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BOOM'S DUNGEON
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A hatchet-wielding man who attacked two police officers in New York City before he was shot to death was likely “just an angry guy” ...  a police source told ABC News.


And I thought "just an angry guy" is an expression suitable as a tagline for a Robin Williams comedy...




5 months ago | |
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Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen
(Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.)
Ludwig Wittgenstein,  Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung (Tractatus Logico-Philosopicus)


Adding new posts to one's blog is like flossing, in that both activities make sense only if performed with some regularity.  Alas, a blogger cannot expect anything like regularity when it comes to having something worthwhile (interesting, meaningful) to say.  Which is why there are no genuinely Wittgensteinian bloggers.  As soon as they pop into existence, their blogs begin to fade into intervals of silence which stretch asymptotically to infinity, sort of like the ever slower ticking of a clock approaching the event horizon of a black hole.

Good thing I never took Wittgenstein's Tractatus seriously.  This, of course, doesn't make me special since neither did anyone else except for a few plodding souls who made up the so-called Vienna Circle in the late 1920s.  Still, as a blogger I thought it is time I certify my anti-Wittgensteinian stance by adding a post in which I have absolutely nothing worthwhile to say.
6 months ago | |
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Three more live (and superbly engineered) recordings by Ran Dank which document previously unavailable to me performances of this remarkable pianist at the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition.  (Dank was 25 at the time and was awarded the 4th prize.)  With one exception his playing in these selections shows the already familiar blend of musical intelligence, impeccable technique, and a glowing golden tone.  The exception is Dank's playing of the last four notes in the 3rd bar of the Adagio from Mozart's sonata K.570 (and in the repeats of the opening theme).
     Although in the score (2006 Mozarteum Salzburg edition) these four notes are marked staccato:


some pianists (e.g., Horszowski, 1983 Aldeburgh) all but ignore these markings and do nothing to set these notes apart from the rest of the musical line.  Others (e.g., Barenboim, Arrau) play these notes as very moderately detached, which gives them just a hint of "kinkiness" but no more than that.  Still others (e.g., Uchida) play these notes just short of genuine staccato, which brings that part of the musical line close to sounding annoyingly coy.  Dank, however, plays these three notes staccatissimo (extremely detached) which makes the musical line sound simply freakish (or Gouldian, which is the same thing when it comes to Mozart sonatas).  Having listened to Dank's performance several times already (the playing in the rest of the sonata is beautifully voiced and stylishly phrased without a trace of annoying Mozartean precociousness), I am still jarred by these four notes and may never come to terms with what I hear as a very rare lapse of aesthetic judgment on Dank's part.

Having vented my isolated disappointment, I still think these recordings - which, in addition to Mozart's sonata, include Debussy's Etudes Book 1 and Boulez' Notations (the latter can be compared with Dank's 2009 performance at the Van Cliburn Competition available in the same folder) - are very much worth hearing for the beauty of Dank's musicianship and instrumental craft.

7 months ago | |
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The seemingly unanimous critical praise lavished on this pianist's recitals and recordings year after year often borders on adulation, with the playing typically described as "majestic", "arresting", "compelling", or "engrossing".

The present recording of this pianist is live and unedited, and it documents a part of the pianist's performance at one of the well-known summer music festivals.  The pieces - Bach transcriptions by Busoni, Kempf, and Hess - are technically undemanding (so there is no need to worry about whether the pianist might have had an off night on that occasion), and the quality of recorded sound is superb (which takes away the worry that the pianist's tone may be misrepresented by substandard sonics).

I'm curious to know if the pianophiles who visit this blog will incline to agree with the critical majority after having heard this recording.   Tell me what you think in a comment, and if you happen to recognize the pianist, please keep it to yourself for a little while.  I will reveal the pianist's identity a bit later.


7 months ago | |
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German-trained South Korean pianist William Youn won the 3rd prize at the 2009 Cleveland International Piano Competition.  All to the better, given the usually perverse rankings in such competitions.  After all, the list of pianists who failed to win First Prize in Cleveland over the years includes Jean-Yves Thibadeaut (2nd, 1979), Angela Hewitt (3rd, 1979), Nicholas Angelich (2nd, 1989), and  Gilles Vonsattel (4th, 2001) - all familiar names, and all still very much before the public.  By contrast, the only First Prize winner likely to be well-known to pianophiles is Sergei Babayan (1989), and his reputation is primarily that of a much sought-after teacher rather than a concert performer.  As for many others - well, if you never heard a concert or a recording by, say, Edward Newman, you may find comfort in the fact that Newman won the 1st prize in Cleveland in the same year when Thibaudet and Hewitt were judged by the jury to be lesser artists at the keyboard.

Youn's career seems to have developed nicely since his 2009 Cleveland gig, with several CDs recorded for the Oehms and Ars labels and a busy concertizing schedule in Europe.  I would expect at least this much on the basis of his superbly played (and excellently engineered) live and unedited recordings from Cleveland.  In some of these performances Youn' pianism reminded me of Till Fellner, although Youn's playing is less cerebral and a bit more emphatic than Fellner's.  In a wide ranging repertoire of Scarlatti, Haydn, Faure, Liszt, Brahms, and Schumann, Youn's immaculate finger technique and coolly elegant phrasing are completely immune not only to the stress of a public performance, but a public performance before a competition jury. 


7 months ago | |
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In describing Mahler's 9th Symphony - not a particular performance of it, but the composition itself - Anthony Tommasini informs us that this work "begins and ends with slow movements of nearly 30 minutes each."*
      Without imposing extravagant interpretations on the meaning of familiar English words, I take it for granted that any event lasting 25 minutes or less cannot be meaningfully  described as being "nearly 30 minutes".  (It is an arithmetical fact that 25 is as near to 20 as it is to 30.)  Which brings me to the shocking discovery - thanks to Dr. Tommasini - that some of our cherished recorded live performances of Mahler's 9th are actually examples of musical fraud because their timings (in the last movement) make it impossible for them to qualify as performances of Mahler's music: 

Bruno Walter & Vienna Philharmonic (1938): 18 min 12 sec
George Szell & Cleveland Orchestra (1969): 21 min 30 sec
Otto Klemperer & Vienna Philharmonic (1968): 24 min 11 sec

Of course, some may object to the charges of musical fraud against these three conductors by pointing out that two of them (Walter, Klemperer) were Mahler's friends and disciples, while the third (Szell) was already a young performing conductor and pianist in Vienna when Mahler was still alive.   Alas, this feeble attempt to protect the reputation of the above maestros is laughably unconvincing.  After all, when it comes to how long a movement of a Mahler symphony must last, who would you believe: some baton-waving Mahler's pals who probably didn't even have college degrees, or chief music critic for the New York Times who has a doctorate in music?

___________________
* Tommasini, A., "Mahler's Haunting Ruminations at the Abyss", New York Times, June 6, 2008, italics mine.

9 months ago | |
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Lorin Maazel's music making was not to all tastes, but I've always admired the unique sound he obtained from just about any orchestra he conducted: lucid, detailed, exquisitely balanced across all orchestral sections, and always coolly elegant.  No better way to honor the memory of this great musician than to offer a few of his live broadcasts recorded during his tenure with the New York Philharmonic.

DEBUSSY: Iberia; Jeux
LUTOSLAWSKI: Chain II (with Jennifer Koh, violin)
TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet
R. STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel


9 months ago | |
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When two or more mathematicians, working collaboratively or independently, make essential contributions to solving a particular mathematical problem, the result is traditionally given a hyphenated name, such as the Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser theorem in dynamical systems theory, or the Fokker-Planck equation in statistical mechanics. 
     I wonder what would have happened to this naming tradition if the German-American mathematician Jürgen Moser and the Dutch mathematical physicist Adriaan Fokker had proved the same important theorem.  Just put yourself in the shoes of a mathematics professor who has to announce to his class:
Today we will be discussing  the Moser-Fokker theorem.


9 months ago | |
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In a recent article from The Telegraph, Victoria Scott, a British woman living in Qatar, describes various worthwhile things one can do to feel more at home in that tiny country.  One of such things (italics mine) is to

... watch the Qatar Philharmonic play.
I expect that after Ms Scott gets to live in a few more places around the world, she will suggest for us to

smell the Bolshoi Ballet while in Moscow, listen to Rothko paintings while in Houston, andtaste the pyramids while in Egypt.
In the mean time, congratulations to The Telegraph (founded in 1855) on filling their editorial positions with hopeless cultural retards...


10 months ago | |
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For a woman who plays not a note of contemporary music in her public recitals, what does this publicity photo supposedly promise to those who pay to hear Khatia Buniatishvili play the numbingly familiar works of Liszt, Chopin, and Schumann?  A sensuous massage backstage during the intermission?  A slow striptease to accompany the dying away of final notes in Schumann's Fantasy Op.17?   Or is it simply a desperate attempt to divert everyone's attention from the fact that Khatia has never been able to give a clean execution of a single technically demanding piece in her repertoire (at least not in the dozens of live recordings I've heard before giving up on this pianist)?


11 months ago | |
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