Latest Posts From Evan Tublitz
by Evan Tublitz—-On Wednesday, November 4th at 7:30 pm, the renowned Münich Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Philippe Entremont, noted pianist, conductor and The Romeros, famed guitar quartet will perform a special program including two Rodrigo guitar concerti and the famous Italian Symphony by Mendelssohn.
The program includes:
- George Bizet — Philippe Entremont’s excerpts from Carmen Suites No. 1 & No. 2
- Joaquín Rodrigo — Concierto de Aranjuez, with Pepe Romero, guitar soloist
- Joaquín Rodrigo — Concierto Andaluz, with The Romeros, guitar quartet
- Felix Mendelssohn — Symphony No. 4, Op. 90, A Major, Italian
Founded in 1945, the Münich Symphony Orchestra is one of the most distinguished ensembles of the Bavarian capital. Its numerous tours have been presented on leading concert stages across Europe, The U.S., and Asia. Philippe Entremont, the orchestra’s honorary conductor, has had a celebrated career both as a conductor and as one of the world’s major pianists. This will be Mr. Entremont’s third appearance for Troy Chromatic Concerts. We also welcome back, for a second time, The Romeros, a veritable institution in the world of classical music, and widely regarded as “The Royal Family of the Guitar.”
As an ongoing commitment to our region, Troy Chromatic Concerts, Inc., in our 119th Season, is pleased to bring world-class orchestras to the area to be heard in the fine acoustics of Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. As one of a few organizations that can offer such orchestras locally, we are challenged, as most presenters in this country, to bring in such large orchestras due to the ever increasing costs facing the arts today. Troy Chromatics has had a long-standing mission to bring the world’s foremost musicians to our famous stage here in Troy to enhance the cultural life of the Capital Region and surrounding areas.
We are so thrilled to welcome back Maestro Entremont and The Romeros and are especially excited to bring the world famous Münich Symphoniker to our area. In anticipation of this exciting concert, I would like to share background on both the Orchestra and the soloists.
_______________________ About Philippe Entremont ______________________
The exceptional career of Philippe Entremont began at the age of eighteen when he came to international attention with his great success at New York’s Carnegie Hall playing Jolivet’s piano concerto and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Since then, he has pursued a top international career as a pianist, and for the last 30 years, Philippe Entremont has guest conducted European and American orchestras as well as performed numerous piano and chamber music concerts. He also toured the Vienna Concert-Verein in the United States with soloist, Sebastian Knauer.
Renown as an orchestral conductor and his dedication to developing orchestras’ artistic potential, he has led numerous international tours, playing before full houses: 10 tours in the United States and seven in Japan with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, a tour of 11 concerts with the Orquestra de Cadaqués in capitals of countries in Asia, and a tour in Switzerland and Germany conducting the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra. The last several concert seasons has taken Philippe Entremont all over the world with many orchestral tours including the Münich Symphony Orchestra, Israel Festival Orchestra, Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie, and Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra.
Of particular note, in the 2010-2011 season, Philippe Entremont became Principal Conductor of the Boca Raton Philharmonic and Lifetime Laureate Conductor of the Münich Symphony Orchestra. As Principal Guest Conductor of the Münich Symphony Orchestra, he has led tours internationally, including the U.S. in 2005 and 2006, conducting from the piano as well as the podium. He returned in both capacities for the Münich Symphony’s highly successful 15-concert U.S. tour in February of 2009.
In 1997, Philippe Entremont founded the biennial Santo Domingo Music Festival, of which he is Artistic Director and Conductor of the Festival Orchestra. The Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2007 with a special concert series featuring the premieres of two Festival-commissioned symphonies by Dominican composers, and performances by internationally renowned guest artists such as André Watts, Dan Zhu, Arturo Sandoval, and Vitalij Kowaljow. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquestra de Cadaqués. In 2006, in connection with the“Mozart Year,” he conducted the Tokyo-based Super World Orchestra. Philippe Entremont was also among the 10 world-class pianists chosen to perform in the “Piano Extravaganza of the Century” at the 2008 Beijing Olympic
Mr. Entremont was Music Director of the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra from 1981 to 1986, after which he became Music Director of the Denver Symphony. He was also Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra until 2002. After serving as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra for almost thirty years, he is now Conductor Laureate for Life. He was also Music Director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra and is now their Conductor Laureate.
Philippe Entremont has directed the greatest symphony orchestras of Europe, Asia and America: Philadelphia, San Francisco, Detroit, Minnesota, Seattle, St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Montreal, The Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orquestra Nacional de España, the Academy of Santa Cecilia of Rome, l’Orchestre National de France, the orchestras of Göteberg, Stockholm, Oslo and Warsaw, the NHK of Tokyo, the KBS Orchestra of Seoul, the Vienna Symphony and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bergen, to name a few. He has worked with the world’s greatest instrumental and vocal soloists.
One of the most recorded artists of all time, Philippe Entremont has appeared on many labels including CBS Sony, Teldec and Harmonia Mundi, and garnered all of the leading prizes and awards in the industry. His 2008 releases include Mozart’s Concertone; Concerto for Violin and Piano with the Wiener Kammerorchester, Strauss’ lieder with Sophie Koch (mezzo-soprano), and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 with the Orquesta del Festival Musical de Santa Domingo.
A recipient of many awards including Great Cross of the Austrian Republic Order of Merit, Officer of the French Legion of Honor, Commander of the Order of Merit, and Commander of the Order of Arts et Lettres; Philippe Entremont has also been awarded the Arts and Sciences Cross of Honor of Austria. He is President of the International Certificate for Piano Artists, President of the Bel’Arte Foundation of Brussels and Director of the famed American Conservatory of Fountainebleau, a post formerly held by the legendary Nadia Boulanger.
_______________________ About Pepe Romero _______________________
One of the most celebrated and versatile musicians of his generation on any instrument, the Spanish-born guitarist Pepe Romero has enjoyed a varied and illustrious career. Together with his father, the legendary Celedonio Romero, and his brothers Celin and Angel, Pepe established The Romeros Quartet—the “Royal Family of the Guitar”—as the leading guitar ensemble in the world. Known for classical performances of dazzling virtuosity, compelling interpretations, and flawless technique, Pepe is also a passionate advocate of the traditional flamenco of his native Andalusia. He has appeared as featured soloist with the world’s greatest orchestras and ensembles, in collaboration with the most celebrated conductors and composers. Beginning in 2013, Pepe Romero has played numerous concerts worldwide honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of his father.
Since his first recording, Flamenco Fenómeno!, released when he was only fifteen, Pepe has made more than fifty recordings, including over twenty concertos with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner and Iona Brown. Among his recent releases are the Concierto festivo written for him by Ernesto Cordero (NAXOS), for which her received a Latin Grammy Nomination for “Best Classical Album,” and a song cycle Mi jardín solitario by Lorenzo Palomo (NAXOS). A new Spanish solo collection entitled Spanish Nights (which includes a premiere recording of Suite Madrileña No.1 by Celedonio Romero) was released in June 2012 by Deutsche Grammophon.
In addition to his recording work, Pepe has also been featured in the award-winning film documentary Shadows and Light: Joaquín Rodrigo at 90.
In 2004, Pepe Romero was named Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music; he also teaches master classes at USC, in the Salzburg Summer Academy, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, and the Córdoba Guitar Festival. Among other honors, Pepe has been knighted into the Order of “Isabel la Católica,” awarded honorary doctorates in music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of Victoria and the “Premio Andalucia de Música,” the highest recognition given by his native land for contribution to the arts.
_______________________ About The Romeros ________________________
Over half a century after walking onto the world stage as the first classical guitar quartet, The Romeros continue to be a veritable institution in the world of classical music, dazzling countless audiences and winning the raves of reviewers worldwide. Known to millions as “The Royal Family of the Guitar,” The Romeros were founded by the legendary Celedonio Romero with his sons Celin, Pepe and Angel in 1958. The Quartet went through natural transformations, and today consists of the second (Celin & Pepe) and third generations (Lito & Celino). To have so many virtuosi of the same instrument in one family is unique in the world of musical performance, and in the realm of the classical guitar it is absolutely without precedent.
Collectively, they are the only classical guitar quartet of real stature in the world today; in fact, they virtually invented the format.” — The New York Times
Celebrating their 55th anniversary, this season includes tours in Asia, Europe, South America and the United States. The Romeros will also be presenting special concerts and festivals in memory of the 100th anniversary of patriarch Celedonio Romero. As the family says, “the spirit of the quartet is him; all our concerts now pay homage to him.”
In 1957, the family left Spain and immigrated to the United States, where three years later, “The Romeros” became the first guitar quartet while the boys were still in their teens. The Romero tradition of family and love for the guitar provided the fertile ground for the next generation of guitar virtuosos as Celino and Lito joined the quartet.
The sterling reputation of The Romeros has been confirmed by repeated recital performances and orchestral appearances with symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, Sevilla, Amsterdam, Münich, Rome, Shanghai, Seoul, among many others. They have made frequent festival appearances throughout the world, including the Hollywood Bowl, Saratoga, Blossom, Wolf Trap, Salzburg, and Schleswig-Holstein.
The Romeros are particularly popular with college audiences, making regular appearances on university music series throughout the country as well as on international fine arts series. In New York, they have been repetitively invited to Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, the 92nd Street Y, and Rockefeller University. They have appeared at Vienna’s Gesangsverein and Konzerthaus, the Berlin Philharmonie, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Zurich Tonhalle, Madrid Auditorio Nacional de Musica, and the Beijing Concert Hall.
The Romeros have performed on multiple occasions at the White House and many other venerable institutions worldwide. In 1983, they appeared at The Vatican in a special concert for John Paul II, and in 1986 they gave a command performance for his Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. In 2000, His Royal Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain knighted Celin, Pepe and Angel into the Order of “Isabel la Católica”.
With their long history, The Romeros have built an enviable discography and their achievements have not gone unnoticed. A recent project with Deutsche Grammophon included the much anticipated Christmas with Lose Romeros which features favorites from around the world and was released worldwide and accompanied by tours in Europe, the United States and Asia. Other recent recordings include a recital album entitled appropriately Los Romeros: Celebration (Sony Red Seal) and a retrospective collection, Los Romeros: Golden Jubilee Celebration (DECCA).
Television fans have seen and heard The Romeros many times on such shows as The Tonight Show and The Today Show, PBS’s Evening at the Boston Pops, the KPBS/PBS biographical documentary Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar, other PBS specials and the NDR documentary film Los Romeros: Die Gitarren-Dynastie. In 2007, The Romeros received the President’s Merit Award from the Recording Academy, producers of the Grammy Awards, for their significant contributions to the music world and professional career achievements.
Perhaps The Romero’s most lasting legacy is the creation of an entirely new repertoire for guitar quartet, both as a chamber ensemble and as concerto soloists. The Romeros have inspired distinguished composers to either write new works or arrange existing ones, including Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Morton Gould, Francisco de Madina and Lorenzo Palomo. As Rodrigo has said, “The Romeros have developed the technique of the guitar by making what is difficult to be easy. They are, without a doubt, the grand masters of the guitar.”
____________________ About Münich Symphony Orchestra ____________________
The logo of the Münich Symphony Orchestra shows a golden angel on the banks of the River Isar
whose wing tips point skywards, keeping vigil over the Bavarian state capital. Strongly committed to Münich and its music traditions, the Münich Symphony Orchestra is one of the city’s four symphony orchestras. The Orchestra takes as its motto the maxim, “The Sound of our City.” With its four subscription concert series in Münich’s grand venues it is well-established as one of the city’s most renowned ensembles, and when on tour, it takes that “Sound of our City” far and wide beyond the city limits.
Classical-Romantic orchestral repertoire is at the heart of the MSO’s mission to uphold musical
traditions while offering new listening experiences. Famous soloists and talented newcomers in the classical field are always happy to make guest appearances with the orchestra. Experienced conductors and those just starting out on a career can regularly be seen on the rostrum directing the orchestra. Since the 2014/2015 season Bielefeld-born Kevin John Edusei has been the MSO’s Principal Conductor. He is complemented from time to time by the young German-American Ken-David Masur as Principal Guest Conductor. And, of course, as noted earlier, the Orchestra enjoys an artistic bond with Philippe Entremont, its Honorary Conductor.
In addition to the classical repertoire, the Münich Symphony Orchestra also excels in top-flight productions in the fields of opera, film, and show music. The program comprises around 110 concerts per year, offering audiences a wide repertoire in which the orchestra’s extrovert style of music-making is on show. Lovers of film soundtracks have enjoyed live performances of the music to The Lord of the Rings and Disney’s Fantasia and opera lovers flock to the Opera Festival at the Gut Immling estate to enjoy the Münich Symphony Orchestra’s playing.
The Troy Chromatic Concerts invite all of you to come to this exciting concert and hear one of the great German orchestras directed by a musical legend, Phillipe Entremont and enjoy the renowned guitar quartet, The Romeros. See you Wednesday!
On January 29, 2015, Troy Chromatic Concerts, Inc. presented the famous Mariinsky Orchestra (formerly the Kirov Orchestra) with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, conductor. The concert was a true high point of the cultural 2014-15 Season in the Capital Region.
What makes this so special was to be able to hear one of the finest world class orchestras in the world class acoustic of the famous Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. We were treated to a sumptuous evening of beautiful, stirring music filling the Hall with colors and sounds we rarely get to hear! The program was a beautiful showcase of great Russian classics that showed off the incredible virtuosity of this world renowned ensemble.
For those who missed it, please read Joseph Dalton’s review below in the Albany Times Union.
Mariinsky Concert Review: Albany Times Union
Furthermore, for those lucky souls who came to the Pre-Concert talk at the Rensselaer County Historical Society (held one hour before each concert), we got to listen to the conductor, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, discuss his views on music making and conducting and especially on playing with such a fine orchestra.
What was so charming was to see him interact with students from Stillwater High School who were brought to the concert by their music teacher, James Iacketta. A dedicated teacher, Mr. Iacketta felt it was an invaluable experience for his students to hear the concert live and meet the conductor at the Pre-Concert talk. Both the students and teacher asked the Maestro questions about music and how he became a musician.
In response to the question, he shared his personal story that as a boy, he walked into his father’s study (the famous author, Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn) and heard a Beethoven symphony playing. He stopped, stunned, and listened with his father silently for many minutes, enthralled. And that was it – he was hooked! After studying piano with one of the favorite pupils of the great Artur Schnabel, Maria Curcio and having been mentored by the great Mstislav Rostropovich, he also studied conducting and became both an internationally known soloist and conductor.
What makes these events so incredible is that here, in the Capital Region, we can have easy access to some of the world’s greatest musicians and ensembles without having to pay the high fees found in the major cities and struggle with traffic, lodging and expense to get there. Moreover, the most wonderful part is accessible ticket pricing (half or more what is found in major cities) AND the incredible FREE Pre-Concert talks where you can meet the artist and hear them talk up close and personal!
Fortunately, for those who missed the Mariinsky, Troy Chromatic Concerts, Inc. is bringing both Les Violons du Roy with the great piano virtuoso, Marc-Andre Hamelin to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on March 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm and then the Mozart Orchestra of New York with the acclaimed American conductor, Gerard Schwartz playing the last three symphonies of Mozart!
Les Violons du Roy with Marc-Andre Hamelin PROGRAM
Mozart Orchestra of New York with Gerard Schwartz PROGRAM
I encourage all in our region to hear these wonderful concerts and marvel at the beauty of the music, the incredible musicianship of these phenomenal world class musicians and most importantly revel in the magnificent acoustics of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall when filled with fine orchestral music! Not only can you hear these orchestras now but you can save even more money on tickets if you act soon and take advantage of the Troy Chromatic Concerts special discount being offered!
Please find me at one of these concerts and tell me personally what it feels like to hear such incredible orchestras in the intimate acoustic of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. See you there!
As always, feel free to contact me if you have any piano questions.
by Evan Tublitz—-This past Sunday, we were treated to the venerable Boston Camerata who performed their annual Christmas concert at Union College Concerts in the Memorial Chapel. They are in their 60th year, founded by Joel Cohen, and are celebrating their 25th year at Union College on the concert series there.
Union College Concert Series
As always, we expect to hear impeccable early music interpretations of vocal artistry with period instruments from the medieval period through the early Baroque. But this year, we were treated to a special program of early American Christmas music with period brass quartet accompaniment.
As noted in their mission statement:
“The Boston Camerata preserves and reawakens human memory as expressed through the art of music.
It accomplishes this mission through live, historically informed, professional performances of European music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque areas and early American music; through study and research into musical sources of the past; through sound recordings and media projects; and through community outreach and musical education.”
Boston Camerata sings American Christmas
To say it was gorgeous and moving is truly an understatement. Every year, the audience is charmed, blessed, enchanted, cajoled to sing along, and brought into the spirit of the Christmas holiday through words and music from the distant past. Interestingly, when we are presented with medieval and early music from the 12th through 16th centuries in Europe, we are often treated with words in Latin, French, Spanish, German, Arabic and are shown a culture with which we may not be too conversant or familiar; but always entertained.
However, this year was different in that it was words and music from OUR AMERICAN distant past! But, in this case, we were presented with OUR musical and devotional heritage and it was beguiling to say the least! The mission of the Boston Camerata “…to reawaken human memory as expressed through the art of music” was evident and distinctly felt. From my vantage point, sitting on the side in the front of the Chapel, I had the pleasure of being able to gaze at the audience and witnessed that many of them felt as I did – moved by a latent American archetype within me being awakened to my own cultural past.
Songs of praise and descriptions of the events of the Christmas story being told by our forebears through these ‘time travelers’ – bringing us in contact with those who struggled and risked so much to make a life in a New Land. Their manner of speech and melodies poignantly brought to light their obvious empathy and compassion for the struggles of that early couple and their child born in a stable. The humility and heartfelt expression of simplicity by these people in Colonial America hit a deep chord within me – making me aware that hardship and turmoil is a common human experience. Herod ordering the massacre of the Innocents (children under 2 yrs old) is no different than what is going on today in the Middle East, Ukraine and Africa. People are still enslaved and subjected to such horrors as in the past!
But, this music of these people, who were subjected to hardships yet tied deeply to their religion with hope for salvation, expressed both empathy and deep gratitude in supplication to their God. These feelings were communicated simply as they were often dedicated to a life of simplicity – as many of the songs were Shaker songs.
As I looked around, I was struck how the expressions of our American ancestors hit a chord with the audience in 2014. At times, people smiled, were in awe, clearly moved, and one could feel a palpable closeness and bond that developed. It was apparent that our forebears had spoken through these eloquent musicians to create a connection that broke the limitations of time and space. In fact, for some moments, we WERE our ancestors and they were US. The medium for this alchemy was the incredible musicianship and expressivity of the performers.
At the end of the concert, we sang, along with the performers, a familiar and well-known Christmas hymn and it was evident that most had felt something had taken place. The faces beamed, their inner sentiments apparent, and the applause erupted!
Maybe that is the reason why music expresses things words cannot do alone. When one experiences a performance of music of another time, we are actually transported back in time to experience, in real time, the emotions of another era – only to discover that they are OUR emotions as well!
Happy Holidays to each of you and wishes for much needed Peace in 2015!
As always, feel free to contact me if you have any piano questions.
by Evan Tublitz—-As a regular blogger here on HudsonSounds, I tend to focus on my area of expertise which, undoubtedly, is pianos. However, as my regular readers know, I tend to muse on the role of music both as an art form and as a forum to express ideas that cannot be discussed through words. Today, I would like to focus on the role that classical music plays in edifying the listening public.
Firstly, as most would know from their classical music radio stations, there is a large bit of programming of ‘lighter’ music from the baroque and classical periods. Primarily, this trend is due to the nature of the music being ‘background’ music for many listeners……………nothing too intense or too challenging! However, I see it differently. I believe that those who tend toward the ‘lighter’ classics are attracted to the ‘calming’ influence of the music that serves as a musical mantra that calms the spirit in a world that is running ever faster and becoming more stressful. We all remember the iconic TV ad for bath salts with the woman in the bathtub saying the famous line, “Calgon…………take me away!”.
Calgon TV Ad Music does much the same thing for those who listen in this way — providing a respite from the cares of the moment in our demanding lives. Note: Most baroque and some classical period pieces take their form from court dances which, by their very nature, were ‘entertainment’ or less emotionally challenging music. Few broke out of that mold but it should be noted that the classical period, as most appropriately represented by Haydn, broke out of the incidental, dance or ‘entertainment’ music mold and started to inject more gravitas and emotional challenge (Sturm und Drang, for example).
Of course, each period of classical music has its own specific expression of musical ideas and style and one could justly conclude that, from the 15th century to the present, classical music form had become more complex, more challenging to the listener and sought to speak to us in more multi-layered and sophisticated ideas and statements.
One great anomaly, of course, is the music of J.S. Bach which IS timeless and has a multiplicity of layers and complexity despite the fact he still employed the typical dance motives of the period. As music developed over the centuries and with greater complexity, the listener was no longer expected to sit back and let the music ‘wash’ over them for relaxation. Instead, they were expected to go on a ‘journey’ with the composer to experience a ‘programme’ or narrative which the music was expressing. The ‘story’ was the springboard to illuminate and convey feelings and ideas that were not able to be adequately communicated through words or pictures.
Emotions began to play a deeper role in this music and we began to tap deeper into all the ideas and feelings connected with the human experience. We started to find that music NOW provided a deeper emotional and intellectual catharsis for us and allowed us to let the composer express OUR feelings and deeper emotions and ideas for us. Of course, this became a moving experience for those who went on that ‘journey’.
Concurrently, music also became more intellectual while expressing philosophical, spiritual and even political ideas that could not be expressed within the confines of other traditional communication. (Shostakovich was a prime example of music as political dissent and expression). As humankind developed further and the political and financial opportunities became expanded beyond those who always had power, different and more diverse forms of expression emerged replete with a wider range of ideas to reflect all segments of society’s concerns. Throughout human experience, contrary to what many may believe, human emotions and ideas have always been myriad and complex. However, music and art was more limited in expressing such things do to the constraints of form and tradition. Interestingly enough, philosophy seemed to have more purview in this arena — great thinkers discussing the issues of human existence.
As musical form became more complex and the tradition no longer controlled by the ruling classes, musical expression also became more emotionally complex, democratic and more representative of the deeper feelings of human experience. It is my contention that these deeper feelings in all of us have very little outlet for expression and becoming involved in music that expresses those complex emotions is both cathartic and satisfying. In a strange way, it is almost a necessity for psychological health to get those feelings out in some way and have an outlet. As modern psychological thought has confirmed, sublimated feelings always find their way out in expression whether conscious or unconscious. I believe that, when we listen to music expressing very deep, complex emotions and ideas, we actually have an outlet for such emotions that may be ‘bottled up’ inside us and require expression. Oddly, the composer is both artist and ‘therapist’ for the listener and gives each one of us and outlet to express what is trapped inside us.
For many years, I have advocated that it is necessary and psychologically healthy to develop some form of creative expression in order to release one’s inner feelings and thoughts. The field of endeavor or medium is less important than the process of expressing one’s deeper emotions that cannot be expressed in normal daily existence. Obviously, the creative arts tend to be more effective than other human endeavors for expressing such ideas and emotions but I do find great creativity in many of the sciences and other fields that can give vent to the complexity we all have within us. So as I have proselytized for years, pretend you are a great artist/musician, philosopher/thinker, scientist, etc. and express your inner self!
In conclusion, music provides us with a soothing relief from the stresses of our daily existence AND also gives us expression for the deeper feelings and ideas that may be ‘trapped’ within us. If they are not stuck within us, then music and other art forms can give us confirmation for the feelings we have and have expressed to our self and others. Artistic expression allows human beings to become whole and more integrated and thus healthier as well. The idea that music and other artistic expression is not just entertainment, but has a much deeper role in society and human experience is often considered a radical idea. I will end this discussion with the hypothesis that the role of the arts in society is beyond entertainment but does express deeper emotions that, once vented, can contribute to helping avoid many of our world’s troubles and bring a greater sense of belonging and community.
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Editor’s Note: Evan Tublitz’ post was originally posted on August 4th 2014. As always, we want to bring to the forefront what our bloggers are writing about. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts on Contemporary and Classical Music via HudsonSounds.org, please send an e-mail expressing your interest to: HudsonSoundsInfo@gmail.com
I share this article in its entirety to underscore much of what I have been alluding to and sharing regarding my thoughts of piano tone and color. As stated in the article, much of the complexity and variety of piano tone has become ‘homogenized’ to a brash, louder and less musical sound to accommodate the false belief that louder and brighter is better. Generally, this is because of the ever larger Halls that pianos were brought into through the 20th century.
Prior to WWII, we still had beautiful pianos that did not succumb to brashness as their contemporary counterparts have due to the current ‘style’ of tone. Interestingly enough, many pianists, when confronted with a richer piano replete with wider dynamic range, often times initially react that the piano is not bright enough for them. Part of that reaction is due to the modern pianist’s reliance on bright percussive hammers to ‘project’ and NOT their fingers. It IS easier to play on a piano that is very bright and loud as you don’t have to play ‘into’ the action as much to create a more ‘brilliant’ tone. As a proponent of wider range of tone and hammers that create a myriad of colors, I am deeply appreciative of Christopher Greenleaf’s thoughtful article in response to Angelo Fabbrini’s masterful work to transform a Hamburg Steinway Concert Grand into a beautiful musical instrument played by the great Maurizio Pollini!
I must remind the reader that great pianos are not just built –as often they are just ‘made to work’ and not truly developed when they leave the factory. Most often, a lot of painstaking, loving work needs to be done to each ‘new’ piano to make it realize its potential and become a great piano. In today’s economy, sadly, this is a very rare occurrence! Read Mr. Greenleaf’s article and maybe you might find more insight into what I have been talking about in my posts on piano tone and sound.
April 28, 2010
Thoughts on Hearing Maurizio Pollini’s Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini in Concert
by Christopher Greenleaf (http://www.classical-scene.com/2010/04/28/thoughts-on-hearing-maurizio-pollinis-hamburg-steinway-fabbrini-in-concert/)
Maurizio Pollini’s touring Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini concert grand exhibits exceptionally ravishing tonal and technical characteristics. The fact that this is a piano well outside our modern norm begs a number of questions, among which is, “Why don’t we regularly hear instruments of this subtlety and beauty?”
But first, what goes into the production of a Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini concert grand? Italian piano technician and entrepreneur Angelo Fabbrini, from Pescara, Abruzzo, purchases new Steinways from that firm’s celebrated Hamburg atelier and subjects them to minute technical fine-tuning, replaces or substantially rebuilds numerous crucial action components, and reworks the interaction between strings, bridges, and soundboard. The sound of the rebuilt instruments reminds one of the finest surviving pre-1912 Blüthner concert grands (from Leipzig) and of 19th-century concert instruments by Mason & Hamlin, the 19th-century Boston firm whose pianos were, by a comfortable margin, the highest-priced in this country.
The Fabbrini design does not sustain tone for quite as long as these older pianos and the treble is gleamingly dark rather than the ethereal shimmering silver of the Blüthner Aliquot design. Unlike a standard New York Steinway, in which shadings under mezzo-forte can be difficult to control, sometimes even to produce, the Fabbrini Steinways offer the easy, wide dynamic range typical of pre-1920 pianos by the great German, American, and Austrian builders. The Fabbrini fortissimo is magnificent, but it is not as loud as the brash New York roar. Its top dynamic reaches are capable of considerable variation, and the tone production can be built up to near-orchestral volume without strain. In the course of the Celebrity Series of Boston concert at Symphony Hall on April 25, [reviewed here] Maurizio Pollini time and again called forth ppp and fff trills in the bottom two octaves, as effortlessly and clearly as at middle dynamic levels. Forte in the right hand against piano and mezzo-piano in the left became part of this recital’s wide dynamic vocabulary.
Once an expressive norm for concert instruments, this clear-as-a-bell opposition of dynamic levels is heard infrequently these days. From a purely piano technical perspective, an occasion like this recital lodges in lifelong memory. Mr. Pollini travels worldwide with his Steinway-Fabbrini. Other Fabbrini artists have been Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Sviatoslav Richter, and András Schiff.
The pieces played by Mr. Pollini in the Celebrity Series concert at Symphony Hall on April 25, as I mention in my review, here,exhibited the many superb characteristics of this piano. To wit:
“The unusually clear and rich piano tone, as well as the astonishing speed of effect of the brilliantly regulated dampers (genuinely rare), only augmented the powerful impression of the four terse Mazurkas, Op. 30. …
“Such explicit and colorful layerings of sound as Mr. Pollini brought to bear in the Sonata No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 35 (1837-39) would not have been possible on most concert grands. The very fast tempi in some places, such as the concluding fourth movement, Finale: Presto, were entirely devoid of piano clatter, nor did the concluding bedlam of triplets devolve into misting blurs. …
“One third of the way into the first of Two Nocturnes, Op. 48 (1841), a C-minor study in contrast and overt effect, a Lisztian gout of troubled, rearing waters erupted even more vehemently than in the boldest pages of the Sonata. It was a deep pleasure to hear an instrument that could do this without a hint of strain. Thanks to Mr. Pollini’s minute management of dynamics, timbre, and the piano’s advanced damping abilities, the stillest moments got that way instantly. This is magic. The largest sonic excursion came in the tempestuous Polonaise in F-sharp minor, Op. 44 (1840-41). This is a famous work, yet it was still something of a revelation to experience the extreme clarity of this piano and its player’s ultra-precise elicitation of fine nuance, even at levels of sound that, on many a conventional concert D, sound coarse or brutal….”
Now I’ll attempt an answer to the question in the first paragraph of this article, knowing that this is actually a rather involved subject. I can’t do it proper justice here, but the conversation wants a beginning. Please note that I write this not in the intention of damning or embarrassing any of the few remaining players in today’s shrunken concert grand market. The factors leading to the present odd state of tonal production by pianos chosen for public pianistic statement are complex. These factors are historic as well. They took firm root at about the time that the connotations surrounding the notion “public performance” ceased to imply a gathering of up to a few hundred souls wearing the same select cloth and arriving by hansom, probably not on foot or in a packed char à banc. When concerts truly went public, concert venues began to grow in size. With the arrival of iron girders and suspended metal trusses in the late 1860s and early 1870s, it became practical to span ceilings like that of the Gewandhaus Leipzig, Boston Symphony Hall, and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw without inordinate expense. Gas, then electric lighting technology kicked in to illuminate the new cultural colossi (as, eventually, did fire codes), and these vast new spaces became viable for frequent music productions. With a penalty.
Small hammers, modest string tensions, and bridges with minimal down- or up-bearing by the strings were no longer deemed able to meet the demands of hall managers, impresarios, and the newly itinerant titans who tried out, endorsed, and rejected concert pianos by the many aspiring makers of that busy industrial era. There was money to be made from titan-ism. It is rare today that a performer travels with his own instrument. At one time, though, this was almost standard practice for pianists of a certain eminence. Louis Moreau Gottschalk lived to be just 40, but when this caustic, flamboyant voyager died in 1869, he had already traveled tens of thousands of miles with concert instruments. Chickering, Bechstein, Steinway & Sons, Mason & Hamlin, Bösendorfer, Streicher, and Erard all sent their largest models out by rail, following the likes of Anton Rubinstein, the young Jan Paderewski, and Isaac Albéniz around from city to province to backwater to triumphant, telegraph-proclaimed acclaim in the major capitols. Rachmaninov, who died when Maurizio Pollini was one year old, was certainly not the last to travel with his own instrument, but the disappearance of his generation was essentially the end of this 80-year phenomenon.
What did these musical giants require of a piano? They were renowned poets of the keyboard, of course, and they demanded unlimited control over tonal color, exactingly voiced response to una corda and sostenuto pedaling, an impeccably regulated moderator (on Viennese instruments up to ca. 1870), and a spectacular, unforced dynamic range. But — there is always a but — they also needed to be heard clearly and sometimes shatteringly all the way back to the dim under-balcony reaches, all the way up to the dim, well-populated, unwashed upper balcony. The ability to generate sheer volume of sound became critical in selling concert grands, if not yet in populating coal-heated parlors with their modest siblings. Hammer size and soundboard configuration were modified to accommodate grand pianistic statements, often at the audible cost of the delicacy and the once-common broad palette of colors once touted by the same makers. It did not take many generations of instrument models for this æsthetic to become pervasive, to displace the former hallmarks of transparency and shading in favor of the “real piano sound” accepted by pianists and listeners today.
In the 1970s, certain makers attempted moves away from the bold, unsubtle, harsh tonal production that pervaded post-war pianomaking from living room and practice cubicle to the concert stages of the world. Under new management, the venerable firm of Bösendorfer embarked upon a well-conceived push to join top-of-the-heap Steinway on stage and in recordings. Certain famous names became official Bösendorfer artists or attempted to add pianos by this maker to their discographies and concert appearances. But in many instances they found themselves struck from the Steinway artists list, with predictable logistical and financial consequences.
In the interim decades, matters have loosened somewhat. We regularly encounter recordings on new pianos by Fazioli (of Friuli Giulia, Italy), Steinway-Fabbrini (Pescara, Abruzzo, Italy), Bösendorfer (Vienna), Yamaha (Nagoya, Japan), and Bechstein (formerly Berlin; now Saxony, Germany, and Hradec Králové, Czech Republic), as well as a welcome flood of albums made on restored or beautifully maintained historic instruments selected for their suitability to given repertoires. Among these, I must mention the many faces of pre-1950 New York and Hamburg Steinways, whose dramatic reappearance on disc and sometimes on stage has slowly, powerfully reintroduced modern audiences to the once customary breadth of expressivity for which the company, then still privately held, was justly renowned.
Of late, since about 1995, some very fine and nuanced concert grands have emerged from the Astoria and Hamburg workshops, pianos once more capable of delicacy, reliable repetition at low dynamics and in the sepulchral bass region, and a newly broadened spectrum of forte power devoid of clangor. The modern reintroduction of a range of piano sound, however, has been slow. This evolution — please, let’s steer clear of that horrid word, “retro” — has been hindered by the fact that, for the best part of a century, conservatories have not had the means to expose their student bodies to sufficiently varied piano sound and mechanics to instill an awareness, let alone even moderate tolerance, of the breathtaking diversity of piano sound for which the great composers crafted their solo, chamber, and concerted scores.
One often hears pianists say “It doesn’t sound like a real piano” when confronted with an 1870s Blüthner, a 2009 Steinway-Fabbrini, or that Rolls-Royce of the early 20th century, big Mason & Hamlin concert grands and their heavyweight but light-on-their-three-feet domestic versions. What they mean, alas, is that they haven’t had the luxury of experiencing the extended tonal, expressive, and dynamic language of a range of pianos. They judge instruments — boy, do they judge them — based upon a tragically narrow selection of piano characteristics institutionalized by three quarters of a century of monochrome piano manufacturing, predicated on sound volume, rigorously homogenized timbre throughout the octaves, and a devaluation of dynamics below mezzo-forte, fully half of the instrument’s former dynamic range.
However greatly pianos by historic makers differed from each other, they had one characteristic in common. Each octave, sometimes even smaller ranges of notes, had an individual tone color. This imparted clarity to complex music, and it magnificently enriched the harmonic soundscape in dense chordal passages. (So did the interesting temperaments once used by tuners, but that’s another football to kick around.) The advent of powerful sound pressures inevitably did away with individual timbres up and down the keyboard. High string tensions, stiffly crowned soundboards, and large, sturdy hammers made this facet of voicing technically impossible, or at least difficult.
A bleak future? Not necessarily. It will take a while, but I sense that both the piano-playing world and a music-hungry public are welcoming their discovery of a new breadth of expressive possibilities. This is, if you will, a return to some very fine musical values that endured until the end of the steam era. I have been fortunate to live long enough to have acquired that perspective naturally. This “movement” is hardly a revolution. Rather, it is a resurgence of common sense and a hunger for heightened expressivity. Our recent experimentation with the piano as a truly flexible, poetic instrument, helped enormously by high-profile events like Maurizio Pollini’s Symphony Hall appearance with his Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini, has legs. For a quarter century, the 10 concerts presented each year, in fall and spring, by Music from the Frederick Collection have been drawing Bostonians and many others to hear the great composers’ scores on the pianos for which they originally wrote them, sometimes with life-changing results for the listeners.
The evolution of this marvellous instrument has been lengthy. It began in Florence at the close of the 17th century, and the inexorable press of musical and technical innovation persisted in the piano world until, arguably, the First World War. I hope fervently that we can continue to include early pianos and the wide spectrum of early-modern piano æsthetics in our everyday musical vocabulary. It’s liberating to abandon terms like fortepiano and pianoforte, to call upon 1910s and 1930s grands for a part of our musical nourishment. This does not devalue the modern grand in the slightest. It allows us a contextually informed perspective on our present-day instruments, which we have the option of using when they are the best vehicles for the repertoire at hand. We now have the possibility of embracing the lengthy historic fabric of the piano as a living part of the concert scene and on recordings. We ought to be unabashedly vocal in demanding that the variety we once had, we can have again.
Veteran recording engineer Christopher Greenleaf collaborates with chamber, early, and keyboard musicians in natural acoustic venues on both sides of the Atlantic. He is active as a writer, translator, photographer, and acoustic consultant.