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

Tag: pianists

a brave new world of music! . . .

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 579_2_2Well yesterday, with a $6 adapter for my Mac laptop that I ordered from Amazon and from watching YouTube videos on how to connect and program my system preferences, I was able to hook up my computer to our large-screen HDMI TV!!

This may not sound like much, but what it opens up for us is the ability to play YouTube clips of pianists playing the piano: in Van Cliburn competitions, in concert hall recitals as well as viewing videos from individual and other websites. Up to now, I thought that ITunes was the limit, being able to listen to sample clips of various pianists and then being able to download a single selection for a nominal fee, make playlists and send them to friends. Now, there are live performances online that haven’t been recorded on a CD that are FREE and can be viewed on a large screen TV.

Since this new arrangement yesterday, I viewed and listened to these performances:

  • Van Cliburn in 1958 live performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto conducted by Kiril Kondrashin (who also conducted recordings with Sviatoslav Richter.) Watching this incredible event nearly brought me to tears.
  • Jack Gibbons, an English pianist that I had not paid much attention to before, playing Charles Valentin Alkan’s “Concerto for Solo Piano” – and I heard inner voices that I had not noticed before in Marc-Andre Hamelin’s two recordings of the same piece. It turns out Gibbons performed it in Carnegie Hall in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of this composition!
  • Marc-Andre Hamelin performing with Leonard Slatkin playing George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” a favorite since my college days wherein I even fiddled around with some of the jazzy parts on the piano myself!

Last night, G. and I watched the 1993 Van Cliburn piano competition (2 hours) downloaded from YouTube on our TV screen, enjoying what was, in our minds, the most impressive group of pianists we’ve ever seen on Van Cliburn competition DVDs (the ones where Andre Schub and Olga Kern won the gold medal had a paucity of contestants compared to this group.) Nearly all of the contestants played well. AND, there was more footage of actual piano playing throughout the stages of the competition so that the viewer could gain a sense of individual pianist’s strengths, unlike the fluff piece that just came out on PBS called “Virtuosity,”which was more like a reality show of pianists (how many dresses did you bring with you?) Here’s a link to the 2 hour 1993 Van Cliburn competition video.

Do you remember the techie in that old James Bond movie played by a very young Alan Cumming who says “I am inVINC-ible” right before the whole place goes up in flames?? Well, (without the flaming out part,) that’s how I feel when I make progress at a snail’s pace in our technology driven world.

I may be a little tardy coming to this technology party, but believe me, I’m staying late!





SO much time . . . so little piano!

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 583_2

Last night, PBS aired “Virtuosity” an hour and a half documentary of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. G. and I were disappointed by how little footage there was of individual pianists playing. Here’s a review I wrote about it posted on Amazon this a.m.

Title: “SO much time . . . so little piano!”

“My husband and I are both pianists and we looked forward to watching this documentary on PBS which aired on July 31, 2015. We are familiar with other films made of this world-famous Van Cliburn piano competition. The repertory requirements are rigorous: many individual pieces, playing with a chamber group if you advance to the semi-finals; and performing a concerto with an orchestra if you make it to the finals.

Human interest soundbites monopolized the hour and a half film as we waited to hear individuals play long enough to be able to discern differences among them as pianists and as musicians. Way too much footage was given to two particular pianists whose facial grimaces detracted from the music they were playing – and there were FOUR separate instances of the same pianist grimacing through a piece that even a third-grader could manage (Chopin’s “Raindrop” prelude that Jack Nicholson played on the back of a truck in the movie, “Five Easy Pieces.”). The redundancy of that Chopin clip illustrates the filmmakers’ naivete while denying us the ability to discern true talent.

So, I guess this was journalism with all the human interest stuff and glitzy film pyrotechnics superimposing images of multiple pianists playing the same piece. Pianists don’t play pieces the same way as suggested by the montage – and we don’t get a chance to hear the differences. There was so little footage of individual playing that it was virtually impossible to glean why the First Prize Gold Medal winner was chosen.

Perhaps this film was what the Van Cliburn foundation wanted as PR. Too bad they forgot the piano playing that everyone wants to experience in the first place. It was produced by people who aren’t pianists – and I was thinking that if Van Cliburn were still alive, it wouldn’t have been allowed to happen for sure. This film was a true disappointment and a missed opportunity.