English Blog

Movie “The White Crow” 6/29/19

June 29, 2019

THE WHITE CROW was inspired by the book “Rudolf Nureyev: The Life” by Julie Kavanaugh. The drama focuses on the iconic dancer’s famed defection from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961, despite KGB efforts to stop him. Rudolf Nureyev was a superstar/sacred monster who changed the very nature of ballet, especially the roles of the male dancers. Acclaimed dancer Oleg Ivenko, who never acted before this movie,  stars as Nureyev, alongside Adèle Exarchopoulos as Clara Saint, and Fiennes as Russian ballet coach Alexander Pushkin. Nureyev’s highly dramatic, unexpected story was brought in this movie. I saw the movie about Freddy Mercury “Bohemian Rhapsody” and it is very interesting to find out Mercury and Nureyev share similar personalities. Sadly both died young with AIDS. “The White Crow” is an entertaining movie, but it shows “human” in a genius artist’s mind, even though he had a big ego and was self-centered. He was a true artist.

How Can I Keep from Singing? by Robert Lowry 6/9/19

June 9, 2019

My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far off hymn

That hails a new creation;
Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—

How can I keep from singing?
What though my joys and comforts die?

The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What though the darkness round me close?

Songs in the night He giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;

I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,

Since first I learned to love it,
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am His—

How can I keep from singing?

Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman revised edition by Nancy B. Reich 6/8/19

June 9, 2019

This book was first published in 1985, when the woman’s studies were not common, and Ms.Reich became an advocate of the woman’s studies throughout her life. This biography depicts Clara Schumann’s life in many aspects, as a child prodigy, composer, pianist, artist, teacher, wife, mother of 8 children, business woman, music promoter, social figure, and etc. It is an entertaining book as much as a well-researched biography so that anyone can enjoy reading it.

Clara Schumann was an important force in the music world in the 19th century. I personally enjoyed reading numerous letters she exchanged with Robert Schumann, her children and her friends in this book. It is very interesting that she is deeply romantic and soulful in the letters she wrote to Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, but when she wrote to her children she was no longer soulful. She was often away from home for her concert tours, and she tried her best to maintain her busy family life. So she often sent letters to home, but she was rather practical and business-like with her children. (I understand it was common in her class status in 19th century in Germany that children were often raised by nannies and they were sent to boarding schools away from their families.) She established and maintained an extraordinary performing career while supporting and supervising a household and seven children. Her concert fees were the main resources in Schumann’s household. She was pregnant most of time, 8 pregnancy in 16 years of marriage life, including Robert’s confinement in a mental asylum for 2 years, but she kept working all the time. When Robert was ill and dying she kept working. Her own children, Julie and Felix, were dying she was working. She was constantly facing with tragedies, but she preferred working to get over her continuous difficulties. 

Of course she had so many triumphant too! She was an influential figure in the music world. She was inspirational. She was an extraordinary performer and artist. She was like Rostropovich in the 19th century. So many composers have dedicated their works to Mr. Rostropovich, and so as Clara. Brahms have dedicated many of his works. Robert Schumann wrote most of his piano music thinking of her. She collaborated with Mendelssohn and Joachim. Liszt and Chopin praised her pianism. I wish I could hear her playing…



Movie: Exhibition on Screen “Rembrandt from the National Gallery, London, and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam” 6/9/19

June 9, 2019

This is one of my favorite nights at the movie theater, ‘The Exhibition on Screen”. This exhibition focuses on the highlights from the final years of Rembrandt’s life, commonly thought to be his finest years. The masterpieces he produced during this final period could be called his defining works, with each piece so soulful, sincere, and honest that they helped sculpt our idea of Rembrandt as a human-being and as an artist. 350 years after his death the film explores each of the exhibition’s key works, through contributions from specially invited guests including excellent curators and leading art historians. Rembrandt was one of the most celebrated painters in Europe, rich and famous, but later in his life he struggled with so much difficulties and went down to debts. His relationship with his wife and 2 lovers, who contributed to heavy problems in the society, is also discussed throughly in the movie. But the film is not only concerned with his misery. Rembrandt freed himself from society’s expectations and pleasing patrons.






Robert Schumann “Humoreske” Op. 20 5/30/19

May 30, 2019

My affection to Schumann’s music continues. Now it is Humoreske, Op. 20. The music of Humoreske is very organic to me. The music flows so naturally that I often forget it is a lengthy cycle. Schumann tells his Belgian music-lover friend that the word “Humoreske” is hard to translate to French. He said it is a combination of gemütlich (cozy) and witzig (witty). I wish I understand German to feel this word.., but not. So I asked my German friend as well. So it is more like “wit” as Schumann said. Of course Schumann was deeply in love with Clara at that time so I would take it as “romantic wit”! Schumann characterised his work “Humoreske” as “not merry, and perhaps the more melancholy” to Ernest Adolph Becker. But most important document is his letter to Clara describing his new work on 11 March. 1839. “I have been at the piano all week, composing, writing, laughing and crying all at once. You will find this state of affairs nicely evoked in my opus 20, the big Humoreske, which is about to be engraved. You see how fast things are going with me now..” Also he writes “I have been rhapsodizing about you and have thought of you with a love such as I have never experienced before.” At the time they were separated and they communicated through their music and letters. It was about a year and a half to their wedding.

I don’t need to be a detective to find their secret messages or traits (bread crumbs!) in their compositions, but it is intriguing to think about it. They are Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann! They don’t leave anything so obvious otherwise it is not fun to give their secret messages each other. They wanted the other person to smile when they find secret messages! But here are some obvious ones to me. For instance if you play Clara’s Romance op. 11 (dedicated to Robert), which was written at the similar time as “Humoreske”, we can find similarities. m. 322 – in Humoreske is resemble to m. 101 in Romance Op. 11 No. 2. And Clara uses B flat major – G flat major modulation frequently and sure enough Robert does it in his Humoreske too! I believe Clara wrote her Romance op. 11, intending for French audience, and this French (!) melancholy in Romance can be found in “Humoreske” as well.

“Humoreske” has 7 movements in my opinion. The 1st movement starts heavenly. Schumann was a great song writer and this opening shows his future (1840 is his song year)! I am not sure, but it seems to me he was inspired to write his amazingly beautiful songs from his piano works. In this 1st movement when it is in G flat major a right hand and a left hand sing a love duet beautifully in pp (this is Clara’s modulation). From m. 37 Clara’s image is dancing in his mind and she is calling his name with affection. M. 88 – we start to hear note C with accent for many times. C is Clara’s initial! Then here comes Robert with his big pride at m. 105. His music always has this kind of “pride” moment. Then there are imaginary chases (between Clara and Robert) and the movement finishes with the opening melody. In the 2nd movement Robert is more anxious. He can’t hold his emotion. Inner voice is written out, showing long phrases, but the feeling is hasting. Clara, don’t tease me! M. 275, again Robert’s pride comes in. M. 289 – His anxiousness starts again! The right hand is “out of tempo” and the left hand keeps in tempo. The tempo is getting faster and faster, and the material from Clara’s Romance puts brakes on his anxiousness at m. 322. If you know Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze Op. 6 there are 12 repeated low Cs at the end of the piece to indicate their wedding day “polterabend”. Here are two phrase of 6 repeated notes (m. 322- and m. 330-) and it could be the indication as well?? This segment finishes with triumphant attitude! M. 358 – the humorous chase between 2 hands starts, but at m. 408 2 hands become homophonic, and they sing chorale. Then the chorale will be sung in the far distance in m. 447-. It is a timeless moment. The opening theme comes back to conclude this movement. The beginning of the 3rd movement is a melancholic song with a duet in the middle section. But in the next section at m. 549 – unexpectedly we encounter with a subject of the fugue section of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata. I bet Schumann was walking pass Clara’s house one day and heard her practicing Hammerklavier. She was performing Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata at that time, but not Hammerklavier yet. She started to perform it in 1850’s. So I can imagine she was trying to figure out this difficult sonata, and Robert wanted to tell her he heard her playing. Isn’t it a good guess? Interestingly Schumann uses many B-flat with sf signs on top of this subject, like a bell, showing Clara’s initial in B-flat major key (again my imagination!). The 4th movement is a lovely song, but he inserts a scherzo, like his song “Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube”! The mood shifts quickly. The 5th movement has a lot of humor, wit and charm. It is a technical movement, but really fun to play. I often enjoy too much and lose my memory! Alas! The pretentious character from Shakespeare enters in the 6th movement. But at m. 854 Schumann tells us that fooling around is over. The last movement is just beautiful. Schumann tells us “If I am with Clara everything is beautiful.” His voice gets softer and sweeter, they sing a love song together.. but suddenly m. 952 (few measure to the end) the chromatic melody appears with f, resembling to Clara’s Romance No. 2 m. 5-. What does it mean? Clara may have told Robert “Your piece often finishes softly. Isn’t it more exciting to finish with big sound?” I don’t know.

Humoreske gives us an opportunity to create stories and imaginations! I will perform Humoreske for several occasions and plan to record it in the fall.



Movie “Non-Fiction” (French Title: Doubles vies) 5/26/19

May 26, 2019

The French title “Double Lives” describes this movie better than “Non-Fiction”. A celebrated publisher, Alain, runs a famous publishing company. One day he refuses to publish a book by a controversial author, Léonard. They are friends! Alain’s company adapts to the digital age. From there the story will start slowly and go around their circle of friends, their wives and husbands. They get together often and discuss a lot whether the discussion would hurt their own friends or not. They must say their opinion. (my French teacher once said French people must say their opinion even though it will hurt people’s feeling) The discussion seems a sport! And affairs are happening in this small circle and they carry their “Double Lives”. It is not triangle! It can be hexagon or more! Léonard writes about his own affairs for his books, and gradually he becomes vague between real and fictional. I thought it could be more witty, romantic and clever….




A Movie “Être et Avoir” 5/5/19

May 5, 2019

It is a 2002 French documentary film. The title translates as “to be and to have”, the two auxiliary verbs in the French language which I have been studying. It portrays a primary school in the commune (population of about 200) of Saint-Êtienne-sur-Usson, Puy-de-Dôme, France. The school has one small class room for mixed ages, from four to twelve years old, with a dedicated teacher, Mr Lopez. He is patient, calm, loving and gentle. He listens the children with respect. The camera follows their stories through a single school year. There are a lot of tears and laughter. The families of those children and Mr. Lopez are very close. They can’t hide a secret. They try to talk through their problems and struggles. And there is always beautiful nature, whether with snow or flowers. Each student has their own thought and sometimes they fight, but Mr. Lopez does not let problems and conflicts sitting around. He always talks to students and tries to get their emotions out. Humanity… Preciousness.. I know after the movie release Mr. Lopez sued the film maker and lost his claim, and unfortunately the movie carries this negative side. But children are always sincere. And Mr. Lopez is an inspiring teacher. Je suit tombé amoureuse de ce film. Did I make a good sentence, Mr. Lopez?


Good Friday

April 19, 2019

It was very beautiful during Good Friday Service.

O vos omnes                 Pablo Casals

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam:
attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus.

(O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow)
Lamentations 1:12

Performance Opportunity at Académie internationale d’été de musique de Lyon, from July 27 to August 5

April 16, 2019

Hello! I would like to extend my invitation to come to Lyon, France, to study piano and perform this summer. I will be a piano faculty at Académie internationale d’été de musique de Lyon. It will be my second time to be at this festival! The festival is fantastic and Lyon is a beautiful city to stroll around, especially the evening is very romantic. The date will be from July 27 to August 5. I hope to see you in Lyon this summer! We will have lot of fun making music together. Please contact me at junko_piano@yahoo.com if you are interested in! 

Warmly, Junko Ueno Garrett

Festival Information

Beethoven Piano Sonata Op. 78 “Therese” 3/25/19

March 25, 2019

This sonata has been living in the special part of my heart since I first learned. Actually I learned it when I was in high school, and the first day I started to study I was totally attracted and mesmerized. What a charm, how tender and sweet… and humor too! And there is no conflict and agony even though Beethoven was going through a very difficult time. The 4 bars of the introduction is amazingly warmhearted and amiable. You almost feel the warm sunlight in the early spring time. Nothing to worry. Nothing to be distressed. The flowers are starting to bloom. There is a path to the loving future and hope. Then the 1st theme starts at the bar 5. It is effortless. The beautiful melody flows so naturally. Throughout the 1st movement there are a lot of loving conversations, never an argument. F sharp Major continues to the 2nd movement. Now we are in vivace. The rondo theme is very delightful. We can’t stop smiling while we play this movement! The rondo theme develops with a variety of notations and ranges. The other theme (theme B) is very interesting, as if a man (bass line) and a lady (soprano line) are playing around! The bass line plays legato phase while the soprano line plays jumpy and playful phrase. Or they are following each other, alternating the same 2 notes! Beethoven was suffering more and more difficulty with his hearings, but when he is with his music his mind goes through wonderful imagination. He is a great story-teller. Recently I rekindled with “Therese” and my heart is filled with full of affection.