Wednesday, April 29, 2015

LA Phil

Next Friday we're going to see Gustavo Dudamel conducting at Disney Hall - Brahms and Bach - the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 played by Yefim Bronfman. The concert is entitled: Dudamel, Bronfman and Brahms. The entitlers don't even acknowledge that half the program, at least, is Bach. How often does Bach take the back seat or no seat on a program? The program is loaded with testosterone and ego, an excellent combination. I can't wait.

Yefim, a Russian, is a vigorous,  unrestrained pianist and should be interesting to watch him play the concerto - a 42 minute workout for any pianist. My favorite teacher of piano music on youtube is Jon Kimura Parker, a Canadian concert pianist and teacher. Below he discusses Brahm's first concerto which he explains began life as a sonata for two pianos. There's a fascinating back story about Brahms' affair with Clara Schuman (who was playing the second piano) which adds another dimension of suffering to the whole composition, but it would take pages to describe. Isn't there always suffering involved when a great work of art is wrenched out of a human being?

As for Bronfman..Philip Roth says it all here...
In The Human Stain by Philip Roth, the narrator attends a rehearsal at Tanglewood at which Bronfman performs. The following description is offered (pages 209–10):
Then Bronfman appears. Bronfman the brontosaur! Mr. Fortissimo. Enter Bronfman to play Prokofiev at such a pace and with such bravado as to knock my morbidity clear out of the ring. He is conspicuously massive through the upper torso, a force of nature camouflaged in a sweatshirt, somebody who has strolled into the Music Shed out of a circus where is the strongman and who takes on the piano as a ridiculous challenge to the gargantuan strength he revels in. Yefim Bronfman looks less like the person who is going to play the piano than like the guy who should be moving it. I had never before seen anybody go at a piano like this sturdy little barrel of an unshaven Russian Jew. When he's finished, I thought, they'll have to throw the thing out. He crushes it. He doesn't let that piano conceal a thing. Whatever's in there is going to come out, and come out with its hands in the air. And when it does, everything there out in the open, the last of the last pulsation, he himself gets up and goes, leaving behind him our redemption. With a jaunty wave, he is suddenly gone, and though he takes all his fire off with him like no less a force than Prometheus, our own lives now seem inextinguishable. Nobody is dying, nobody – not if Bronfman has anything to say about it.
The Bach program is exciting and includes the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major which features the most famous piece of all Baroque music, the Air, or Air on G String. Here it is....

It's easy to see why this piece is so popular. I like the perpetual motion in the bass which is mostly octaves going up and down. It adds something like a beating pulse to the song and gives it a life-like dimension.

Three parts of the orchestral suite are dance numbers: a gavotte; bouree (fast little steps)and a gigue (from which we get the word "jig") I being pedantic? I'm using this blog as an excuse to do my research prior to the performance. The gavotte is a stately dance they say. The jig section should be self-explanatory.

The Bach Ricercar comes next. Considered one of the most important piano compositions of all, it was also one of the first. RICERCAR is an acronym for "Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica arte Resolute," which translates to "theme given by the king with additions resolved in the canonic style."
This is a great youtube to watch if you like Glenn Gould - it's too long but the first few minutes give you a feel for Glenn. At this stage of his life, he looks a bit like Stephen King. He hunches over the piano, singing to himself, playing themes with his right hand and conducting with his left, giving mini-lectures on Bach as he goes. Experts speculate that Glenn was on the autism spectrum which seems entirely possible given his eccentricities. In this video, he's sitting in the chair his father made for him which keeps him low on the can see it's all scratched up and beaten up, probably from being shipped to wherever he was playing. Gould was brilliant and good at everything he attempted...teaching, writing, lecturing, performing. Too bad he died at 50; who knows what he might have done later in his life.

The last item on the program is the Toccata and Fugue in D minor which everyone knows. I'm excited to hear it in the acoustically wonderful Disney Hall. The term toccata comes from the Italian word "Toccare" which means "to touch". A Toccata is a piece written for the keyboard or plucked stringed instrument which features fast moving passages and light fingering which employs and showcases the player's touch. It was often written and performed as a kind of resume. If you were auditioning a church organist, this is the piece you'd use for the test. Some speculate that whatever it was originally written for, it's now often used to test organs as it runs the gamut of an organ's capabilities. We last heard this in Copenhagen in the Cathedral where the thunderous organ made the seats vibrate and the imagination soar. Here's a very good version.

The concert is at 11:00 AM...the early concert goer's time slot. This gives all the rickety old concert geezers time to get home and have a good nap after all the excitement and it gives us a chance to beat the traffic back to Fallbrook.

1 comment:

  1. How was it? Lets hear all about it at our next get-together.