I am again watching the Cliburn live webcasts. So interesting and captivating and, yes, addictive! I’m enamored with some of the musicians. Distracted by one (and if you are watching it too you probably know exactly who I’m talking about!).

So now I’m pondering how we listen. When we listen to an anonymous recording all we have is the music. Nothing more. We don’t even have to know who the players are. We can “merely” focus on the music making. If I do know who is playing, I might be visualizing the musician(s), but I’m obviously only using my past memories and who knows if the player is really doing what I’m picturing. But still, that may influence how and what I hear.

But listening and watching is another thing entirely. I believe I hear differently. If someone looks uncomfortable, I’ll hear the work with some discomfort. If someone is doing bizarre things with his (or her) eyebrows, mouth or other body parts I’m going to be distracted and possibly even annoyed. If someone’s hair is stuck to her lips, I am distracted (and in the case of a wind player, I’m concerned!). I can sometimes see what looks to be fear, or anger, or even boredom. (And yes, of course I could be misreading, but I’m fairly good at reading faces.)

I think at least one of the Cliburn players deliberately makes the most bizarre facial expressions. Perhaps he thinks he looks more musical that way? But truly, he needs to watch a video and see if it’s working for him. It’s off putting for me. I finally stopped looking and only listened. Unfortunately he’s also very much a showman and note accuracy was less important than the wildness he was trying to pull off. (It was interesting to read some of the comments at the Cliburn blog, and see that some of the writers — some of whom appear to be performing pianists — think that one doesn’t always need to play the correct notes.)

Another player, and this one clearly can’t remain unnamed since you’d figure it out immediately, is blind. Obviously everyone who is following the competition knows I’m writing of Nobuyuki Tsujii. Do I hear him differently because I’m so moved by his story and by the joy I see on his face when he is taking his bows? I’m guessing so. I know one reader here didn’t care for him … and I never trust my opinions. So now I think I’m probably not being a very good judge. (I’d be a rotten critic, that’s for sure!)

I am, in fact, listening to him right now, playing Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. I’m not watching … just listening. But of course the past images are probably influencing me a bit in how I hear. Or even more than a bit.

I hope my blogging about this has caused some of you to tune it. It really has been great fun.

06. June 2009 · Comments Off on Funny Story · Categories: Links

… I just hope it’s really true. It seems to good to be so …?

SHOP bosses tried to use classical music to drive off a gang of teenagers hanging around outside their door – but the kids LIKED it.

The cheeky youngsters got so fond of Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi that they started coming into the store to ask for requests.

And bemused staff have now turned the music off for good.


06. June 2009 · Comments Off on Cliburn Competition · Categories: Cliburn Competition, Videos

There are six finalists for the Cliburn competition. For the finals they do one solo recital and two concerti, one with larger orchestra and one with smaller. So far I don’t see any of the finals on YouTube, but I do see something from the semifinals there, so I’ll post the six finalists below, just to give you an idea of what I’ve been following. (You can also hear the six semifinalists who didn’t move on.)

Evgeni Bozhanov performs Beethoven’s Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 31, No. 3

Yeol Eum Son Han plays Haydn’s Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 49

Nobuyuki Tsujii plays Beethoven Sonata in B-flat major, Op. 106, “Hammerklavier”

Mariangela Vacatello peforms Scriabin’s Nocturne for the Left Hand, Op. 9, No. 2

Di Wu plays C. Schumann Mazurka from Soirees musicales, Op. 6

Haochen Zhang performs Liszt’s Spanish Rhapsody

I do not know enough about the works or piano to feel competent to judge who should win. I know who bugs me, and who I like, but that’s not to say I can tell who’s best!

You can see more by going to the Cliburn page where they have an option to view live and past performances.