mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Mozart

a “new” normal . . .

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 583_2

Last night, it rained so hard that it woke me up. I walked around silently closing the windows all around the house. It was an interesting night because I found myself dreaming what felt like a very long saga of a melodrama about changing patterns. As with many dreams, it was vivid at the time and harder to remember the blurry edges now that I am awake. Suffice it to say, it was vividly about changing patterns, sequences and designs of layouts in a fantasy world of characters I did not recognize and at the same time, felt like myself.

When I woke up (a second time,) I felt that the Universe had shifted slightly and that the dream’s gestalt had permeated my consciousness – at least I remembered its energy as being very positive at the same time that it was challenging me, as if to pose an important question. Yes, I said to my inner self. Instead of looking at health issues as the glass half empty, it’s time to look at the broader context of our lives as brimming with all good things that we worked hard for and which we may now enjoy together.

A case in point is an experience G. and I shared last night while watching a documentary of the Polish pianist, Piotr Anderszewski, filmed by Bruno Monsaingeon, a master producer of intimate, poignant films about famous musicians, notably of Sviatislav Richter, near the end of his days. I observed as the film progressed, how intently G. listened to the music he played. In parallel, I also listened intently to a young man (at the time) who was difficult to watch sometimes in his facial expressions, but whose playing was infinitely musical. In a way, it was a paradigm of the kind of intimacy that we share in our married life together: individual reactions, yet shared at the same time – and in the end, compatible in the assessments we make separately when we discuss them later on. It is a rare thing, I think – and each time it happens, I am touched by it.

In any case, I messaged a pianist friend of ours about the documentary to let him know about it and he returned almost immediately with a Youtube clip called “Technique Doesn’t Exist!” featuring one of our favorite pianists, Maria Joao Pires. It turned out to be almost an hour long so we’ll watch it together this evening. The opening of the Pires clip showed her and one of her star pupils playing Schubert’s well known Fantasie in F minor, four hands together on the same piano. This is a piece that I’m familiar with, having played it with others and also listening to Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia go at it in one of my favorite recordings. It gets a little bombastic in the middle but that’s the way it goes.

In an interview online, Anderszkewski related that in Warsaw during Chopin competition years, the local populace’s passion for it was similar to ours with football. In fact, he recalled in 1957, that his Aunts got into such a disagreement about who played Mazurkas the best that they stopped speaking to each other for weeks! His sister, Dorothea, is an accomplished violinist who is a concertmaster of one of the major orchestras in Poland. The pressure to practice at an early age coming from their strict father has obviously been rewarded by two ardent musicians who enjoy each other’s company musically as well as being siblings.

All of this, the changing pattern dream-like message, the music we witnessed separately and together last night and the cool, rainy Sunday morning that we are enjoying with our coffee this morning has made me realize that in fact, it’s time for a change. With an all-day rain predicted for today, I’ve decided that tomorrow would be good timing to transplant a bed of a half-dozen dark red day lily plants from a side plot that has been shadowed by trees to a sunny front garden which has successfully evaded a permanent planting of perennials so far because previous attempts have been unwittingly mowed down by mistake every summer up to now.

With the soaking rain today, it’ll be easy to weed the front plot, add some loam, dig up the daylilies which are robust and healthy and transplant them while the ground is soft and yielding. Maybe this time, after mulch is added, I’ll pick up a little plastic picket fence divider as a boundary to protect it until the transplants get established.

Most interesting is the strong impulse to play the piano again today. To review and enjoy some of the pieces that we played for each other twenty years ago: the second movement of a Mozart sonata, Bach partitas and even perhaps some Chopin ballades and mazurkas!

Life can indeed be seen as a glass half empty or as one that is half full. Ours is the latter and it only takes a little prodding every once in awhile to renew that perspective and enjoy our good fortune. With thanks and gratitude to the Universe which moves in mysterious ways and to a family whose understanding and love is appreciated every day.

easter . . .

 

French macarons . . .

French macarons . . .

G. and I are enjoying a quiet, sunny day today. The kids are visiting in-laws and so we will have a quiet day and a simple supper tonight. Right now, I am listening to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and feeling like snapping my fingers to the music–it’s so much fun to listen to it! Earlier, I went to the piano and played the 2nd movement of the C minor Fantasie by Mozart. The makeshift wooden board that G. placed over the pedal worked well with my leg that still has a heavy cast on it.

Last night, with absolutely nothing to watch on TV (unless you wanted to tune into a four-and a half hour view of the “Ten Commandments”,) we decided to watch “Amadeus” the 1984 movie which won 8 Academy Awards. It’s a little grating to me with the Mozart character’s neighing all the time (from Tourette’s Syndrome)? But F. Murray Abraham (who won an Oscar for best actor in this best picture) plays Salieri, a rival court composer whose works are banal compared to Mozart’s and who is obsessed both by God’s gift of talent to Mozart and his equally strong belief that God has shortchanged him of same. This assignation of “blame” to God for Salieri’s shortcomings is one of the amusing conceits of the film. Reading about Salieri online, he is purported to have taught the likes of Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt so he must not have been as lightweight a musician as the movie, “Amadeus,” makes him out to be.

Anyhow, seeing the period instruments (since G. specializes in all things piano) is a treat to watch. I was also reminded again hearing excerpts of Mozart’s great Mass in C minor with its rousing opening “Kyrie” how great a composition it is. So, I listened to it this a.m. before segue-ing to the more upbeat and laid back jazz of Dave Brubeck’s quartet and Paul Desmond playing saxophone. Did you know that it was actually Desmond who composed “Take Five?” I didn’t until recently when I watched Clint Eastwood’s masterful biographical DVD of Dave Brubeck which we saw on PBS a couple of years ago.

For lunch today, I’m going to heat up some frozen Korean dumplings with chives and make a piquant dipping sauce of Chinese black vinegar, Japanese seasoned rice vinegar, Ohsawa soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped scallions and grated fresh ginger root. Afterwards, we’ll try a tiny sliver of the dark chocolate sour cream cake that I made yesterday afternoon. I had to bake it ten more minutes than the recipe called for and even then, the beautifully rounded middle sunk when cooled so it looked like a miniature tube cake!

I also had difficulty broiling a miso eggplant dish for dinner last night–you couldn’t chew it and it felt and tasted like wet cardboard. I even tried frying it afterwards but to no avail. Then, I remembered the pizza stone the other night didn’t seem hot enough even though heated to 500 degrees. And that instead of the pizza taking 3-5 minutes to cook, it still wasn’t done at 15 minutes and I had to turn on the broiler to finish it. So, dear reader, it occurred to me that perhaps my stove/oven isn’t heating up properly. (DUH!) It’s about a dozen years old and I cook a lot, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s losing its legs, heat-wise that is.

So, I dug out my oven thermometer and will be double-checking whether it preheats to 425 degrees when I get ready to roast the rack of lamb that we’re going to have for dinner tonight. I use Julia Child’s recipe for a mustard (Grey Poupon Country Dijon), olive oil, soy sauce, fresh rosemary chopped and lots of minced garlic–the marinade coating applied for the room-temperature lamb before going into the oven. The lamb on the rack looks miniscule so I’m hopeful that there will be something tasty there when it comes out of the dubious oven.

better nomaYesterday, I don’t know what came over me–perhaps it was re-reading a cohort of British cookery books in the last few days–I decided to cull out and reorganize my bookshelves, one whole section of which is dedicated to food. One of the shelves now includes a set of Terence Conran, Roald Dahl, Jane Garmey and Time-Life volumes on making galantines, terrines, meat pies, trifles and aspic with eggs. In this group, I rediscovered the absolutely wonderful simple and yet appealing recipes in Nigel Slater’s cookery books. Slater’s recipe for roasting chicken wings suffused with fresh lemons and cracked pepper until the wings are caramelized to the baking sheet is one I’m going to try next week, I think. SLATER

Even though they were somewhat pricey, I went through some books yesterday that had recipes I know I would never try (too conventional, complicated or took too much work/ingredients) so they went into the carton that will be donated to our local library. That is the only way I can justify ridding myself of books–which is to recycle them at an institution that will either catalog them or sell them in their bookstore.

Back to the reorganization, the revised bookshelves also hold a section of what I call “Celebrity Chefs”: David Chang’s “Momofuku”, Rene Redzepi’s “Noma”,Thomas Keller’s”French Laundry”, Daniel Boulud, Stanley Tucci, Jane Grigson, Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe Cookbook and the River Cottage series by that guy who has an un-spellable name.

On the top shelf (for most usage) are short stacks of cookbooks featuring Asian noodles, tofu, dim sum, Chinese snacks, Bento box and Japanese Zen/Temple cookery. There’s also a smaller section down below on macrobiotic and raw vegetable ideas. Right now, I think I’ll be cooking more recipes out of the Nigel Slater books than anything else. Not only are the books now better organized, there’s now room for more!better asian

The photos above and below are of an order of French macarons that I made and had sent to C. and her husband for Easter. She teaches high-school French so these little treats seemed like the perfect thing for Easter. She’s going to share them with her in-laws after their luncheon today. The funny thing about them is that I ordered them from a baker on Etsy (one of my favorite places to find homemade things,) and in finalizing the purchase, I noticed a Chinese name in their email address. Sure enough, she was trained in France to bake these macaron specialties but like me, she’s Chinese. I meet many artists who are Asian on this site. And in the oddest of places too–like with these macarons. They’re made of egg whites and an almond paste filling–somewhat like marzipan, I think. They arrived in time and C. said they shared one macaron before bringing them to the Easter luncheon and it was delicious!macarons 2

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

In addition to the mustard/rosemary rack of lamb medium rare (hopefully,) we’re having artichokes with a curry mayonnaise as a starter, the lamb, small yukon potatoes crisped in butter and garlic salt, and parsnips (G.’s favorite vegetable.) And for dessert, the dark chocolate sour cream cake with chocolate frosting.

So, here’s hoping you have also had an enjoyable day filled with reading the paper, Easter egg hunts and some nice wine and tasty food!

adagio. . .


Here’s an interesting discovery I made after reading a novel by Rachel Cusk, a young British writer. (I seem to have artists from the UK in my frame of reference these days for some reason.) In her novel, “Bradshaw Variations,” Cusk describes a character playing an “Adagio” movement from a Beethoven sonata. Although the sonata is not revealed, I was curious enough from the novel’s description to page through my Henle edition of Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas in two thick volumes. As I did so, I sat down at my Steinway grand piano, named “Victor,” rebuilt years ago by my husband, “G”, and began to sightread through ALL of the Adagio movements. I discovered in the process that they are among the most melodic, beautiful compositions that are contained in this oeuvre (not knowing the plural for the word, “opus”!)

Anyhow, “Adagio” means “slowly.” An apt concept for how to spend days when it is so hot and humid outside (now under the heat dome that the weatherman keeps talking about) and as summer days languish. These gorgeous melodies also serve as a musical antidote to all the cleaning up and cleaning out that I’m still in the process of doing (“simplifying. . .”) I’m even thinking of playing (and possibly recording) a program of Adagios when my birthday rolls around next year, perhaps. Because the tempo is “slowly,” the melodies also offer up an opportunity to make beautiful music while not having to kill oneself technically to keep up at this point in my piano playing life.

To my amusement, I discovered that I was already practicing Bach’s D minor sonata whose first movement is marked “Adagio.” It serves primarily as a chordal introduction to a wonderful Fuge movement.

So, I’m blessedly happy, adagio-ing along and am glad to have discovered these wonderful pieces. And for my money, they put Mozart to shame–the Beethoven melodies meatier, more robust, evoking such sweet pathos. Yum!