh harp bore better gold
than token thus with grand tier right

You see this season begins with a preview concert, and and what better way to begin the season, but with a 'best of the season,' complete with general seating where we all pick our own seats, first come first serve. It was sort of a game of musical chairs this evening, both literally and figuratively, in more ways than one. We would hear Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major, 2nd movement, but then the music would stop, and one fewer chair would remain (figuratively). With this movement I discovered that the Grand Tier seating area of Heinz Hall really does have better acoustics for the horns and woodwinds, which always seemed to be over-damped a bit when I sat on the main floor last year. To continue with my metaphor, we would later hear Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World", 1st movement, and again the music stopped, another chair was removed, and the audience clapped. During a regular concert, if the audience claps after the 1st movement or anything but the last movement, it becomes a point of etiquette, not knowing the right time to applaud. And next, and most deliciously, we had the Mozart: Symphony No. 38 in D Major, "Prague", 3rd movement, (here we see Manfred Honeck with the same movement, one that I like to think of as a musical joke). Perhaps Mozart was playing musical chairs with this symphony as it only has 3 instead of the typical 4 movements.

Now of course every time the orchestra paused, Jim Cunningham of WQED 89.3, our host for the evening, would eloquently introduce the next piece, and behind him they would be literally rearranging the chairs, as in the allegory of musical chairs. His purpose and their goal was to try to sell season subscriptions to many of the attendees who were not current subscribers. Along the way he told a few good jokes and somehow we all became familiar with German Jelly Donuts and the wonderful waltz by Strauss: "Im Krapfenwaldl," complete with coo-coo and bird sound effects! The final piece of the evening was Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major. 4th movement, one of my favorite pieces of all time. I envisioned I was a bird soaring high above the land, in tune to the music, up, over a rainbow, where skies are blue.

Several other single movement spiral staircasecompositions were played this evening, but I don't want to forget to mention one I really liked, because the soloist poured her heart and soul into the violin: Bruch: Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, 4th movement, Laura Motchalov, violin; it was simply beautiful.

One more interesting note, on my way home, with my daughter and her friend, they with their ipods, and myself with WQED on the radio, I was listening to a wonderful piece I've never heard before by Gottschalk: Symphony No. 1, A Night in the Tropics, I & II Utah Symphony Orchestra/Abravanel. And the girls were listening each to their own separate music, and singing out loud, Eat It by "Weird Al" Yankovic and Aly & AJ - Potential Breakup Song. What a symphony of sound!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Rainbow Ocean by Cary Bohl
I often hear similarities in music. This morning on WQED 89.3 I heard a performance of Carl Maria von Weber: Freischütz: Overture J 277, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Mariss Jansons.

The first two notes immediately reminded me of the song "Over the Rainbow" perhaps because the first two notes follow an octave jump (I may be wrong, but that's what I thought I heard).

Although I've often thought about this octave jump, for instance in the song "I want to hold your hand" by the Beatles, I recently read about it in a blog posting by Andrew Druckenbrod titled 'Octave Jump'

Here is a beautiful new version of Over the Rainbow:

Over the Rainbow - Linda Eder Sings Judy Garland's Songbook

Carillon - Cast in Bronz

A recent trip to the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival revealed a new instrument, one that I'd not heard before. I first saw this instrument last year, but didn't stick around to see or hear the magnificent sounds of the Carillon. This year was different. According to wikipedia:
A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 cast bronze cup-shaped bells which are played one after the other (to play a melody) or sounded together (to play a chord). A carillon is played by striking a "baton" keyboard with the fists and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys activate levers and wires that connect to the metal clappers that strike the bells, which allows the performer (called a "carillonneur") to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key.
Why was this exciting? Well it was the sound, the sound could be heard all over the fairgrounds of the Renaissance Festival. The beautiful melodies and chords reverberated with subtle country appeal across the rolling land and fields of this farmland and woods edge, it was the pastoral attractiveness of that setting that set that appeal forth in a serene kind of way. And as I began to hear those sounds, I approached, it actually took a while because the frequencies seemed to travel so far. Soon I was there, and enjoyed the performance by 'Cast in Bronze', the only musical act in the world that features the carillon.

I recorded this video:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

my own particular blend

Sep 4, 2008 8:45 AM

coming in for a landing

In an attempt to ready myself for this season's classical concerts with the PSO, I've created a new blog, aptly titled: "Beauty of Classical Music." Being a subscriber to the Pittsburgh Symphony seemed not enough. I like creative writing, and so instead of simply describing my concert experiences in a limited forum of my flickr photo pages, I thought this blog would be the perfect venue, in this modern era of technology, melded with art, and of course my own nature photos, for combining these elements in my own particular blend. Welcome!

The web site of the PSO is very informative, they offer such a wealth of information. Now I happened there this morning, and found this nice introduction to the season:

The 2008-2009 Season marks the arrivals of Music Director Manfred Honeck and Principal Guest Conductor Leonard Slatkin, the return of some of the most talented guest conductors and soloists in the world, and concerts by the world-class musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!

I think perhaps I would have written this in the opposite order, leading with the 'world-class musicians' of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. They are the main-stay of this orchestra.

I suppose there are so many folks, in this great wide world, who are drawn into beauty using star power, and don't get me wrong, star attraction is all well fine and dandy. But I, however, appreciate the heart and soul of beauty, the pieces of the puzzle, the cogs and gears that when combined in an exquisite combination of pure artistic talent amalgamation, form the true essence of the power behind the music. The Pittsburgh Symphony orchestra is indeed an entity made up of the whole of all the 'world-class musicians' who play for the orchestra, who are part of the orchestra, who comprise the orchestra. They of course need their leader, the maestro who conducts, to not only lend that star power, in the form of Messrs Slatkin (one of my personal favorites) and Honeck, and often a star performer in the form of a soloist for the various concertos of that form and variety of music, but this is perhaps a bit of a facade on top of the true star, each of the musicians, the players.

I personally come to see the players. I enjoy the music and watch each of them play. These musicians offer, to me, the draw power. If they had no conductor or soloist, I'd be there. The drama, therefore, for perhaps most people, other than myself, is the contrast and interaction between the players and the conductor or the soloist. Well lets just agree that they all play a role, and so does the audience, we are there to hear and enjoy. I look forward to a beautiful season.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


May 31, 2008 12:48 AM


Concerto for Piano & Orchestra No. 17 in G major, K. 453

Mozart composed this concerto for his student Babette Ployer in 1784.
This concerto simply cannot be discussed without mentioning Mozart’s pet starling. The composer discovered to his amusement and delight that the family pet could whistle the opening theme of the Finale of this concerto. Well, almost—the bird held the last note of the first bar too long, and sharped the last two notes of the following bar—but there was no doubt the starling was imitating Mozart’s jaunty theme.

I was hunting for a Starling so that I may post the photo before tonights concert.
I was lucky to find one in such a cool pose :-)

Manfred Honeck at Heinz Hall

May 10, 2008 12:35 AM

Manfred Honeck at Heinz Hall

This was a post concert chat.
The video I recorded:

If anyone wonders, might I say, I just really enjoy classical music, and this is my way of sharing, perhaps in the hope that others may become enamored with this beautiful music someday too. I know when I was introduced decades ago, it built upon me slowly. Sure, I listened to classical music from my youth, in bugs bunny and tom and jerry cartoons, we all did, and then it progressed, all through movies and various places, you can't miss it. But the true love of classical music comes from the appreciation of each piece, each composition, and all the components, the individual instruments, you pick them out, hear them, individually, and collectively, and make the connection, you enjoy the point and counterpoint, the drama, the showmanship, the splendor, and you wrap it all together and what do you get, a marvelous art form that is a new appreciation, with neverending possibilities for hearing more and more, and then you wonder why you are not doing this yourself, but at the very least you can share it with others, so enjoy :)

Manfred Honeck: conductor
Michael Rusinek: clarinet
Giuseppe Verdi: Overture to La forza del destino
Alan Fletcher: Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (PSO commission/world-premiere)
Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben, Opus 40

Bravura and ritornello

May 2, 2008 11:19 PM

Bravura and ritornello

This was taken when I was in Nashville last weekend.

Tonight I heard the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra perform the Beethoven Emperor concerto, and it is the emperor of all concertos! So subtle, so beautiful - exquisite!

To me, a piano concerto is sort of like this image. Contrast dramatically represented by bravura and ritornello, subject and bokeh.
You have the subject in the foreground, the piano (or the flower, the keys perhaps are represented by the stamens), and then the bokeh or background, magnificent in its own right, is the orchestra itself, providing drama, and giving the whole of the image/concerto a spectacular full body and appeal!

Ralph Vaughn Williams : Symphony No. 4 in F minor

Ludwig van Beethoven : Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 73, "Emperor"

Yan Pascal Tortelier conductor
Horatio Gutiérrez piano
Maestro Tortelier introduced the Williams symphony with a very entertaining walk through dialog.

You will be able to hear this program yourself, if you are patient, in about a year, on a Sunday afternoon at 4pm EST on this radio station (you can listen online):

Here is another performance of the same concerto

Spring Beauty

Apr 19, 2008 7:55 PM

Spring Beauty

Spring Beauty
Spectacular Spring Beauty
Crept up behind me
and surprised me
a beauty unsurpassed and unexpected
vibrant white, soft and subtle texture
The beauty of nature
captured in an image
only a small tiny static representation
of a fluid, dynamic multi-dimensional beauty.

My eyes are amazing, what they see.
A camera is technical and cold,
cannot even begin to compare to reality

Seeing in all its glory, the drama and movement
the gentleness and purity,
the grandeur and flavor
unsurpassed in sight
simulated with a model
a simple picture in 2D
not as nice as three

But its the next best thing to being there.

It reminds me of a real life spring beauty.
Infatuation, a beginning
Also a first sight, a seeing
meandering on a bicycle
finding my way
seeing another
instantly seeing
vibrant beautiful
spring beauty was she
right there before me
so nice and friendly
something to see
one more time for me.

Thank you, so nice

have a great day.

Spring Beauty emerges from the ground before most other plants
A small little blossom erupts with color before the leaves obscure the sun
So small, one needs to be careful where you walk
Get down low, look, lo and behold, she lies there looking up
ready to bring joy to all

This Prokofiev Concerto reminds me of spring:

water goblin

Apr 12, 2008 10:37 AM

water goblin

last night at the Pittsburgh Symphony,
I heard graceful hijinks !

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