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Pianotes #491 -
February 2024
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Greetings From a Wet, Gray Oregon Coast!

I know the weather has been crazy all over the country - and probably all over the world - so I hope you're all doing well! We were relatively unscathed by the ice storms that wreaked havoc from about five miles from us and all over Oregon. We were very cold and had hail, but not the devastating damage from elsewhere. The highway between Eugene and the coast was closed for most of a week, so we were isolated from that and a landslide north of us, but that was about the worst of it in Florence. Onward and upward!
Chopin used a metronome and encouraged his students to do so as well. This seems a little odd since there is so much rubato (flexible timing) in Chopin’s music.

When a musicians’ strike threatened to cancel a performance of Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” in Rome, Italy, in June 1995, the maestro announced that he would play the score himself on the piano. Conductor Riccardo Muti conducted from the keyboard, and the singers performed the arias and ensemble pieces. The audience, in turn, gave the performers wild ovations.

The CD was originally formatted to hold all of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
New Reviews: There is quite an eclectic mix of new reviews again this month - everything from Smokey Robinson to David Lanz to an Irish jazz group! I also reviewed some new sheet music from David Lanz and a songbook by James Michael Stevens. You can find them (and much more!) here.
The first inductees into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame included Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, The US Marine Band, Scott Joplin, John Philip Sousa, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Igor Stravinsky. Quite a varied lot, but that’s what America is supposed to be about!

For years, Johann Sebastain Bach was a teacher and organist in St. Thomas’ School in Leipzig, Germany. For about 125 pounds a year, he had to train the boys’ choir, play at services, weddings, and funerals, and produce new compositions every Sunday. These compositions were never published - they were simply written, sung, and then piled into a cupboard to grow old and dusty - and forgotten.

When Erik Satie died, it was discovered that he had several hundred umbrellas in his home.
New Interviews: I did two really interesting interviews in January. The first was with Spanish pianist/composer Hugo Selles and the second was with Timothy Wenzel. You can find links to them both here.

In February, I will be doing interviews with David Lanz, Ralph Zurmuhle and if time allows, Jim Wilson. David and Ralph both have outstanding new solo piano albums releasing in February, so it's a great time to do an update with them! Jim Wilson has written his autobiography called Tuned In, which will be released in early April. I'll be reviewing the book as well as interviewing Jim. The book is fantastic, by the way!
In Frederic Chopin’s "Etude for Piano in G-flat Major," nicknamed "The Black Key Etude,” a white key is played only once, with the right hand.

"Carnival of the Animals" by Saint-Saens is a humorous work that represents different animals. Along with selections named for kangaroos, swans, donkeys, etc. is a short piece called “Pianists.” It is a crazy sketch of out-of-control pianists racing up and down the keyboard practicing their scales and exercises.

Thousands of one-finger piano pieces were written during the nineteenth century and served as parlor entertainment. One of those was “Chopsticks,” which was published in Glasgow in 1877.
February Birthdays: Here is a partial list of musical birthdays coming up:

2/2: Marlowe Watson Carruth
2/3: Ana Lourdes Rodriguez
2/7: James Michael Stevens, Bryan Carrigan & David Hicken
2/10: Robert Thies & Kenneth Hooper
2/14: Ben Dowling
2/15: Christian Lindquist & Craig Burdette
2/17: Sally Kidwell
2/19: Anne Trenning & Kevin Wood
2/20: Rachel LaFond
2/22: Oliver Bohovic
2/24: Jeff Fair
2/25: Starr Parodi & Penka Kouneva
2/26: Greg Maroney
One of Cristofori’s original pianofortes, dating from 1720, still exists and is on display at the Metropolitan Music of Art’s Rare Instrument Collection in New York City.

Franz Schubert gave only one public concert in his life. The newspapers hardly mentioned it since they were all taken up with the recent appearance in Vienna of violin virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini. Paganini was considered more interesting because of rumors that he had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his incredible playing abilities.

As a conductor, Peter Tchaikovsky was always very nervous and had a morbid fear that his head might fall off in the middle of a piece.
February Music Holidays and Observances: If Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day aren't enough for you, here are some other dates to celebrate!

2/2: Play Your Ukulele Day
2/3: The Day the Music Died
2/4: Liberace Day
2/5: Grammy Awards
2/7: International Clash Day
2/8: Opera Day
2/10: Welsh Language Music Day
2/11 Get Out Your Guitar Day & National Guitar Day
2/13: World Radio Day
One of Beethoven's piano students was Carl Czerny, who went on to compose many books of exercises for pianists, as well as many other pieces.

American composer, Charles Ives (1874-1954) was also an insurance company executive.

Scott Joplin’s opera, “Treemonisha” is the only existing ragtime opera, and was given its first full production in the 1970’s - long after Joplin’s death in 1917.
Wishing everyone a great month, lots of Valentines and the promise of Spring! I'll close with a few more trivia bits and some photos of the kitties in our family. Enjoy!

A major star throughout Denmark and much of Europe when WWII broke out, pianist/comedian Victor Borge often poked fun at Hitler and other top Nazis in his performances. When the Germans invaded Denmark in April 1940, Borge left everything behind and fled Europe. When his mother spent time in the hospital, Borge put on a false beard and crossed back into Copenhagen to visit her.

Mozart wrote his first opera when he was 12. When he was 11, The Archbishop of Salzburg commissioned Mozart to write an oratorio (a religious musical production that is performed without costumes or props). Suspicious that the boy would seek outside help, the Archbishop locked Mozart in a stuffy little room for a week until the work was finished.

Some of Mozart’s major works were not printed until the middle and end of the 19th century - about 100 years after his death.
Pianote February 2024, image 1
Pepper and Thackery

Pianote February 2024, image 2

Pianote February 2024, image 3
Thackery Binx

Pianote February 2024, image 5
Smokey Joe

To the best of my knowledge, the "trivia" items are true, but I can't guarantee it.