Patterns of Plants (Sarah Cahill Performs Mamoru Fujieda)

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Composer David Lang was right when he said to pianist Sarah Cahill, “You should be playing Mamoru’s work.” Lang was speaking of the work of composer Mamoru Fujieda who, “in a world that rewards virtuosity and showmanship, chooses to write music of simplicity and delicacy,” as Cahill so justly notes.

I’ve admired Cahill’s elegant pianism for some time now. Her playing reminds me of no one so much as Marian McPartland. Like McPartland, Cahill never gets in the way, but allows the music to speak directly through her fingers on the keys. Though I knew little about Fujieda’s work, when I learned that Cahill had a new CD out, I was primed take heed.

The pieces included in Fujieda’s Patterns of Plants are literally derived from the sounds of plants: the raw materials of the compositions are comprised of “electrical fluctuations on the surface of the leaves of plants . . . converted . . . into sound . . .”. I am ordinarily a skeptic when it comes to this sort of thing, but when Cahill opened the door with her graceful performance, I happily walked in.

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Listening List

Mamoru Fujieda: Patterns of Plants, the Sixteenth Collection – Pattern A (Sarah Cahill, piano)

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Credits: The quotations in the first paragraph are from the CD liner notes. The remaining quotations may be found here. The photographs, taken at Innisfree Garden on October 17, 2014, are mine.

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Dancing with Rachmaninoff

Central Park Conservatory Garden, Dancing Maidens

Central Park Conservatory Garden, Dancing Maidens

Fall color is coming on in the hills, and the concert season has begun. I have a long list of potential concerts about which I’ve done almost nothing but order a small subscription to the New York Philharmonic. In the end—and it’s not unusual—my concert season started with something I hadn’t planned: a friend had an extra ticket to Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Stravinsky’s complete Firebird at Carnegie Hall. It’s not only something I didn’t have on my list, but also something I’d not have chosen on my own. Continue reading

Guest Post: Brian Long Reflects on Mahler’s First Symphony and World War One

Zygmunt Ajdukiewicz, Krakow and Goral folk costumes in Lesser Poland (1898, public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Zygmunt Ajdukiewicz, Krakow and Goral folk costumes in Lesser Poland (1898, public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

I first “met” Brian Long when we were classmates in two MOOCs offered by the Curtis Institute of Music, Jonathan Biss, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, and From the Repertoire: Western Music History Through Performance. I remember fondly, among other things, our many lively discussions about Arnold Schoenberg in the latter course. Continue reading

There’ll Always Be A London

The Thames and Parliament

The Thames and Parliament

As October is upon us, it’s high time I closed out the saga that has been “my summer vacation” with its final installment: a week in London, where, despite the heat, we saw, heard, and tasted a host of quintessentially British delights. Continue reading

In Aino’s Garden

View of the house at Ainola from Aino's garden

View of the house at Ainola from Aino’s garden

Love is a strange thing.

—Jean Sibelius to Aino Sibelius, 1892
[Tawaststjerna v. 1, Loc 2314-2326]

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to tell a tale about our visit to Ainola, where the Sibeliuses lived from 1904 until the death of Jean (1957, age 91) and Aino (1969, age 98). I’ve been flummoxed, though, about where to start. The thing is, there isn’t a single, straight-line narrative to be had. The story of Ainola isn’t a one story, but many, and even perspectives on the same strand of story conflict and multiply without cease. Continue reading