Monday 17 December 2012

My kinetic painting to Cantus Arcticus now on YouTube

My kinetic painting to Cantus Arcticus now on YouTube

With all good wishes for Happy Holidays, here’s a little present to help you slow down and relax with music and nature. A rehearsal of kinetic painting in my studio for a performance of Cantus Arcticus (Concerto for birds and orchestra), by the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. This first rehearsal (with a CD) was later improved - the concerts were definitely better - but this gives a good impression.

The concerts with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra were two of my most memorable. The three movements are linked with the sounds of birds, recorded near the Arctic Circle: The bog, Melancholy, Swans migrating. Oh yes, turn the sound up – it starts very softly. Enjoy!

In case you missed them, I posted two blogs about my preparations for his work and the performances, on 9th and 21st October. 

Here’s the YouTube link:

Thursday 13 December 2012

Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the modern colours of Debussy

Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the modern colours of Debussy.

The programme Piano Colours that I have been touring with Pierre-Laurent Aimard (painting kinetic images to Liszt, Scriabin, Murail and Benjamin) consists of a beautiful juxtaposition of these works with the Préludes of Debussy. Demonstrating what a crucial figure Debussy was in the transition to the modern era in Western music and “modern” his works can sound.

Debussy doesn’t need illustrating (he hated being termed an “impressionist”). That label may have originated from the titles of many of his works (the Sunken Cathedral, Footprints in the Snow, Fireworks, etc.), which get us straining to “glimpse” vague visual “impressions” in the music. In doing so we may forget to listen to him as a modern abstract colourist.   

In a letter of 1908, he wrote: "I am trying to do 'something different'— an effect of reality...what the imbeciles call 'impressionism'”. How different? What did he mean? Cue Thea Derks…..

As part of her excellent "Quick-start" course on contemporary music, music publicist Thea Derks will show how Debussy was the father of the French music of 20th and 21st century (at 18.45), preceding a performance by Pierre-Laurent Aimard of all 24 of Debussy’s Préludes, in the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw at 20.15 on January 11th. PLA's Préludes are sublime. Thea’s good, too!

An alert for all my Dutch readers: Book now for the course and concert!

                                 Photo: Marco Borggreve

Pierre-Laurent Aimard's recording of Debussy Préludes has just been nominated for a Japanese Record Academy Award.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

 Saddened by the passing of the great sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar.

This is a sad day. My vivid memories of Ravi Shankar go back to the late seventies at the Yehudi Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, where I made half a dozen paintings of this remarkable musical friendship, during rehearsals for those East meets West concerts. Yehudi and the phenomenal tabla player Alla Rakhar, who provided the rhythms for my carpet, have also passed on. Read more about this creative process on Bob Singelton's blog Overgrown Path.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Piano Colours in Salzburg

Piano Colours in Salzburg.

                 “I saw whole worlds being created and destroyed”

Gentle snowflakes were falling onto the groups of Russian tourists, as they weaved their way past the kitschy Salzburg Christmas cribs, chocolate “Mozart-kugel”, and stalls with gluhwein and hot-dogs. But pushing through the crowds, I had other things on my mind last Friday - under pressure to get the show (Piano Colours) on the road. It was an unreal feeling to suddenly see my name in lights (finally, ha, ha!), projected onto the Mozarteum wall for the Dialoge festival. 
Set-up the gear, one rehearsal with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, then another surprise. The amazing piano technician Stefan Knüpfer, now famous from the film Pianomania, bounded on to the stage to uncrate a brand-new complete inner mechanism for the Steinway that Pierre-Laurent was going to play in our recital. Stefan slid one set out and the new one in with the skill of a heart transplant surgeon. A casual request to Pierre-Laurent to please be gentle with it. But P-L immediately launched into the loudest fortissimo and the gentlest pianissimo he can create, smiling like a schoolboy with a new toy. These guys are like brothers, planning their choice of the right Steinway and exactly the appropriate sound for each programme. Stefan will make it available. Just back from his Asian tour, P-L later joked over a fabulous dinner at Hotel Sacher that at one location he was billed, not so much as a pianist, but as “starring in the film” Pianomania!

Our duo recital went better than ever and a warmly appreciative Salzburg audience brought us back for four curtain calls. Following our practice, we then had a 30 min. “dialogue” with the audience. I had just discovered that the composer Tristan Murail was in the audience and yes (phew!) he “adored” what I had done with his work “Cloches d’adieu…. in memoriam Olivier Messiaen”. One visitor said that the purple globe, floating alone in black to the final chord, gave him an intense nostalgia and awareness of our fragile planet.

During the weekend, it was lovely to be stopped in the corridors by smiling people telling me: “I was there…. thank you!”.

One fan travelled six hours by train through Germany to attend this concert. Here are some of her comments. "The collaboration of these great musical and visual artists is mind-expanding in all directions. It's impossible to find the right words for this, as the mind played only one part in the perceptive process. I saw whole worlds being created and destroyed. Microcosms, planetary systems and a whole range of emotions passed through me in a visceral way. I was sitting close enough to the piano to feel the vibration of the sound. Then finally, the projectors were switched to black and I was falling into the dark, shrunk to atomic size, falling into a big black nothing. I definitely have to see/hear/feel Piano Colours again."  Even though it sounds traumatic, I know she found it therapeutic!