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Another What Makes it Great concert

Last night we went to another What Makes it Great concert at Jordan Hall, our last program in this year's Celebrity Series. These shows have the same scheme each time are are fun, informative, and really a great show. Robert Kapilow the host and the guest artist(s) are on stage.

In the first part Kapilow talks about the chosen piece, breaking it down into basics illustrating things on the piano,and the guest then plays part. Last nights featured Beethoven's Waldstein piano sonata with Jeremy Denk the featured pianist. Then after an optional intermission the piece is played and followed by a Q&A session. There were some interesting questions. A doctor asked how do pianist avoid injuring themselves especially since they play so much (Denk quipped that pianists have to practice more because there are so many more notes).

Kapilow started out talking about how this piece was hated when it was first introduced in 1804 because it was too radical. He played excerpts of some other contemporary music such as Clementi to show the difference in style that people were accustomed to. Now we've seen lots of this in other forms of music - jazz as it evolved from the 20s through the 50's; I remember the first reaction to Bob Dylan - hey what's this guy who can't sing doing?

I wish I had a recording of the first part because there was lots of material he talked about (the first part was about an hour) that I couldn't recall when Kemp played the whole piece, but there was lots that I remembered. It certainly shed new light on the piece to me. He pointed out that pianos were evolving in those days and one of the high notes in this piece couldn't have been played before a date (Aug 6, 1803?) because that was when the first piano with such a note was made. Towards the end there is supposed to be some octave glissandos, but they basically can't be played on the modern piano whose action is to hard - Denk did illustrate it, however.

Another thing this reminds me of is that all this music that we hear on the modern piano was never played that way by the composer because of the earlier design of pianos. I wonder what they'd think?

After the concert we went to JP to catch the last English Country Dance and Contra Dance of the evening; helped clean up, and then went for the usual ice cream at JP Licks. The Contra Dance caller, Sarah Gregory Smith (a person I like very much and I'm glad I went to say hello to her again) is blind! It is quite amazing how well she can sense what people in the hall are doing by the sounds of feet and the occasional buzz of talk. Her husband is part of the band and he places a nice melodic banjo.

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(Denk quipped that pianists have to practice more because there are so many more notes).

He also said, somewhat more seriously, that he finds that the better he plays, the less stress he puts on his arms/wrists/hands. Kapilow added that this appeared to be true in other endeavors that he (Kapilow) has taught, such as tennis and karate (he appears to be something of a polymath).

The only Celebrity Series concert I went to this year was to hear David Daniels at Jordan Hall. I love him, he's one of my favorite performers. But I missed altogether too much this year, and I hope to do better next year. How many concerts did you choose in your subscription?

I think we chose 10 this time. We generally take symphony orchestras, pianists in Jordan Hall, What Makes it Great, and some chamber music (especially if the program includes Death and the Maiden) subject to known conflicts. Oh, and this year we took a Mark Morris.

I favor the singers. But next year maybe we can team up and go to some of these together.

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