Saturday, December 30, 2006

Choir of Hard Knocks

Did you see the terrific performance of Silent Night by The Choir of Hard Knocks that was broadcast by ABC TV a few times over the Christmas period? I reckon it was the best thing on TV. The performance was earthy, real, and sincere. Musical, too!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Favourite Music Quotes

Jerry Rosen, former Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist
Listening to music on records is like getting kissed over the telephone.

Musica laetitiae comes medicina dolorum.
Music is the companion of joy and the medicine of sorrow.

Song title:
You don’t have to join the Ku Klux Klan to be a wizard under the sheets!

Album Title:
Songs I Learnt At My Mother's Knee (and some other low joints)

W. H. Auden (1907-73)
which can be made anywhere,
Is invisible and does not smell

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging.

You just have to press the right keys and the right pedals at the right time and the music plays itself.

Aaron Copland (1900-90)
The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And "Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be 'No.'

Heraclitus (c. 540-480 BC)
The fairest harmony springs from discord.

Sir Paul McCartney (1942- )
There are two things John and I always do when we're going to sit down and write a song. First of all we sit down. Then we think about writing a song.

Australian jazz musician, James Morrison [on his song Ease On In]
It’s kind of like a funky sort of Afro-Cuban swinging jazz-rock sort of Classical punk waltz reggae calypso sort of Scottish feel.
James and his family lived across the road from my Uncle Dave and Aunty Win. Aunty Win says they were very nice but very quiet, and only occasionally would you hear music coming from the house

Elvis Presley
I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.

Sid Vicious
You just pick a chord, go twang, and you've got music!

Frank Zappa

I write the music I like. If other people like it, fine, they can go buy the albums. And if they don't like it, there's always Michael Jackson for them to listen to.

Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

When too much music is barely enough ...

Joan and I attended the excellent performance of Mozart's Requiem on Saturday night at All Saints Cathedral, which was performed by combined choirs of Bathurst and Orange and the Bathurst Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ann Hosking. This was a very good performance and the cathedral was packed again.

I mused to myself that if the best voices and instrumentalists in Australia had been performing for us, it would have been better, but not much better, because the standard was pretty high.

It was great to hear Gabriel Bieniek singing the soprano arias, sounding as terrific as ever. Will this be her last performance in Bathurst? We are very sorry to be losing her and her composer/pianist husband Matthew, but we imagine the Queensland part of her family will be over the moon that their daughter will be close by, especially after the birth of her baby.

Then, on Sunday afternoon we enjoyed some really beautiful music from Enchanted Winds, which features music by Kristopher Spike performed by Spike on piano, Leah Lock on flute and Deborah de Graaf on clarinet. Spike is a most interesting composer, and I am hopeful that it will not be too long before he is an Australian Music Centre represented composer, because he certainly deserves to be.

They were joined by mezzo soprano Sally-Anne Russell for 3 or 4 of the pieces they played.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Kate Neal

Did you see Kate Neal on Spicks and Specks tonight? If you'd like to hear some of her work, simply click on the above link, which will take you to an archive of a few MP3s of some of her pieces. I especially liked Rabid Fire, which was performed by an ensemble that includes terrific Australian pianist Michael Kieran Harvey.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dame Joan Sutherland

Australia's most celebrated soprano has her 80th birthday today, 7th November, 2006. Limelight magazine, November 2006 edition, features a great CD which includes short interviews with her and her husband Richard Bonynge, and some beautifully sung arias.

Joan Sutherland shares her birth year with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and Chuck Berry.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Simon Tedeschi

We had a most enjoyable concert in All Saints Cathedral a couple of Sundays ago, which featured Simon Tedeschi, a brilliant young Aussie pianist playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No 19 in F, with our Bathurst Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Michael Deasey OAM.

Fiona Thompson, Mitchell Conservatorium director and viola teacher and Melissa McLean, violin teacher performed Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, one of our favourite Mozart works.

Simon's encores were alsoterrific: he played a sizzling version of Dave Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk, which featured his own improvised blues solos, and a great and difficult transcription of Danny Elfman's Simpsons Theme.

We look forward to hearing Simon again on 26th August next year, playing Grieg's wonderful piano concerto. This tiem round, I'm getting there early, because without a stage, and without tiered seating, we could not see Simon or the piano keyboard, which was a great shame.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Great music book: shame about the binding

How often do you find that the music books you buy will not lie flat on your piano’s music desk? I know some pianos are poorly made, but I’m talking about pianos with generous-sized music desks, such as the Yamaha in the studio at the conservatorium where I teach, and the Tokai grand piano in our lounge room.

I recently ordered a copy of Warner Bros Music’s “Ultimate Jazz Showstoppers,” which is a terrific book with great musical arrangements [mostly original versions] and a good selection of genuinely popular jazz pieces, but … it won’t lie flat and open easily on the pianos I use, and can’t even be used from a conventional music stand.

How dumb is that?

And all of this could have been solved by binding it with a spiral!

I wonder if the people who make the books play musical instruments?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bargain-priced, first-class Handel overview

This is a great CD for newcomers to Handel, but also for those who already have a few Handel CDs. So often samplers have all the favourites which you already have on other CDs. But this set has a few well-known tracks, such as Zadok the Priest, See the Conqu'ring Hero Comes and La Rejouissance from The Fireworks, but mostly wonderful music, superbly played which is not extremely well known.

Highly recommended.

Delightful Mozart, sensitively performed

I love this CD of the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto and the Clarinet Concerto, and am pleased that it is still available, though now under another label. The 2 works combine to make a great program.

In Australia, the clarinet concerto was voted the one piece of classical music people could not live without. However, I did for a while, because about 15 years ago, when I arrived home in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, from a trip to Sydney, I discovered that the shop assistant had not put the CD in the jewel case!

The flute and harp concerto is equally delightful.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

All that old music that's falling apart

Just got a great gift for Father's Day from my wife. It is a comb-binding machine. It doesn't bind combs, but punches holes in sheets of paper and assembles them with plastic combs down the side of the sheets.

So now I am separating pages of books I've had for 30 years or more, cutting off the glue strip on the side with my paper trimmer, punching holes in the sheets and then binding them back together again.

It is a bit laborious, but it works and I now have several books usable again.

A friend rips apart brand new books that won't stay open on the piano and runs them trough a binding machine, but I think I would wait a while before I pulled any new books apart!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Keeping my hand in, part 2.

My wife's project for my musical development is continuing: I play, she listens and sometimes comments. Joan is a terrific piano teacher and I greatly value her encouragement.

We have now worked through:
Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas
Mozart's 18 piano sonatas
Tchaikovsky's Seasons [all 12 of them ...]
Mussorgsky's Pictures from an Exhibition
Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias
Bach's English and French Suites
Chopin's Waltzes.

And I am now playing through Haydn's Sonatas and Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier volume 1. The early Haydn Sonatas are not as well-known and are much easier than Mozart and Beethoven's: more like their sonatinas, but maybe easier still for the first few in volume 1 of the Henle edition. Bach's WTC vol 1 is still a challenge, though I have played through them before.

This is a sight-reading exercise, by the way: not at all polished performing!

Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier

Tim Smith has done a ton of work in creating this superb site, which features oodles of information on this wonderful body of Bach keyboard music. One of the best features is Tim's Macromedia Flash movies which scroll through Bach's WTC fugues in real-time to David Korevaar's sensitive perormances, while presenting a real-time analysis. It has to be seen and heard to be appreciated. [You will need a fast-speed broadband setup to be able to make use of the Macromedia movies.]

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

from newsgroup alt:quotations

Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.
W B Yeats (1865-1939)

I like it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A little nonsense now and then

Playing Bach fugues is hard work. Anything to introduce a bit of humour into the situation should be welcome, I reckon. This web page gives Ebenezer Prout's lyrics for all of the Bach fugue subjects, including words for the countersubjects.

I have created a pdf file of the fugues from the first book of the Well Tempered Clavier, which shows how the words fit with the music of the subjects. I hope you enjoy it.

The lyrics Prout wrote are light-hearted but do serve a serious purpose, because they show exactly where the subjects begin and end, and were written as amusing musical memory aids.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Is the concert deady-bones?

It's not easy getting people to come to concerts, these days, even free ones. We recently had a concert at our conservatorium in Bathurst, 3 hours west of Sydney [and a thousand miles from care] which featured a talented young woman playing Mozart, Bartok, Chopin, PDQ Bach and music by the composer of the Amelie soundtrack [French geezer: you know the one].

We did our best to promote it, but on the day only 20 or so people came along. It was an entertaining concert, and I'm sure lots of people would have enjoyed it. This concert was free for staff and students, and reasonably priced for others.

In contrast, a concert featuring Schubert's Trout quintet and a delicious meal of trout and a yummy chocolate dessert which was accompanied by music from the film Chocolat and which cost 70 smackers a ticket attracted 100 people. We thought it sounded good, too, but we didn't have the 140 smackers!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Keeping your hand in

My wife and I bought a great second-hand Tokai grand piano six years ago. It is the first grand we've owned and is a Steinway copy. Definitely just a copy. But I have often gone days, even weeks without playing it.

A few weeks back I decided to play through one of my favourite Beethoven sonatas, which is the one in E Flat Major, op 7. I learnt the second movement as a student, doing Seventh Grade AMEB. Having played through one sonata, my wife, Joan suggested I play through the other 31...

So I did! A new adventure began, and after completing the 31 Beethoven Sonatas [only sight-reading them], I continued with Chopin's Waltzes [the 14 in the cheap book I took from a pile of second-hand music donated to teachers at Mitchell Conservatorium recently], Tchaikovsky's Seasons, Mussorgsky's Pictures from an Exhibition and Mozart's Sonatas.

I think I'm sight-reading a little better now, and I've learnt a lot more than I would by merely listening to CDs, or even studying the scores and listening.