On Monday I’m making my Tennessee début! My friend Mingzhe Wang organized a concert about the “misunderstood Schumann” or, in other words, the “really interesting stuff that nobody plays”.
I’m usually against the whole classical music industry birthday celebration programming scheme; it’s lazy and random and we really don’t need another excuse to play more Mozart. What does it matter that some brilliant guy died/was born/contracted syphilis/attempted suicide 100 years ago? That said, sometimes these occasions can actually turn up something interesting, either by bringing attention to a neglected artist or illuminating the dark crevasses of an overexposed one. I can pretty much thank the 1974 Ives centennial in New Haven for my early introduction to Charles Ives, via my dad, who was living in New Haven that year, and gave me a CD of the Concord sonata when I was 11. I think 1960 was similarly a very important year for Mahler (at least in the US). Schumann was born in 1810, so, hooray, happy 200th birthday, Robert.
We are celebrating on Monday night by playing some of our favorite neglected pieces: the strange and transcendent Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133 (Morning Songs); the four Märchenerzählungen, Op. 132 (Fairy Tales); and the G minor trio Op. 110. Setting them off are three Schumann-influenced works by living composers; Kutág’s Hommage à R. Sch. (which also has an amazing last-movement homage to Mahler); Rihm’s Fremde Szene III; and two of my own piano pieces from a larger work-in-progress set to première in December (Pierrot on 88th St. and Please let me sleep [in your entrance hall]). I think this will without a doubt be the most interesting Schumann birthday concert of the year. Ming designed this poster.
I flew into Nashville yesterday afternoon, and went straight to rehearse Kurtág; this was a surreal juxtaposition, to say the least. Nashvillians are music-obsessed; the was a live bluegrass band playing in the airport lounge, and every other block presents an opportunity to buy a piano, drum set, or euphonium. We stopped off at an enormous ethnic grocery on the way home, where I found this:
It’s a funny side effect of living in New York City that grocery stores in other places seem as though they are the size of the Grand Canyon.
Within about 8 minutes, Ming had whipped up some Korean sundubu jjigæ with sautéed pea shoots, which I promptly devoured. Then we went to try the piano at APSU, which, believe it, is a Bösendorfer Imperial! Here I am trying out my new favorite chord with the Bösendorfer böotybäß (it’s from page 4 of Adès’s Darknesse Visible):
I should really learn some more of that piece.
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