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

Tag: Sviatoslav Richter

living large . . .


I’ve been noticing lately that the Universe’s messages to me have all been about not holding back and deciding to go full tilt in living my life everyday.

So what if Pope Francis is 78 years old with various age-related problems – his will and intentions during his U.S. visit have sent a strong message about values that all can benefit from and that are hard to ignore. “Be good to each other and do the right thing.”

Coming upon the New York Times review article about Sviastoslav Richter reminded readers of how probably unhappy as a person Richter was and reluctant to concertize in the U.S. in 1960. But just take a listen to his recordings (which I did last night) of Schumann’s Fantasy in C, Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Etude and Beethoven “Appassionata” sonata, third movement. He goes full tilt with a musical energy that can’t be ignored . . . and if you’re anything like me, it almost makes your hair stand on end!

I guess that’s what it’s all about: “appassionata” means passion – and just because we find ourselves older than we ever thought we would be, it doesn’t mean that we can avoid living our lives by being reticent nor making excuses for why we don’t do things more and better than we ever have before. Going for it as long as we can sounds pretty good to me.

In parallel, I have also rediscovered in the past weeks what has given me so much pleasure in my life, and am following these pursuits happily again. What else, really, is there to do? As Ruth Reichl said recently, “you should have as much fun as you can because you don’t know what’s coming down the road.”

Oh, and then there’s the “blood full moon eclipse” tonight too, not to be seen again until 2033, eighteen years from now. But right now, it’s more than enough to take just one day at a time, playing and listening to music, cherishing what we have and mostly, paying attention to it all, with many thanks.


path to winning . . .


Okay, so this is probably the last post I’ll make (for awhile at least) about the 1958 Van Cliburn Tchaikowsky competition. Not only had Russia just launched Sputnik six months earlier at the height of the Cold War, but this was also the very FIRST Tchaikowsky competition ever.

In an interview, Van Cliburn said that he was greeted at the airport by a very nice Russian woman who mispronounced his name – so in Russia, he was known as “Van CLEE-BURN.”

In addition, he said to the interviewer that it was an incredible jury which included world-famous musicians: Dmitry Kabalevsky, Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter and chaired by the composer, Dmitri Shostakovitch! Apparently, there were some shenanigans in the scoring that went on as described in the article below – wherein certain jurors were scoring the American with mediocre marks (15s & 16s out of 25.)

Sviatoslav Richter caught on to this and began giving Van Cliburn all 25s, perfect marks while scoring everybody else with zeroes! “Either they have it or they don’t!” Richter was quoted as saying. The jury approached Khrushchev to get his approval for them to declare their choice of Van Cliburn as the winner. On the way home, the stewardess on the plane showed the pianist a copy of TIme Magazine with a pastel portrait of Van Cliburn on the cover.

Liu Shu Kun was a Chinese pianist who placed second in the 1958 Tchaikowsky competition when Van Cliburn won the gold medal. As a pianist, I was introduced to Liu Shu Kun when I visited Beijing in the 1970’s. AND he visited my home in Lexington, MA. in the 1980’s during a trip to the States. Small world, right?

a suitcase full of ‘wrong notes’ . . .


We just heard an anecdote about pianists that some of you might enjoy. It appeared during “The Art of Piano,” a YouTube documentary almost 2 hours long which featured a generation of pianists gone by (Paderewski, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Josef Hofman, Alfred Cortot, Sviatoslav Richter, Claudio Arrau, Artur Rubenstein, Vladimir Horowitz and Emil Gilels among others including Edwin Fischer.)

Someone described a conversation between Clara Haskil, (a noted pianist in her own right and accompanist to Arthur Grumiaux, the violinist) and her companion on a train travelling in Europe. During the ride, the two musicians noted and discussed numerous pianists and what they thought of them. When they got to Edwin Fischer, Haskil said, “Oh, but he plays so many wrong notes! more than anyone we listen to.”

As they got up to disembark the train, a gentleman stood up in front of them who turned out to be none other than Edwin Fischer who had been sitting in the next compartment unbeknownst to Haskil and her friend. He turned to them with a smile and asked if they would help him lift his large suitcase from the upper luggage rack, saying it was very heavy because “it contains all of my wrong notes!”

Numerous contemporary pianists such as Daniel Barenboim, Evgeny Kissin and Piotr Anderdrewski commented on the pianists of yore. And even though the documentary was much longer than we had anticipated, there were notable omissions, at least to me: Dinu Lipatti, Jorge Bolet and Rudolf Serkin.

But it was worthwhile watching– and we thought the little tale about the suitcase containing wrong notes was very funny.

Here’s a link to “Art of Piano”