Changing Standards in Musical Performance are Upon Us: Fast, crass, loud and vulgar interpretations of music are fleeing and soon to be gone. Mars and Venus have been used for social comparison. I refer to the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992). The author is John Gray He had earned degrees in meditation and taken a correspondence course in psychology.
So what are some of the changes we can expect in the musical field?
Large concert hall and amphitheater concerts will greatly diminish. Smaller, more intimate settings for music will gain the upper hand. This is very much akin to the chamber music recitals that used to grace the wealthy during the classical era. Often wealthy patrons would employ their own orchestras. Conductor-composer. Joseph Haydn, working for the Austrian Esterhazy family was an archetype example:
Repeating a a three or four note phrase dozens of times during a song will find its place in private practice rooms only.
Changing Standards on Multiple Repetition of Notes
This is based on a true story. I worked with Rubinoff and His Violin. He would stand in front of a TV set, watching television, and practice the opening four notes of any given song maybe one to two hundred times. This was to get precision to to max on the motif he was working on. But this was for practice only! He would never think of making his practice session into a hit song! Today we mostly listen to musical practice sessions with expensive costumes and backgrounds. I ask my reader, how long will that last?
Beauty is the ascription of a property or characteristic to an animal, idea, object, person or place that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. Classical Greek offers a more inclusive definition. The word is κάλλος, kallos. As an adjective it was καλός, kalos. However, kalos may and is also translated as ″good″ or ″of fine quality. It had a broader meaning than mere physical or material beauty. Similarly, kallos was used differently from the English word beauty in that it first and foremost applied to humans. As such, it came with an erotic connotation.
From 6 – 7 pm on the “living room Steinway.” I frequently feature ragtime piano. It was composed by writers as Scott Joplin, Tom Turpin and Lucketh Roberts. As the inn was being built, the music of these wonderful American composers gave birth to the American style of music. The music fits the living room’s elaborate and beautiful decor. Then I go into the elaborate, spacious dining room. A 1925 newly rebuilt Steinway concert grand is to be found there. My hours there are from 7 – 9:30 pm six days weekly from Christmas to Easter. It is best to call for reservations.
Hello Boca Grande for my piano employment the 11th straight Year. Click on the Boca Grande nowhere but here box below to see many incredibly beautiful and exotic pictures of the island. There my piano playing services will be in full swing. Daughter Kathryn Parks worked on this post for Michael Saunders. She works on promotion for this real estate company in Florida and does a beautiful job at that.
Untouched by time, Boca Grande is a classic Florida getaway where pristine beaches, sunny days, and small-town charms create a blissful atmosphere.
Hello Boca Grande
It’s impossible not to have fabulous stories when you work at such a place. One of favorites is the evening that two distinguished ladies from London sat and enjoyed their dinner while dining on the table right beside the piano. Fortunately, my piano touch is such that people can enjoy their dinner and still converse while listening to beautiful melodies. My incredible instructor Mischa Kottler, studied in Europe in Paris under Alfred Cortôt in the 1920’s. Cortôt traced his lineage to Frederic Chopin. Then Mischa Kottler went to Vienna and apprenticed under Emil von Sauer. Sauer studied under Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms. Mischa was always emphatic when he would say: ” “Present the melody on a silver platter.” In so doing you can eliminate all the ponderous accompaniment that so many often vulgarly place into their piano playing.
But on with the story: When I got up for a small respite, I walked past the ladies. One said to me, “We enjoyed your playing, especially your Andrew Lloyd Webber selections.” I replied.”Oh, thank you.” Then the other lady proudly said: “Yes,our assigned seats are in the British House of Lords right next to him!”
Why is this Lineage Important?
Today so much piano playing is electronic. Often accompaniments are provided by the touch of a button. The old school of knowledge is then lost. Happily, at the fabulous Inn the old school is still in full swing. I will be there nightly from Dec 20 until Easter. Please say hello. P.S. if you decide to buy a home there, ask my daughter, Kathryn. I am also a composer. My wife, Sharon, is my lyricist and librettist. Sharon, and I just work shopped our new opera Patra in New York. Click on the link for more info. Finally, please share this post with friends! Thank you.
PATRA – An Opera Comique performed in two acts, sung in English, written by Sharon and David Ohrenstein about Cleopatra’s final days as ruler of Egypt.
Piano Competitions Have Judges on Edge. My source is an excellent book on piano playing. David Dubal wrote it: “Reflections from the Keyboard”. He interviews numerous keyboard artists about their trials and tribulations. Being a judge at competitions is also certainly trying. Why? I felt that pianist Jorge Bolet was particularly relevant in this regard.
Bolet emphasizes how perfection is expected with piano playing. This is primarily due to the recording industry. He believes this has destroyed a great deal of “music making.” That is because recordings are of such mechanical perfection that any imperfection in actual performance is severely frowned upon. The other source of homogeneous playing is competitions.
Bolet on Piano Competitions
This piano legend actually states “Competitions have done more harm to piano playing than anything else.” In many competitions there are some 15 judge. Those he enter have to try to get all the votes. To do this they must not antagonize any of the judges in any way. Nothing must be different or worse yet, controversial. Any personal idea is shunned and looked down upon. Bolet states that as a result whether you listen to 10, 20 or 30 pianists, they all play alike. That affects the status of piano playing in general. No one becomes outstanding.
My Own Piano Instructor- Mischa Kottler
My own teacher was Mischa Kottler. He was the official pianist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Mischa also directed the music at WJR in Detroit. His waiting list for students was incredibly long. Once you got to start, he often went with the Symphony on tour. I grew up in Detroit. Listen to him playing Chopin’s Minute Waltz. He actually plays the difficult passages with double notes in the right hand. The main help I credit with is avoiding hand injuries at the piano. He taught: (1) Hand positions, (2) The proper way to scales and arpeggios. (3) Showed me the regimen that I still practice daily. (4) How to play with a singing tone. (5) How to: “Present the melody on a silver platter.” (6) Above all else: He was a fanatic about proper fingering. Mischa never seemed satisfied with editors. He learned his art and fingering from Alfred Cortot and Emil von Sauer in Paris in Vienna in the 1920’s. Would he have lost at a piano competition for his originality? Perhaps?
So What Am I doing Now?
I’ve never been so busy. I’ve just return from New York where my wife and I workshopped our original opera, Patra. All our singers had won auditions with the NY Met Opera. Check out our Patra website, Patraopera.com. Professionally I play 52 weeks a year. I’m scheduled to play my 11th winter season in Boca Grande at the Gasparilla Inn. The owners have just reconditioned their Steinway Grand from 1924. You be the judge: Are piano competitions necessary? Perhaps.
Ten Minute Musical Bliss of Rubinoff and His Violin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUz-LOrzTQU. Like fine wine, musicians and artists improve with age. Dave Rubinoff is much too ignored today. That is due to the jealousy of the 100% pure classical musicians. Indeed, I even wonder how many pure symphonic musicians are left to be found today. It seems like so many are crossing the lines into the popular field.
Even as of recently, Dave Rubinoff refuses to give up the ghost. This is true even some 35 years after he passed away. Maestro, conductor, and curator Joseph Rubin (not related to Rubinoff except in spirit) gave a concert commemorating this great artist last summer. I was called to appear with violinist extraordinaire, Steven Greenman. It was held at the Circleville High School near Colombus, Ohio. Maestro Greenman had just returned from a tour of Poland. Among other places, he played the most haunting melodies in the synagogue in Cracow. Below was the itinerary Maestro Rubin sent me for the Circleville. Ohio concert.
Witness Another Ten Minute Musical Bliss with Steven Greenman and I playing the Rubinoff’s Fiddler
Friday, June 1 (2017)
Around 3 PM – Rehearse Fiddler Medley with Steven Greenman, location TBA
7-9:30 PM – Orchestra Rehearsal at Circleville High School
Saturday, June 2
11 am – Rehearse Fiddler Medley with Steven Greenman
2-4:30 pm- Orchestra Rehearsal at Circleville High School
6:30 PM – Pre-show lecture at High School
7-9 PM Concert at High School
9-10:30 PM Post show VIP reception at High School
Copy and paste the youtube link above to see what success is obtainable by playing incredibly well what the general public enjoys. I was thrilled to work so many years with this man.
Resort number 1 seems to be my 2nd Home. My 1st home graces in sunny Sarasota.My profession as a pianist takes me to Boca Grande. There, I play at the Gaparilla Inn. The Inn captures the charm of a bygone era of Florida hospitality. It again claims its throne this year as resort #1. The Inn’s style is stately and grand. It offers glamour that recalls the heyday of mid-century Floridian beach resorts. A slower pace of life is offered. “It’s Old Florida at its best with modern updates.” Activities abound at the resort. Sport offerings include golf, tennis, croquet, boating, and other misc. water sports . You’ll want to have in your list of memories its Beach Club views of the Gulf of Mexico. More information: the-gasparilla-inn.com
Resort number 1 has Interesting Guests
David is scheduled 6 nights weekly in season on this island resort. On a typical night you can hear music by Cole Porter, George Gershwin. You’ll authentic ragtime by Scott Joplin. The Inn was actually built at the height of the ragtime era. He also loves the great classics. His regular list this time of the year is a 30 minute rendition of principle dances from the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. He plays Jupiter from the Planets by Gustav Holst. He loves to play the theme from the King’s Speech. It is the slow movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. Excerpts from principle operas are often included. His favorite popular song to play is “Killing Me Softly.” The arrangement he has by George Shearing is so beautiful that many diners have to wipe tears from their eyes.
Be sure to also catch David and his wife, Sharon, as they workshop their new opera comique, Patra September 1 -7 on Schroon Lake in New York.
PATRA – Opera Comique by Sharon and David Ohrenstein. Join the Fun!
Counterpoint focuses on melodic interaction—only secondarily on the harmonies produced by that interaction. John Rahn contrasts melody with counterpoint quite adeptly. He states:
It is hard to write a beautiful song. It is harder to write several individually beautiful songs that, when sung together, sound more beautiful as a polyphonic whole. The internal structures that create each must contribute to the the polyphony. Vice versa, the combination in turn must comment on the the individual voices. In this way the contrapuntal universe combines the singular with the plural. The way that is accomplished in detail is … ‘counterpoint’.
Our New Opera, Patra, Skillfully Uses Melody with the Contrapuntal Universe
Patra Workshop to debut in New York. Patra is the shorter name for Cleopatra. Queen of Egypt, she was one of the most famous women in history. Her full name was Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator (69 BC – 12 August 30 BC). She was the last of the Pharaohs set up in Egypt by Alexander the Great. By descent, she was a Macedonian Princess. It will appear off book in the workshop. Our singers will literally be top notch. My wife, Sharon is the librettist and a co-composer of Patra. I, husband David, am also a composer. Before going to NY, it will have a staged concert presentation. This will be in Sarasota Fl at the newly built Sarasota West Coast Black Theater. Our casts in both NY and Fla are busy rehearsing. Here’s the gist:
Cleopatra had stopped the onslaught of two invading Roman generals through love. She thus neutralized the worst effects of their invasions by marrying the generals. Patra had children with each. The generals were, first, Julius Caesar; and then, Marc Antony. Was there any possibility of love with the 3rd invading general, Octavian? That is the subject of our new opera comique.
`How does this tie together melody and counterpoint? By the beautiful vocal lines. Also, the piano provides additional counterpoint. Don’t miss our New York workshop on September 7, 2019. See our website, Patraopera.com. for details.
Romantic Composer Comrades were Common. Musical composers are the avant-guard of civilization. Avant-guard defines a group of artists, musicians, or writers working with new and experimental ideas and methods. Without composer comrades, it is doubtful that we would ever know who Franz Schubert was. Composers are vital to a civilization. Yet, they are like babies. They need help. Such was the case with Franz Schubert. He only lived to age 31. Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind more than 600 secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of piano and chamber music.
Oil painting of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder (1875), made from his own 1825 watercolor portrait.
His last symphony, “The Great,” was never performed in his lifetime. He received payment for it from the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1828. However, they ended up performing an easier symphony by Schubert, , No 6. The “Great” remained in the truck of his brother, Ferdinand Schubert. His Romantic composer comrades included Robert Schumann. Scumann went searching for it. He discovered it in Ferdinand’s trunk in his attic.
Fortunately, Felix Mendelssohn, counted among Schubert’s Romantic composer comrades, was in a position to make the “Great” come to life. He was the director of the Gewandhaus Concerts in Leipzig, Germany. The story goes it was difficult to perform even for his orchestra. To make it more palatable, Mendelssohn omitted the repeats in the symphony that were indicated by Schubert. Here is another story of Schubert’s almost lost and forgotten music:
THE CLIFF HANGER QUEST OF GILBERT AND SULLIVAN to save Schubert’s Music
Gilbert and Sullivan had heard of Schubert’s Rosamunde. The manuscript was not to be found. On a whim, they traveled to Germany to find the music. There, they caught wind of a Doctor Snyder who may have been in possession of the score. The rest of the story reads like a cliff hanger. When they arrived at his home, Dr. Snyder told them he had had a number of Schubert’s manuscripts in his attic. Unfortunately, he had already placed them in the trash bin. The operetta duo ran to the refuse container. There, they not only discovered the score to Rosamunde, but numerous other symphonic works by Schubert. The rest of the story goes, they were so excited at the find, that they played leap frog with each other to celebrate the find.
Without the arts, life seems shorter and even brutish. We must support creators of the fine arts who supply the musicians in the concert hall with new music. After all, there might not be a team like Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn or Gilbert and Sullivan at the right moment to save the great works of another poor Schubert-like composer.
Women out West: Rodeo. Copeland wrote Rodeo in 1942 as a Ballet in One Act. The Ballet Russe of Monte Carlo commissioned choreographer Agnes de Mille to collaborate with Aaron Copeland on the Rodeo project. I found a score arranged for piano. The arrangement is copyrighted by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. It was printed in 1962. It has six principle sections:
First Episode: Buckaroo Holiday
Second Episode: Corral Nocturne
Ranch House Party
Third Episode: Saturday Night Waltz
Fourth Episode: Hoe-Down
Women Out West Had to Find Suitable Men!
Basically, throughout the American southwest, the Saturday afternoon rodeo was a tradition. Usually, it was followed by an evening dance at the Ranch House. Copland’s Rodeo uses this basic western concept. As a matter of fact dating between the sexes was problem confronting all American women since early pioneer times. The question has been how to get a suitable man? Most likely, it is still a problem everywhere.
Women Out West Relished the Saturday Evening Dance.
On Saturday evening, after the Rodeo, social time was shared by dancing the square dance. The principle theme of Copland’s Hoe-Down in Rodeo uses a square dance tune called Bonypart. Of course this is a humorous reference to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Agnes de Mille describes the basic concept for choreography: “Throughout the American Southwest, the … dance was a tradition. On the remote ranches, as well as in trading centers and the towns, the “hands” get together to show off their skill in roping, riding, branding and throwing. Often, on the more isolated ranches, the rodeo is done for an audience that consisted only of a handful of fellow-workers and women-folk. Any neighbors that attended often had to do an eighty mile or so run-over to witness the event.”
I, the blogger, also wrote a ballet called The Dance of the Zodiac. It also features the bull, as in the rodeo. Only it appears as the symbol of Taurus. Enjoy this internal link to my own ballet.
Traditional Employment includes types of people and places. Any new year is a time for reflection: What happened or didn’t happen last year? What might happen this year? Since this new year (2019) is about to begin, I thought I’d reflect on previous jobs. I seem to have a predilection for working with: (1) Successful older people. (2) Spectacular older places. By traditional I refer to: (1) Great places built over 100 years ago. Or, (2) Successful men who, at the time, were old enough to be my grandfather or possibly great-grandfather at the time of employment.
Traditional Employment by Rubinoff and His Violin
I learned the musical craft of arranging and accompanying from Rubinoff. He conducted the Paramount Theater in New York and Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. What a perfectionist! After working for 8 hours during the day, at night he’d change his mind. The next day we did a different 16 bars. Dave’s Stradivarius violin was purchased for $100,000.00 in 1929. He made about $500,000.00 annually in the 1930′ by conducting and performing. It seemed like the “His Violin” was his marriage contract with music.
Traditional Employment at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House
For better than 15 summer seasons I played piano for shows at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House in Deposit, New York. The resort was born in 1869. What a wonderful time our family had. Our children literally grew up in the Catskills at Scott’s. Playing many shows as well as our own (with wife, Sharon) were part of my duties. Most recently, the cast of The Marvelous Mrs. Maiselle got to experience the same resort.
To the right, Rachel Brosnahan, winner of the award for best actress in a comedy series for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, speaks in the press room at the 23rd annual Critics’ Choice Awards at the Barker Hangar on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Santa Monica, Calif. (Jordan Strauss | Invision/AP)
My wife and I wrote a new opera comique entitled Patra. It certainly is quite traditional. Our models were Bizet’s Carmen and Bernstein’s West Side Story. We will have a full production workshop in New York at Schroon Lake scheduled for September 2019. This will be with the Seagle Music Colony. The Colony is under the artistic direction of Darren Woods and The American Center for New Works Development. Schroon Lake has quite a cultural history. Here is an internal link to this Schroon Lake’s glorious past. It inspired me to write a poem. Share if you wish.