Thursday, December 2
Our first real snow yesterday; today cold and clear. The gutter fellow came and repaired the carport roof, the hole made when he put his hand through it; he left me two bars of chocolate and a note saying he was sorry. The window man has our computer room storm window, hopefully it will return soon. The electrician fixed the electricity next door; our downstairs tenant removed a storm window because it had a gap; told him to put it back. Called the roofer again, to repair the chimney leaks.
Took out Ravel’s Jeux D’Eau; playing it slowly, rememorizing as I go. Would like to give a lecture concert in the spring, comparing Ravel and Debussy. Continuing with Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes ; the one I have been working on is fairly memorized. Considered starting another but decided to wait. Thinking about what Debussy pieces to learn: the most obvious would be Reflets dans l'eau. Images, Set 1 for piano (1905), a beautiful piece I performed many years ago. That or Isle Joyeuse, which I had started to learn last year before the injuries returned.
I need to think.
Friday, December 3
Last night I was working on Ravel’s Jeux D’Eau, and it is an absolute masterpiece of composition. Technically, compositionally speaking, in my view both Debussy and Ravel are among the most clear-headed composers that ever lived on this planet we call Earth. As is Stravinsky. I am in awe of their innovative genius - and of their technical genius. Moreover, both Ravel and Debussy are so very skilled at tone painting, i.e. evoking a scene. As I worked on a few measures of Jeux last night, I felt as though I was standing in the playful stream or waterfall Ravel was depicting - his music can be so very sensitive and joyous ... Of course, like all the great composers and musicians, the Impressionists’ first language is music; notes and musical phrases are their words and sentences ... In the few measures I was working on last night, I could see and feel the water happily skipping over the rocks, in the sunshine ... Carefree and simple, innocent ... Later the piece changes, the water changes - but in those measures only the clear and pure delight of being ... Sparkling, effervescent, childish joy ...
In terms of scales and harmonies, the French Impressionists brought some of the East to the West - but they also kept Romanticism and the simplicity of Mozart or Schumann ... Still, in my opinion, the harmonic and technical clarity of the French school sparkles in a new way, and brings new imagination to the vocabulary of Western music. Liszt would have loved their music I think, especially their piano music ... And would have played them beautifully ...
I am always amazed at how quickly music can change, even within one measure. Pianists who think an entire piece or section is one thought or mood - will never hold an audience’s attention or truly play a piece well. Music is like light on water - ever changing ...
Sunday, December 5
Went to Windgarth today, briefly. Tried to walk to the Point, but it was too cold and windy. Gazing out the upstairs windows: roses are still blooming, the pink Fairy rose bushes ...
Wrote Diana to see if she had reinserted the telephone lines in our final cover for Visits With Angels. She replied that she had. Then it dawned on me that angels are God’s messengers ... What could be more perfect than a telephone pole and telephone lines to represent our earth receiving angelic visitations ...
Met Gretchen at an art opening the other night and she asked if we were giving our annual Holiday party, with JF’s jewelry and my paintings and piano music. Gretchen said they looked forward to it every year etc.; came home and e-mailed JF to ask if we should do it again. She agreed, and last night I brought music scores in from my studio to look at: chose a volume of Rameau, pieces I have never played. Read through the book, settled on ones I thought people would enjoy; practiced them earlier tonight and will again later. Liszt, Ravel and Debussy are now on hold; the party is in two weeks and I have many pages of music to learn, almost the entire volume ... I had better restudy the different sorts of trills and mordents and other ornamentations of that era.
As with the Scarlatti pieces last year, I am intrigued by and also deeply admire the harmonic and formal experimentation of the early tonal or pretonal eras. The innocence of a new era ... These Rameau pieces are already expanding the keyboard and compositional techniques within musical history - and the excitement of those discoveries is almost palpable as I read through the book, a compendium spanning Rameau’s compositional life. Some of his most famous pieces are in this volume - and they are difficult to play at tempo on our modern pianos, especially after only a few read throughs ... Many passages are brain twisters, others finger twisters - and some a bit of both. Not to mention the many repeated ornaments at fast tempos ... I think I will very much enjoy this new project.
Monday, December 7
Waited for the plumber; he came and went and I never saw him. I must have been upstairs. Called and spoke to the office - he will return tomorrow. Called our handyman - he said he would being the new window tomorrow. The roofer came yesterday, to fix the chimneys. Still trying to get the painter to finish his work next door, and to install a new basement door.
Worked on the Rameau.
Monday, December 20
Performed the Rameau yesterday and it went very well. Today is our first real snow; I already shoveled the sidewalks. Time to take out the other scores I had started to relearn a few weeks ago.
The galleys for Visits With Angels have not yet arrived.