On the internet you can find everything and this is fascinating and also very weird. One day while I was looking through my paperwork and my inspirations online, try to guess who I found,with his contagious smile and happiness ? Benjamin Lee, the legendary photographer!
And he opened his heart and his world characterized by spontaneity,surrealism, pop-art,soul and his unique approach to life, for this special interview.
Alida: “Hello Benjamin! Can I do interview you?
I would like to begin this interview with a question relating the way to which we met : Facebook.
What do you think of regards these new media, as an artist, and what is your relationship with them?”
Benjamin Lee: “Having worked, as a advertising photographer, for 10 years in London, from 1977 to 1987, for most of the international Ad Agencies: Saatchi Saatchi, JW Thompson, Doyle Dane Bernbach and many others. So I’ve been involved in media world, quite a bit… Marshall McLuhan, once lectured us on The Global Village.”
Alida: “Do you think Social Networks are related to art? And if yes, what to do you think about art in Global Village?”
Benjamin Lee: “The comining of globalization. Well that’s what Facebook has become,a catalyst ,for this global village, connecting over a billion people. Myself, I find Facebook very useful for making connections with new friends, before visiting cities, on assignment. But I usually try meeting only one or two new people.It’s good for letting people know what you are doing, useful for arranging meetings, Facebook wall gives people an opportunity, to understand, what you do, who you are. Yes, in a way of course, Facebook and Social Media allows you to be in touch with new and familiar artist and galleries, museum and opening parties, private art gatherings.
Art in the internet age, there is so much, it can be mesmerizing/confusing, unless, you have a sense of what style/form of art you will pursue… Just imagine Man Ray, Picasso,Magritte… Living now…”
Alida: “Taking a look at your beautiful site I saw that one of your first work commissioned photos for Vogue was just for a classical pianist, the brilliant and talented Ivor Pogolerich.
What are your memories about that meeting?”
Benjamin Lee: “I photographed, Ivor Pogoreleich, about 1984, in his magnificent residence, behind the Royal Albert Hall. He was at the hight of his popularity, very precocious. If not a bit arrogant: he insisted to be stylized in Valentino, quote I must have Valentino it was a unusual triptych agreeable to him. He wasn’t sure what I was asking him to do, but when, he saw the final results, he loved it, well, he loved himself! Was a interesting way, to enter in Vogue. Have photographed, Issey Miyake, Haruki Murakami, Kawakubo Rei, Yohji Yamamoto, Sir David Tang and many others.
Alida: “Another pianist you’ve photographed is the great Ryuichi Sakamoto,who I’m a great admirer of. Do you have any memento of that meeting? Some particular anecdote?”
Benjamin Lee: “Ryuichi Sakamoto, I photographed formally two times. First time, privately, for my show at the Embassy Canada,using a 5×4 Plate Camera. Loved his music for Bernardo Bertolucci “The Last Emperor” wonderful film with John Lone and Peter O Toole. For which he recived an Academy Award. We became quite friendly, going drinking sometimes.
The second photography session, was for magazine “Pen”, for which I’ve just completed 100 potraits, in my signature, triptych style, four years later we photographed Ryuchi at the “Museum of Contemporary Art” in Tokyo, where he was involved in an interesting exhibition, where music meets art.
I was very fortunate to photograph him, with his elongated shadow on the wall. Originally curators said “There is not enough time for doing this”, but luckily, Ryuichi persuaded them and he was very happy with the final results and I’m looking forward meeting Sakamoto San again…”
Alida : “When you’re working, do you love listening to music? What is your relationship with music (classical) or in general with music?”
Benjamin Lee: “I do enjoy listening to my favourite music. Mostly theme music from movies, like “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso” by Ennio Morricone. I enjoyed meeting him during his conducting in front of 800 VIPs in Civitavecchia in Italy, it was amazing. But generally, during a shoot on location, it’s so difficult to have music. You love present and it gives me a lift and create a relaxed atmosphere”
I can play for you some Chopin or Liszt. Ben send me and emoticons☺
Alida: “Your photographs are really something special, with a mixture of fashion, surrealism and pop art.
I’m really curious to ask you how it was taking pictures of the great artist Yayoi Kusama. I guess both of you work with an emotional feeling? I saw on Facebook the beautiful gift she gave to you!”
Benjamin Lee: “What a suerral question, You must have studied psychology… Photographed Yayoi Kusama, first time in 1993, Isamu Noguchi Plaza, “Sogetsu Hall/Center of Avant Garde Art” in Tokyo, led by the amazing film director/Ikebana master, Hiroshi Teshigahara. Do you know his surreal movie, “Woman of the Dunes”? Was a wonderful show, before she became globally famous, I followed her and did my show in the same space in 2002, nine years later. So, she inspired me, forward to 2012, magazine “Discover Japan” wants to do a whole magazine on Kusama’s art/life. Luckily I was chosen to cover her in 2012, the year when Luis Vuitton sponsored her shows in Madrid, Centre Pompidou (Paris), Tate Modern (London), Whitney (NYC) and launching Yayoi Kusama inspired Louis Vuitton in Nyc 10/11 2012. So we were everywhere that year, plus having photographed her 3 times in the Tokyo Studio.
Very soon her private museum be completed, just beside her studio/office building, looking forward to seeing this museum really soon. Having read her autobiography Infinity Nets. One has to admire her perseverance, against so many obstacles and at 84 year old, she is still creating her artistic universe. Hopefully my Yayoi Kusama Exhibition from 30 july to 6 september Galerie, “Eye of Gyre”, Omotesando, Tokyo will reflect, how we have influenced each other. Alida, you must come to Tokyo,then….”
Alida : “Of course Ben, with pleasure! You have worked and still work everywhere, we can say that you are a legend! But one thing that shines through is just your humility and your infectious smile, which broadcasts vitality and energy!
Looking at your profile on Facebook I was struck by your positive energy that shines through your smile. I think you are very spiritual,are you?”
Benjamin Lee: “Well, you could say, spiritual energy is perseverance!”
Alida:”What are the portraits of your career that are most important to you on an emotional level, which represented a special moment or that have changed your life?”
Benjamin Lee: “There are photographs from different periods of my life which were influential. When I was attending first year photographic arts course, street scenes and portraits. In particular a photograph of a ballet dancer.This took first prize in our school of 400 students. At this point, I realized my perception of some subjects was unique which encouraged me to develop my sense of perception. Later, when I arrived in Japan only knowing one person: Sir Hugh Casson, President of the “Royal Academy” of London. Sir Casson introduced me to Nobutaka Shikanai, founder of Fujisankei Communication Group a “Japanese Rupert Murdoch” . Nobutaka invited us to visit and stay at the “Hakone Open Air Musem”, which has the largest collection of sculptures by Henry Moore. I was commissioned to take a portrait of Henry Moore and that gave me a start in Japan. Once arriving Tokyo, I tried persistently to arrange portraits of Issey Miyake, Eiko Ishioka,Rei Kawakubo for two years unsuccessfully . Then, by a quirk of fate, British Vogue, commissioned me to photograph these personalities. After that they embraced me as a photographer, the movie director, Hiroshi Teshigahara, welcomed me into their circle .This was exceptional. Starting in Japan was a challenge but serendipity was on my side; “Lady Luck”. Concerning the “Elegant Humanity” exhibition and becoming good friends with Princess Hisako Takamado ( she gave me her personal message ” I have seen many photographs from Benjamin Lee and he sends us the message in regards to the importance of using our imagination and also encourages us to use our own imagination when appreciating art and his photography.Freedom of expression is what we all have and we can all express by using different art forms and media. However, to have the ability to fully express ones self by perfectly understanding ones own talent and utilising our own abilities like Benjamin, is what I call a true artist. There is something that appeals to our heart today when seeing his past art and appreciating his new images this time, there is still that same appeal that touches our heart”) Patron of “Canadian Embassy”, has become a wonderful memory.”
Alida: “Are you always travel around the world Ben! Born in China moved to Canada and now in Japan but anyway you are always “on the go”! In your travels what you take with you?
There are places in your heart that you’re particularly tied?”
Benjamin Lee: “When I travel I take a sense of optimism and prepare like hell making many arrangements and arrive, letting things happen as they will. Hopefully better than expected, infortunate to be reasonably well connected. But never,never, understimate Luck. It’s very precious!”
Alida: “I’ve heard about your wonderful exhibition at the Canadian Embassy entitled “Elegant Humanity”, what can you tell me about it?”
Benjamin Lee: “Well, hopefully ,those who visited if they were left with a impressionable view of how I see. I’m content!”
(Here the personal message from The Elegant Umanity to Benjamin Lee “There is something that appeals to our heart today when seeing his past art and appreciating his new art this time, there is still that same appeal that touches our heart”)
Alida: “Your fans will be curious to know in which project you’re working on now. Can you give me a «heads up»?”
Benjamin Lee: “My next and very challenging exhibition,from 30 July to 6 september at “Eye of Gyre Gallery Omotesando”, Tokyo. Portraits, Silkscreens , Insatllations, documentary photographs and portraying the artist Yayoi Kusama. Taking a lot of thought/imagination, whatever, it takes to reach the outer limits. I’ll let you imagine where that is! (HAHAHA!)”
Thank you Ben for this special moment that you shared with us! See you on the web!
In his long and brilliant career he has worked with:
Fashion magazines – Esquire, GQ, National Geographic, Valentino, Kateigaho, Jal (Winds), Ana (Wingspan), British Vogue, Spanish Vogue, Starwood Hotels, One & Only Resorts, Mandarin Oriental and much more
Advertising – McCann Erickson, Fuji Film, Kodak, Saatchi & Saatchi, JWT, DDB, Leo Burnett, CDP, Panasonic, Olympus, Heineken, Carlsberg, Toppan, Mazda and much more
Benjamin Lee website: http://www.benjamin-lee.jp
The New Exhibition ” The Universe of Yayoi Kusama” Photographed by Benjamin Lee
from 30 July to 6 September 2014
“Eye of Gyre”
Benjamin Lee covers her artistic work in Paris,London,NYC,Hong kong,Tokyo for LOUIS VUITTON
The Exibition about Yayoi Kusama
Insallations and silkscreens
If you visiting Tokio, don’t miss it!
For this magazine fashion shoot with the photographer Myuran Ganesh (http://www.mginspired.com.au) , I’ve played the Waltz composed by Chopin
” Op.70 n°2″.
I’ve found this wonderful article about Chopin written by Peter Gutmann, that explain a lot about the life and the composition of Chopin.
Hope you like it!
For the entire 19th century and much of the 20th the piano was the most popular of all instruments – although lacking others’ portability, no respectable home lacked one.
Many composers contributed mightily to the art and prominence of the piano, but none as much as Frédéric Chopin. Perhaps the ultimate tribute to his distinction and proof of his influence is the prominence his music holds in the core repertoire of nearly every great pianist and its inclusion in the programs of so many recitals.
Chopin’s impact on those who heard him perform was mesmeric. Thus Franz Liszt, an ardent admirer, Chopin’s first biographer, only peer and arguably the most famous pianist of the time: “Such a poetic temperament as Chopin’s never existed, nor have I heard such delicacy and refinement of playing.” Antoine Marmontel: He “envelopes melodic phrases and ingenious arabesques in a half-tint which has something of both dream and reality.” Elizavieta Cheriemietieff: “He has discovered how to give the piano a soul. Every sound goes straight to the heart. Listening to him, one feels suspended somewhere between heaven and earth.” Charles Hallé: “There is nothing to remind one that it is a human being who produces this music. It seems to descend from heaven – so pure and spiritual. … You listened to the improvisation of a poem.”
Despite the brevity of his life, Chopin’s biography did not seem to influence his compositions, whose emotional content are hard to tag to specific events, including his curious nine-year relationship with George Sand; indeed some of his brightest music emerged from his seemingly most depressing periods. Yet, he clearly was influenced by his Polish heritage, which accounted for much of the searching harmonies and quirky dance rhythms of his work. Liszt heard the inspiration of Polish lamentation that “lent to his tones a strange and mysterious poesy, … a sadness concealed beneath a show of gaiety.” Chopin also catered to the expectations of the Parisian nobility upon whose patronage he depended for his livelihood after his emigration and settlement there at the mid-point of his life.
Yet there was one more facet of crucial significance in Chopin’s constitution – his health. Throughout much of his adult life, Chopin suffered from tuberculosis and related ailments that sapped his strength. The only known photograph of Chopin, taken in his final year, shows his deterioration and pain all too well. Liszt likened Chopin’s art to drawings with a delicate pencil rather than with a scene-painter’s brush, and hailed his expansion of the resources of art by concentrating his inspiration in a lesser space – a particular compliment from a fellow composer who sought to wrest from the piano a spectrum of splashy orchestral effects. That, in turn, raises an intriguing but unanswerable question – did Chopin play with frailty because he chose to or because he had to? More important, should the legion of interpreters who play his music emulate his style or assume that his music contains bolder ideas than the composer himself could realize in his own performances?That was just as well. Again Liszt: “Chopin knew he could not strike the masses and had no effect upon the multitudes. They are like a sea of lead – their waves are stirred only by fire” rather than the exquisite subtlety of Chopin’s writing and playing.
Remarkably, Chopin’s primary teacher was a violinist so he was almost completely self-taught;. Indeed, he stood apart from any musical movement, largely shunning the music of his contemporaries and citing Bach, Mozart and Bellini as his favorite predecessors. But perhaps it was his lack of formal keyboard training that freed him to disregard convention and to find and explore new techniques that directly served his expressive proclivity. In the process, he reinvented the art of the piano.
Chopin was a miniaturist, having written only five large-scale works (two concertos and three sonatas). His compositions included ballades, études, impromptus, mazurkas, nocturnes, polonaises, preludes, scherzos and waltzes. The waltzes are rarely found on lists of his greatest works or of performers’ favorites. Yet they afford a unique opportunity to consider the wonder of his art. While most of his other morsels are free-form and deeply personal in conception, the waltzes dwell within prescribed dance forms and their social function. Moreover, with only a few exceptions (the Préludes and two sets of Études), his works in a common genre were neither published together nor meant to be heard that way – indeed, the prospect of two hours of unrelieved nocturnes or mazurkas is daunting to all but the most focused listeners (and the trend of bundling them together into complete recordings is far more a marketing ploy than an artistic justification, and would never be heard that way in concert). Yet, the waltzes boast a variety, accessibility and fascination that invite integral performance.
Scholars agree that the waltz is derived from the German Ländler, whose roots lie in a lascivious folk dance. Smoothing the deliberate, uniform hopping and stamping of the gawky Ländler into a graceful, rotating, gliding, stylized form, the waltz took Vienna by storm in the 1770s to mixed reaction. In 1808 Charles Burney decried it as dirty and riotous, cautioning “how uneasy an English mother would be to see her daughter so familiarly treated and still more to witness the obliging manner in which the freedom is returned.” Yet in 1816, Thomas Wilson assured the public that the waltz was “a promoter of vigorous health and hilarity of spirits.” In any event, it seems clear that the dance was far removed from the staid formality we associate with most socially-approved dances of the time, and its appeal may well have sprung from its call to liberation and vitality.
Mozart, Haydn and many others had been commissioned to write waltzes for royal balls. The elevation of the waltz from rusticity to art was boosted in the 1820s by Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss, Sr., both contemporaries of Chopin. By the time Chopin arrived in Paris after spending his childhood and teen years in Poland, the waltz was hugely popular.
Basic waltz rhythm
Its standard structure comprised an introduction, a half-dozen or so melodies, and a coda that recapped them. Of the two primary national styles that emerged, the French consisted of three complementary dances of increasing vigor, performed with much leaping and springing, while the Viennese held to a single underlying tempo and a constant rotating glide. The distinctive accompaniment invariably finds one chord per three-beat measure, with the bass note on the downbeat and the remainder of the chord on the second and third. It was Carl Maria von Weber who brought the waltz to the concert hall through his 1819 Invitation to the Dance, a compelling ten-minute portrait of a diffident girl swept up in the exhilaration of the waltz amid episodes of more relaxed introspection, and finally left alone to ponder her memories.
But it was Chopin who transformed the waltz into something altogether sublime, adding refinement, nuance and reflection more suited to aristocracy than the masses and for private sittings than the ballroom. Indeed, Robert Schumann quipped that if Chopin’s waltzes were to be danced, at least half the ladies should be countesses. Alec Robinson notes, though, that none of Chopin’s waltzes are suitable for dancing at all, but rather are idealized reflections of the ballroom form. He further notes that waltz steps are not even used in the choreography of “Les Sylphides”, a ballet set to orchestrations of Chopin music featuring three of his waltzes that has been described (in the notes to the Classical Music for People Who Hate Classical Music LP) as: “a moonlit vision of ballerinas who dance delicately in filmy half-length skirts, with garlands in their hair and little wings on their backs.”
During his lifetime Chopin published eight waltzes in four groups:
- Op. 18 (in E-flat major, written in 1831)
- Op. 34, # 1 (A-Flat major, 1835)
- Op. 34 # 2 (A minor, 1831)
- Op. 34 # 3 (F major, 1838)
- Op. 42 (A-flat major, 1840)
- Op. 64 # 1 (D-flat major, 1846-7)
- Op. 64 # 2 (C-sharp minor, 1846-7)
- Op. 64 # 3 (A-flat major, 1846-7)
On his deathbed, Chopin reportedly instructed his publisher Pleyel to destroy all his unpublished work. Fortunately for posterity, Pleyel didn’t. Five more waltzes were issued posthumously in arbitrary sets (and with deceptively late opus numbers) by Julian Fontana in 1855:
- Op. 69 # 1 (A-flat major, 1835)
- Op. 69 # 2 (A-flat major, 1829)
- Op. 70 # 1 (G-flat major, 1835)
- Op. 70 # 2 (F minor, 1843)
- Op. 70 # 3 (D-flat major, 1829)
The standard canon was completed with the publication in 1868 of a final waltz:
- Op. Post. (E minor, 1829)
As a measure of their relative popularity, a 1952 discography by Cyril Clarke (in the Cortot biography) indicates the following available 78s (reflecting the taste of the era when individual waltzes, rather than integral sets, were issued): Waltz #1 – 11 recordings; #2 – 9; #3 – 9; #4 – 9; #5 – 11; #6 – 18; #7 – 25; #8 – 7; #9 – 9; #10 – 4; #11 – 15; #12 – 4; #13 – 9; #14 – 9. The eclectic roster of artists is worth listing, as many are now forgotten: Jacques Abram, Wilhelm Backhaus, Simon Barere, Alfred Cortot, Ania Dorfman, Jean Doyen, Myrtle Eaver, France Ellegard, Orazio Frugani, Robert Frouard, Rudoof Ganz, Walter Gieseking, Jacob Gimpel, Robart Goldsand, Cor de Groot, Mark Hambourg, Vladimir Horowitz, José Iturbi, Maryla Jonas, Louis Kentner, Edward Kilenyi, Raoul Koczalski, Kubka Kollesa, Leonid Kreutzer, Oscar Levant, Robert Lortat, Nicholas de Magaloff, Bronislaw Malcuzynski, Arturo Michelangeli, Margarita Mirimanowa, William Murdoch, Leo Nadelmann, Vladimir de Pachmann, Ignzcy Paderewski, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Moriz Rosenthal, Artur Rubinstein, Emil von Sauer, Solomon, Willi Stech, Johann Stockmarr, Raymond Trouard, Otakar Vandrovic, Wilfred Worden, Michael van Zadora and Carlo Zecci.
Although rarely performed, there are many further Chopin waltzes. Those designated as #s 15, 16 and 17 (in E major, A-flat major and E-flat major) predate the 1831 Op. 18. While short, simple and pleasant, they barely hint at the glories to come. Numbers 18 and 19 (in E-flat major and A minor), published only in 1955, present a deeper challenge, as they stem from Chopin’s maturity – # 18 is dated 1840 and scholars place # 19 anywhere from 1843 to 1848. Their melodies, if not as compelling as those of the published ones, are characteristic, yet Chopin seemed content to merely state rather than develop them. Some scholars doubt their authenticity, while others suggest that they are merely unfinished. When played in sequence with the familiar 14, all five are a letdown. Robert Ståhlbrand cites a dozen further Chopin waltzes, including six catalogued by Chopin’s sister but lost when her house burned down in 1863.
The first and last published sets form stylistic bookends for the Chopin waltzes.
Before writing his Op. 18,
The opening fanfare of Op. 18 — note the unusual fingering
The opening melody of Op. 18
Chopin wrote home from Vienna, marveling at the “terrific applause” garnered by the Strauss and Lanner waltzes, yet citing them as evidence of the public’s “corrupt taste,” and claiming that he was unable to play them. Yet, the structure of his own first published waltz, entitled “Grand Valse brilliante,” closely adhered to the style he claimed to deplore. Following an opening fanfare (a standard functional device of the time to draw dancers’ attention) that coalesces into ¾ time, a schematic outline, assigning a letter to each distinct 16-bar melody, would read: A, A, B, A, B, C, C, D, E, F, F, G, F, G, F, H, a bridge to reassert the rhythm, A, B, A (interrupted by two pauses), four bars of bass rhythm, and then a coda combining fragments of B, G and A, followed by A that dissolves into scalar elaborations that lead to cadential chords. A typical performance packs this profusion of music, arguably danceable, into five minutes.
The three waltzes of Op. 64 are far simpler, yet more affecting.
The opening melodies of the three Op. 64 waltzes
The first, reputed to be a depiction of the scampering of Sands’ pet dog, is the shortest and has been nicknamed the “minute waltz,” prompting some pianists to attempt the impossible task of cramming it into 60 seconds, perhaps not realizing that the title refers to the French word for tiny, rather than the unit of time. After a four-bar intro, its structure is a mere A-B-A, with a lovely sustained complementary middle section and the return of the opening heralded by a trill. The second, which has been likened to a mazurka, has a set of three themes arrayed as A-B-C-B-A-B, that unify the piece through their interrelationships, and again the central “C” section provides a contemplative change of mood. Perhaps most remarkable is the third, which really has only a single genuine melody that meanders off into a stream-of-consciousness meditation that Charles Stanley aptly describes as having “wondrous shifts in harmonies” and “gliding chromatics,” even presenting a counter-melody in the bass as a novel central episode. Together, the Op. 64 waltzes display Chopin at the height of his powers, transforming the most commonplace of all the forms in which he composed into remarkable personal statements even while respecting and preserving their fundamental essence.
Perhaps more than with any other composer, Chopin’s music is integrally related to his own unique performing style, which scholars and artists have struggled to infer from surviving evidence and the vast range of others’ descriptions and interpretations.
At his death, Chopin left a dozen pages intended as a rough draft of a treatise which Sand claimed was intended to cover not only piano playing but an overall theory of music, and which surely would have been both fascinating and illuminating. Yet, the legendary pianist Alfred Cortot, famed as a Chopin interpreter, dismissed the treatise as Chopin’s attempt to cash in on his fame and rejected its value: “[T]he manuscripts bear no sign of any personal touch and is of surprising vacuity [with] no logical sequence of ideas [and is] nothing more than a puzzle made up of the most commonplace clichés on the teaching of the elements of music.”
Yet Chopin’s playing and composing were based on a loose set of three theoretical precepts. The first was his belief that music was a language with a unique structure, grammar and vocabulary, all to be placed in the service of expression. Second was his reverence for singing. He urged his pupils to study singers and to sing themselves, insisting that music be phrased as declamation, conveyed in long breaths to avoid fragmentation yet with natural accents, including crescendos on ascending melodies and decrescendos on falling phrases.
Chopin’s own playing was distinguished with three traits that transformed piano technique. The first was legato, described by Mikuli as tones melting into each other. In James Huneker’s admonition: “If you want to play Chopin, play him in curves.” The second was rubato, a special type of rhythmic freedom in which the left (bass) hand kept strict time while the right (melodic) hand played more intuitively. Huneker cautioned: “Without the skeleton, a musical composition is flaccid, shapeless, weak and without character.” Liszt likened the effect to wind rippling the leaves of a tree while the trunk remained steady. The third was overall delicacy, in which nuance rose to a level of subtle power, unobscured by pronounced dynamic outbursts. Chopin’s favorite piano was a Pleyel, having an easy touch and veiled sonority, which he often brought with him to a recital. Commentators have said that Chopin single-handedly transcended the essentially percussive nature of the piano. Sophie Leo: “He appeared to hardly touch the piano; there was no suggestion of the mechanical.”According to Mikuli, Chopin analogized notes to syllables, bars to words and phrases to thoughts. Third, Chopin eschewed the standard goal of uniform scalar runs by exploring and respecting the unique physiology and individual attributes of each finger. Thus, to him the fourth finger, bound by a tendon to the third, is inherently the least independent. He held the C Major scale to be the most difficult and unnatural of all, as the long fingers fell more naturally on black keys, and so he would start his pupils on scales of B, F# and D-flat and asserted that the most natural position of the hand was on E-F#-G#-A#-B. Even today, with all the development of technique that has followed, pianists remain in awe of how wonderfully Chopin’s music fits the hands and feels natural to play – while other composers forced the piano and its players to express their inner thoughts, Chopin’s expression was inseparable from the demands of the keyboard and the human body.
Chopin had few notable pupils. The most promising, Karl Filtsch, died at age 15. Most of the others were mildly talented girls of society, whose parents paid handsomely for the prestige of his tutelage. Chopin prized spontaneity, forbidding his students to practice more than three hours per day and ordering them not only to dispense with the score but to not even look at the keyboard and even to play in the dark, as only then would one’s hearing function with all of its sensitivity.
Supple fingers, flexible hands and wrists and passive arms and elbows fostered a weightless variety of touch and nuance of tone. Among the traditional rules that Chopin broke through his own playing were using the thumb on black keys, passing fingers over each other, sliding fingers between adjacent notes and changing fingers on a single key like an organist.
Sand wrote that “only at the piano does he really open his heart.” Yet, unlike Liszt, Thalberg and the other keyboard giants of his time whose fame derived from constant exposure, Chopin is known to have given only 30 public concerts in his entire life (and in many of those he was but one of several participating artists). He explained: “Concerts are never real music. You have to give up the idea of hearing in them the most beautiful things in art.” Rather, Chopin’s art blossomed in private, as he gave recitals before the aristocratic and cultural elite. He also played extensively before students and friends. Fontana recalled that Chopin would improvise for hours with “an inexhaustible torrent of precious materials out of which coalesced his finished compositions.” Emile Galliard recalled that: “upon finishing a piece, Chopin would often stay sitting at the keyboard in silence, pursuing a dream of his own.”
Not only was Chopin revered as a unique stylist, but a persistent theme among commentators is how his music suffered in other hands. Thus Hallé: “Nobody has ever been able to reproduce his works as they sounded under his magical fingers.” Hector Berlioz: “His playing is shot through with a thousand nuances of movement of which he alone holds the secret, impossible to convey by instructions. … [A] sense of the unexpected is one of its principal beauties.” Mathias: “Nothing remotely resembling his playing has ever been heard since. The instrument Chopin played never existed except beneath Chopin’s fingers.” Cheriemietieff: “It is a desecration to play his compositions. Nobody [else] understands them.”
Yet nearly every great pianist has tried to rise to this daunting challenge. Fortunately, Chopin’s supreme and enduring popularity with both artists and audiences has bequeathed us a bounty of recordings stretching back to the dawn of the 78. While intrinsically fascinating, some afford a particular opportunity to infer the composer’s own style that his contemporaries deemed such a crucial part of his legacy, while others suggest the glories of scores that invite artists to add their own creative interpretive input.
The article Peter Gutmann : http://www.classicalnotes.net
To emphasize the beauty of these shots taken for The Times Fashion Magazine Australia I decided to play the Consolation No. 2 by Franz Liszt.
A special thanks to all the team at both Melbourne and in Milan for the backstage!
Now I leave you a few notes about the author:
Life in a romance:
Liszt gained renown in Europe during the early nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age, and in the 1840s he was considered by some to be perhaps the greatest pianist of all time. Liszt was also a well-known and influential composer, piano teacher and conductor. He was a benefactor to other composers, including Richard Wagner,Hector Berlioz ,Camille Saint–Saens, Edvard Grieg and Alexander Borodin.
As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the “Neudeutsche Schule” (“New German School”). He left behind an extensive and diverse body of work in which he influenced his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and trends. Some of his most notable contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem , developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in music form and making radical departures in harmony. He also played an important role in popularizing a wide array of music by transcribing it for piano.
Liszt was a prolific composer. He is best known for his piano music, but he wrote extensively for many media. Because of his background as a technical piano virtuoso, Liszt’s piano works are often marked by their difficulty. Liszt is very well known as a programmatic composer, or an individual who bases his compositional ideas in extra-musical things such as a poetry or painting. Liszt is credited with the creation of the symphonic poem , which is a programmatic orchestral work that generally consists of a single movement.
Liszt’s compositional style delved deeply into issues of unity both within and across movements. For this reason, in his most famous and virtuosic works, he is an archetypal Romantic composer. Liszt pioneered the technique of thematic transformation, a method of development which was related to both the existing variation technique and to the new use of the Leitmotif by Richard Wagner .
The largest and best-known portion of Liszt’s music is his original piano work. His thoroughly revised masterwork, ” Années de pèleringe”" (“Years of Pilgrimage”) includes arguably his most provocative and stirring pieces. This set of three suites ranges from the virtuosity of the Suisse Orage (Storm) to the subtle and imaginative visualizations of artworks by Michelangelo and Raphael in the second set. “Années” contains some pieces which are loose transcriptions of Liszt’s own earlier compositions; the first “year” recreates his early pieces of “Album d’un voyageur”, while the second book includes a resetting of his own song transcriptions once separately published as “Tre sonetti di Petrarca” (“Three sonnets of Petrarch”). The relative obscurity of the vast majority of his works may be explained by the immense number of pieces he composed, and the level of technical difficulty which was present in much of his composition.
Liszt’s piano works are usually divided into two categories. On the one hand, there are “original works”, and on the other hand “transcriptions”, “paraphrases” or “fantasies” on works by other composers. Examples for the first category are works such as the piece Harmonies poétiques et religeuses of May 1833 and the Piano Sonata in B minor (1853). Liszt’s transcriptions of Schubert songs, his fantasies on operatic melodies, and his piano arrangements of symphonies by Berlioz and Beethoven are examples from the second category. As special case, Liszt also made piano arrangements of his own instrumental and vocal works. Examples of this kind are the arrangement of the second movement “Gretchen” of his Fausta Symphony and the first “Mephisto Waltz” as well as the “Liebestraume” No. 3″ and the two volumes of his “Buch der Lieder”.
Still in 1850 , Liszt composed the six Consolations , inspired by the eponymous poem by Charles -Augustin Sainte- Beuve , a collection of twenty poems , intimate confidences imbued with the Christian spirit , but also dominated by a dark sense of sin : everything you married well with the contrasting religious and literary inclinations of Liszt, with his desire to indulge in an intimate , private , full of piety , in a sense analogous to that which had traveled leHarmonies poétiques et religieuses . Even the Consolation n . 3 in D flat major , Lento placido , and the n°2 are like the other songs on this recording is modeled on a single musical idea : a long and expressive melody instruments inserted into a piano as simple as magic , which resonates simultaneously three registers of the keyboard . Even the Consolation # 4 is in the key of D flat : Almost a slow – Cantabile with devotion , creep , ceremonious , the aura of mystical contemplation .
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