Archive | March, 2015

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Classical music relaxes cats

Posted on 31 March 2015 by admin

The study, which was undertaken by scientists at the University of Lisbon, placed headphones on cats’ ears while under anaesthetic and monitored their breathing and pupil movements.
When the cats were played Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings in a concentrated two-minute burst, the scientists found that the classical piece made a noticeable difference to their state of relaxation.
Dr Miguel Carreira, a veterinary surgeon at the University of Lisbon, told the Journal of Feline Medicine: “During consultations I have noticed, for example, that most cats like classical music, particularly George Handel compositions, and become more calm, confident and tolerant throughout the clinical evaluation.”

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The greatest Chopin pianist—Arthur Rubinstein

Posted on 30 March 2015 by admin

Arthur Rubinstein plays Chopin

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Remarkably few musicians achieve iconic status, their reputation often clouded by extra-curricular considerations. Glenn Gould’s eccentricity, for example, can distort an objective assessment of his contradictory art and, regarding those of a more temporary status, Eileen Joyce’s glamour or the publicity surounding Van Cliburn’s triumph in the inaugural Tchaikovsky Piano Competition have masked assessments of their true calibre. Stephen Kovacevich feels that Dame Myra Hess acquired a comfortable Queen Mother status and regality that, while appealing to Americans in particular, compromised estimates of her stature.

But with Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982) there is no such sense of diversion. How vividly I recall my parents’ present of a children’s encyclopedia where I came across a picture of Rubinstein and the statement ‘When Rubinstein plays Chopin, you are carried away into another world’; heady and alluring stuff for a 10-year-old and an aspiring young pianist. Of course, there was image as well as musical reality. An engaging raconteur, Rubinstein was perhaps over-fond of regaling the press with such statements as ‘I am the happiest man I know’ or ‘I adore Spain as I adore a woman, with tenderness’.

Talking to me many years ago, he confessed to a special love for Chopin’s Barcarolle, claiming that after his performance he invariably succeeded in seducing the most beautiful woman in the room. True, Harvey Sachs’s biography tells of a man susceptible to jealousy (Horowitz’s success was a particular irritant, thus ‘he may have possessed a great technique but I was the finer musician’) and with a less than immaculate pedigree as a husband and father. But the playing – the musical truth – is where you strike gold.

You may miss recordings of music intimately associated with Rubinstein: Albéniz’s Iberia, Szymanowski’s Second Sonata andStravinsky’s Petrushka failed to materialise. Was it because he offered a ‘helping hand’ to composers, who would have complained that he did not play what they wrote, even when he made their writing more scintillating than the original? And you will note the absence of lateBeethoven. Once a champion of the Hammerklavier Sonata, Rubinstein later felt that the great middle-period sonatas (theWaldstein and Appassionata) were more to the public taste.

But he recorded virtually all of Chopin, and even though his plans for the complete Etudes were never realised, his sets of the Mazurkas, Polonaises, Nocturnes and Scherzos of 1932‑39 are beyond price, a legacy where patrician elegance combines with a heroic virtuosity – and an endearing touch of recklessness – to confirm Rubinstein as arguably the greatest of all Chopin pianists. He may have revisited these masterpieces on record throughout his life, seeking an ever-greater clarity and refinement, yet today we can listen to first offerings that were the antithesis of a more sentimental tradition.

Chopin was a force of nature for Rubinstein, a man of fire and ice, a fellow patriot who wrote the tragic history of Poland in music. Rubinstein brought vigour and energy and a unique tonal elegance and finesse to every teeming page and idea. His way with the Mazurkas (Chopin’s confessional diary) allows for a give-and-take, a rubato (or musical breathing) that illuminates every harmonic and rhythmic twist and piquancy. And here is Rubinstein the great ‘singer’ pianist – enough to arouse envy in Callas or Fischer-Dieskau.

Puzzled by, say, Richter’s ‘Chinese water-torture’ tempi in Schubert or Argerich’s crazed volatility in Chopin, he sought a perfect balance of sense and sensibility, a flawless combination of Slavic passion and Gallic precision. And, above all, there was his charisma, ensnaring the far reaches of his audience and drawing everyone into his magical aura. Few pianists have aroused their listeners to such a fever pitch as they wait for their favourite encores (Chopin’s Nocturne in F sharp; Falla’s ‘Ritual Fire Dance’, with hands flailing like a threshing machine; or Villa-Lobos’s ‘Polichinelle’).

Rubinstein chose an all-Chopin programme for his long-delayed return to Russia in 1964. He caused a furore, expecially in the heroics of the A flat Polonaise, storming through the coda in a blaze of exultancy. But my closing memory is of Rubinstein’s final recital, given at London’s Wigmore Hall, where failing eyesight and physical infirmity seemingly left him in a performance of his encore, the C sharp minor Waltz. He often lamented a lack of joie de vivre in today’s pianists, an obsession with the letter rather than the spirit of the score. In contrast, his career was a lifelong love affair with audiences, who responsed in rapture. His ‘voice’, verve, charm and idiosyncrasy, his indelible sound and phraseology will remain with us forever, the stuff of legends and of true iconic glory.

By Bryce Morrison

The Chopin Collection

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Vilde Frang & Mozart‘s Violin Concertos

Posted on 29 March 2015 by admin

Following the success of her discs of Romantic and Late Romantic repertoire, Vilde Frang has recorded Mozart’s Concertos Nos. 1 and 5 ‘Turkish’ and the Sinfonia Concertante K364, enabling music lovers to hear the Norwegian violinist perform Classical repertoire on disc for the first time. The impetus for this album was a 2012 orchestral tour of Asia conducted by Jonathan Cohen in which Vilde performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. The vibrancy of their musical collaboration was something both artists were keen to repeat and commit to disc. Jonathan Cohen’s chamber orchestra, Arcangelo, proved the ideal partner, joined by violist Maxim Rysanov in the Sinfonia Concertante.

The Sunday Times – Album of the Week “The results are fresh and invigorating”

BBC Music Magazine – Concerto Choice (5 Stars) “Frang has the knack of breathing life into every note […] compelling listening throughout with button-bright sound”

Classic FM Featured Album: “Frang’s playing is extrovert and confident…Some of the very best versions of Mozart’s timeless masterpieces.”

Vilde Frang & Mozart‘s Violin Concertos

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How listening classical music helps on unborn children

Posted on 28 March 2015 by admin

The British actress, who is currently appearing as the Fairy Godmother in Disney’s new live-action version of Cinderella , is a big fan of classical music – for its calming influence.

When she was pregnant with her two children, Bonham Carter says she made use of the Tomatis Method, based on a theory that information coming into the foetus’s ear guides the development of the brain.

“I basically played Mozart and violin concertos again and again because it stimulated the inner ear of the unborn baby,” she says on this week’s edition of Charlotte Green’s Culture Club, (Sunday 29 March, 3pm).

“And everything that they promised happened to both my children. They came out alert, unbelievably clever! And very relaxed”

 

“I love classical music,” Bonham Carter tells Charlotte Green. “In fact I often listen to Classic FM. It’s the soundtrack to my daily life because I find it really genuinely de-stresses, and I feel it can be a genuine healthy drug.”

The actress’s eclectic taste in music ranges from the Baroque – “Bach’s piano preludes for just getting a sense of equilibrium” – to Edith Piaf and American folk rock band, The Lumineers.

She is also passionate about film scores. “I love Patrick Doyle ‘s music,” she says of Cinderella ‘s composer. “He’s so great at finding a simple melody.”

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