Tag Archive for 'piano'

Review: Yuja Wang-Diva and Pianist?

The arts season has started here at the University of Michigan and I am so excited!!! There are so many great performances and events this semester that I’ve basically booked myself for at least one show a weekend. That being said, I’ve already gone to three amazing shows this semester; Mark Morris Dance Group, John Malkovich in The Infernal Comedy, and Yuja Wang. Mark Morris gave us an excellent show of both modern dance and creative use of historical narrative in his last act “Socrates” which

told us the physical and emotional story of the death of the beloved philosopher. John Malkovich, in his one-man show “Confessions of a Serial Killer,” performed for us once again why he is an acclaimed classic American actor, whose name everyone knows even though they cannot remember a single movie, except “Being John Malkovich,” that he’s been in (Just so you know he was also in Con Air and Good Night Gracie). He was absolutely fantastic in this strange postmodern production of the life of a serial killer. What I really want to get down to though, in this review, is Yuja Wang.

This young pianist in the looming Hill auditorium is a light that brings to the audience a sense of depth, excitement, and inner turmoil. It’s hard to distinguish the peace that she creates inside of us and the passion that she pushes into the piano with her delicate, yet powerful fingers. I’ve never been to a piano recital before, so I should probably start off by saying I know nothing about piano except for what I hear in movie soundtracks. I do know, however, that Ms. Wang is a wonderful and talented artist. She plays the piano with so much more than her fingers. Her entirety goes into the keys, into the strings and the hammers. It becomes both a lover and an enemy. The piano is her therapist, and she pours everything into it, onstage, for us.

Thats passion

That's passion

I’m not going to act like I know anything about composers or the pieces she plays, and if you do then awesome! So instead of listing the program, I’ll just give you the website. http://www.ums.umich.edu/s_current_season/artist.asp?pageid=656
If you clicked on that, it means that you saw the four, count them, FOUR encores that the fabulous Ms. Wang performed. This is why I say Diva. Yuja not only has one of the most dynamic and elegant bows I’ve ever seen, but she Diva’d her way into four amazing encores and she had a costume change! From one elegant red gown that she took the stage with to the little black dress with a slit up to here and a back down to there. Both were breathtaking and powerful. She belongs onstage. Thus, Diva! Even sitting at the back of the balcony, this woman made me feel the music and took me by complete surprise.

I also really appreciated the quick glimpse of my childhood in one of her encores. Dukas : “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” arranged by Yuja Wang. Also known as “Woh! It’s that song from Fantasia with Mickey Mouse!!!!” I think “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” sounds classier though.

Aside from Yuja, because I know we’re all busy and you can’t spend all day reading my random stream of consciousness, I wanted to let you know what to expect from me the rest of this semester. Some pretty awesome stuff. This weekend I’m seeing the Full Monty (yes because it’s naked guys on stage. You don’t have to speculate. That IS the reason I’m going) and the Cloud Gate Dance theater. I’ll also be going to the Gate Theater of London production, Diego El Cigala, and the Beijing Guitar Duo. These are only the UMS shows I’m going to however. I’m sure I’ll be going to other SMTD productions, and I know I’ll be at the opera. So keep reading me and I hope to tell you a little of what I think of these shows, because, realistically, you couldn’t ever live without my opinion and this isn’t just a great way to procrastinate…Did anyone believe that? Because I said it and even I saw through it. Whatever. I hope you enjoy reading my reviews, and if not, I really just want you to go see everything you can. So like I always say, get out there on campus and see some of the amazing things it has to offer.

Sending you love and light,

Danny Fob

p.s. “Sending you love and light” is a quote from my favorite TV show. If you can figure it out, I’ll give you five points. Or buy you a coffee

Review: The date with Messieurs Thibaudet and Ravel

Saturday, Dec 12th ’09

I buy my concert tickets ahead of time and earlier today morning, I thought that I would be losing precious time at a concert when I should be really working on the zillion other things on the to-do list. But then I had a “”brain freeze” (when you can’t think anymore and the brain is just dead -something like  sleeping  with your eyes wide open) and I could no longer stare at the code I had been working on the whole day! So the concert proved to be a blessing and a nice break .

I am comparatively recent to the world of Western Classical music and as I go to various performances, I get to learn more about the composers and their music.  So today, it was an introduction to French Composer Ravel and his music.It also included a taste of the work of Brahms from his younger years.

French Compose Maurice Ravel

French Composer Maurice Ravel

Ahhhh… the French! They are so different from the rest. Their language, cuisine, culture, style and of course, music- it ees something deefferent (trying to speak french in eengleez and that seems to be an attempt in vain). They stand a class apart as does M. Thibaudet’s superb playing.

The evening’s performance made it clear that Mr.Thibaudet loves Ravel. Contrary to what I had posted in the preview, his love for Ravel was majorly influenced by his teacher, Lucette Descaves, a friend and collaborator of Ravel. As for M. Ravel himself, he is like a painter who evokes these images with a certain sensitivity of a poet. There is such a complex arrangement in his music and it is so full of color. Let me try to explain this more. Some directors show violence blatantly (for example, you can actually see a guillotine chopping off a person’s head  and the head with the eyes wide open with terror falls down with a thud in the wicker basket). Other directors just hint that something gruesome had happened (they show the blood spatter on the guillotine and a wicker basket covered with a blood-soaked rag) and leave it to the audience to picture the violence. And the second approach proves so much more effective (and often gets the Oscars!). Similarly, Ravel falls in the second category. His music just leaves so much to the  listener to interpret and the result is brilliant.

The first piece “Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) was very different in the sense that I would start forming  a certain opinion about the mood of the piece and then suddenly, there would come an unexpected string of notes that would make me change my mind about it. The music felt as if the composer was trying to portray one’s wavering mind. I loved the ending of this piece as it just felt conclusive as if someone had finally made a decision. This is one of  the pieces that  just grows on you.

The second piece,  Ravel’s “Miroirs”, a suite of musical portraits was something I was looking forward to. It  just turned out to be fabulous. Each movement was so beautifully executed. I loved the third movement, “Une barque sur l’océan (a boat on the ocean) the most. Here’s my interpretation. There was a slow melody (like the red wave in the picture below representing the movement of the boat  as it goes over the large waves) and then a complicated faster melody(like the green wave representing the rocking of the boat).As for the picture, maybe my mathematical mind wasn’t completely switched off yet. But, somehow, it seemed as if the  composer was looking at this boat and was trying to portray the emotions of  the oarsman as well.  This movement was definitely the highlight of the evening for me.

Underlying theme for Ravel's third mvmt in "Miroirs"- my interpretation!

I feel that the skill of a pianist lies in how well he can create a distinction between the various sounds that can be made on a piano- for example, like pianissimo and fortissimo. M. Thibaudet  is definitely one of those truly gifted pianists who can do this really really well (you should have heard him play the fifth movement, “Valley of the bells”). At the end of  the pieces that called for a soft ending, M.Thibaudet would press the sustain pedal and you could hear the dying sounds so well. The clarity was amazing (I was seated in the third row, yeah!) and as for the staccatos and the legatos, they were so perfect that I wanted to just run to the stage and hug M. Thibaudet. Ravel’s work is very complicated  and it is not for the faint. M. Thibaudet pulled it off with perfect grace.

The next program was Brahms’ sonata No.3 which Brahms had composed when he was still in his late teens (Wow,what a genius! It makes me feel so small and insignificant). This piece showed the difference between German and French music clearly. Brahms’ sonata was so full of a sort of authoritativeness  and had a clear underlying structure and there was heaviness mixed with doses of high energy! Ravel’s music, on the other hand,  had this fluidity to it and a certain grace that only the French know how to do ( You see this in Monet’s paintings and can hear it in Ravel’s music). The musical difference is as distinct as differences between the German and French languages themselves.

Somehow, in spite of Brahms’ excellent “teen” work and M. Thibaudet’s flawless playing, I wasn’t particularly attentive to this piece. Could be that I was so used to Brahms (I listen to his symphonies and concertos on a regular basis) and you know, “familiarity breeds contempt” or in mycase, “inattentiveness”.  Isn’t that so strange that when we are tired, something novel immediately gets our attention and yet we always crave for the familiar during other times? Ok, that didn’t make sense to me either. Still in my “brain freeze” stage, people!

Anyway,the encores (one other piece from Brahms (which was more uplifting ) and Chopin’s Nocturne(Oh, I love this one)) left me so content and satiated.

At concerts like these, I just wish I knew more to comment intelligently as the great music critics do and I feel so small and stupid when I realise how little I know about Music theory and the technicalities of Western music.

As I walked back from the Hill against a gale of wind that threatened to blow me away, there was a car that went past  that  “honked” Jingle Bells (it was very good) and I just had to smile!  And I had this epiphany that  the real purpose of music is just to please the heart and sometimes it is okay to listen with the heart and not be a “cerebral” listener. At the end of the day, the arpeggios or the cadenzas or the 101 techniques the artist had employed don’t matter. What matters is the euphoric feeling with which you leave the concert.

From the heart ,

Krithika, [art]seen reviewer

Preview: Ready for some Ravel by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet?

The noted French pianist, Jean-Yves Thibaudet will be playing at the Hill Auditorium on Dec 12th, saturday @ 8 pm. Mr.Thibaudet is very talented and has earned quite a reputation for himself, both as a soloist as well as a performer at a symphony orchestra. He is known for his unique interpretation and his superb mastery of the piano. He  studied with Aldo Ciccolini who was an ardent advocate for the piano music of French composers Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Erik Satie (courtesy Wiki). So we will be getting a taste of Ravel’s music.

The program for the evening includes two solo piano compositions by Ravel and a Brahms sonata.

Now, Ravel, a famous impressionist music composer, is known for his intricate and chiseled compositions that are so precisely arranged. The first of  Ravel’s works for the evening is “Pavane pour une infante défunte (“Pavane for a dead princess”). This slow piece is daunting and will test any pianist’s skills. It will be interesting to see how Mr.Thibaudet executes this!

The second Ravel piece is “Miroirs” (Reflections).  This is such an interesting ( and apparently very difficult) composition. There are five movements in the suite and each piece is intended to make us visualise a reflection when a certain person looked into the mirror (hence “reflections”). Ravel dedicated each of the movements to five people he knew. What an interesting poetic approach to music!  I am looking forward to listening to Mr.Thibaudet’s version.

Then we have Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in F minor, another challenging work that requires a lot of skill. Brahms often found himself  in the shadow of Beethoven and this sonata, celebrates Brahms’ love for Beethoven as we can hear the motif from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Yipppeeeeeeeee…one of my favorites!) .

Tickets are available at the Michigan League Office or at the Box Office  before the performance.

I could do with some end-of-semester stress-busting and listen to some good piano music (even if it means braving howling winds and the treacherous black ice). What about you? 

Krithika, [art]seen reviewer

 Krithika is now listening to Strauss’s “The Blue Danube Waltz”