Great Performances

Practice Tip: Don't Bite of More than You can Chew

This week, I have the immense honour of playing on the Steinway CD 503 grand that legendary pianist Vladmir Horowitz played on. I just found out this morning that there were still openings, so I snagged some practice time. That gives me less than 24 hours to throw something together that would be worthy to play on such an instrument. That brings me to my point: don't bite off more than you can chew. I've dusted off Mozart's Sonata in C, K. 545 from last year. I just have to focus on trouble spots as the rest is holding together fine.

I am torn. I'd like to play Chopin on it. I may still. Debussy is on the short list as it doesn't take me long to get any of my ol' Debussy preludes under my fingers. We'll see if I can resurrect a Chopin Nocturne. No guarantees.

And in honour of VC3.0's big weekend coming up, I should toss in a bit of Eric Whitacre's Seal Lullaby. The moral of the story is: when you don't have a lot of time, stick to what is actually do-able in the time you have to prepare. I leave you with a performance by Vladmir Horowitz:

World Music Exploration - Anoushka Shankar

After a whirlwind Easter Break, my students and I return to lessons this week (the final leg before June). This month, I am whisking them away - musically - to India.

The sitar weaves an exotic melody against the backdrop of the tabla. Our featured artist, Anoushka Shankar, is considered a leading figure in World Music today. Her early music training was in Indian classical music, under the tutelage of her father Ravi Shankar.  Shankar is a composer as well, exploring crossover music, e.g. Indian music and flamenco or electronica. A Grammy nominee, she was the first Indian woman to perform at the Grammy Awards (2006). Anoushka Shankar is also the first female (and the youngest) to receive a House of Commons Shield from the British House of Parliament (1999).

Check out more of Anoushka Shankar's music here:

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploation - Spanish Jazz-Fussion

I had to call for assistance for this week's selections. Special thanks to Luma Zuri, one of my friends from Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 3.0, for introducing us to the music of Bebo Valdes and Diego El Cigala.
Bebo Valdes is a Grammy winning Afro-Cuban pianist, composer and arranger. Diego El Cigala is a Grammy-nominated cantaor (flamenco singer).
Their music is a fussion of jazz and flamenco. Listen carefully to the rhythm section (piano, drums and bass). Their grooves combine flamenco and Afro-Cuban rhythms. The harmonies are typical of music both flamenco and jazz (love those "blues" intervals). The piano and drum licks? Pure jazz.
This is "Lagrimas Negros" ("Black Tears"), which is one of Luma's faves. I just love that piano intro.
This is another one of their collaborations - "Obsesion". I love how the music builds, layer by layer:
I don't know about you, but thanks to Luma, I need to add Valdes and El Cigala's music to my music collection. You can explore more of Bebo Valdes music here:

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - Fandango by Antonio Soler

The first time I heard the music of Soler was at the Honens International Piano Competition. The sonata reminded me a bit of Domenico Scarlatti's music.Years later, I learned his Sonata in c# minor, which was a lot of fun:
This week, I'm introducing Padre Antonio Soler to my students. This Spanish (more specifically, Catalan) priest and composer lived  from 1729 - 1783. He is best known for his 120 keyboard sonatas. Soler also composed chamber music, organ concerti and liturgical music.
My ears did not deceive me all those years ago. There is also a Scarlatti connection. Soler was a pupil of Scarlatti.
Here is the clip I'm sharing with my students. The harpsichordist is Mayako Sone from Japan:
The fandango is a Spanish dance. It's a spirited dance in triple meter, usually played on guitar and castanets. It can be sung as well.
If you're up for a challenge, you can get your sheet music for Fandango here:
Fandango look inside Fandango By P. Antonio Soler. Edited by Samuel Rubio. For Piano. Music Sales America. Baroque. 28 pages. Union Musical Ediciones #UMP21604. Published by Union Musical Ediciones (HL.14030574)...more info
Isn't that harpsichord beautiful?(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM). All rights reserved.

Great Performances - Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

Maestro and I enjoyed watching "Tony Bennett: Duets II" on KSPS the other day. Well, he watched, I worked and listened. I've always enjoyed Tony Bennett's music and have been meaning to buy "Duets" and "Duets II".
There were so many great performances but this one stood out: Tony Bennett's duet with Lady Gaga. They sang the Rodgers-Hart classic "The Lady is a Tramp". Tony was in fine form (as expected). However, it was Lady Gaga who took me by surprise.I think this was a case where Malcolm Gladwell's Blink logic  came to play. I look at Lady Gaga and expect a certain sound, based on what she's wearing. I was expecting a strong pop performance, coupled with an outrageous outfit.
In this case, my eyes were staring at my computer monitor. When I heard Lady Gaga's opening notes, I was floored. I didn't expect her to scat and groove with Tony like she's been singing like that. Her tone, her style, her ease and sense of fun in this number completely took me by surprise.


I got to appreciate her performance for what it was: fresh, fun and polished. Then I looked up and saw the turquoise hair and that elegant dress, which matched the heart of this song to a tee.
Good. Had I looked at her first and then heard her, I would have the image of her wearing that raw meat outfit stuck in my brain. My stomach would have roiled and I would not have enjoyed her performance quite so much.

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - Spanish Flamenco

This month, we are exploring the music and culture of Spain. I have some relatives there whom I hope to visit someday.
Flamenco music is very old. Some pundits believe the style "evolved out of a mixture of early Byzantine, Arab, Jewish and Gypsy cultures in Andalucía". That makes sense historically, considering some of the cultures Spain traded with (or conquered).
You only have to listen/watch a few bars to see how rhythmically and technically challenging it is. This type of traditional Spanish music is played by guitar and castanets. And I understand that the cajón is used as well. [Learn more about the cajón on my other blog.]

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.