By Laura Carlo | Tuesday, October 19, 2010
A local treasure, the Boston Philharmonic and its conductor Benjamin Zander, will launch their 2010-11 concert season tomorrow evening. I was so happy to have a chance to speak with Maestro Zander a few days ago...and in the 7:00 hour this morning I’ll share some of that interview and his thoughts about some of the pieces on his opening program: Gershwin’s “An American in Paris,” pianist Steven Drury performing Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G,” Debussy’s “La Mer” and Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments.” Ben and I have known each other for years and years but this was the first time ever I got a chance to interview him for broadcast! What a treat to spend some time with someone who has a deep passion for the music, not just in the choosing of a program and conducting, but of researching and studying the music as well. He’s one of the few people whose eyes really do “sparkle” when he speaks about the music he loves. This gracious and charming gentleman was so excited to talk about the music’s history and connections between the pieces and composers---one couldn’t help but catch that vibe.
For more info on the concerts, which take place at NEC's Jordan Hall on Oct. 23, Mechanics Hall in Worcester on Oct. 24 (on the Music Worcester series), and Sanders Theatre in Cambridge on Oct. 24, visit the Boston Philharmonic. (Discounts are available to WGBH members, students and seniors)
And if you didn't get a chance to listen this morning, or if you just want to hear this inspiring man again, you can listen below.
By Laura Carlo | Monday, October 18, 2010
I went to a wedding yesterday. It was a gorgeous October day. The breeze was just gentle enough to rustle the colored leaves of nearby trees, seeming to applaud as the bride arrived at one of Boston’s “grand dames”---a hotel overlooking the Public Garden. Nothing like an October wedding by candlelight. The hotel was the site of both the marriage ceremony and the reception---a decision the engaged couple made in order to accommodate a gravely ill, beloved grandmother, who was being cared for a few blocks away at Mass General. Now she could attend both the exchange of vows and the formal dinner without having to be transported via ambulance in and out of two buildings. The bride, her Matron of Honor and the 5-year old ring bearer (or “bear” as the child pronounced it) had to walk through the hotel’s public tearoom, absolutely unaware of all the stares (and likely approving whispers) at the site of a too-cute tuxedo-clad little boy, and 2 formally-dressed ladies, one in royal blue, one in a wedding gown of her dreams. A string trio struck the lush chords of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves,” (something the bride said she had loved since hearing it played by a solo harpist when she was a little girl), and the family and friends gathered there stood to welcome the bridal party. Everyone could see that the bride was never so sure of anything in her life.... seeing the kindest eyes staring back at her with a little smile, her handsome groom standing next to his father, his best man. They gave each other homemade, no, heart-made, gifts---she read him a poem she wrote titled “You Are My Music,” and he in turn, toned down his beautiful, booming opera singer baritone and sang her a quiet pop love song because it was her favorite. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Readers...it was the most romantic wedding I have ever been to. And it was just yesterday...19 years ago. Happy Anniversary, Love.
(photo: Boston Photospherre)
By Laura Carlo | Thursday, October 14, 2010
I lose things. Often. I put something down, someone gets my attention and pulls me away from my task, then I’ll likely go off and do something else entirely, and finally I realize I can’t find the original item and I waste an unbelievable amount of time trying to retrace my steps. If I were to tell you this is something new, you’d say, well, it’s a function of age. The sadder truth is...I’ve done this my whole life. My mother used to say she was grateful my head was attached to my neck or else I’d forget it somewhere. It got so bad that I went to a major bookstore in my area and bought the biggest book on shelf about “how to get yourself organized.” I know I brought it home....I just haven’t been able to find it since. So much for self help. In the 7:00 hour today I’m playing Beethoven’s Rondo a capriccio, Op. 129 with the brilliant pianist Evgeny Kissin (see below!). I used to think that piece, which has the nickname “Rage Over a Lost Penny,” was about the anger felt at losing the penny, a veritable fortune in Beethoven’s day. (And depending on which one you choose, could even be pretty valuable today!) Now I think it means the rage over the time wasted having to look for the thing misplaced. I’ve always said the thing I hate the most is “waste” of any kind: Wasted food is a sin, wasted opportunity is a crime, wasted time... is both.
Let’s not waste any time. We can look forward to this rainy day as a chance to clean out closets and drawers and get organized, once and for all. You go first.
By the way, one of my favorite bumper stickers reads: “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” Happy Friday! (It is Friday, isn’t it?)
By Laura Carlo | Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Friends from California are coming out this way in the coming weeks to visit with my family and to “experience a real New England autumn.” They know that Boston is a major metropolitan area (they’ll be flying into Logan) and they’ll likely scout out a college or two for their daughter while they’re here...but what I really think they’re hoping for is to see the “Currier and Ives” New England ---you know---covered bridges, maple sugaring, sleigh rides in the countryside. I think with all the hub bub of our wack-a-doodle lives these days many of us New Englanders would wish a return to that, too, even if for just a little while. I thought today we just might go back to that with some New England-centric pieces from William Grant Still and Aaron Copland. And while you're enjoying some apple-cranberry pie with warm cider, let me know what makes a great New England autumn for you by posting a comment below!
(photo: Our Life in Words)
By Laura Carlo | Tuesday, October 12, 2010
There are so many exceptional young pianists right now that if you are as big a piano fan as I am it’s like an avalanche of riches. Their training is top-notch and maybe that’s part of the problem. There are so many, so good in their own ways, and yet what makes one stand out above another. Well, one pianist has captured my attention lately, not just for his performance ability but also for his heartfelt commitment to young children wanting to study piano. World-renowned pianist Lang Lang released a CD in late August of his concert recorded and filmed “live” in Vienna’s legendary Musikverein concert hall.
I’ve already played a cut for you from this CD... but it occurred to me that since it was released in the summer when so many folks are still away enjoying the last bits of vacation time you might not have heard about it. The concert program and resulting CD features Lang Lang’s first-ever recording of two Beethoven sonatas, the Appassionata and the youthful Sonata Op. 2 No. 3, plus impressionistic music by Isaac Albeniz (Book 1 of Iberia) and finally, to help celebrate the Chopin Bicentennial, three of his most popular pieces. Born in China Lang Lang began playing the piano at age 3 and had already won the Shenyang Competition and given his first recital by 5. He shot to world-wide fame at 17 when he triumphed in the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the “Gala of the Century.” He was listed by TIME magazine in 2009 among the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” played at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and has even founded the “Lang Lang International Music Foundation” with the aim of identifying and supporting exceptionally gifted students between the ages of 6 and 10. (See a video here.) Ever since he shot to fame China has been in the grip of a piano-learning frenzy known as the “Lang Lang Effect” and Steinway has recognized his popularity with children by creating five versions of the “Lang Lang Steinway,” designed for early music education. In recognition of his commitment to young people he was made a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF in 2004. Now 28, Lang Lang has played sold-out recitals all around the world and this year and into next he is touring with the new album’s program. His official website, www.langlang.com, only lists concerts through December...and none of them mention Boston, but if you don’t yet have plans for New Year’s Eve he’ll be at Avery Fisher Hall in NYC. Listen this morning for more music from “Lang Lang Live in Vienna....”