Author Archives: Leslie

SF Symphony Visits a Bad Child in Beautiful Music: L’Enfant et les Sortileges

Let us begin with a confession: this writer is one who recoils just a bit, one step back, upon hearing that a symphony will be accompanied by multi-media. Believing that music is enough on its own and that Bartok, Debussy, Ravel are complex enough to require and reward careful, focused listening, yes, a step back is in order. The performance of Maurice Ravel’s one act opera, L’enfant et les Sortileges, June 28, changed that outlook. It was an exciting performance in which all the many elements worked together so well that it is now difficult to imagine the music without the entire SF Symphony, the Symphony Chorus, the Young Women’s Chorus, the San Francisco Boys Chorus, the nine vocalist soloists, and the phenomenally attractive, animated figures of armchairs, frogs, bats, trees and other natural creatures, including the enormous hand of Maman, a mother who has had it with her child.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

The story in the opera was written by Colette, the popular French author whose marvelous writing about cats, love, nature, growing up, getting older can capture a reader’s attention until every last page is read and re-read. The history of the opera’s creation includes World War I. The Director of the Paris Opera suggested Colette write a libretto for an opera. He also suggested various composers; Colette was sold on the project as soon as Ravel’s name was mentioned. Ravel, however, was at Verdun, in 1916, a place and battle whose horrors define that war. The composer was a driver in the Motor Transport Corps. Colette’s story was sent to Verdun. What could they be thinking? It was lost. In 1917, another was sent. Ravel was demobilized and able to study the story and begin thinking of his music. The opera’s premiere was at the Theatre de Monte-Carlo, Monaco, in 1925.

Photograph courtesy of the website of artist/animator Gregoire Pont from the premiere of L’enfant et les Sortileges, Lyon, France, 2016.

The title of the story can be translated in many ways; The Child and the Magic Spells suits what happens. On the stage there is a thin curtain hanging between the back of the conductor and the area nearest the audience (down stage). The Child, a boy brilliantly played by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard wearing shapeless shorts, tee shirt and hat, is reprimanded by his mother for failing to do his home work and messing up the house and his work book. He is not going to have a nice dinner, and he feels rebellious. He would like to pull the tail of the cat and, if he could find one, cut the tail off a squirrel. A giant hand appears on the curtain in white outlines. The Child cowers a little before it, but then he continues his rebellion. Two armchairs appear on the curtain (sung by Marnie Breckenridge and Michael Todd Simpson). They are the first of a series of objects and animals which are projected onto the curtain and enacted by the singer soloists. Each character describes the ways in which the child has harmed it. When the scrim is covered in images of insects moving up and down in columns, one sees a dragonfly flitting across the vertical rows. Then, a singer stands alongside the human sized image of the dragonfly’s wings. He (Jennifer Johnson Cano) sings of the painful loss of his mate, killed by the Child. There are trees (Mr. Simpson) which have been stabbed by the child’s knife. There are two cats who love and fight (Kelly Markgraf and Ginger Costa-Jackson), a Wedgewood tea cup (Ms Costa-Jackson), saucer, and tea pot (Ben Jones) which the Child has broken. Bats (Nikki Einfeld) fly away, terrified by the Child. All sing through the presence of the soloists who interact with the gracefully drawn images. Frogs swim across the ceiling of the concert hall.

Fire in L’Enfant et les Sortileges

Anna Christy, soloist, stands on a block and sings Fire. A long, loose cloak drapes her while changing colors of orange, red, yellow are projected on her and all over the screen. The Child has not only transgressed by playing with the fire, but also endangered the whole house. Fire tells him “Good Children get warm, Bad Children get burned.” Ms Christy sings the role of the Princess in a fairy tale. The boy wants to be her hero. He says, “If only I had a sword,” and a knight’s helmet with great plumes appears on the screen exactly over his head as the sword is “drawn” into his hand. The Princess sings, “You are too weak” and “how long can a dream last?”

The creatures and objects are tired of being oppressed by the boy. They join forces and fight with him. A general impression could be that the child realizes it is safer to be good than to be bad. In the libretto, the child sees that a baby squirrel’s paw has been injured. He decides to bind its wound. He also observes that the others have each other and love, but he is alone. Suddenly, he calls out “Maman.” The others recognize this as a magic word that the child uttered as he did something good. The action of the Child caring for the squirrel was not included in this performance. So, having the other soloists begin to sing that the child is “wise” and good, was startling. He’s not good, not yet. Seeing the Child attack every aspect of nature and objects of civilization including china, a clock, furniture, and learning may look different to today’s audience observing mass extinctions; extreme hurricanes, fires, floods; and the melting of the Arctic thanks to human’s lack of care for their own world than it did to audiences and artists who had survived and witnessed the gross destruction of human life in World War I. The Child yearned for his mother at a time of crisis; one might say he reaches out for the good.

The projections were created by Gregoire Pont, a French artist who began to study animation at age 8. He calls his work Cinesthetics described on his website as”in complicity with a group of musicians, he draws and animates live, creating a unique experience where music and motion interplay.” Among his other works are Ravel’s La Mere L’Oye (Mother Goose) presented in London’s Festival Hall and the Paris Philharmonic; Shonberg’s Gurrelieder presented in Gothenberg; Debussy’s La Mer presented in Tokyo. The singers interacted with the projections by becoming part of the picture or striking toward the screen to make the image change or singing notes that made the images change rhythmically. It was a fantastic performance, both visually and musically inspiring.

Conductor Martyn Brabbins was a cheerful sorcerer bringing forth beauty, curiosities, musical tales and philosophy. He is the Music Director of the English National Opera. The first half of the concert evening included works with themes or images related to childhood. Pianist John Wilson performed three solo selections from Debussy’s Children’s Corner. With musicians from the SFS, he performed Debussy’s La Plus que lente. All were beautifully performed and delightful. An SFS chamber group including Helen Kim, violin; Matthew Young, viola; Sebastien Gingras, cello; Sayaka Tanikawa, piano, performed Faure’s Allegro molto from Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Opus 15. Debussy’s Noel des enfants qui n’ont plus de maisons (A carol of the homeless children, 1916) was a  cri de coeur sung with appropriate pain and passion by Ginger Costa-Jackson with pianist Peter Grunberg. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Grunberg played the piano four hands work by Ravel, The Enchanted Garden, from La Mere L’Oye. The entire concert was an Enchanted Garden which thoroughly charmed, enlivened, and lifted the audience sending all home with sparkles in their eyes.

 

YEFIM BRONFMAN & SF SYMPHONY PLAY PROKOFIEV

On June 22, the Hedgehogs were in the audience for the powerful performance of Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 in G minor for Piano, Opus 16. It was a privilege to be there. Yefim Bronfman, the pianist, is surely one of the greatest pianists. His mastery of this Concerto reveals his mastery of Prokofiev’s music and of the art of the piano. Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 is demanding on every level: technique, emotion, physical abilities. Bronfman triumphs

Yefim Bronfman

in every category with magnificent partnership of the SF Symphony. Bronfman made the challenges of playing this grand, gorgeous, overwhelming music seem to come to him naturally. He breathes the music and the Davies Symphony Hall audience was captivated as he led them on an enormous journey. Mr. Bronfman will continue touring through the US and abroad this summer. If you are anywhere near one of his concerts, go. Do not miss his performances. Everyone who loves music will talk about the experience forever.

The composer, Sergei Prokofiev, found this concerto’s piano solo difficult to play. It is said that he complained of how hard it was for him to learn and perform. Prokofiev won first prize in piano from the St. Petersburg Conservatory so his opinion of playing his creation must be accepted. The Concerto No. 2 is the second in more than one way. His first composition of it was lost in a fire, in 1918. Not yet published, the concerto was lost. Prokofiev had fled the revolution in Russia and gone to Paris. In 1923-1924, he reconstructed it from notes and added new music. The concerto is melodic, suggests dances, machine sounds, and, in the third movement, even sounds threatening. Throughout, the meter changes grabbing the audience’s attention to a piano that is played almost faster than one can listen. It is a giant, life journey.

Yefim Bronfman was born in Tashkent, in Central Asia, a former part of the Soviet Union. He and his family immigrated to Israel where he studied piano with Arie Vardi, head of the Rubin Academy of Music, Tel Aviv University. Moving to the US, he studied at the Juilliard and Marlboro Schools of Music and at the Curtis Institute of Music. His teachers were Rudolf Firkusny, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin. He became an American citizen, in 1989. Among his honors: he won the Avery Fisher Prize, 1991. He has been nominated for 6 Grammy Awards and won in 1997 for a recording of the three Bartok piano concertos with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Also on this program were Fratres for Strings and Percussion by Arvo Part, Music for Ensemble and Orchestra by Steve Reich, and Polovtsian Dances by Alexander Borodin.

Alexander Borodin

The SF Symphony’s performance of the Polovtsian Dances was beautiful as the SFS captured the exquisite, dancing music and enchanting, exotic folkoric sounds. Just when the listener comes close to being lulled into a dream, the 12th century military campaign of Prince Igor against the Polovtsian tribe re-enters with force and  passion. Bravo, Borodin!

Mahler’s 9th Meets MTT: Not a Farewell

Gustav Mahler (July 7, 1860 – May 18, 1911)

Gustav Mahler composed nine symphonies and began his tenth. His Symphony No. 9 was completed in April, 1910, one year before his death, and premiered June, 1912, one year after. With ahistorical hindsight, many have regarded the 9th as a summation of the composer’s life and a farewell to life and music. This is faulty history and a bad way to hear the complex, astonishing music. In the course of this ninety minute symphony, one may hear myriad forces of nature, human experience, and the poignant, irregular pulse in the music. There are pauses; floods of sweeping phrases; galumphing, country dances; a final, transcendent adagio. The movements end as though falling apart, with a harsh punch, or evaporate into another form of being. This writer has heard it said the Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 is not the most sought after for performance. It happens in multiple dimensions at once. It cannot be summed up — it is not “the one with a thousand voices”–it is music made of Mahler’s measureless understanding of music. In the few years preceding his death, Mahler’s life was full of events. He resigned from a ten year tenure as the Artistic Director of the Vienna Court Opera, a role in which he and the orchestra flourished despite constant difficulties, not least the anti-Semitic attacks on Mahler. He desired more time for composing. His four year old daughter, Maria, died. Within days of her death, Mahler learned he had a severe heart problem and needed to curb his activities. An energetic outdoorsman, hiker, swimmer, Mahler was forced to limit the athleticism he loved. This was not a time of giving up: he became Director of the New York Philharmonic and composed Das Lied von der Erde.  He continued to lead a life of creative accomplishment and leadership given to large institutions. He was not an artist in retirement or an invalid marking time. Having seen tv dramas in which someone plays more than one chess game simultaneously, and having tried but not pursued playing even one chess game at a time, one could imagine an unusual person succeeding at that but could not guess how . The structure of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 has a multi-layered complexity put together in a way that creates a unified beauty. It encompasses human emotions and the endless fascination of the natural world. To know one flower, one must look closely and also envision the earth.

Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director of San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the superb, mind-opening, heart-tearing performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, June 13-16, 2019. The Hedgehogs attended the June 16th concert which will be Maestro Tilson Thomas’ last performance with the SFS until his return on September 4. He is taking a leave to have heart surgery, in Cleveland. He was to conduct the Symphony’s programs programs June 20-22 and June 27-30. His composition, Street Song for Symphonic Brass, on the program for June 20-22, will not be performed. His devoted following, truly a chorus of thousands, wish him well and await his return.

 

 

MONET: The Late Years, De Young Museum, SF

By the time you read this, the exhibition MONET: The Late Years may have closed. It is scheduled at the De Young Museum from opening February 16 to closing May 27, 2019. I went twice. I had to see it more. I felt a need to be surrounded by the jumping, flowing, springing energy of these pictures. The light beams from them in colors which pulsed into my own pulse. This great exhibition was organized by the Fine Arts Museums San Francisco and the Kimbell Art Museum, Ft. Worth, “with the exceptional support of the Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris” which was the source of many of the paintings. Waterlilies, yes, and also there were the Japanese bridge Claude Monet created for his garden and his paintings, the willows, agapanthus, iris, day lilies, and roses. The onlooker feels there is a mystery to these flowers and trees which on an average spring or summer day one might walk past, hardly noticing them.

Water lilies under the Japanese Bridge.

Monet observed his own powers of observation quickening as he looked with more care. He wrote: “It took me some time to understand my water lilies…I cultivated them with no thought of painting them….One does not fully appreciate a landscape in one day….And then, suddenly, I had a revelation of the magic of my pond. I took my palette. From this moment, I have had almost no other model.” The model includes the reflection of the sky’s colors and clouds in the lily pond. He pictures the inclusive reality of the plant he might touch and the entire atmosphere in which that plant and the reflection of the plant must live. The colors do not stop anywhere between these realities.

The roses arching over a path.

The “late years” of Monet’s life, he was born in 1840 and passed away in 1926, brought him personal grief as well as new artistic visions. He lost his wife, Alice Hoschede,1911; his first wife, Camille, had also died; his step daughter, Suzanne, died in 1899; his eldest son died, in 1914, the year World War I began. His eyesight was failing due to cataracts. He had surgery, which he had feared, in 1923. It was successful enough to allow him to work more vigorously. The exhibition includes works which come in series: a weeping willow described in swirling lines and dense brush strokes is seen in mostly red tones, mostly blue, mostly green. He is captivated by the changes we see every moment depending upon the time of day and weather as well as one’s own point of view.## See it now, that now is already gone and replaced by this, oops, no, that, new now. The motion of the water, the drifting clouds change the reflections one may see; both phenomena will move the waterlilies just as a breeze will make the iris leaves lift and fall. These plants are alive. That means that in the deepest reality they are always moving. Comments about his broad, free brush strokes which suggest more than delineate the exact shape of a flower overlook this fact: the rose is never the same, the lily is never still, they are in motion because they are alive.

Claude Monet in his garden.

When I arrived in Golden Gate Park for the first visit to this exhibition, there was no place to park. It took a lot of time circling to find a place. We had driven from Mountain View, about 48 miles away. It took nearly two hours to get there. Could they all be there for Monet? I thought it was the most crowded I had seen the park and a museum since the days of King Tut. Why were so many drawn to this exhibition. My theory is this: we hunger for beauty. We give our love for this gift of beauty. Is it out of fashion? Do serious artists turn away from beauty? The audience for Monet felt excited, surrounded, maybe caressed, by color and beauty. Monet painted to present the reality of the plants and water and sky all around him, and the reality was beauty.

##Please see Susan Embers’ review of Jonathan Clark’s photography exhibition, “Gator Time: Gulf Variations” in Hedgehog Highlights. The link is www.livelyfoundation.org/wordpress/?p=2722. Ms Embers points out the mastery of technique and vision that allows Clark to be perhaps the one other artist who has purposefully made his art by penetrating the mystery of time, place, weather changing what one may see even when looking at the very same place and subjects.

GARDEN BOOK: The Dancer’s Garden by Leslie Friedman

The Lively Foundation is proud to announce the publication of The Dancer’s Garden, a new book by Lively’s Artistic Director, Leslie Friedman. It is a beautiful hardback book with text and more than 60 full color photographs by the author.

Cover photos are by internationally admired photographer, Jonathan Clark.

“Neighbors, strangers, cats, flowers, weeds, trees appear in the garden and in my memory. I meet time through lives in the garden, including my own.” Dancer/choreographer Leslie Friedman writes about her humorous, informative, piquant experiences in gardening, dance, and life.  Friedman’s groundbreaking solo dance performances have been acclaimed worldwide. She holds a Ph.D. in History from Stanford, and an A.B. summa cum laude from Vassar College. Her writing has been published in the US, France, India, and Poland.

This limited-edition book is now available from The Lively Foundation. Price: $45 (this price includes postage), special edition with signed photographic print, $75 (this price includes postage). To buy The Dancer’s Garden, contact  livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net

 

NEW TICKET SERVICE: GO FOR IT!

The Lively Foundation is HAPPY to work with Brown Paper Tickets for the Tickets to the Festival Concert, Sunday, May 19, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. This is the best way to get tickets for the best show anywhere. Use this link:

festivalconcert.brownpapertickets.com

You can use your credit card. BPT will give you information and tickets. This is going to be great improvement in Lively’s ability to serve our audience!

Chrystal Bella Chen & Oscar Adrian Rodriguez will dance the Samba at the Festival Concert & lead a master class in Waltz & Cha Cha on Full Day of Dance©!! Could not be better than that! Join the Dance!

GREAT DANCES, GREAT DANCERS! PICTURES! IDF@SV2019

The performers and choreographers in the Festival Concert, Awardees of the Choreography Competition, the Festival Artists leading open Master Classes and performing in the Festival Concert all add up to a great variety in every category but one: EXCELLENCE! You will not find the equal of our artists anywhere. Nope, not anywhere. Take a look: Festival Artists include Audreyanne Delgado Covarrubias, Tap Dancer extraordinaire! Her inventive choreography and rhythmic skills leaves every audience applauding for more. She will perform in the Festival Concert and lead two Master Classes: Tap and Pilates Mat. Etta Walton invites the audience to join her in her Electric Line Dances, and they all jump up to join in. She makes everyone smile. She performs in the Festival Concert and leads the fabulous Line Dance Master Class. Awardees of the 2019 Choreography Competition: Sierra Don, contemporary dance based on Irish legends; Jyothi Lakkaraju, new choreography for the classical Indian dance style Kuchipudi; Alyssa Mitchel, contemporary dance about interpersonal relationships; Peri Trono, contemporary dance about (maybe) inter-species relationships; Ryeonhwa Yeo new choreography in Korean dance. If you love dance, if you are curious about dance, if you are busy watching paint dry, you truly cannot miss the beauty, the inspiration, the fun of IDF@SV, 2019. FULL DAY OF DANCE©, Saturday, May 18, classes from 10 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. FESTIVAL CONCERT, Sunday, May 19, 3 p.m. All events at the Mountain View Masonic Center, 890 Church St., Mountain View, CA 94041. Contact livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net with any questions!

Pictures: Top row, (L to R) Audreyanne Delgado Covarrubias, Etta Walton; next row, (L to R) Ryeonhwa Yeo, Sierra Don; next row (L to R) Meena & Anjali Vemuri dance Kuchipudi by Jyothi Lakkaraju, Alyssa Mitchel; above: choreography by Peri Trono (Sierra Don photo by Andy Mogg)

IDF@SV 2019: Register & Buy Tickets NOW!

LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY: THE Great Dance Experience, The International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley, 2019!  ALL EVENTS take place at 890 Church St., Mtn. View. REGISTER for Full Day of Dance© classes:  Make your choice, one or any number of classes. Price per class reduces with each added class. You may pay in cash at the door. OR You may use a credit card at the door. OR Send us a check made out to The Lively Foundation and mail it to The Lively Foundation, 550 Mountain View Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94041-1941 OR use the PayPal offered on the landing page of this site. Go to livelyfoundation.org Scroll down the landing page to see “Donate.” Click on that. It takes you to PayPal. PLEASE send an email  to livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net  to tell us your name and which classes you have chosen to take. Full Day prices are: $25 single class, $40 for 2 classes; $54 for 3 classes; $64 for 4 classes; $70 for 5 classes. Scholarship aide is available; you must email livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net  in advance to apply.  BUY TICKETS for the Festival Concert: General Admission: $20; over 65 or under 10 years of age $12; Groups of 5 or more $12 each; Groups of SRS. or children $10 each. Mail your check to The Lively Foundation to The Lively Foundation, 550 Mountain View Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94041-1941 OR use the PayPal connection on our landing page. Scroll down the page to DONATE. That connects you to PayPal. PLEASE send an email to livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net to tell us who you are, how many tickets you have bought so that we have your name/s at the ticket desk.

FULL DAY OF DANCE© CLASS SCHEDULE NOW!!

The Full Day of Dance© is the BEST way to do something you love and try something new. Five classes: all open to mixed levels, each one hour long, fifteen minute break between each class. You may take one or any number of classes. BEST DEAL & MOST FUN: TAKE THEM ALL!Audreyanne Delgado Covarrubias: extraordinary Tap artist teaches Tap on Full Day of Dance© Saturday, May 19, 1:15 – 2:15 p.m.

Here is the schedule for Full Day of Dance© 2019. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

10:00 a.m. – 11:00    Ballet ( mixed levels, no pointe work, all adults welcome, ages 15 & up & up) 11:15 a.m. – 12:15    Pilates mat (please bring a mat or towel, good for Pilates fans & newcomers

Etta Walton leads the audience in her Electric Line Dances. Take her amazing class, Saturday, May 18, 2:30-3:30

1:15 – 2:15 p.m.       Tap (If you have tap shoes, that’s great; if not, wear shoes that will stay on.) 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.       Etta’s Electric Lines (This is a wonderful class for all ages and all dance levels) 3:45 – 4:45 p.m.       Ballroom (Waltz & Cha Cha; no partner? no problem. Partners are provided).

REGISTER NOW & receive Early Bird rates. EB rates end one month before the event. Class costs: Price per class reduces with each added class. Early Bird registration: $20 single,$36 for 2; $48 for 3; $56 for 4; $60 for all five; Regular registration: $25 single; $40 for 2; $54 for 3; $64 for 4; $70 for all five. Please send a check made out to The Lively Foundation to: The Lively Foundation, 550 Mountain View Ave, Mountain View, CA 94041-1941  OR  pay at the door (no Early Bird at the door) OR go to the landing page of this blog (livelyfoundation.org), scroll down until you see the DONATE sign. Click on that and follow directions for using PayPal. PLEASE IF you pay through PayPal notify us through email that you are doing that and which classes you want to take. THANK YOU! See you on March 18 for a great day of dance!

Contact livelyfoundation@sbcglobal.net with any questions.

MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN: Phenomenal Pianist at San Francisco Symphony

The recital by pianist Marc-André Hamelin, Sunday, March 31, at Davies Symphony Hall was phenomenal. Mr. Hamelin is a great artist. Read this article, then get a ticket to fly somewhere soon to hear him. His technical brilliance is well matched by what appears to be his total immersion in the music; he understands it, he knows it, there is not a note that is not important to him. Not only can he play at warp speed, he can play slowly, even very, very quietly. I am tempted to call it playing “magically,” except it is not magic. The music is real. The musician is of this real world. The program knocked my sox off. Mr. Hamelin, however, is not a flamboyant presence. He is all about the music.

Marc-André Hamelin (photo by Fran Kaufman)

J.S. Bach’s Chaconne from Violin Partita in D minor, No. 2, BWV 1004 as arranged by stellar pianist-composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) opened the performance. It was representative of the now seldom performed 19th-early 20th century transcriptions of Bach’s monumental works. Whatever the historical instrument and performance style fans might think, it was fascinating musically. There was Bach but something different. It thoroughly engaged the listener’s attention. Written for the violin, translating it into piano language gave it different sounds, textures, and a different spirit. It was a wonderful introduction to Mr. Hamelin’s playing as he demonstrated his total mastery over the many dimensions of the piano.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Robert Schumann’s Fantasy in C major, Opus 17 is a gigantic work conveying myriad emotions as it ventures into different rhythms and suggests images. Having seen Mr. Hamelin play it, one can barely think anyone else would approach its technical difficulty and multiple meanings. The music explodes with Romantic energy and ideals and, in its third movement, seems to hover in moon glow. It is sometimes closer to a symphony than a sonata and draws on all of the young Schumann’s piano knowledge and technique as well as imagination unbound. Schumann wrote part of it in 1838, during the time he was separated from Clara Wieck, his true love, by her father. He wrote to Clara telling her, “I think  it is more impassioned than anything I have ever written–a deep lament for you.” Yes, romantic in every sense. They were married in 1840: she recognized as one of the great if not greatest pianists in Europe and he as a leading composer. Let us leave their history there before the tragic story’s end.

Mr. Hamelin is known for exploring less well known composers as well as the most celebrated, classical masters. His program included Six Arrangements of Songs Sung by Charles Trénet. Mr. Hamelin found a recording, Mr. Nobody Plays Trénet, of Trénet’s songs which typify French cabaret in the era from 1930s-1950s. The pianist who recorded the songs was Alexis Weissenberg (1929-2012). Mr. Hamelin created a score from listening to the recording and then received arrangements of four of the six songs from Mr. Weissenberg’s granddaughter. The performance of the six very different songs was a delight: personal and intriguing music with a special lilt and character. A wonderful addition to the recital.

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Cipressi (Cypresses), Opus 17 was a revelation to those of us unfamiliar with this composer. The music calls out visions of the cypress trees which were in the environment of the place in Italy where Castelnuovo-Tedesco spent summers in the 1920s. For this listener, the image of eucalyptus in the Bay Area mist immediately came to mind. It is a relatively brief, but beautiful and completely original work. The composer wrote extensively for the guitar as well as piano, symphony and voice. Like other artists who were fortunate to leave Europe in the 1930s, Castelnuovo escaped to Los Angeles in 1938. The beauty of this composition with its slightly mysterious sound impels me to look for his operatic work for Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well.

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

One may often hear Chopin’s work described as “jewel like” meaning both brilliant and, especially in comparison to a symphony, small. The thing about Chopin’s work is that it is perfect. This was my rejoinder to a friend who thought Chopin’s lack of symphonies made him less a composer. No. His work is perfect, that is in addition to enchanting, beautiful, entirely only itself. The two pieces chosen by Mr. Hamelin, the Polonaise-Fantasy in A-flat major, Opus 61, and the Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Opus 54, were vigorous and large, full of invention. Chopin’s performances and compositions helped to enlarge the piano’s world in technique and sound. Mr. Hamelin seemed to revel in the bright, ebullient and continually challenging music, and so did the audience.

Standing and cheering for Marc-André Hamelin, the audience brought him back for bows and then received two encores. The first was his own composition, Toccata on L’homme armé. Fast, incredibly intricate, it had thirty premieres as all the contestants in the 2017 Van Cliburn contest had to play this work by Hamelin, one of their judges. Bowing to the insistence of music lovers greedy for more, Mr. Hamelin also played Herberge from Schumann’s Forest Scenes. It was played lovingly, and with careful attention to the unusual phrasing and a surprise rest before the delicate ending.

Mr. Hamelin performs all over the world, and he will be in Madison, WI, April 12- 14. The ice has probably melted. You will be glad to be there even if it has not.