Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mozart in 5/4?

The rather skeezy looking Kiwanis Sale LP is London CM 9061, Mozart Piano Quartets K.478 in g and K.493 in Eb, performed by pianist Clifford Curzon and members of the Amadeus Quartet. The liner notes by Robert Boas contain this intriguing note about the first movement of K.478:

"...a theme in 5/4 time (not so written in the score) appears, to which Mr. Eric Blom has drawn attention..."

A theme in 5 would seem very unusual in Mozart, so what is this theme, and who is this Eric Blom guy?

Here is the Piano Quartet No. 1 in g, K.478, and may this be the worst LP rip you ever hear:

I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Rondo (Allegro)

Well this morning I dug up the LP cover again and decided to find out who Eric Blom is.

Blom was a noted English music lexicographer, having edited the 5th edition of Grove's. Anyway, I went to MIRLYN to see if they had any works of Blom at the University of Michigan here in Ann Arbor, and I found his book on Mozart, and it is AVAILABLE ONLINE!

Here is a passage from the score that looked like it might be the one, just because when you hear it in passing it seems to go over the bar lines. It starts right at rehearsal letter "C":

Here is Blom's commentary:

Pretty amazing to be able to dig something like that up in 10 minutes or so, on the PC in my basement, at 5 in the morning!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Here is more Mozart keyboard music from the Walter Gieseking recordings on Seraphim.

  • 6 Minuets K.1-5 and K.94
  • 12 Variations in C K.265 on "Ah! Vous Dirai-Je, Maman"
  • Suite in the Style of Handel
  • Sonata in A K.331 (including the "Turkish Rondo")
  • Sonata in Eb K.282
  • Minuet in D K.355
  • Fantasia in c K.475

  • Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    The band played tonight at the Music Hall Jazz Cafe in Detroit. Here are a couple of pix, in a small size because they are very fuzzy. It is a beautiful little jazz bar, very posh and intimate, and apparently situated where the concession stand once was, a few steps down from the main lobby of the beautiful Music Hall.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Questions from cab driving today:

    1) saw a kid in a T-shirt that said "Proud to be a Flying Pig Grunt". I told my next fare I was curious about the shirt and she said, "Oh, no, you don't want to know", but she didn't know anything about it. Turns out it's a volunteer's shirt for the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon.

    2) I was telling everybody I saw the first forsythia blossoms of spring by the Ruthven Museums Building loading dock entrance. Later I was able to stop and snap a couple of pictures with my digital camera:

    ...and I said to myself, "this isn't a forsythia!" I mentioned this shortly after to a regular I picked up at a campus watering hole, and that I had to find out what the plant was. He got on his cell phone, and I heard:

    "Hi, this cab driver wants to know what the flowering bush by the Ruthven loading dock is...stringy yellow blossoms...witch hazel? Ok, thanks."

    So I asked who he was talking to and he told me it was the Chief Under Secretary of the University of Michigan Ministry of Grounds and Horticulture (or something like that). You just have to ask the right person.

    Witch Hazel Update, 3/11/2010:

    Today I found another witch hazel, at one of Ann Arbor's most prominent homes, the Christian Eberbach House.

    Last word on the Natural History Museum witch hazel:

    Hi Jerry,

    The one you were looking at is actually a hybrid variety called Arnold Promise (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’). There is another variety planted right by called Diane. It has more of a copper colored flower and usually comes out a little later. With our temperatures it should be popping any day. These particular plants are always one of the first things on campus to flower in the spring and so they do catch your attention. I’m glad they catch your.

    Kenn Rapp, LLA, ASLA
    University Landscape Architect
    The University of Michigan

    I just emailed a query from the U of M Landscape Architecture "contact us" page, so I don't have the text of the email I sent. Thanks, Kenn!

    p.s. a great online resource for viewing these shrubs is at the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens page...

    Sunday, March 07, 2010

    This weekend's find at the Kiwanis Sale is Seraphim ID-6047, Mozart Complete Music for Piano Solo, volume 1. The pianist is Walter Gieseking. 4 LPs, mono, just the way I like'em, for $3.

    Gieseking is pretty interesting. He lived and performed in Germany through WWII and was not able to fully resume his international concert career until '53 or so. He was famous for his powers of musical memorization and concentration. He would prepare to perform a piece by studying the score and memorizing it, spending almost no time actually practicing the piano. In light of this I thought his comments on playing Mozart in the liner notes were interesting so I asked Joe to type them out for me:

    This may sound paradoxical, but my opinion about Mozart's piano music is described best when I say that it is at the same time the most easy and the most difficult music to play correctly.

    On the one side, it requires practically no particular effort. It is completely natural and easy to play Mozart. On the other side, it might be called very difficult for a musician to attain the stage at which technical command, musical feelings and all the mental and psychic faculties are so harmoniously coordinated that the fingers obey with the necessary amount of security the impulses of expression suggested by the natural flow and enchanting beauty of Mozart's melodic lines.

    Of course, when I say "no particular effort," this means that the complete concentration on the task of performing a composition is taken for granted as the condition sine qua non, and that the utmost attention is given to every detail of technique, musical value and mood of expression, at every moment and without interruption. But not every composer makes it so easy (this is, of course, my personal feeling) to proceed from this concentration to the - shall I call it blessed and happy? - state of communion or identity, or at least the illusion of identity between composer and performer.

    To Mozart, music must have been as normal and as instinctively natural as breathing. The easiness and perfection of his composing places his works above human frailty, above earthly laboriousness; makes them something that one is compelled to call superhuman, or metaphysical, or, simply, nature's beauty transcribed into sound!

    Now the musician trying to recreate Mozart's inspirations to the fullest possible extent for his listeners must be also, as far as possible, above not only all technical problems, but also above the need of speculation, reflection, or any kind of cerebral work. There must not be any calculation of possible effects and a priori idea of interpretation.

    The simple, natural beauty of Mozart's music which covers, in spite of this apparent simplicity (or shall we call it the masterful economy of a true genius?), such a wide range of emotion and expression, must be recreated in the simplest, most natural way, with no aim nor incentive than the feeling of admiration and, perhaps, happiness that springs out of such wonderful music.

    I may confess that in the few works which were part of my concert repertoire before I made these recordings, the works which I should have known better than all the others, I experienced some difficulties. Having lost the complete freshness of approach, I could not immediately return to the spontaneous and inspiring pleasure, and the independence of feeling, which were such a great help in all the music that I had read and studied just enough to be well acquainted with every detail.

    Mozart is technically no problem to sensitive fingers, to fingers that are accustomed to translating into sound the impulses given by the inner ear, fingers which know how to sing and breathe naturally in connection with the piano keys.

    The listener may decide how far I was able to achieve my, or rather, Mozart's intentions. In any case, I hop that my recording will convey to others some of the spontaneous pleasure and deep joy that came to me out of Mozart's music.

    Technically, I may mention that I scarcely touched the right pedal, because this device had not been invented, or was only so recently adapted to some pianos when Mozart wrote his music, that I feel he conceived piano music without taking the possibilities of the new pedal effects into consideration. The fuller sounding arpeggios or chords are held over with the fingers, often as long as the harmony doesn't change, this being the original meaning of playing legatissimo.

    But let me repeat that these technical details are not the result of speculation or historical studies, though European experts confirmed my suspicion that Mozart used pianos without the pedal which we now call the right pedal. My desire for utmost clarity, which I felt was necessary for correct Mozart playing, was the compelling for playing without pedal; or, to be more precise, to use the right pedal only without making it conspicuous, without producing any pedal effects. To my ears, even one single note sounds different when it is played with pedal (with raised dampers), the resonance of all the strings tuned to overtones or to the tones of the same chord giving something veiled, something romantically overcharged (I won't say impure) to even a single, isolated note.

    A pure, clear tone is not dry, even if it may seem so at first to ears accustomed to plenty of pedal. And I am not personally convinced that clarity of tone and beautiful expression are not incompatible just as the perfection of the classical form does not diminish the power of a composer's deepest feelings.

    I'm going to post more music from this but for now here is the Kleiner Trauermarsch k453a, written according to the liner notes as an entry in the autograph album of Babette Ployer.

    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    open testimonial email from Jerry to WCBN:

    Subject: WCBN: always there when I need something completely different
    Date: March 3, 2010 8:49:20 PM GMT-05:00


    I listen to WCBN for great reggae, country and western, blues, and jazz with collector-performer DJs who invest their lives in the music they broadcast.

    I listen to WCBN for historic absurdities like broadcasting "It's My Party" to lament the election of Ronald Reagan (it helps to have Czech ancestry to appreciate absurdity). WCBN is a goldmine of absurdity.

    I listen to WCBN to hear some students who really care about it yell about a U of M hockey game.

    I listen to WCBN to hear local music.

    I listen to WCBN to see what it will do that nobody else does.

    I listen to WCBN to see what it can become.

    There are other more prominent "free" radio stations in the country (think WFMU), but conquering the world is exactly NOT the point. A place to hear what local broadcasters can contribute is the point. Every town should have a WCBN.

    - Jerry

    Now write yours and send it to


    Temblor Tilts Earth by Inches


    The earthquake that struck Chile was so powerful it shifted the planet's axis enough to make it spin slightly faster, meaning our days will be shorter by 1.26 millionths of a second, according to preliminary calculations by scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

    "This is an esoteric effect that physics says has to happen," notes David Kerridge, the British Geological Survey's head of natural hazards, who studies earthquakes. "It's interesting, but it has no particular consequence on anything."