Béla Bartók: Piano Sonata Sz. 80 (1926) Pianist – Zoltán Kocsis

Thanks to Derrick Robinson, for posting this Sonata by Bartok. I’d never heard it before, and it’s amazing to watch Kocsis from above.

Source: Béla Bartók: Piano Sonata Sz. 80 (1926) Pianist – Zoltán Kocsis

Letter from Paris – You will not have my hatred

A friend of mine in Paris sent this to me yesterday.  It’s already an internet meme, but I find it really powerful.

You will not have my hatred.
Friday night you took the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t want to know, you are dead to me. If this God for whom you kill blindly made us in his own image, each bullet in my wife’s body is a wound in his heart. Therefore, no, I won’t bother hating you. You have really tried to make me, but to respond to hate with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance which made you who you are. You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow citizens with suspicion, that I give up my liberty for security.

You lose!

This morning I saw her. Finally after days and night of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left home Friday night, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her 12 years ago. Of course I am devastated by grief, I’ll give you that little victory, but it will be short lived. I know that she will be with me every day and that we will meet again in a Heaven full of free souls to which you’ll never have access. There’s just the two of us, my son and me, but we’re stronger than all the weapons in the world. I have no time to spare for you, I must go to Melvil, who’s just waking from his nap. He’s scarcely 17 months old.  He’s going to eat his afternoon snack like every day, then we’re going to play just like we do every day and all his life my little boy will be happy and free despite you. Because you will not have his hatred either.”

“Vous n’aurez pas ma haine”
Vendredi soir vous avez volé la vie d’un être d’exception, l’amour de ma vie, la mère de mon fils mais vous n’aurez pas ma haine. Je ne sais pas qui vous êtes et je ne veux pas le savoir, vous êtes des âmes mortes. Si ce Dieu pour lequel vous tuez aveuglément nous a fait à son image, chaque balle dans le corps de ma femme aura été une blessure dans son coeur.
Alors non je ne vous ferai pas ce cadeau de vous haïr. Vous l’avez bien cherché pourtant mais répondre à la haine par la colère ce serait céder à la même ignorance qui a fait de vous ce que vous êtes. Vous voulez que j’aie peur, que je regarde mes concitoyens avec un oeil méfiant, que je sacrifie ma liberté pour la sécurité.
Je l’ai vue ce matin. Enfin, après des nuits et des jours d’attente. Elle était aussi belle que lorsqu’elle est partie ce vendredi soir, aussi belle que lorsque j’en suis tombé éperdument amoureux il y a plus de 12 ans. Bien sûr je suis dévasté par le chagrin, je vous concède cette petite victoire, mais elle sera de courte durée. Je sais qu’elle nous accompagnera chaque jour et que nous nous retrouverons dans ce paradis des âmes libres auquel vous n’aurez jamais accès.
Nous sommes deux, mon fils et moi, mais nous sommes plus fort que toutes les armées du monde. Je n’ai d’ailleurs pas plus de temps à vous consacrer, je dois rejoindre Melvil qui se réveille de sa sieste. Il a 17 mois à peine, il va manger son goûter comme tous les jours, puis nous allons jouer comme tous les jours et toute sa vie ce petit garçon vous fera l’affront d’être heureux et libre. Car non, vous n’aurez pas sa haine non plus.

Issach, Heinrich: “La Mora”

Today’s composer is Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450/1455–1517).

A contemporary of Josquin des Pres and Orlando de Lassus, Issac, though I’ve never heard of him until today, was a Flemish composer of international renown. He was a favorite in the court of Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, court composer of Emperor Maximilian I in Vienna and Innsbruck, and performed for Pope Leo X and even for Henry VIII of England. The Germans claim his as one of his own and he was incredibly prolific writing motets, masses, liturgical music and songs in Italian and French.

I kind of like this piece for solo lute, especially this performance as it provides a close up of a master’s fingers playing upon the instrument’s fair neck.

“la Mora” By Heinrich Isaac

The composer’s Wikipedia page Heinrich Isaac



James Ehnes Performs La Pucelle by Antonio Stradavari 1709 on a new blog I discovered.

Originally posted on Diana Cranstoun:

What a glorious morning!

There’s a lot I love about living in Downtown Calgary. This was the view that greeted me on my daily river walk this morning. Then, less than three hours later, I attended The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s open rehearsal of Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 in E Minor, and Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major K. 219.


I recently joined the Calgary Association for Lifelong Learners (CALL) and for the grand sum of $10, and from a prime seat, I was able to watch the full rehearsal for tonight’s performance. I’ve been to the CPO many times, but there was something very special about seeing the musicians in their jeans, t-shirts, hoodies and baseball hats, (rather than their usual funereal black) their mugs of Tim Horton’s coffee on the floor beside them, that brought a relaxed joy to the performance. Fascinating, too, to watch the musicians making notes on their sheet music throughout as the conductor tweaked things…

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Yo-Yo Ma Plays The Complete Cello Suites. Yes…all of them in one video.

This is a reblog of a wonderful 2+ hour performance at the Royal Albert Hall of these transcendant pieces. There’s about 5-10 minutes of interviews, but then it’s just Yo Yo and his axe. Sublime.

Source: Yo-Yo Ma Plays The Complete Cello Suites. Yes…all of them in one video.

Brahms, Dvorak, Mahler, the Byrds and Buddhas

There is a Theosophist saying (sometimes attributed to Buddha) that goes, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” The origin of the word Buddha means “to wake up” and people think of the Buddha as a great teacher. And what is a great teacher but someone who wakes you up? Why this is important to me is because, whenever I most needed it, a person has appeared in my life to either teach me or point me in the right direction. There have been three outstanding Buddha’s in my life.

In my junior year of high school, I became good friends with a classmate whose family was completely different from my own. They all listened to classical music, read The New Yorker, discussed classic works of literature, and studied languages. That’s where I first heard this Brahms trio:

They opened up a whole other world for me. I felt so uncultured in their presence that I devoted myself to turning myself into an “intellectual.” I read voraciously, bought tons of classical music, and studied the works of great artists.

This became a problem, though, when it came time to go to college. My three older brothers had gone to a state university that had good math and science programs and it was expected that I go there. What’s more my father was convinced that computer science was the wave of the future, so that’s what I declared as my major. I was profoundly unhappy. It seemed so dull compared to the world of art and literature I had come to love. That is when the first Buddha showed up.

One day after my biology class, the teacher singled me out from a lecture hall of over two hundred students and asked me to come to talk with him. He listened to me as I explained my dreams, ideas, and dissatisfaction. Then he told me that I had to look really hard into myself to find my true desires and then follow them. I was listening to a lot of Dvorak at the time.

At the end of the semester, I transferred to a liberal arts university and went on to major in French and then got a masters degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

That degree took me to Algeria in 1980, where I taught English at a technical institute. There I met another Buddha. The school provided me with an apartment, which I shared with a fellow ex-patriot from Michigan. He had lived there for several years and had figured out all the tricks to survive in a bureaucratic socialist country. He loved this Byrd’s album, which is a classic as it’s probably from the first country rock album.

From him, I learned how to be self sufficient, but he gave me another gift as well. One day, he told me that the Fulbright foundation was offering scholarships to do teacher training in English as a Second language in Italy. He knew of my love of Italian movies and told me to apply.

I applied–and won! For the next two years, I lived first in Naples and then in Rome and traveled extensively throughout the south of Italy. In Naples I met a woman, who was teaching English at the British council, whom I convinced to marry me. When my two years were over, we returned to the States and after getting another masters degree in educational technology, I ended up Washington, DC developing training programs in the late 1980s for a large development organization to teach people how to use an amazing new technology–email! I wonder if it was coincidence that I started listening to minimalist music like this piece by John Adams:

The organization had just started a fitness center.  After 10 years, I read an announcement in an email that came round about a new session of Tai Chi for beginners that would soon be starting. Something told me to go. There I met a remarkable man, master Quyen Tran, who had been teaching the class for some 10 years. Mr. Tran comes from Vietnam, and though one of the most important financial analysts at the our organization, he was a very humble and unassuming man. His teaching technique was as old as the hills–you follow a master, learn by doing, observing, and practicing. It is a type of teaching which has almost died out in the West, except in some of the trades. Once upon a time, this is how all knowledge was passed down. Not only is it a transfer of knowledge, it is the building of a relationship.

Around this time I discovered Mahler’s 3rd Symphony and this wonderful 4th movement, which both grounds me and elevates me at the same time:

It turns out that Tai Chi has been the one activity that has really brought the two parts of my being-mind and body–together. You must use your mind and body together, and you can’t focus on anything else. The more I practice it, the more I find an increased ability to concentrate, to let go of stress, to figure the right way to treat people and the right answers to the problems and challenges that life and work throw up.

I’ve been doing it now for 16 years and people who know me will tell you I sometimes backslide and get insanely stressed out. But where would I be if I hadn’t found these Buddhas who’ve pointed me the way along this wonderful journey called life?

Béla Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances

In the summer of 1979, I rented half a small house south of Indiana University’s school of education where most of my classes took place for my master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of English as a Second Language. It was a great university in so many ways–it offered almost every language, a world class department schools of psychology (think BF Skinner), comparative literature, medicine, film studies, and of course, music.

The school of education sat next to the school of music where you could the strains of students practicing their chops floated out of nearly every every window of the great, tall round music building that housed nothing but practice rooms.

Every night you could hear either a symphony performance, a senior, masters or doctoral recital and there were plenty of record stores (vinyl) where you could buy anything you wanted. Every dorm on campus had a library with an amazing collection of records as well, so any piece I heard on the radio or in concert could be found somewhere.

I can’t remember who introduced me to Béla Bartók, Romanian Dances, but I am so grateful for whoever did.  It touched a nerve, or perhaps I was genetically wired to love Hungarian music.

My dad’s parents had emigrated from Hungary in 1904. Every Sunday after church and dinner, my dad would turn on the local radio station, WSBT, which devoted an hour each to “The Polish Hour,” and “The Hungarian Hour.” The Poles played polkas and the Magyars played soaring, soulful “gypsy” melodies. The theme for the Hungarian Hour was a schmaltzy violin backed by an orchestra and cymbalon (a cousin of the hammered dulcimer).  You’ve heard this melody if you ever had a friend to whom you told a sad story and they said, “Pity Party,” and hummed a few notes of the melody while running their index finger over the thumb like a tiny violin.  I’d heard the song in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, I think, (thank you Carl Stalling), so I called up the radio announcer to ask what the name was.  He sounded surprised that anyone was calling to ask and in fact he didn’t know it, which I thought odd because, it was the theme song after all.  He took a moment to look it up and said it was called “You’re the Only Girl in the World For Me.” “What?” I thought. That’s so hackneyed.  Eventually I heard the melody pop up on the local classical radio station from Notre Dame University, and called that radio announcer.  He said it was Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen,” (Gypsy Airs), a piece which borrowed a few folk melodies from Franz Liszt‘s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13.

My father, when talking about famous Hungarians, would alway mention the Gabor sisters, Ernie Kovacs, and of course  Béla Bartók, so when I started really listening to classical music I was proud of my Magyar heritage and claimed him as my favorite composer.

The Romanian Folk Dances became and still are one of my favorite pieces of music by the composer.  What’s even more wonderful is that you can find many different versions of it for solo piano, violin, orchestra, among others, as well as the original field recordings Bartok made of folk songs from which he took the melodies for this work (and even a performance by Bartok himself at the keyboard.

Solo Piano (with Bartok playing)

Violin and Piano

Cello and Piano

Muzikas, Hungarian Folk Ensemble playing melodies of the Dances with Danube Philharmonia

Another version with piano and Muzikas Folk Ensemble

Which do you prefer?

For me, I really love the version at the top, which was released in 1979, and performed by I Musici:

I Musici

The the solo piano and violin are great, too. There’s one movement that’s really haunting with harmonics on the violin, that my friend David Hendrickson said was so piercing that whenever he listened to it he said if felt like someone was cleaning his ear with a Q-tip.

Since I posted the above, I found this original field recording that Bartok made in Romania.

It’s a amazing!


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