On the administration side of things

I bought some more sheet music yesterday; all from Henle so all with the distinctive blue covers, so I will skip the photos for this.

  • Brahms Opus 76
  • Brahms Opus 119
  • Liszt Sonata in B minor
  • Brahms Ballades

I have bought a crazy amount of sheet music and that doesn’t include the pieces I also pull from IMSLP to whom I intend to give some money soon. I know deep down that until I get past the necessary block I have with one of the exam pieces I am learning, I will not do anything more than tip away at bits of these collections. I bought the Liszt Sonata – a piece I never expect to even start learning in its completeness simply because I love the second movement.

But it’s nice to dream and I Feel No Guilt about this. However.

I need to tidy the sheet music into some sort of usable system so that I can find it more easily. This involves bookshelf reorganisation. I dread it, I already have piles of actual books around the place. The oldest sheet music I possess is in Ireland and the oldest that I have here is my copy of Rach II which I bought in about 1988. So it’s like, 35 years old. I take care of my music and even my exam books are in pretty decent nick given that they cost one or two pounds also around 35 years ago variously. Yes I know it seems crazy that someone working grade 4 or 5 also bought Rach 2. But I like dreaming of the possible and I’m never going to forgive the people who focus on how hard something will be instead of how motivated I am. I still can’t play bits of it but I totally get lost in it when I am working on pieces of it just for the pure pleasure of doing so. The journey matters not the end. Anyway, I digress. The Liszt cropped up on Igor Levit’s latest album; I have quite a few bits of Liszt that were bought to be read rather than played. A bit like Islamey by Balakirev. I’m not even going to try. Okay. Back to the objective.

I have a mix of music: a lot of so called classical – basically written 100 or more years ago – and more modern stuff like Tiersen, Arnalds and Einaudi. I’m going to write about Einaudi after I am done with this. I bought mag boxes to store them in because they are mostly not hardback and the music can be fragile and when you don’t have a lot of it, mag boxes keep it somewhat safe. Now I am thinking that the alphabet is going to have to be my friend and that I will just have to sort that way. But I want to keep a mag box aside for the kind of loose single piece sheets and also for the Grade 6 and Grade 8 piano pieces. Currently the 6 is cluttering my piano. I want to declutter my piano but that’s going to be challenging as I’ve all sorts of tools and notes there. I also have the free stuff that came with the piano (stuff that includes Burgmuller and Chopin plus a couple of collections of Various). So there needs to be a collections section as well. I also tended to sort by publisher which was fine when most of it was Henle. Most of it still is but I’d prefer to sort by composer now that a bit more Barenreiter is coming in and I bought the Chopin Institute’s issue of the Chopin Sonatas.

So I’m writing about doing this instead of doing it which is…an interesting bit of procrastination.

Sinding: Rustle of Spring/Chaminade: Automne

Chenyin Li plays Rustle of Spring by Christian Sinding

Someone mentioned to me that they liked this piece today so I went looking. It’s in Pianist 102 which I don’t have but it is also on IMSLP so now I do have it as well, all ten pages of it.

It’s in D flat. My all time favourite key. Having then wandered into Sinding Google Exploration I wound up with this by Cecile Chaminade.

Autumn by Cecile Chaminade

This is also in D flat. I need to work in that key anyway thanks to Rach but anyway…,

Releases of Note: Alexandre Tharaud: Ravel

Alexandre Tharaud plays Ravel piano concertos

Alexandre Tharaud is one of my favourite pianists and he might get me to go listen to these Ravel concertos although Ravel is tainted in my mind by the Bolero which turns up in the figure skating world a lot (although for the 23-24 season, Kevin Aymoz is worth a look),

Anyway, even Argerich couldn’t get me to give much time to Ravel – it doesn’t talk to me in general. But Tharaud has a magical touch.

OBJ Bach Two Part Invention in E Major BMV777

If you check under my objectives, you’ll see I’m currently working Grade 6. I wonder sometimes how valid it is that I write a piano blog when I am stuck firmly in the intermediate box as far as classical repertoire is concerned.

I had trouble selecting the List A piece at the time. I was surprised; I thought the List C would be harder but I found recordings of some of them, liked the first one I heard, and off we went.

Out of the four pieces, the Bach is KILLING me. Well, some of it is incredibly easy. The rest of it is killing me. In part, this is a gap in my education. I don’t align so much with Bach as I do with Chopin and Rachmananinininininininoff or indeed Felix. This is not the kind of thing you admit out loud in the piano world. Bach is 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything.

The one piece of Bach that everyone knew (well I never played it but I could pull it out by ear if I really wanted to) turned out to be composed by someone else (Christian Petzold in this case, apparently). The only piece I truly liked was the Toccata and Fugue although Sky might have something to do with that.

It’s worth digging out an organ version too. But that’s not where we are right now.

I want to do the exam performance in February or March in 2024 so I need to get a move on with Bach. I don’t know the Rebikov but I can sight read it without too much difficulty. Learning it by heart is the challenge there and I’m already at a stage where I can deal with thinking about how I want it to sound. But the Bach had been a traincrash and more to the point, Apple’s music search meant I turned up very little when I went looking for a recording of it, at least initially. Once I discovered that looking for Angela Hewitt would be more productive, things got better. I’m now more motivated to learn the Bach because I’ve realised it is a stepping stone to the Rameau that I want to do for Grade 8. So back to Bach we went.

I’m stuck in the middle of the first part. Henle tells me this is easier than the Mendelssohn that while it was a swamp inhabited by dragons from a fingering point of view, it was also readable from day one. I won’t say it was easy to get right but it was easy to motivate myself to pick it apart and start putting it back together.

I don’t believe Henle. Maybe it’s easier if you started playing Petzold instead of a music hall version of the Rose of Tralee, aged 10 (god knows why we had it) but if you’ve somehow got to the age of 50 without doing any counterpoint at all, Bach is a big thick brick wall.

Bach, Two Part Invention in E major

In particular, I’m struggling with the highlighted bars above. Well, the first of them is okay after a great deal of very slow work and repetition. Yes, I have been using a metronome, at length, much to the pity of my neighbours no doubt. But it is very very slow going. I’m operating under the fatal excess optimism that once I manage that, then much of the rest of it being easier than the Mendelssohn might materialise.

On the plus side, it’s a decent enough piece of Bach, and I’ve also spent some time with the C Major Prelude from WTC lately, and I’ve had a look at Aria from the Goldberg Variations. I bought a copy of Anna Maria Bach’s notebook as well (and it has the Petzold in it too which is handy and now I am wondering about getting CPE Bach’s notebook too). And I really, really hope it helps with the Rameau.

In other news, I will see the Goldbergs courtesy of Vikingur Olafsson next week. I am looking forward to it.

New [to me] sheet music (3)

I found myself myself in a secondhand bookstore today looking at their sheet music collection. It was…disappointing in a way but exhilarating that two second hand bookshops in Brussels have sheet music. Today, you were quids in if you played the violin, the electric organ or the clarinet. Actually I assume that if you play the clarinet, it must be quite wonderful to fall over the odd bit of clarinet music anywhere, nevermind a shop more used to selling fiction and comic strips.

Anyway, times were thin on the piano music but I picked up two pieces, one being a duplicate (of more anon) and the other being by Guastavino whose music I had to order specially lately (I haven’t started the piece yet). He is not yet out of copyright but is difficultly in print. I’m not sure what this will be like but I bought it anyway.

New to me Sheet Music
Bailecito by Carlos Guastavino

What struck me about it was that each page was stamped with what looks like a publisher’s mark.

Anyway. I have it.

As a teenager, aside from Rach II, a couple of pieces of cinema music seared through my mind, one of which was Richard Adinsell’s Warsaw Concerto from the movie Dangerous Moonlight. As I mostly found classical music through figure skating at that time, I assume that’s where I picked that up from. Anyway, we found a recording, probably on Naxos at some point, but the sheet music eluded me for years and years and years and years. In fact, I only picked a new copy of it sometime in the last 2 years since Pointe d’Orgue became known to me (one of the two sheet music shops that I trust in Brussels. I ordered the Guastivino mentioned above from the other, Brauer. I know them both. Anyway, Pointe d’Orgue had the Adinsell so after a near 25 year search I had it in my hands.

One of the fascinating things for me with orchestral piano music is that you can get lots of it and it all has an accompaniment for a second piano or is a reduction for 2 pianos. So the Hummel I picked up last week was a bit of a novelty. Anyway, today’s haul includes Warsaw Concerto, or more specifically, Concerto de Varsovie, solo piano.

New to me Sheet Music
Warsaw Concerto, French publication, Richard Adinsell

If you’re looking for a good recording of it, I’m inclined to suggest Jean Yves Thibaudet. You can have a listen on Youtube here.

Jean Yves Thibaudet pushing out into the dead of night

Actually, I went looking for a trailer for the film Dangerous Moonlight which I have never seen and instead, I found this. The music is very clearly the star and yet, it’s completely different to any recording I have ever heard of it.

If you want to read more about the movie, you can find it here.

Anyway, they cost almost nothing. The total I spent in the shop was 5 euro 50 cents and in addition to the sheet music there was a kids book and a how to draw ballet dancers book.

When I got home I went to my “keep these safe” documents where I thought there was a copy of the piano solo of the Legend of the Glass Mountain by Nina Rota. Apparently I have put it somewhere even safer.

This is something I’ve been looking for almost as long; and I found a copy of it in the Sheet Music Library in the Central Library in Dublin about 30 years ago having searched for a while for it. No dice but I seemed to acquire a photocopy of it. I never got around to learning it but it’s still on my TBL list. I see a copy of it on eBay though which will post to Belgium so I am going to rectify that.

I’m interested in second hand sheet music sources. Point me at them.

New sheet music (2, probably)

Some time ago, some years ago, I picked up an album called Autograph by Alexandre Tharaud. It’s the sort of album I like – a random selection of short pieces he uses for encores (note to passing concert pianists, collections like this are inspiring – I will never be able to aspire to doing all 24 preludes by Chopin but what follows is why people like me still play the piano, years after our dreams of Carnegie Hall bite the dust). Anyway, one of the pieces that is on that album is a piece from a Gluck opera, and I think it’s labelled Dance of the Blessed Spirits.

It took a while to find it but I discovered (after finding the wrong one first) that it was a transcription by Alexandre Siloti, about whom I knew the sum total of nothing. It’s somewhere on IMSLP, but not easy to find and I haven’t got the link handy. I discovered later he had done a load of transcriptions, and one which kept popping up was a Bach transcription from a piece in E minor (there seems to be some disagreement on which Bach E minor it is with some people claiming it is not the one in WTC. Anyway, peu importe. I also discovered he did Air on a G string and in a bunch of discussions on Un Sospiro (which I bought last week), his transcription is recommended as being more accessible than Liszt’s. Apparently there is some thought that it more reflects what Liszt was playing, at least in the later days, for Siloti knew Liszt.

Anyway, his transcriptions aren’t always easy to find, but at some point, there was a comprehensive overview done, so I bought it yesterday.

It is not cheap.

The Alexandre Siloti Collection in sheet music form.

While coughing up for that I also had a look to see if by any chance they had Fauré’s Three Romances without Words for piano, because that too was on the Alexandre Tharaud Autograph album and I have troubled to find it in a bricks and mortar. However, here too I was victorious. So victorious, I forgot to see if the Liszt Sonata I wanted was there but as I only want one movement from that, I will look to see if it’s in Henle’s app and pick up the paper later if/when I start learning it in all seriousness.

Music by Fauré

The shop also sold pasta, so I also bought pasta in the shape of various music shapey things. Treble clef carbonara may be in my future.

Music pasta

BRU: Flagey: Rachmaninoff150 Day #01

The Brussels Phiiharmonic and Flagey are running a series of Rachmaninoff concerts to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth and while I will miss the two concerts dedicated to the second and third piano concertos, this weekend included the first and fourth along with And Supporting Pieces. I will pick up Piano Concerto No 1 along with Rimsky Korskakov’s Scheherazade later today but I want to post briefly about last night’s concert. Details of the festival are here.

The soloist is Boris Giltburg, artist in residence in Flagey at the moment as I understand it. He is a Moscow born Israeli pianist in his late 30s and for some reason, last night was the first time I had come across his work. This surprises me. He was excellent. Last night he chose to play a Fazioli and I think this is the first time that I have seen a piano that was not a Steinway or a Yamaha in years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t see a Steinway. I like Faziolis so this pleased me. And I was in Row B. I know they are somewhat of the cheap seats and “the sound is better further back”. But. I like to watch the soloist and in this respect, Boris Giltburg is definitely worth watching.

The programme for last night was the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, An American in Paris by Gershwin and then, the fourth piano concerto, sometimes the forgotten of the four brothers, as it were, often overshadowed by the Symphonic Dances (which if it was programmed near me this year I somehow endeavoured to miss which is a pity because that is a mighty piece).

The Paganini was superlative. There isn’t really any other way to describe it and I doubt any other performance will match it for pure power and delicacy. I suspect the piano in part had something to do with that – for me, the piano personifies a river running through the countryside of the orchestra for that piece (and sometimes that countryside is frozen, covered in frost and snow with ice on the surface of occasional pools of still water) and the sound of the Fazioli definitely enhanced that image for me. Equally, the fourth piano concerto was an outstanding performance – it is hardly surprising that Giltburg picked up standing ovations for both performances and will probably pick up a few more customer’s for today’s concert this afternoon. I liked him very much; he provided one encore from the Moments Musicaux, one with which I am less familiar but glitteringly beautiful nonetheless.

Touching on the Gershwin, I have to confess he is not really my favourite, and I couldn’t actually remember ever listening to An American in Paris but I must have because it was extremely familiar to me. Maybe I heard it quite often when I was very young. That being said, the performance last night was top flight. I’m left with the feeling that in the repertoire, this should be performed much more often. I would also tend to suggest that it is a piece that really bears being heard live rather than in recorded format.

After the concert, there was an Aftertalk, questions and answers with the conductor and the soloist. It was something I’ve never experienced before but I have to say it was fascinating. It touched on the challenges for both composers, the changes Rach made to the fourth piano concerto a couple of years before he died, how it fitted into his dire for American citizenship before he died. The presenter prior to the concert suggested this was a jazzy concerto and in discussion afterwards, I would venture to suggest that isn’t quite right, at least in the final revisions; I learned there are elements of jazz impro in the first edition of the concerto. But for me, again, it evokes snowy scenery rather than the jazz view of the United States o the 20s. Emigrés fall between several cultures and I suspect Rach is no different in that.

On the question of Gershwin it was pointed out that he wanted to be taken seriously by the classical establishment; that he had been an immensely musical theatre composer – I have heard this store more recently of course with Andrew Lloyd Webber. In Europe at least, Gershwin is seen as a great composer and has been for the last 40 years at least. Giancarlo Guerrero, who conducted, is fascinating in this discussion and he notes that in the US, Gershwin is still seen as lesser despite this being the first great American symphonic piece. It’s an interesting perspective and that discussion is one why those after concert discussions can be fascinating and extremely fascinating.

Anyway, I came home and took out the 18th Variation transcription for solo piano and had a go at it again. My god it is so lovely, I should put more work into it, despite the Bach two part invention that stands before me like an undesirable but necessary Everest (once I am past that, Bach will be carefully selected rather than imposed).

7 October, Rachmaninoff with the Brussels Philharmonic, Guerrero and Giltburg.

New sheet music

I went on a shopping spree today. I wanted to buy the Goldberg Variations – one of the things that Vikingur Olafsson succeeded in making me do was decide I wanted to learn some of them, with what time I don’t actually know but hey, I can read them anyway. I also wanted to buy Un Sospiro by Liszt – I’ve seen a couple of videos of people trying to learn them lately and I realised it is a truly lovely piece (I must have heard some serious butchering as well. In fact, I have a shopping list of music I want to buy for which I don’t have the time to learn, I’m struggling with my current set pieces and also, there’s a monumental amount of other stuff going on.

So I walked to the shop, and spent money. They had one copy of Goldberg (it’s probably popular at the moment for one reason or another).

More sheet music
A pretty blue book of Bach music.

And I found one copy of the Three Concert Etudes which gave me Un Sospiro. I don’t expect to touch this for a while, but hey, it merits reading and occasional experimentation.

More sheet music
Mount Liszt

I came across a video of Helene Grimaud, aged about 18 years ago (so recorded on 4:3 TV back in the day) rehearsing the piano part of Schuman’s first violin sonata. I liked it and while I have no handy violinist, I still wanted to learn some of it. They had it, past tense because now I have it.

More sheet music
An essential ingredient is lacking but so what.

They also had some Barenreiter anniversary specials – both they and Henle seem to be celebrating birthdays at the moment – so I picked up their collection of selected Brahms pieces.

More sheet music
I like Brahms, don’t you

I tend to pick up collections like this for “sight reading practice” which usually turns into “oh this is a nice Waltz or other, I should actually learn it rather than butchering it for 10 minutes”. We will see how it goes.

A few weeks ago, I found a shop selling second hand sheet music and had a flick through it and found one single solitary copy of the Hummel piano concertos for solo piano. I haven’t examined it in detail, but I assume it is just the piano part and if I want to play it with an orchestra, I’m on my own babe. But it is a thing of beauty.

More sheet music
Elitist secret music

I mean, isn’t the engraving gorgeous? I have one copy of Solveig’s Song which is recent but also beautiful. Oh I know the Henle blue covers are classy and stylish and all that, but seriously, some of the older designs are just more…beautiful. I could almost frame either of them (and since I somehow have two copies of Solveig’s, I actually could frame that one).

Anyway, since I bought the Rameau a while back I’ve not actually worked on learning stuff. I just blew my mind on stuff I already knew or arranged myself when testing the piano emulation software last week. Need to get back to work.