I can't BELIEVE I wrote this and then never posted it. Mid-year resolution, Note To Self: keep up on Blogging!! Oh well, here it is. And a lot more to come as I have been thinking about this Quite A Lot. Debo traducir también, ¡Agghh! Ni modo, va ...
Pulling together some thoughts that have crystallized over the last few months, especially during my visits to Brazil and then London … and in the course of making my way into, and preparing interpretations of, these ten new pieces of Canto de la Monarca. It makes more sense to have these thoughts here in one place, since they are more about musical thoughts and journeys than about physical voyages.
Junto aquí varios pensamientos que se han cuajado sobre unos cuantos meses, sobre todo durante mis visitas a Brasil y después a Londres … y en el transcurso de adentrarme en y preparar interpretaciones de, estas diez piezas nuevas de Canto de la Monarca. Tiene más caso tener estas observaciones aquí en un solo sitio, como se tratan más de pensamientos y viajes musicales que de viajes físicos.
LONDON SATURDAY 20 Nov. a really wonderful meeting with a British music writer whom I greatly respect. Wonderful to meet in person someone whose writing I so like. Lots of stuff during our conversation but one issue in particular came up: I was asked, What about this business of composers writing –and being commissioned to write—new music for old instruments?? Hmmm … This is another of those disquisitions on which I clearly need to write more, but for now these are my thoughts: There should be no limit to what a composer’s sonic imagination can engage with. I suppose one could say that this is just a trend, but really we don’t have the perspective, right now –see, THIS is why I think context is so valuable!— to be able to judge that. And in any case, it may not be, I think, just a passing fancy: Horacio Franco, here in México, has commissioned significant quantities of music for all the recorders (flauta de pico, flûte à bec), as has Anna Margules in Spain. Last year Stockhausen’s daughter commissioned a piece for basset-horn (how ‘bout THEM Haydn-apples?!) and orchestra from Ana Lara of México, and has commissioned other works from numerous living composers. So yes, if the idea is interesting to a composer and to an interpreter, then let the good times roll, as they say.
I have to note as well that I think it’s really important for us as interpreters to have very present the sounds of other instruments. Axiomatic, of course, that a pianist should have the sound of an oboe (including a BASS oboe! – quite different from that of a bassoon) and of a ’cello, for example, present in her or his inner ear … but I think it’s also essential to keep in mind what Brahms’ preferred Erard piano must have sounded like. You look at the denseness of Brahms’ left hand writing and you have to imagine –so as to reproduce!– the clarity of that piano’s lower register, unless you want the result to be mud. Even French pianos of more recent vintage give us ample clues to what that must have been like. I remember playing in Cuba (¡in Cuba!) a Gavot. Another pianist who’d played the piano a day or two before complained --rather peevishly, I thought-- that if you just breathed on the damned thing, it made a sound. OK, difficult; but as I’ve written before, that’s part of what we itinerant piano-players do, unless we are prepared to lead the kind of life necessitated by bringing our own instrument with us. What an opportunity to experience the unearthly sensitivity of such an instrument, such a conception of piano sound. A DIFFERENT unearthly sensitivity, I should immediately note, from that of a Hamburg Steinway with a Renner action. Even I as a Yamaha Concert Artist have to admit that the latter can be a celestial experience!
I also wonder about the opportunity to bring to an audience the experience of such small but expressive sound, in our daily sonic context of assault-sound. And I definitely do NOT mean in the too-often exquisitely precious context of an "original-instrument" concert -- unless such a concert is performed with the idea of magically and inclusively recreating the context in which that music was originally shared with listeners whatever their walk of life: no airplanes, automobiles, televisions, sound-reproduction systems. Does this sound a bit Luddite? no matter, I'm prepared to say that anything which stimulates our imaginative faculty is healthy.
Which brings me full circle: if a composer wants to write for that sonic universe … well, why not? And perhaps even more important, for me at least: why not be able to conjure up, on a modern Yamaha or Steinway, the ILLUSION of the sound of that Gavot or Erard, or even of a clavichord? We interpreters are, among other things, illusionists, ilusionistas, conjurers of illusions and dreams and yearnings. For people who molest me with original instrument dogma, I remind them that Emmanuel Bach knew the harpsichord, organs of various types, and the earliest versions of the pianoforte as well as, of course, the fortepiano; and that on consideration, his favourite instrument was still the clavichord – because in spite of its tiny sound, its expressiveness was unexcelled among the other keyboard instruments. In other words, and he himself says it, the clavichord was capable of the most VOCAL sound.