mulberryshoots

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

Tag: Peter Serkin

bach: the gift that keeps on giving . . .

rosemary, cyclamen and a kabocha squash on the kitchen counter . . .

rosemary, cyclamen and a kabocha squash on the kitchen counter . . .

As a pianist whose favorite composer is Johann Sebastian Bach, I have numerous recordings of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Books I and II. Any pianist who undertakes to learn them all and then perform them either by memory or using the music has my respect and admiration, even if their recordings aren’t necessarily my most favorite ones. Up to today, I owned Bach WTC I & II recordings by Glenn Gould, Sviatislav Richter and Angela Hewitt. I also have random prelude and fuge recordings by Clara Haskill, Maria Joao Pires, Martha Argerich and Peter Serkin among others.

Many of us recall the splash made by the Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould, when he came upon the music scene, seated on a sawed off wooden chair, humming to himself, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was on stage in Carnegie Hall and playing the Goldberg Variations faster (and with more clarity) than anyone had ever imagined possible. Gould also recorded the Goldbergs, this time at a much slower tempo twenty years later and it’s interesting to listen to both sets one after the other. For a long time, my favorite pianist performing Bach was Angela Hewitt, also a Canadian pianist who has recorded just about everything Bach ever wrote for the keyboard: Inventions, Partitas, English and French Suites, the Goldberg Variations, both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier and other pieces like the Italian Concerto for solo piano and the keyboard concerti with orchestra.

Today, as I was finishing my breakfast, I came upon a review in the New York Times of the French pianist, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who performed the WTC – Book I, using the score at a Carnegie Hall recital. The reviewer noted that Andras Schiff performed the WTC by memory and seemed to “channel Bach.” I happen to disagree with this opinion because I have listened to a few clips of Schiff playing Bach and am bothered by the tempo and rubato liberties he takes with the score. That is, he plays unevenly and pauses at places that seem to please him, and not as Bach intended it–at least not to my ear. The photograph in the NYTimes article of the Steinway concert grand and the pianist on the wide stage was striking, a gorgeous snapshot depicting the glory of a pianist playing Bach on a concert stage. After reading the review, I listened to a few segments on I-Tunes and then purchased the album once I figured out what my Apple I-Tunes password was after a few futile attempts.

I listened to this new set of preludes and fuges while I did an hour or so of housework this morning, and found that I liked them a lot. I cleared off items crowding space in the plant room, fed the canary and rearranged sea things that I had found on the beach last year when we went to the Cape after Christmas. I made a new playlist for the downloaded disc and burned a CD for my car. As I pulled out of the driveway to go to the post office and grocery store, this new Bach piano music filled the car. The morning sun shone through the trees, many with brilliant yellow leaves that had not yet fallen. For me, there’s no simpler nirvana than to listen to Bach while doing chores inside and errands out and about.

So, heartfelt thanks first of all to Johann Sebastian Bach, for composing all that lovely music in the first place. Gratitude for the New York Times newspaper which also keeps on giving, introducing me to concerts, pianists and recordings that I might not otherwise come across. Kudos to Pierre-Laurent Aimard for playing Bach so beautifully and for making this recording. And a huzzah to Apple and I-Tunes for making equipment that enables someone like me to download, listen to, purchase and then copy a CD for my car in less time than it takes to sweep the floor!

All in all, I’m grateful for this rapturous confluence of art and technology on a brilliant Fall day here in New England. What a JOY!

 

Postscript: I noticed that the Aimard CD in hard copy on Amazon.com is listed for $16.99 while I downloaded it on I-Tunes for $11.99.

 

silver linings . . .

Loon & orchid 1Being laid up (translate immobilized) in order to allow my injured ankle to heal, the pace of our days in the past weeks has been transformed. Our priorities shifted in favor of settling into a new routine. Appreciation for each other and our lives has emerged in ways we might not have experienced so poignantly without the injury. We are thankful.

In the mornings, there are brief stints of activity that I carry out each day: cleaning off the kitchen counter of yesterday’s cooking ingredients and used dishes; wiping off the stove top and cleaning off detritus unseen before but now so newly visible at eye level from a wheelchair; straightening off the large curly maple table we use for our meals, emptying crumbs and spills from the braided hemp placemats; watering the plants, replacing spent flowers with a just-in-bloom orchid plant from those flowering in the other room.

There are moments of quiet joy, watching the morning sun move across the large kitchen/great room from the skylights illuminating the wide board pine floors. Today, I noticed those moments that probably would not have come to the fore of my consciousness without the imposed quiet of staying still:

1.  Listening to Peter Serkin’s recording of Bach Inventions Part I & II, the simplicity of these compositions more fitting (than the preludes/fuges, partitas, suites) to the reduced tempo of the day.

2.  After two fruitless tries (each day taking apart the day’s knitting) to make something that finally pleases me from leavings of Noro “Mossa” yarn, casting aside (80%) of the yarn’s over-fluffy white and purple bits, finally knitting a scarf of the most beautiful lichen, moss, gentian and twig brown colors. A glorious little (emphasize small) piece that justifies having spent the money to buy the yarn in the first place that didn’t quite measure up but has at last yielded some beautiful textures (like nuggets of gold after sieving lots of washed dirt.)knitting swatch

3. Learning that my granddaughter has been accepted to, visited and is overjoyed with her college of choice, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. where she may pursue her interests in applied math, biology and all sorts of arenas such as international affairs.

4. Looking forward to my daughter, C.’s visit tomorrow. She teaches high school French and tells me she’s at the end of the quarter with grades due but will have some time to spend with us this weekend.

She’ll be doing some shopping at an organic farmstand on the way between her house and mine and arrive in time for a late lunch. I’ve been waiting for a pizza stone to arrive and if it does, I’ll make up some homemade pizza dough and we’ll try our hand at making a Margherita pizza tomorrow with San Marzano tomato sauce, cheeses and fresh basil leaves on top after it comes out of the oven.

We have also saved up so that we can watch “Frozen,” the Walt Disney animated movie together. My granddaughter, Josie, (who is four)  has taken to swaying and singing “Let It Go” on Skype this past week. I sent the Disney Golden Book versions of “Frozen” to her and I’m told she sings along while being read to and looking at the many illustrations from the movie.

5. Catching up with my daughter M. on Skype along with Josie (above) I heard about an  effort to communicate becoming a positive catalyst for change and improvement all-around in her nursing school classes. A busy Mom and student, M. somehow manages to be centered while making healthy juices from organic vegetables and fruits to take care of her own needs.

Tomorrow night, I’m planning to roast a small (under 3 lbs.) organic chicken with fresh rosemary and thyme for our dinner tomorrow night along with carrots, onion and yukon potatoes to cook alongside the bird. For dessert, we’ll have some chocolate cream pie that we devoured the last time she came out to visit G. and me.

yellow roseThis is a long list of things that gladden my heart. Plus, during my idle time last week, I won an eBay auction for a song and a wonderful loon decoy arrived yesterday. Then, G. came home last night with a single yellow rose at suppertime along with the fresh cilantro and lime I asked him to pick up to go with the Pad Thai I was making.

There are so many blessings for which I am thankful. It has been raining good fortune ever since I took that fateful fall and broke my ankle. Who would have known?