Monday, November 29, 2010

Stephen Blier, Song, and FSH

Justin Davidson's recent article on Steven Blier in New York Magazine sheds some light on one of New York's most famous vocal coaches. I particularly like his diet of one new song a day:
Today, he still tries to encounter at least one new song every day. YouTube helps. So do a network of advisers and his own meandering taste, which embraces pretty much anything that can be delivered effectively by a voice and a piano: Norwegian art songs, Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire,” Cuban ballads, Broadway tunes, zarzuela arias. What separates the ones that interest him from those that don’t is not style, but a nugget of emotional intensity. “A song is the closest thing I know in waking life to dreaming,” he says. “It’s a coded version of reality. It’s not like playing a scene from Chekhov, where you’re trying to look like you’re having a tea party or a nervous breakdown. Instead, you’re enacting a coded, ritualized version of that moment, and somehow everyone in the hall is dreaming along with you.”
What many people don`t realize is the difficulty with which Blier works because of Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, its progress confining him to a wheelchair.  Through it all, he works to bring to life the often-mistaken-for-dead art of the song recital and the singers who adore the genre. Here is Blier talking about his brainchild the New York Festival of Song:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Interview with Martin Katz

Last summer at SongFest in Malibu, iCadenza's Julia Torgovitskaya sat down for a 20-minute interview with Martin Katz, one of the world's premiere collaborative pianists. Here he is talking about his decision to go into the collaborative field, inspiring singers, preparing song repertoire, conducting, what makes a good vocal coach, and how technology can help or hinder us. In case you're not yet familiar with Katz's recent book, The Complete Collaborator: The Pianist as Partner is quickly emerging as the leading textbook about the collaborative piano profession.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The William Bastard Piano Trio

This is not a joke: an English composer by the name of William Bastard (no relation to William the Conqueror) published a piano trio in 1908. The score can be found below for free viewing and download:

W. Bastard - Piano Score - Trio (sol mineur) pour piano, violon et violoncelle. Op. 3. -

The Bastard Trio might pair well in recital with some piano works of Ludwig Schytte, who lived around the same time.

(Via Bob Silverman)

Update: there was a comment on Facebook as to a possible Norwegian birth under the name Ole Bastard, but I somehow doubt this.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy St. Cecilia's Day + Happy Birthday Benjamin Britten

November 22 is the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the birthday of Benjamin Britten (Thanks @mlaffs!), and W.H. Auden dedicated his poem "Anthem for St. Cecilia's Day" to Britten, who then set it for a capella choir as his Hymn to St. Cecilia. The video below (performed by the Cambridge Singers, conducted by John Rutter) shows the text throughout the work, which helps in engaging with the poetry. What starts out as a kind-hearted ode to the musician's muse ends up becoming a meditation on the horrific events unfolding in Europe at the time - Auden wrote the poem in 1940. What makes the composition of this work even more astonishing was that on his departure from the United States in 1942, the score was confiscated by customs officers. Britten then re-wrote the work in its entirety while on the boat back to England.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated Daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Measha Brueggergosman and Marc-André Hamelin Perform Wagner's Im Treibhaus

Im Treibhaus from the Wesendonck Lieder by Richard Wagner

Measha Brueggergosman, soprano
Marc-André Hamelin, piano

This video was recorded at the Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway last June. To have been in that audience must have been a pleasure indeed. The Risør Chamber Music Festival will be in residence at Carnegie Hall next month - you can find more information here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jumpstart Your New Opera Project With Tapestry's New Composer-Librettist Speed Dating Event On December 13

One of the hardest steps of the opera creation process is finding a composer/librettist partnership that really works. If you're an opera creator who hasn't previously been asked commissioned to write an opera or been accepted into a workshop or laboratory program, it can be downright challenging to find a creative partner with whom you will click, or even know where to find one.

That is about to change...

On December 13 at the Duke of York pub in Toronto's Annex, Tapestry New Opera Works will be presenting its first Composer-Librettist Speed Dating Event.

Basically a facilitated point of entry event for writers and composers who are eager to get the ball rolling on an operatic project, here's how it will work:
We have long referred to the special collaboration between a writer composer team as resembling a courtship. The first step in creating new relationships is the opportunity to meet new people. Using the structure of a speed dating Creative Artists in Workshop/networking event, this evening will be an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to a variety of writers or composers who are interested in the creation of new opera projects.

Come with an idea or project in mind or come with an openness to learn about new potential collaborations.
At the exploratory session for this program that Tapestry held in September, there was a lot of interest.  Therefore, you're going to need to register well ahead of time to ensure that you get a spot. To sign up for event, call Amber Ebert at 416.537.6066 x224 or email her at ambere [at] tapestrynewopera dot com.

An Interview With Armen Guzelimian

Armen Guzelimian is an exceptional pianist who has worked with many of the finest singers and instrumentalists in the world, as well as being a specialist in the field of contemporary music. Here he is in conversation with Julia Torgovitskaya from iCadenza:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maybe You Could Film Me While I Demonstrate This

iPhone 4 32GB Black + Bumper Black (Front)My latest article for Music Teacher's Helper looks at a simple but often overlooked technique for showing your students what you want: have them videotape you with their cell phones while you demonstrate. Try it - this really works. In several cases, it has helped my students to learn pieces quicker and with less errors than before.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Naxos Music Library is Now Available for all Toronto Public Library Patrons

I just found out this evening that all Toronto Public Library cardholders have free access to the full Naxos Music Library - the world's largest source of online streaming classical music. To take advantage of the service, all you need to do is visit the Toronto Public Library's Naxos Music Library Portal and log in with your library card number and PIN.


(Thanks, Sophie!)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Win 2 Free Tickets to See Alexander Ghindin Perform with Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi November 18 in Roy Thomson Hall

One of the coolest things about being a Collaborative Piano Blog reader is having the chance to win free stuff every few weeks, especially if you happen to live in the Toronto area. Here's the latest contest...

Liz Parker of LIZPR has in her awesomeness offered two free tickets to Thursday night's Roy Thomson Hall performance of Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi featuring the Toronto debut of Alexander Ghindin, the youngest-ever laureate of the Tchaikovsky Competition. You can find more info about the event on Facebook here and here.

To win a pair of tickets to Thursday night's concert, you need to answer the following question:

What's your favourite thing about Vladimir Spivakov?

Send Liz Parker an email (liz [at] lizpr dot com) with your answer to the question by 5pm on Wednesday, November 17, after which Liz will hold a draw for the winning submission and then contact the lucky winner of two free tickets to see Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi.

Good luck!

Update 11/17 5:26pm: Congratulations to Joan Heels, who has just won two tickets!

Music Ministry Links

The music ministry is a sector of the collaborative piano world which I have sadly neglected in these pages, so a huge thanks goes to Sarah Jones on Facebook for a heads-up about another excellent collaborative piano-oriented blog: Perspectives of a Church Accompanist. Laurie Iskat looks at important issues for the church pianist, including:

If you know of any other great music ministry sites and resources, tell us about them in the comments.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Call for Musicians: American Bach Soloists Academy from July 11-23, 2011

If you're interested in spending a few weeks in San Francisco learning about historically informed performance practice, you might want to take a look at the American Bach Soloists Academy, to be held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from July 11-23, 2011. Be sure to check out the application materials page if you're looking to apply. From the materials, it looks like students enrolled in the program will be working with a variety of faculty, but harpsichord specialists will be interested in working with Corey Jamason.

(Thanks, Maura!)

The 2011 WTO Aria Frequency List

Every year, Kim Witman posts a list of the most frequently heard arias from the Wolf Trap Opera audition tour. While the list is not a barometer of the most strategic arias to offer in auditions (which will differ for every single singer), it has proven invaluable for pianists in being able to gauge which arias one should learn in order to develop a complete operatic repertoire. The 2011 aria frequency list boasts its own page on the WTO site, with soprano and mezzo soprano results collated so far, and tenor, bass-baritone/bass, and countertenor lists to follow shortly. Stay tuned for updates when the rest of the aria inventory comes online...

Update 11/17 10:19pm: Kim Witman sends word that aria frequency lists for all of the voice types are now online in pdf format. This should be standard reference material for every collaborative piano studio, so download and print as soon as possible!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Giving Kids a Voice Through New Opera Creation

Every summer, Tapestry New Opera's INside Opera program runs an opera creation program for at-risk kids in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Toronto. This is no basic opera in the schools program - a composer and librettist on the creative team help the kids create, produce, and perform their own opera. The students themselves are able to take ownership of both the process and final product, with a bit of assistance from the composer/librettist team.

The following documentary was created by Juan Baquero at the 2009 INside Opera workshop, featuring the kids of City Hope in St. Jamestown. Joining Tapestry's Education and Outreach Director Amber Ebert are librettist Dave Deveau and composer Glenn James. The total running time of the documentary is around 30 minutes, but if you're interested in how a contemporary opera outreach program can create an unforgettable experience for at-risk kids, you won't be disappointed.

If you think that this program is important both for the kids of Toronto and the future of opera in Canada, here's a unique opportunity to help: Visit Tapestry's page on the Pepsi Refresh Project and vote twice a day so that the company can win $25,000 to go towards the program.

How To Be A Choral Accompanist

Laura Lowe has written a concise yet definitive guide to what choral accompanists need to prepare in order to be a pianist for your typical volunteer church choir (TVCC for short). Part I looks at how to prepare the vocal lines and Part II covers learning the piano part, working with a conductor, and finding trouble spots before the first rehearsal. Hopefully a third part is in the works...

How To Be A Choral Accompanist, Part I
How To Be A Choral Accompanist, Part II

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

Sunday, November 07, 2010

An Interview With Anna Goldsworthy, Part 1

One of the most notable new books about music this fall is Anna Goldsworthy's Piano Lessons: A Memoir, which not only tells the story of her own artistic development growing up in Australia, but is a celebration of a decades-long relationship with her teacher, Eleanor Sivan. Anna's successes and failures are all tempered through the lens of an extraordinary Russian teacher whose mission is to create a fully realized person as much as a first-rate pianist.

Earlier today I had the chance to meet Anna at Indigo Books in downtown Toronto. She gave an elegantly revelatory mini-recital (Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C# major from the WTC Book I, Chopin's Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2, and Liszt's Rigoletto Paraphrase), interspersed with readings from Piano Lessons. Afterwards, we had some time to chat, and Part 1 of our conversation is transcribed below:

Chris Foley: I noticed when you were playing that your performance of each composer's work had a clear stylistic integrity. Is that something that you learned from Eleanor Sivan?

Anna Goldsworthy: Yeah, I think that was in large part her teaching from an early age. Understanding the style through a physical understanding, but within that understanding, the individuality of each composer within that style because they don't all sound the same just because they were written at the same time. And within that even further, understanding that every piece by a certain composer is a different facet of that composer's experience and artistry and understanding the individuality of every single thing.

CF: How do you combine the whole spiritual journey of learning music and becoming an artist with the business of music?

Piano Lessons: A MemoirAG: The business of music can take up a lot of time - the organization of a career - and it's very easy, outbound, to become a professional emailer rather than a professional pianist. I've spent so much of my time drawing up engagements, it helps when you have a manager - my trio has a wonderful manager who now takes care of that, and I've got people who take care of the solo aspects of that for me too. My father said to me when I was quite young that the world's not going to beat a path to you. You actually have to go out there and make it happen. And I didn't quite believe it at the time. I sort of thought if you market a career it just naturally happens. But the reality is that in Australia it doesn't just naturally happen. You have to get out there and make it happen, and you have to knock on those doors.

One of the things about being a pianist in Australia is there isn't necessarily the heritage of that artistic culture. I mean, there is a good artistic heritage there, but not as much as there is in Europe or the United States. I'm not sure what it's like in Canada. But what that means for an Australian musician is you actually have to make your own opportunities. A cellist colleague of mine recently said to me "You have to make your own fun" and I think she's right. That can mean a lot of work and a lot of organization. But it can also mean a tremendous amount of freedom. So, I set up my National Trio Series four years ago, and it's wonderful. We own the series and we can do whatever we like with it since we invented it. And it's a huge amount of time generating the audience base. It's a very steep learning curve about publicity and marketing, organization and management, much of which we've now been able to pass to somebody else, but there's something wonderfully liberating about that too, and there's something quite creative knowing it's your baby and that you own it.

CF: And at the same time you're a writer. How do you fit the writing into the performing life?

AG: It's a challenge. I tend to operate without any particular pattern or design. If I have a deadline in one area or another it can change my life for that week. This year has been a very busy performing year for me. I've had a lot of concerts and the writing has taken a bit of a back seat. I'm hoping to get a bit more writing done when I get back home. By Christmas I won't have quite so many engagements.

But it is a constant juggling act. I also have a two-year-old son, and working out how to make the week work while I'm looking after him, trying to practice, trying to write, trying to run a music festival, and trying to teach is just a bit of a logistical nightmare. But every aspect of my life is so enriching that I'm loathe to give any of it away.

CF: How important was it for you, when you were younger, to have a mentor? In your case, it was Eleanor Sivan - what did she do for you as a mentor? How would you recommend that young pianists find a mentor?

AG: To answer the first part of your question - crucially important - I wouldn't be a pianist today if it wasn't for Mrs. Sivan. Her influence extended beyond that. I think she has really contributed to my philosophy of life as much as my philosophy of music. I think having a mentor outside your immediate family can be so stimulating for a young person, and very important. That's the beautiful thing about being a musician, is that we have these institutionalized relationships with teachers in a way that other fields of human endeavor don't necessarily have. I've felt it particularly since I've started writing - I don't have a really clear writing mentor in the sense that I had this really strong musical mentor.

How do you find a mentor? In my case, it was sheer luck - my grandfather found her for me. He was a district superintendent in education and he chanced upon her teaching one day, and he told her she had to become my teacher, and told my dad she had to become my teacher too. I was fortunate in that way. For another young person, I suppose you find out who's around. I think you do need to have a certain chemistry with a mentor for it to work. These relationships can often be very hard work. It was very difficult for me when I was nine particularly, to try to understand that she had an extraordinary will that would take some getting used to.

CF: Do you teach as well?

AG: I do. I teach at the University of Melbourne two days a week, and I have some terrific students. But it's tremendously time-consuming and tremendously energy-consuming but it also makes you that much of a better player They're really wonderful, full of energy and curiosity, and eager to learn.

CF: Mrs. Sivan wasn't just a teacher that taught skills. She also taught the whole spiritual and cultural journey as an artist. How important is it for teachers to know that, and to be able to pass that on these days?

AG: I think it's really important because those areas, particularly areas in which modern society can be a little deficient. It's really difficult for a young person to be immersed in themselves in the physical act of music without examining why they're doing it, what they're trying to communicate through music.Technique is important, obviously. You can't neglect technique. And technique is a large part of my studies as well, but always as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. It's very easy to turn music into a sport, and almost fetishize technique, to become addicted to competitions, which is one of the things that competitions can engender, this fixation on playing louder and faster and more accurately. And of course we need to be able to do all of those things, but only at the service of art. That's a dimension of something she imparted to me at an early age, and it's something I really do try to convey to my students. Some of them are quite receptive to this idea. Others I can see their eyes glaze over, and they sort of think, cut to the chase, show me how I'm going to play that Bach piece. But it's something that I hope even those particular students will come to as they mature.

CF: What do you think musicians can get out of your book? What are the takeaways?

AG: It depends on the person. A number of musicians have said to me it really resonated with them, and really spoke to their own coming of age as musicians.

CF: I got the feeling when I was reading it, I was like, oh my god, that happened to me, that same thing happened to me.

AG: Yeah. And so to articulate that particular aspect of human experience, which hasn't really been explored that much in literature before, I think a lot of musicians have really responded to that. Mrs. Sivan's teaching is so profound, and so wise, and so idiosyncratic, that although many musicians, I'm sure, have arrived at similar realizations, I think there's something quite striking about encountering them in her very distinctive voice, too.

CF: She was able to articulate that very bluntly, and really got to the heart of the matter.

AG:Yeah, I think so, and, it's an interesting thing because I conveyed her through my book using her own fragmented English - her English is not perfect by any means. At times I questioned whether I should be doing that or whether I should be converting her voice into something smoother and more polished, more correct. But actually, in some sort of strange way, there's a particular poetry to her voice that got lost if I tried to do that. The analogies she reaches for are so wild and so surprising, and the way she put language together can be so startling and unique, that I didn't want to lose that. There's also a beautiful rhythm, a beautiful rhetoric in the way she constructs sentences, which I feel is particularly musical.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our conversation in the next few days...

The Collaborative Piano Blog is 5

In early November 2005, my schedule had an odd anomaly in it: almost a week with no rehearsals or concerts. This ended up being the perfect time to collect some handouts, writings, and compilations I had previously used for classes and workshops on collaborative piano and republish them as a blog project. Little did I know that over the next five years, this project would take over my life and develop a huge membership to become one of the world's largest blogs on the art of the piano, classical music, and music education.

As my schedule gets busier, I find it harder to have the emotional space to write articles and spend quality writing time. Nevertheless, so many of the opportunities that have presented themselves to me over the last few years have come about either directly or indirectly from this blog, so I'm always thinking of ways that I can continue the kind of content that has above all helped to expand the scope and prominence of the collaborative piano profession. In the next while, I will be starting a slightly new direction in the blog: interviews. At the Bay Street Indigo, I will be talking with Anna Goldsworthy about her Piano Lessons: A Memoir. Stay tuned for the full interview in the coming days.

I would also like to thank everyone who has supported and advised the direction of the Collaborative Piano Blog over the years, including Kim Witman (whose blog was the very first to link here), Jean Barr, Rena Sharon, Jan Grimes, Allison Gagnon, Ken Griffiths, and Margo Garrett. A huge thank also goes out to regular readers, including those who keep up via Facebook, Twitter, RSS feed, email subscription or visit the site directly. I'm also humbled by the sheer volume of traffic: over 500,000 page views, over 254,000 visits, 1185 RSS subscribers, and 1288 fans on Facebook. Thanks for your support and I look forward to the next five years on the Collaborative Piano Blog!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Top 20 Classical Music Blogs for November 2010

Here are the top 20 classical music blogs for November 2010, courtesy of Wikio's blog-ranking algorithm:

1.Nico Muhly
2.Clef Notes
4.Opera Today
5.Proper Discord
6.The Opera Tattler
7.The Stark Raving Cello Blog
9.A Beast in a Jungle
10.Musical Assumptions
11.The Collaborative Piano Blog
13.Opera Chic
14.Andrew Patner: The View from Here
18.Jason Heath's Double Bass Blog
19.Prairie Oboe Companion

You can also take a look at the complete classical music listings made available by Wikio. The November rankings should be up on the Wikio site in a couple of days.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

All Souls' Day: Richard Strauss' Allerseelen

Many poets tend to create narrators who initially have trouble showing the extent of their feelings. It's only through the process of moving through the poem that we really get to the heart of the narrator's true emotions. Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg is no exception. In his Allerseelen poem, the poet begins by describing the ritual of arranging flowers on a table. By the second stanza, we sense the presence of the one he has lost, and by the third, we realize that he has set aside this one day out of the year as a time in which he gives himself permission to grieve, to feel the enormity of the loss he has suffered. One gets the sense that we are let into an ongoing personal ritual, a ritual that has been going on for some time, and one which will be repeated many more times. You can read the full text and translation here; it's also worth taking a look at the Wikipedia article on All Souls' Day.

I must admit I had a bit of a difficult time finding a YouTube recording of Richard Strauss' Allerseelen that I actually liked. Many performances seemed terribly overwrought, and not without ensemble issues on the first page. I finally settled on Jessye Norman's recording with Geoffrey Parsons, which I admire for its honesty and simplicity.