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Everything posted by MusingMuso

  1. ========================= I'm glad you enjoyed the concert. I enjoyed the encore, I must admit, and the organ certainly got a work out! Enjoyment works at so many different levels, and we each find our own. I suspect that it is organists who have the greatest difficulty with performances of this type, and of course, no two musicians will ever agree over interpretation, which is why they sit down a play things their way. Best, MM
  2. The last time I saw anyone dressed in the male equivalent to a Vivian Westwood number, I was walking through a dark alleyway in Manchester at 3am, somewhere in the vicinity of “the village”. Initially, I thought it must be a young organist, but I was sadly mistaken. It turned out to be a plumber’s mate who knew the way to Oldham. I wasn’t offended by the ripped attire revealing an equally ripped physique, but I didn’t feel that extended fugal development would be of benefit to either of us and made my excuses. Perhaps not all of us share your grandmother’s values, but in any event, anyone who dresses like one of the cast of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, does tend to attract critical attention. Indeed, all that was missing at the Albert Hall was a ghoulish narrative spoken by Vincent Price, and of course, that chilling laugh at the end. I thought the Mohican white hair interesting: startling even, but my next thought immediately turned to Arsenic and old lead pipes. The plumber’s mate had white hair too, coming to think of it. As for ‘why do it like that’, why not? Clearly , Bach was a festering old fart who wrote grotesque and unbeautiful music, and anything which improves the original is to be applauded...wildly...indiscriminately...so as not to cause offence or distress to the sensitivities of a well intentioned performer. On the other hand, even the pop mogul Simon Cowell is smart enough to know that anyone who gets up on a stage can expect to be criticised. I have absolutely no idea why the ‘Beeb’, (once one of the most prestigious broadcasting organisations in the world), should have invited C-C to take part in what was once one of the more prestigious music festivals of the world. Sadly, long gone are the days of self-respect and broadcasting standards, which is what happens when you appoint marketing men at the top. The BBC is now about politics, game shows, news, sport and popular entertainment, so C-C was a natural choice, even if Xaver Varnus could have played far more musically and performed some of his very agreeable cross-over pieces for those of an unsure or undecided disposition. Quiet why Berlin and Salzburg have made the decisions they have made, I can only speculate. Maybe they’re short of cash and something sensational with which to wow the press and punters, but considering that Berlin was the home of expressionist organ-playing almost a century ago, (when they did it with taste and good judgement), and Salzburg salutes the white-wigged and distinctly crazy “Amadeus”, perhaps they feel that they have found a musical soul-mate. As for Cameron Carpenter saying things about us, I take the view that he should be interviewed regularly and constantly, because when he’s talking, at least he’s not playing. I regret that you consider some of the comments about C-C reprehensible, and feel that you will be shot down in flames. (Thumbscrews are much more fun!) You may be right or you may be wrong, but you have to be aware of the fact that there are people who try to promote singing dogs, paintings by monkeys and little girls dressed as Shirley Temple. Has C-C made “Pseud’s Corner’ in ‘Private Eye’ yet, I wonder? It’s only a matter of time! Still, it’s good to be shocked out of our staid habits and musical apathy from time to time, and this guy does it rather well....and....artistically. The plumber’s mate would have approved. Best, MM
  3. But it's not a joke Nick; that's the worry. This man...this phenomenon....(which he surely is), is able, (by means of some very clever marketing), to fill a space the size of the Albert Hall, to be taken seriously by a normally sober, artistic establishment and to have people reacting to him as if he were an Olympic champion. I'm quite sure that in those two Radio 3 broadcasts, we heard all of the 10,000 pipes and every note of the instrument, and not one of them was remotely musical. He is doing for organ music what X-factor has done for pop-music, where incompetent judges stir up the mob and turn singing into a spectator sport. If organists have to become more commercially minded to be successful, then I hope that they would follow on from what Carlo Curley did, and what the Hungarian organist Xaver Varnus does, because in taking the organ to the people, it is possible to find common ground, communicate and share something extraordinary together, where virtuosity is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. I just wonder if Cameron Carpenter would have any following at all, if he played out of sight and people had to use their ears instead of their eyes. Best, MM PS: Sorry John....I didn't mean the pipes were unmusical....which they are. In fact, I'm sure they are all very beautiful and worthy of being retained rather than replaced with computers and loudspeakers. I'm digging a hole for myself here......
  4. No, it's a spoof. Far too many real pipes for his tastes. Best, MM
  5. Isn't this just so beautiful? It's exactly why, when I have the time, I make my way to the Netherlands to hear organists like Jos van der Kooy (the performer in that video). There is depth, tremendous scholarship behind each and every note, and yet, that simple modesty, where the interpreter is only the servant to the composer. Best, MM
  6. =============================== Well....yes....until he opened his mouth. "I haff nevur already heard off vish Cavaille-Coll." Best, MM
  7. ================================= Thanks for correcting my lapse of memory. David Wells it is. Best, MM
  8. Apart from the sheer loudness of just about everything C-C played, (I had no idea there were so many very loud reeds on the Albert Hall organ), I don't actually recall a single note of the second broadcast. I found myself chuckling, because having heard C-C how "grotesque" and "unbeautiful" Bach's organ works were, I just wondered how the hell he could consider his own cyncretic P & F anything other than the same. Clever perhaps, but by far the most over-inflated piece of non-music I've ever heard. With Virgil Fox, it was possible enter into the spirit of glitz, showmanship and high camp,and with Carlo Curley,one could be amused and thrilled; sometimes moved by things of great beauty and expressiveness. Xaver Varnues brings real musicinship to the expressionist style,while his crossover music is always perfectly judged and executed.. When it comes to music-making, I just regard C-C as delusional. Best, MM
  9. =========================== I listened to the Radio 3 broadcast yesterday. I was impressed by Cameron Carpenter virtuosity, as always. I was equally impressed by his inventiveness. I was impressed by his showmanship. I wasn't too impressed when he said that Bach's organ music was "deeply unbeautiful," so I instead, listened to the Youtube clip of Francis Jackson playing and faithfully interpreting Bach's "LIebster Jesu," and as always, I learned something....that beautiful legato and those superbly executed embellishments. I can see why I used to cycle 90 miles by bike when I was 14, just to hear Francis play the organ at York....a master musician at work. I went back later to the i-Pod broadcast of Cameron Carpenter, and came to the conclusion that his music is as ugly as his hair-style,and when it comes to playing Bach in the expressionist manner, he's trying to re-invent a style of playing which is just plain old fashioned and which he actually doesn't do very well. Best, MM
  10. Is it me, or does Olivier Latry increasingly resemble Renee in 'Allo 'Allo? http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0443313/ Best, MM
  11. ---------------------------------------- I suspect that Virgil Fox was the greater showman, but Carlo was the greater musician of the two. That stated, Carlo certainly knew how to work an audience in his earlier days. There was something rather fun about clapping along to Bach's 'Jig Fugue' or Carlo getting everyone to take out their bunches of keys and rattle them in time, while he played Leroy Anderson's 'Sleigh ride'. (The latter is a very neat trick, which works superbly). I can also tell you that Carlo was a truly superb accompanist, and this much was obvious to anyone who ever attended his annual Christmas Concert, which he did for free at St Paul's, Hammersmith, and which included Christmas choral items beautifully sung and arranged. I'm not sure that Carlo brought anything unique to British audiences, because long before him, there were organists such as Reginald Porter-Brown and Quentin Maclean, who at the flick of a switch, could turn from light music to classical music. Others included Reginald Foort, George Blackmore, Norman Cocker and Bill Davies; some of them fine pianists as well as organists. In America, the "Boston Pops" concerts and a brace of seriously talented theatre-organists achieved much the same thing. Carlo's unique contribution to organ concerts (as opposed to recitals), was to break down barriers by widening the musical vista in a very public way, whereas previously, there was only light music and classical music; normally separated by the glass ceiling between 'low brow' and 'high brow'. He was the organ equivalent to "Friday night is music night" on Radio 2, but equally significantly, he demonstrated that, even in a church, it was possible to have fun. Much as Carlo was an unashamed Anglophile, I think that every considerable inch of him remained very American, for not only did he have a very wide taste in music which ranged from Bach to Bernstein, he also delighted in bringing joy to people at whatever level.In that respect, he was not a million miles away from Dolly Parton, of whom it is said, "Sings to people, rather than at people." Carlo demonstrated that same, very American combination of easy, self-assured charm and absolute professionalism, which enabled him to bear-hug a whole audience, in spite of lengthy journeys and living out of a suitcase very often. Big-hearted is the perfect description for a remarkable phenomenon in the organ-world, and that's why we've lost a good friend rather than just another organist. Best, MM
  12. --------------------------------- I fear that we are going terribly off-topic, but I suspect that Carlo would have loved the banter. I regret to inform you that my father's cousin was the Yorkshire Cricket Coach and wore the England cap. He taught the likes of Ray Illingworth and played alngside the likes of Freddie Truman. For my part, I grew up hating the game with a real passion; surrounded as I was by flanelled fools wearing cream sweaters, who would waste their Friday evening rubbing linseed oil into a silly piece of wood. For my part, I discovered two things as a teenager. The first was playing the organ, and the second was motor-sport; both of which enabled me to remain firmly seated at all times. Getting tentatively back on topic, I do recall Carlo exploding with mock outrage when I suggested that baseball was a girl's game we called "Rounders." Best, MM
  13. Thank you for this link. I've always admired this instrument, which sounds fantastic in the flesh. What a superb performance throughout. It is really quite extraordinary that Haarlem can boast this quasi-French organ by Adema at the RC basilica of St Bavo, the peerless Muller at the other St Bavo, the Cavaille-Coll at the Concertegebouw, other smaller but very significant instruments and even a street organ museum. To have played four of these organs in one day was certainly an equally extraordinary day for me, and when I heard this performance, a lot of wonderful memories came flooding back, including time spent talking in a bar with Martin Haselbock. Best, MM
  14. ========================= Is there something wrong with 'God's own country', huh? We have the best organs OF COURSE, the best scenery, the best abbeys and cathedrals AND, were it a separate country, it would have been 10th in the Olympic Games! Joking apart, it IS strange how people find a place and then feel at home there, and I suppose we should be honoured that Carlo loved being here so much. I've never been to Pershore in my life, and I am looking forward to attending the memorial service, all being well. Best, MM
  15. =========================== I saw that too, but thought it best not to draw specific attention to it. After listening to CC's playing, his interviews and gaping in disbelief at the reviews, I think even I need a therapist....possibly a brain surgeon. Best, MM
  16. ========================== I am still in awe of what I achieved with that, because it had nothing to do with a filing system, which I do not have. The truth is, you asked if anyone had a copy of the article by Gilbert Kennedy, and I recalled a green copy of the Organists' Review, which I just knew was in a brown box somewhere near the top, BECAUSE I'D PLACED IT THERE TWENTY YEARS OR MORE PREVIOUS!!! I also knew that the article was about "The Bracewell Queen." I went to the box, opened the top of it, and the fourth item down from the top was the green copy I was looking for. I'm thinking of auditioning for the role of memory-man in "the 39 steps" ....whoever wrote it! Best, MM
  17. I don't know why, but I feel a song coming on from "West side story":- I feel pretty, Oh, so pretty That the city should give me its key. A committee Should be organized to honor me. Best, MM
  18. ] ==================================== My plumber has a big personality and he has a way with pipes, but that apart, I'm not quite sure that you are quite saying what you actually mean. Many performers through history have had big personalities....Liszt, Paganini, Mozart, Virgil Fox, Liberace and even Victor Borge. Transciriptions have been around for centuries, and EVERY performance of the '48' played on a modern piano is a transcription. Brass bands have their own repertoire, but also play transcriptions with outstanding success. 99.9% of anything ever played on a theatre organ is a transcription, yet the instrument enjoyed enormous popularity once upon a time, and when played by a real expert, it still does. It is also the case, that any piece of baroque organ music played on a heavily romantc organ is, by definition, a transcription, but then, Bach often transcribed things, and who would question the efficacy of an organ arrangement of the "Sinfonia to Cantata 29, which the late Carlo Curley made his own?" I am often disappointed by "performances" which may be little more than pressing the right notes; often spectacularly quickly and not without a little physical contortion, but that isn't music. There is a world of difference between performers with a big ego, those with a big personality and those with a big heart. There are introvert performers and extrovert performers; those who smile and those who cry....only the bravest ever laugh at their own absurdity, because a performance of any kind is a very unnatural act; quite removed from the daily grind of working and cooking to survive. Was there ever a story written which isn't about the writer? Was there ever a story read which isn't about the author AND the reader? It's just the same with music, and if the performer is principally a circus-act, it may thrill but it will seldom delight or reach into the soul, whereas something very simple, played with feeling, will do just that. Here are two fascinating transcriptions, both of which are musically marvellous for quite different reasons. The first is a magnificent transcription of Elgar, played by the late and great Carlo Curley, and the second is an "expressionist" (my category) performance of Bach, played by Xaver Varnus at Canterbury Cathedral. It's played in a style which would have been quite familiar to the German-romantic school. (I know it's Canterbury, because there's a familiar face in the audience). The second video is part of a TV programme, and I apologise that Xaver Varnus is speaking in Hungarian without subtitles, but forget that and listen to what he does to the Bach Passacaglia....compelling, fascinating and so VERY wrong to the purist......but it's wonderful music nonetheless. [media] Best MM
  19. =============================== This is not really fair to those who have expressed an opinion concerning C-C. Virgil Fox was really quite bizarre in many respects, and especially in his personal life. His pool parties were the stuff of legend, but I don't think that his quite open homosexuality was ever a major handicap to his career, though it did cause a few problems. I think he used to introduce his boyfriend as "My assistant". Liberace was outrageously funny, and when it came to attire, it didn't come any more camp or OTT, but that didn't hold him back. Carlo Curley had a prodigious technique, as do certain French organists, and playing to the gallery was and is entirely acceptable. One could even point towards Lemare and even the pianist Billy Thorburn; both of whom knew how to work a crowd. All the above were or are able musicians of considerable artistic merit, and to hear Carlo Curley play Pierne was, without doubt, a demonstration of both technique and artistry. I don't think anyone would doubt the technical attainments of Cameron Carpenter, which really elevate technique to an all time high. I can think of no-one who comes, or ever came close to what he can do, and that has important implications for us all. No one would ever doubt his cleverness and extraordinary mental co-ordination. But that's where, for me, it stops. If music making stops with technique, and the technique of the performer becomes the principal attraction,organ-playing may as well become a competitive sport. What I observe with C-C is someone driven to be the best in class, but with a detachment and self obsession which I have encountered previously. I could probably put a label on it, but that wouldn't be fair. Best, MM
  20. ========================= Indeed! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKE40ffn-NU&feature=related MM
  21. ===================== Thanks Paul, because that gives me the answer as pre-dating his time in Denmark, where he was frowned upon by the establishment, I think the exact words he used in conversation with me, were, "Make no mistake, there is a Danish organ mafia, and I always expected to find a horse's head greeting me on every organ bench." Of course, his critics worldwide were usually those who liked to play music pure; especially baroque music, where they tried to present the historically informed approach. It was a continuation of the Virgil Fox v E Power Biggs war; the legacy of which still exists in America, both in terms of performing style and the types of instrument available; Carlo was always on the side of the symphonic style and what I once dubbed the "expressionist" performing-style, which has its origins in pre-war Germany, (to a lesser extent England), and which filtered down to Carlo via Virgil; Fox and the legacy of Middelschulte. Of course, as time went on, he became less overtly flamboyant; replacing that with well practised anecdotes, but one tended to miss those early years in certain respects. I well recall his playing of that "revenge piece" by Derthier, entitled "Christmas." It seems that Gaston Derthier was a pianist, but as part of his academic duties, he was obliged to teach the organ; an instrument which he hated with real passion. Telling this story about this enormously difficult and virtuosic work, Carlo would then pause, point a finger at the audience and end with, "....and if I don't draw every stop, use every key and press every pedal before the end, then my name isn't Carlo Curley. Ladies and gentlemen....fasten your seat-belts!" It was showmanship pure and simple, but what a display of technique and what fantastic console control; not to mention a prodigious memory, with not a single page in site. So when he recorded very pure Bach in an historically informed manner, it was as if he was throwing down the gauntlet and saying, "Well, can YOU do it any better on a stick-organ?" They couldn't and they didn't. Best, MM
  22. ================== Was this before or after he spent time in Denmark? I'm interested, because Carlo,( having accepted the constraints of a neo-classical instrument), proceeded to record a superb LP of Bach, which quite took my breath away when I bought it. It was Carlo like I'd never heard before or since, and which, at face value, was completely out of character....or was it? I suspect that he set out to silence the critics, and he did it brilliantly, before leaving Denmark and resorting to what he knew and felt best. Calo was nothing if not a clever cookie, with a good instinct for marketing and presentation. Best, MM
  23. ============================ Only in Hungary can an organist also be a TV celebrity, and Xaver Varnus holds a semi-popstar status in his homeland, even though I believe he resides in Canada. There's a whole brace of truly outstanding organists and improvsers in Hungary, as well as some good contemporary music. I know that when I wrote my Hungarian article on this board, it was by far the most enjoyable to research and write about. Xaver Varnus knows how to tread the divide between showmanship, presentation and proper music making. Incidentally, check out his superb organ and combo version of Jean Jarre's "Equinox," with some fine shots of the organ in the Palace of the Arts, Budapest. Best, MM
  24. ================================ Perhaps Mr Carpenter hasn't quite got the hang of an arresting performance of Dupre as yet, but with all those buttons and LCD monitors, he's probably browsing through the Macy's on-line fashion cataloque simultaneously, just to keep abreast of developments, as Humphrey Lyttelton might have said. Still, we can live in hope that by playing an old relic in France, (or even a proper pipe-organ), he may yet comprehend the spirit of Dupre. Actually, although emotionally detached and mechanical, I didn't think his B-minor was terrible, but it's not one I would willingly travel to hear. It was a squillion times better than that ridiculous Chopin "Etude." My own feeling is, that whilst I wouldn't mind watching him perform, I wouldn't want to hear him perform. I find that if you turn the sound down on the videos, it's almost as good as watching the Olympics. Best, MM
  25. ===================== Exactly! This is why I said that I fear for him. I don't wish to elaborate. Best, MM
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