December 2008


December 31, 2008 07:07

I'm looking out my window at a bleak, gray day.  The bare branches and even tree trunks are blown wildly by a cold  wind.  I hear its roar. The bleakness outside finds its counterpart within me.  I'm far from where I want to be in my life.  I haven't achieved many of my own goals. 

I've hung up a little reading matter by my desk to help me when I get in a mood like this.  It is by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

To laugh often, to win the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

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December 25, 2008 09:21


I wish everyone peace during this holiday season and in the future.

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December 22, 2008 05:07

It's about 6:45 AM.  I am sitting at my computer, having just finished my lesson plans and done my best to figure out all the changes in my student's schedules this week.  A cold wind is seeping through the window behind my computer, so I've got a warm scarf wrapped around my neck.  I've just finished drinking my second cup of coffee from a lovely, handmade ceramic coffee cup.  I'm watching the sky get light now.  I feel completely relaxed.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's the lingering warmth and fun of the holiday jam party I went to yesterday.  I think it's really because we've just passed the winter solstice.  It's a time I look forward to each year because the days get longer and I feel that better times are coming. 

I'd like to share my peaceful feelings with my friends at by sharing some music, of course.  The Bach-Gounod Ave Maria plays along well with my mood just now.  I searched youtube for a performance that resonates within me, and I found this one by Celtic Woman.  The singer has an incredibly beautiful voice.



I wish you all peace.

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Happy Beethoven's Birthday

December 16, 2008 05:51

Today is the 238th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.  What better way to celebrate than to listen to recordings of his music by virtuoso performers?



We have often discussed on this site the importance of introducing and explaining classical music to the general public in a way that generates enjoyment and support.  Rachel Barton, a gifted raconteur as well as a gifted violinist, has done this beautifully with Beethoven's Kreutzer sonata for violin and piano.


You can hear her play the second movement of this piece in the following two clips.




The following clip of Nathan Milstein playing the third movement of this sonata has very good closeups of Milstein's left hand and some of his bowing hand.



Here are two clips of great twentieth century violinists with audio but no video.

First, David Oistrakh plays the first movement of the Kreutzer sonata.



Finally, Jascha Heifetz plays the first and second movements of the sonata.



I find it interesting that each of these virtuosos has his or her unique sound when playing the same sonata.  I could listen to them over and over all day.  That would be a great way to celebrate Beethoven's birthday.

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Musical Black Friday

December 10, 2008 22:00

The day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday, is the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S.  This year, I read that the biggest price wars this holiday season would be online.  To me, that means one thing: buying CDs / mp3s on I logged on to and saw a big black box with white letters that said "Black Friday." Their catalog was broken down into categories for browsing, and I clicked first, under genre, classical, and then, under price, the lowest option ($6.99 and under). Here I found my first real bargain:  The Nutcracker Suite and Excerpts from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, for only USD $2.90. This put me in the mood for Russian Romantics, and I was happy when I saw Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The CD cover looked very familiar, so I looked through my own CDs, and there it was. I went back to my online search and found another Russian Romantic album, Scherezade, Capriccio Espagnole, Russian Easter Overture. I love it. I grew up listening to these pieces and even played some of them. The community orchestra I was in during my high school years played Scherezade. The concertmaster, who was my violin teacher, played the solo violin parts in this piece, so I have a strong emotional connection with the music. I rarely hear any of the pieces on this recording now. I think classical music has fashions which come and go, just like clothing.

I've recently become interested in chamber music, not just string quartets, but other combinations of instruments, too.  I've discovered that I love chamber music by Brahms. I found a recording called Brahms: Cello Sonatas, played by Jacqueline du Pre and Daniel Barenboim. It was remastered from a recording made long ago, when they were both young, attractive, talented, active, and romantic. The marriage of “Jackie” and “Danny” was awesome to classical music lovers. I found this recording of cello sonatas awesome, too.

Now for something different: I wandered into the section of jazz recordings. I've always liked Miles Davis, so I explored some of his recordings. I already have one of his “definitive” recordings -- Kind of Blue. I found another one, Blue Moods, which I liked much better. The last track, Easy Living, sounded quite well suited for the violin. That’s strange. I never thought that the trumpet and the violin have similar voices. I searched youtube for a performance of this piece on the violin, but I didn't find any. Every time I listen to this piece, I react the same way. I can hear it in my head as a violin piece. I'm going to try playing along with my violin and see how it goes. I hesitated before buying this because the whole recording is only 27 minutes long. I read some of the customer reviews, and they said that the music was so good that it was a good buy even though it’s short. I heartily agree.

For years, I didn’t like Glenn Gould, and I realized that I was probably the only one in the world who felt that way. Now I decided to listen to him play Bach again. Wow! He was fantastic. I listened to him play Bach's The Art of Fugue, Fugues 1-9. Bach never finished this work, but he left sketches of it which have been arranged and played by many soloists and ensembles. The version that I have been listening to is by the Juilliard String Quartet (Bach – Die Kunst Der Fuge, Vol. 1) and it is vastly different from Glenn Gould’s version, which is comparatively light and happy. It sounds to me as though it has wide open spaces with sunlight shining through. I decided to investigate Glenn Gould more. I found "Glenn Gould, Bach Partitas 1-3 and listened. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Hilary Hahn has said that Bach, more than any other composer, leaves room for the performer(s) to put something uniquely personal into the music. I think this is the best way to describe Glenn Gould’s performance. It is like nothing else.

My great musical splurge on Black Friday cost me a little less than $40 and brought me priceless music, which I can listen to over and over again. I think that’s a splendid deal.

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