Today at Tigerloaf we wish a very happy birthday to Ida Haendel, born on this day in 1928 (or perhaps 1923!) in Chelm, Poland. Along with her contemporary Ivry Gitlis, a fellow student of Georges Enescu, she is one of the last living representatives of the great school of violin that flourished before the Second World War. As a child she competed honourably against older masters of the calibre of David Oistrakh and Ginette Niveu. This photo is from The Strad, which published its first feature on Ms. Haendel in 1937! I had the honour some years ago of meeting the charming lady and of hearing her play Bach’s Chaconne in the noble manner of another epoch. We hear that she is not in good health and hope that she is able to enjoy the day.
Archive for the Music Category
10 November 1668 – 11 September 1733
Today we are commemorating the birth of François Couperin while listening to such masterpieces as Leçons des Ténèbres, Les Concerts Royaux (both 1714) and Pièces de Violes (1728). It is highly likely that Watteau heard the music of his older contemporary, one of the most famous composers in Europe in his day and master of a refined, poetic sensibility akin to that of the great painter. In the words of Jordi Savall, “Couperin est le musicien-poète par excellence, qui croit en la capacité de la Musique à s’exprimer avec «sa prose et ses vers»…si on entre dans sa profonde dimension poétique, on découvre qu’ils sont porteurs d’une grâce qui est, «plus belle encore que la beauté…».”
Anonymous portrait of Couperin from the collection of the Château de Versailles
Commemorative stamp and first day cover, France, 1968
Admirers of Morton Feldman and/or John Cage will want to hear the conversations between the two composers recorded in 1966-67 at New York radio station WBAI. In more than four hours of relaxed, expansive and informal chat Feldman and Cage range spontaneously through fields of music, art, philosophy and more, with humour, wisdom and much charm. This is essential listening for all enthusiasts of modern musical culture. Hear it at radiOM (sign-up required) or YouTube.
Photos of Feldman and Cage, for which I am unable to find credits, from the internet
Thelonious Sphere Monk
10 October 1917 – 17 February 1982
“The greatest thing in music in my life has been to have known Kathleen Ferrier and Gustav Mahler — in that order.” Thus Bruno Walter spoke of the singer whose untimely passing, on this day in 1953, robbed the world of one of its most beautiful voices. Ferrier’s art allied superb interpretive skill with a natural instrument of unique quality, androgynous and unearthly in timbre. Her death at the age of 41 was a human and artistic tragedy scarcely redeemed by her rich legacy of recorded performance. Her collaboration with Walter in the music of Mahler produced some of the greatest recordings of all time, indelible monuments to the greatness of both artists. Perhaps the finest among these is their unsurpassed version of Das Lied von der Erde, which ends with the words:
Ah my friend,
Fortune was not kind to me in this world!
Where do I go? I go, I wander in the mountains.
I seek peace for my lonely heart.
I wander homeward, to my abode!
I’ll never wander far.
Still is my heart, awaiting its hour.
The dear earth everywhere blossoms in spring and grows green
anew! Everywhere and forever blue is the horizon!
Forever … Forever …
Photo of Ferrier and Walter, auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2012
6 October 1886 – 24 January 1960
My dear friends,
We have deliberately chosen this quiet house to devote ourselves to the works of the great masters; far from the bustle of the big city, we chose this austere place which you can only reach after a good quarter of an hour’s walk. Without artificial light, without cars and telephone, surrounded only by Nature, I hope that arriving you may already have lost and forgotten the restless, trivial and all-too-material things of everyday life; and that thus in tune with trees, clouds and winds you may approach those musical works with receptive minds. For the intention here is not to teach you some pieces quickly — I want nothing else, nothing less than to lead you away from the piano and back to yourselves.
In these days of perfect technique there is no room for the perfect performance of a piano piece in the merely artistic sense of the word. The gramophone record can do that better. Only that art which comes from within, out of a creative personality, will be interesting, impressive and constructive. You need to attain singleness of mind. In order to get there those who have not ‘died’ before must die now; which means they must sacrifice to Art all vanity and all affectation.
Like an explorer you must, then, gently go down into the dark depths of your being where you were as a child, and there you must listen to the surge of your desires and your longings and become like a child again, like a tree or a flower, genuine and unsullied, giving yourself up to the fullness of life. And when you are quiet enough, in awe of the divine within you, with your ear pressed against the ground to listen to the secret tune which vibrates throughout the universe — then He will light in you that holy fire of imagination which draws strength from the very depths of your own being.
And if you are humble as well as strong you will then gaze upon the land of that being, the land of true things, power and greatness and beauty, and suffering too, gentleness and purity. And when you have fully absorbed these ‘ideas’, let power rise into your life, your deeds, your art; and build according to your own imagination. And the image of your beauty and greatness, your love and your grief, your hope and your joys will become translucent and fertile. You have become a creator.
A creative man in his best moments is godlike. If, however, you are not strong enough to bring to reality your ideas, you will still ‘find’ the great works of the masters. They are vessels ready to receive your flowing emotions. These beautiful forms are the other half of your existence. Embrace them, fill them with life, do not violate them, let them ennoble you; and give to these divine images of a dimly perceived world the warmth of your individual life.
And yet this psychic world needs for its realisation earthly reality. Although we use, in our particular art what is thought to be the most ethereal of all matter, namely vibration, almost independent of earth — that vibration must nevertheless be shaped, created. The way from the idea to the sound via psyche, body, musical instrument, is long, and something is being lost at every station of this via dolorosa; a fraction only of the original image materialises.
To help you on this way and make things easier I shall do my best, so that out of the blending of the masterpiece with your personality something new may arise, and from it may shine forth the light of eternity, powerful and clear, the Light which alone makes life worth living.
Edwin Fischer, Speech given at the opening of a summer school for pianists, 21 June 1937
One of Suzanne Valadon’s first oil paintings, the charmingly naive portrait of Erik Satie commemorates a brief, intense love affair between the two. In return Satie composed the song “Bonjour, Biqui, Bonjour!” and adorned the autograph score with a cartoon portrait of her. It is unlikely that Valadon ever heard the song or saw the manuscript, which was found in Satie’s effects at his death. The affair lasted six months, though he continued to send her love letters for some thirty years and is not known to have had another love. Valadon’s self-portrait below dates from the same époque.