English Blog

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K. 271, “Jeunehomme” 10/15/2019

October 15, 2019

I have been practicing and polishing Mozart’s concerto No. 9, which is one of the first master works by Mozart, for the opening concert of 2019-2020 3rd@1st concert series. I have been trying to play with perky and transparent sound, and with true finger legato. It is not easy. It requires a great care for balance between hands and sensitive finger tip touch. But how fun it is to play this master work! This concerto has an unique nickname “Jeunehomme” because it has been said to have been written for a somewhat mysterious French pianist, Mlle. Jeunehomme!! In a letter to his father after finishing the piece, Mozart referred to it as having been written for someone named “Jenomy” and his father referred to her as “Madame Genomai.” Early in the twentieth century, two French scholars—unable to find further information about her—decided that the name was Mozart’s misspelling of Jeunehomme and that she must have been a traveling virtuoso—yet one of whom no one had ever heard. This name was copied uncritically throughout most of the century. And after so many years, we were OK to call it without a true meaning! But in 2003 Michael Lorenz, a Viennese musicologist, discovered the answer to this unique mystery:

—-Mozart clearly met the pianist in question on Salzburg in 1777 when he wrote the Concerto for her. The following year, from Paris, he wrote to his father about meeting with the choreography Jean Georges Noverre, with whom he was planning a ballet, adding “Madame Jenomé is here as well.” The title “Madame” indicates that “Jenomé” is the lady’s married name (so she was not Mademoiselle Jeunehomme). She was in fact Noverre’s daughter, named Louise Victoire, a fine amateur pianist. In 1768 she married Joseph Jenamy, a wealthy merchant in Vienna. So instead of having found inspiration for his breakout work in the person of a completely unknown traveling virtuoso, Mozart found it within the family of a professional colleague with whom he proposed collaborating.—–

Now I don’t need to feel too bad about my imperfect English spellings and grammars!

This concerto offers a great range of emotions and technique. Certainly Louise Viotoire was a virtuoso pianist to handle all of difficulties! The second movement reminds me the concept of “word-painting”. In this movement Mozart shows his genius mind to portray emotions which relates to his opera composer life. The finale is a rondo movement, but not a usual one. It has a lengthy minuet and 3 cadenzas with some alternatives.

This concerto will be paired with Mozart’s Requiem, combining 4 choirs. Admission is always free at 3rd@1st concerts so that all may attend. The details will be found at www.thirdatfirst.org.

 

2019-2020 3rd@1st Season 9/16/2019

September 16, 2019

2019-2020 season will make our concert series for 6th season! This year’s offerings run the gamut: from Mozart to Jazz, from Paris to Broadway. Featuring my musician friends and visiting artists from the community and beyond, the concerts are presented in the inspiring surroundings of the beautiful First United Methodist Church of Pasadena’s historic building.

I would like to specially comment on our newly restored Steinway 9ft piano. George Ashikyan, a wonderful piano technician and a friend of us, worked on the piano during the summer. The piano got a new Steinway action and many details worked on. It is so beautiful. The touch is fantastic and the sound is amazing, especially in the acoustic in the sanctuary. You will enjoy hearing the piano in this season.

Please go to www.thirdatfirst.org for more information. The opening concert will be on Saturday October 19 at 7:30pm with Mozart Piano Concerto no. 9 and Requiem. Please note that the opening concert starts at 7:30pm, but other concert will remain at our regularar concert time as 4pm.

Happy Fall! I look forward to seeing you at concerts.

Movie “Honeyland” 8/26/19

August 26, 2019

It is a sad and heartbreaking documentary movie, but shows a dignity, sublimity, and tenderness in human’s life. Hatidze Muratova is apparently the last of Macedonia’s nomadic beekeepers, who uses an ancient method. This movie does not tell us too much. It gives us moment to imagine, feel and think. We hear constantly bees’ buzzing and see a beautiful nature in mountains. Hatidze sticks her bare hands into natural stone nests and sing old folk songs to her buzzing swarms. She sings so beautifully. So innocent! Joy and Happiness.. Her face is weathered and weepy living in nature. But her eyes are always so bright and curious. She takes care of her half-blind 86-year-old mother. They chat like any other mother-daughter does. Their small house has no electricity, no water. The mother talks about Hatidze’s marriage possibility. She laments that her daughter has become a burden to her.. But she goes on.

When Hussein Sam, his wife, and their seven kids drive into Muratova’s neck of the woods with a herd of their cattle, the life of solitude and peace is changed. Hatidze was wondering at first, but she starts to enjoy their accompany. She accepts them. She plays with kids, she teaches Sam a beekeeping business and they start to share their lives together. She always stresses to Sam that she only takes half of the honey that’s produced by each hive, as that ensures the bees will survive and be able to produce more later. That sustained harmony is more valuable to Muratova than the extra few Euro she could earn by taking every drop of honey. That is what she has been doing all her life. That is what she believes. But Hussein has 7 kids and 2 adults to feed. He struggles. He breaks a harmony… He is desperate. So you know what comes next. But Hatidze never loses dignity. And she never forgets to enjoy her life even when she does not have almost anything. I could not stand quickly after the movie was over. I felt very heavy in my mind. I fully recommend this movie.

 

 

 

An Animation Movie ” Mirai” 8/26/19

August 26, 2019

4-year-old boy, named Kun, feels forgotten by his parents when his little sister Mirai (It means “future” in Japanese) arrives. Kun-chan (Little Kun) thought his little sister is stealing all of attention from his family. He feels neglected. His world is different.. Mirai is cute and everybody pays attention to her. As his mother returns to work, and his father struggles to run the household (he works at home as an architect), Kun-chan becomes increasingly jealous of baby Mirai at every moment.  Even the family dog, Yukko, feels neglected. One day he storms off into their magical garden, where he encounters strange guests from the past and future — including his sister Mirai, as a teenager. Together, Kun-chan and a teenage Mirai go on a journey through time and space, uncovering their family’s incredible stories. A magical garden serves as a time-traveler. For instance Kun-chan meets with his mother as a child. Through those adventures Kun-chan will grow up and opens a new perspective on his world.

It is a beautiful and imaginative animation movie. Surely you will enjoy it too. As a Japanese pianist I often use a song from Japanese animation movies for my encore at the concerts and the audience always give me a wonderful feedback. I am sure you will cry during this movie. I watched “Mirai” on one of flights this summer, and I cried too.

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….