mulberryshoots

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

Tag: scarlatti

unseen hand of the universe . . .

Olive 1jpgAfter an intense holiday week preceded by months of preparation, gift-buying, gift-exchanging, wrapping, decorating, shopping for food and cooking immense meals, it’s all over now. Whew!

What, I wondered to myself, will I do now to simplify my life, renew a sense of purpose and find fulfilling things to do?

Well, I needn’t have wondered. The Universe has provided the following ideas and symbolism:

1. For my birthday a couple of days ago, my daughter, C. gave me a framed picture of Mary Oliver’s poem, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” superimposed over an upright PIANO and beautifully framed in cherry wood!!  (You might have noticed it’s also the poem/theme of my blog.) Okay, I get that one–which is not to shortchange my enjoyment of playing the piano and listening to music. I made a shortlist of composers I’d like to play: Alkan, Bach, Scarlatti, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin.

2. The mail on New Year’s Eve delivered the White Flower Farm Catalog filled with unusual annuals and perennials. Ever since my ankle injury and recuperation, I’ve been thinking that working in the garden would be good therapy for me AND would also benefit the benignly neglected growth in our garden filled with climbing roses, wisteria, peonies, iris, montauk daisies and other perennials.

Last Fall, I met a wonderful Chinese family who sold incredible dahlias at the local farmers market and also met the zen-like bearded father of the clan. He and I good-naturedly kidded each other about who was older (I said I could tell my kids were older than his were; he claimed he got a late start, etc.) Anyhow, I wrote to them volunteering to help out when the weather gets better and received a warm reply back. It might have been because I also promised not to speak unless spoken to. Fiveforks Farm is the name of their gorgeous FLOWER CSA, a unique concept rather than a CSA for farmers market vegetables!

3. Yesterday, I realigned my Facebook page and was inspired to reconnect with people I’d lost touch with long ago, all of whom responded to my “friend” requests with alacrity and interesting news (thank God.)

One guy that I contacted was someone I’d known since high school, lived in the same town while our children were growing up and whom I rediscovered when HIS DAUGHTER “liked” one of my Facebook photos. Turns out she and my daughter C., were “friends” and classmates in high school. Long story short, we emailed each other last night and he said that only yesterday, he had mentioned me to his grandchildren while they were learning how to use chopsticks, relating an anecdote when he had used chopsticks for the first time at my house when we were in high school. We’ve been out of touch for years so I’m thinking this particular coincidence illustrates that there is indeed something in the ether surrounding this reconnection somehow.

4. Last but not least, I received an email from MeetUp that the New Earth Book Club with 94 members would be closed down unless a new organizer (willing to pay dues) showed up. This is a group I joined just when I broke my ankle and had not managed to attend any of the meetings nor had I met the previous Organizer. I was impressed that over time, there were almost a hundred people interested in reading about how to live with more meaning, to read spiritual and other interesting books and to discuss them together.

It was as though the Universe said, “here you go,” when I wondered how I might meet some new people nearby with similar interests. So, I paid $19.95 to keep the group alive until February 3rd. I sent a message out suggesting a group (re-grouping) meeting in January sometime before the February deadline to see how many, if any, were interested in getting together to re-invent, re-name, re-organize, organize or give it all up, but only after we’d had a chance to decide for ourselves what the future might bring.

This morning, I received an enthusiastic response from a group member who not only reinforced a desire to continue the book group, but offered HER RESTAURANT as a potential meeting place! I’m excited about the possibility that the book group might be reborn. If it is, maybe people will be drawn to books by some of my favorite writers: John Tarrant, Red Pine, Paul Coelho, Gary Zukav and that crazy Zen guy, Alan Watts.

So, to say that a lot has happened in a couple of days would be an understatement. But there’s a little more.

Yesterday in the post office, after I filled out a customs label to Canada for a pair of earrings I was returning, a woman in front of me in line jumped back from me, exclaiming, “WOW, your aura is so STRONG!” I got a kick out of that and asked her what color my aura was. Then, a woman in front of her asked what color her aura was too! It was kind of a hilarious scene in that crowded post office!

In fact, the plain hoop earrings that were too small for me were being exchanged for another pair in the shape and design of an Ouroboros–the serpent eating its own tail, symbolizing the constant recreation of oneself and one’s life. Haha.

Oh, and while I was driving to the dry cleaners yesterday, a great blue heron flew right over my car overhead as it headed for a nearby lake.

I guess the Universe has made its point, wouldn’t you say? It’s definitely in charge, not me, so straighten up, follow its lead and stop questioning what you can’t know until it appears.

As disquieting as this chain of events might appear, I find it oddly and incredibly comforting somehow, don’t you?

sunset on my birthday after Christmas in Dennisport. . .

sunset on my birthday after Christmas in Dennisport. . .

 

 

 

 

 

the sound of music . . .

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 583_2_2This post is not about the movie, the play or the book, “Sound of Music.” What it is about is what happens to the human spirit when the sound of music is heard live, in person, in the presence of the music being made, heard and then falling away.

A few days ago, I received an email from some old friends of mine with whom we had lost touch. We would say we would get together soon but somehow never managed to. You know how that goes. In any case, they wrote to me to ask a favor. A neighbor of theirs was planning to celebrate an 88th birthday for their father who was visiting them from out of town. It turns out that 88 is also a magic number for the number of black and white keys on a piano keyboard. The birthday celebrant loved classical piano music, and my friends wondered whether I would play some pieces for him as his “birthday gift.” They also wanted to make a gift of some sort made out of old piano keys, which G., my husband who is a piano restorer, brought over to their house yesterday to play around with.

In the meantime, we had to hustle because it turns out that the favorite piece of this classical music lover was Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.” If you are familiar with it, you’ll laugh out loud like I did because:  a) it’s very difficult; and b )it’s written for piano and orchestra. Undaunted, G. found a reduction (simplified) version of the score at the Holy Cross music library aided by a piano friend who is on the faculty there. Even with the score easier to see, it is still hard to read and play, given that it is written for five flats!

This is Tuesday and I’ve put together a tentative program according to the Juilliard model (baroque/classical/romantic) in that order: Bach, Scarlatti, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Practicing yesterday, I noticed that although I hadn’t played or practiced in quite awhile, that I felt both stronger and freer while going through the pieces.

This afternoon, G. will tune the piano that hasn’t been serviced for awhile and meet the fellow who will be congratulated on Thursday evening, although he probably doesn’t have an inkling of all these surprises in store for his birthday.

Thursday evening: The party was a hit! Chuck spoke about the first time he heard the Rachmaninoff Rhapsodie on a Theme of Paganini when he was twenty years old in a church during World War II. His relating the story after I played the piece brought the experience full circle–and so I did a reprise of it for him. When I asked him if there was any other piece he’d like to hear, he shook his head and said that he was happy with the program and with hearing the Rachmaninoff piece live. Now, there’s a rarity–someone who is satified and knows it.

What a great treat to be able to play this music for him! I’m grateful for the invitation to participate.

clara and arthur . . .

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 583_2_2As some of you know, I’m a pianist and also slightly OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) when I come across a pianist that I haven’t listened to before but love their way of playing. One of the ones I wrote about before was Paul Lewis, an English pianist whose Schubert and Beethoven recordings are beautifully musical and sensitively played. His recording of the Beethoven Rondo from Opus 4 in E-flat major is one of my favorites and I’ve started to study it myself recently.

Another pianist I came across the other day while searching for renditions of Scarlatti on I-tunes is Clara Haskil. Many contemporary pianists play Scarlatti as though they were finger exercises, rushing up and down the keyboard as though the metronome and speed were what they were aiming for rather than making music. They either play too fast or take too much liberty with rubato that drives me crazy when I listen to them.

So, when I happened upon Clara Haskil’s Scarlatti recordings, I stopped and savored listening to them because they are so musical, the tempi reasonable and most of all, the melodies were so beautiful. So I looked her up on Wiki (where else?) and found she lived in the last mid-century, born in Romania and of Swiss origins. She won a Premier first in piano at the age of fifteen and she also won a Premier first in violin at the same time! Beset by physical problems and living in poverty (Wiki says) she nevertheless performed with many of the premier musicians of the time: Pablo Casals, the conductor Ernest Ansermet and most of all, as a pianist playing with the French violinist, Arthur Grumiaux.

At first, I was tempted to purchase a 10 Scarlatti sonata recording by Clara Haskil for $9.99 on I-tunes. But on further exploration, I discovered a compendium of recordings by her for only $11.99 that included the Scarlatti sonatas. Imagine my astonishment when I scrolled down to see that there were 105 (one-hundred-five) tracks on this single recording! A click and a download quickly filled my I-tunes library with concerti recordings, Bach Busoni numbers, Beethoven and the lode of Scarlatti. I listened to it while I made some maple oatmeal scones this morning.

maple oatmeal scones

maple oatmeal scones

So, why is this post also about Arthur Grumiaux? Apparently, even though Clara was about twenty years older than Arthur, they had a very close musical partnership. One of the most touching and humorous observations about their relationship was that Grumiaux, the violinist, was also a fine pianist. So the two of them would sometimes swap instruments and play each other’s parts when they rehearsed together! I thought this was so charming and such a rarity of musicianship at their level that I wanted to write about it in this post.

Sadly, Clara died at the age of sixty-five as a result of a fall that she suffered at the Brussels train station on her way to a concert that she and Arthur Grumiaux were scheduled to play together the next day. Apparently, her death was a huge and personal loss for him when she died. Although he had diabetes, he continued to concertize and died almost twenty years later from a stroke when he was sixty-five.

So, there you have a story about Clara and Arthur. Her recordings are playing in the background while I read and cook. And their story serves as such a tender example of human relationship and music making, at least for me. (Sigh.)

Postscript: If you would like to read a personal essay about Clara Haskill published in the journal, “Clavier,” please click here.