English Blog

A Movie “Death in Venice” by Luchino Visconti/Thomas Mann 4/22/20

April 22, 2020

I saw this movie when I was young too. Based on a novel by Thomas Mann, this movie is often known as one of the best movies of Visconti. The story is not complicated. A terrified composer, Gustav Von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde), visits Venice to recover from his illness, both mentally and physically. He is lonely. He stays at a nice hotel near a beach, and one day he spotted a beautiful young Polish boy, Tadzio (Björn Andrésen). Tadzio was vacationing with his family. Aschenbach fell in love with Tadzio, and became obsessive. He follows him. He can’t stop thinking of him. Then, he looks at himself, and he can’t accept who he is.. One day he went a beauty parlor and got a make-up and hair dye. It is very sad how he looks.. The ending scene is unforgettable. The movie captures the beauty of Venice and the scenes of vacationers. It is a psychological movie and some scenes are very long without much motions. I may not rate this movie as Visconti’s best film, but the acting is excellent.

Home Alone and Music – Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata in A Major, D 664 Op. posth 120 4/15/20

April 15, 2020

I have been a great friend of “music” and “books” since my childhood. I love my human (!) friendship, but also I love solitude. I appreciate to my friends, books and music, especially in this quarantine period. I can entertain myself! I have been revisiting piano pieces I have learned before, and it is quite fun to see them again. It gives me a smile to see the sloppy notes on the pages. I was very diligent to analyze Bach’s fugues with color pencils  and some obscure signs when I was young! My childhood piano teacher was obsessed by the correct fingerings. She wrote “Correct Fingering” for 2 or 3 times on one page! I have been going through Well Tempered Clavier, Beethoven Sonatas, Schubert Sonatas…

I rekindled with Schubert: Piano Sonata in A Major, D 664. What a Delight! I suppose I studied hard on this piece when I was young. The pages have full of writings. I even can’t see some notes because of corrections. It was very common to use this Japanese edition which my teacher’s teacher edited.  We believed it was the best one, but I ordered Henle edition yesterday! Young Schubert was vacationing with a close friend during the summer of 1819 in Steyr, few hundreds miles to the west of Vienna. He was happy. This sonata was a production from this summer. Schubert talked about “pretty ladies”. From the first note, it is Schubert, beautiful melodies woven into his signature rich harmonies, simple, yet innocent and sincere. Schubert’s hero, Beethoven, is quoted in the second theme of the first movement. But even this quote is not spoken loudly. I can see Schubert is smiling in this quote! The second movement has only one motive, but with Schubert’s genius mind, it tells a full story, beautiful nature he was walking everyday. The last movement is very charming and witty, dancy and chatty.

I don’t have Vienna’s nature, but I have blue sky and palm trees, and mockingbird singing all day long. My quarantine time is filled with Schubert’s wonderful mind. I am sure everyone will smile hearing or playing D 664. I have been reading C. P. E. Bach’s “Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments”. He was a true human and I can’t wait to give a report on this book!

2020 Easter Sunday

April 12, 2020

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.
Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosses taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, that key
is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

– from “The Temple” by George Herbert (1633)

 

Music in a Difficult Time. Brahms: Drei Intermezzi Op. 117

March 17, 2020

We suddenly live in a very difficult time. The things we had before are out of reach. Worries, concerns, anxieties… But it won’t be forever. We have to live through and will go back to a better time.

After dealing with so many changes and making decisions (I am still doing it), I play music. First piece came to my mind is Brahms: Op. 117. This piece has a special place in my heart. Sweetness, tenderness, melancholy, affections, timelessness… I play Op. 117 every day, and explore voicing, phrasing, color, or just play it. Brahms quotes a poem at the beginning (English Translation):

Sleep soft my child,

Sleep soft and lovely.

I feel sadness when you weep.

Brahms’ lifelong soul mate, Clara Schumann, was delighted to receive the copy of Op. 117. She was loving it. They did not see each other often toward the end of their lives, but they were inseparable each other in their hearts. Brahms died not too long after Clara’s passing.

I will play No. 1 of Op. 117 as a part of a recorded service this coming Sunday (http://fumcpasadena.org) at 10am Los Angeles Time. (I will record at my house and it will be played toward the middle of the service.) Please stay safe and well, and take care.

 

 

 

Movie “Emma” 3/2/20

March 2, 2020

What a witty movie it is! Casting is fantastic. Emma is young, handsome, and clever from a rich family. She has everything. She lives in a small (not a lot happening!) town and she controls people’s mind. She thinks she is above everyone and all the boys should be attracted by her. she is so beautiful. It is a great comedy. The story is simple, finding love after misguided matches and romances. I loved the historical costumes. So charming!! If you need a moment to relax and laugh, this is the one!

A Movie “The Prado Museum: A Collection of Wonders” 1/14/20

February 10, 2020

I am sure every person in the audience wanted to go to Madrid after seeing this movie! The picture is beautiful and the narration is very nice. But the museum collection is so huge and the stories behind the museum is so much to observe and take in, and I was almost overwhelmed to watch through the movie. The movie is wonderfully written out, including Vélazquez, Rubens, Titian, Mantegna, Bosch, Goya, El Greco, and rulers, painters, artists, architects, collectors, curators, intellectuals, visitors from the last six centuries…. I will take it as an introduction to Madrid (I have never been to that city) and I will definitely visit Madrid when I have chance, maybe this summer??

 

Musica Dei donum optimi (Music, God’s supreme gift) 2/9/20

February 9, 2020

Latin text                                                    English translation

Musica Dei donum optimi                      Music, God’s supreme gift,

trahit homines, trahit deos;                   draws people, draws gods;

musica truces mollit animos                  music makes savage souls gentle

tristeque mentes erigit.                           and uplifts sad minds.

Musica vel ipsas arbores                         Music moves the very trees

et horridas movet feras.                          and the wild beasts.

– Anonymous, 1594

And Johann Sebastian Bach wrote “Soli Deo Gloria” (To the Glory of God Alone)

Robert Schumann: Papillon OP. 2 1/29/2020

January 29, 2020

What a delight! I learned this piece when I was in conservatory in Japan. It has been so long and I don’t know why, but suddenly I wanted to play it again. It will be in my program at a concert “Stories in Music” on Saturday February 15 in Pasadena, CA. Schumann’s music is closely connected to a literature, and this Papillon is a great example. Papillon represents a masked ball and there are 3 characters playing in Papillon, Wina – angelic love, Walt – poetic soul, and Walt’s twin brother Vult – mordant temperament. Those characters are from Jean Paul’s novel “Flegeljahre (Awkward Age) ” written in 1804-5. Jean Paul was Schumann’s idol, and two great artists share a same tendency, a rapid transformation of mood in their works. And there is always a humor! Jean Paul writes “Poetry and love struggling with reality”. I am sure Schumann totally agrees with this statement! Schumann writes “Almost unawares I found myself at the piano, and thus there arose one papillon after another.” Fantasy and imagination.. I have been practicing Papillon for few weeks and 3 characters are very alive in my playing! I love books and actually I can’t live without books. I feel so close to Robert Schumann for his connection to literature.

Papillon was written between 1829 and 1832. At the beginning Schumann was still a law student, and later he decided to dedicate himself to the arts, literature and music. Papillon (butterfly) as a symbol of freedom?? Please join me at the concert. The program will include J. S. Bach: Toccata from 6th Partita, Schumann: Papillon Op. 2, Ginestera: danzas argentinas, Granados: ochos valses poeticos, and Chopin: Fantasie Op. 49. I will share my insight with pieces during the concert.

Prayer for New Year

December 27, 2019

May God make your year a happy one!

Not by shielding us from all sorrows and pain,

But by strengthening us to bear it, as it comes;

Not by making our path easy,

But by making us sturdy to travel any path;

Not by taking hardships from us,

But by taking fear from our heart;

Not by granting us unbroken sunshine,

But by keeping our face bright, even in the shadows;

Not by making our life always pleasant,

But by showing us when people and their causes need us most, and by making us anxious to be there to help.

God’s love, peace, hope and joy to us for the year ahead.

– author unknown

 

Movie “Parasite” 12/27/19

December 27, 2019

“Parasite” is a 2019 South Korean black comedy/thriller/social justice movie. But most importantly it is very entertaining! It is about the two families, Park – typical rich and high-class family, and Kim – smart, but living in a horrible condition. With some coincidence those families are brought together and Kim family sees it as an opportunity to raise to a high-class. As you imagine “opportunity” lies on a thin ice (actually lies on their lies!), nothing is real, but Kim family does not think it that way. They started to feel Park’s wealth as theirs. That is why it is “Parasite”. The theme is very dark, and some scenes are quite violent and ugly. But you won’t be bored in any moment in this movie. Well-made movie! Bravo!