January 2006


January 30, 2006 21:16

I'm testing something, too. Why doesn't anyone comment on my blogs any more? Does anybody read them?

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Happy Birthday Mozart (2nd ending)

January 30, 2006 03:16

Let me try that again.


To see my Mozart birthday greetings click here.

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Happy Birthday, Mozart

January 30, 2006 02:59


To see my Mozart birthday greetings, click vienna.m

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How do you like this?

January 24, 2006 03:20


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P words

January 22, 2006 23:16

To all the parents who take their kids to concerts that they don’t necessarily like and then wait for the kids to get autographs, lessons, and whatever else

So begins the book To a Young jazz Musician. Letters from the Road by Wynton Marsalis. The book takes the form of letters that Marsalis writes from the road between the bus ride, the sound check, and the gig to an aspiring jazz trumpeter named Anthony, who is the age of a college student. Marsalis tells him We have to talk about music and life, because, ultimately, they end up as one and the same. So true. There are so many life lessons for us as we study and teach music.

Someone once asked John Coltrane when he practiced, and Coltrane replied, “I only practice when I’m working on something.” Marsalis advocates practicing “something” whenever you practice. It could be your sound, a deeper swing, or just hearing bass lines. When I practice or teach, I concentrate on several things at the same time. I like the idea of practicing “something” when it helps us focus and set goals. When I assign a student a new piece, I scan it for things that are new or may be difficult. Today I was teaching a second year student (fourth grader) the music she got from her teacher at school for the spring concert. She wanted to start with something that was not too hard because it had a lot of repetition. However, it had three flats, and she hasn’t played anything with flats yet. There’s a goal. I try to get my adult students to articulate their own goals. I ask, “What aspect of your playing do you most want to improve now?” It gives us both direction.

Besides practice, Marsalis talks about some other “p words.” One is patience. Obviously, you need to be patient with yourself as you try to learn new things and remember or improve things you’ve already learned. My students often tell me that I’m very patient, but I think that they’re the ones who are patient. I hear them try something over and over until they get it right. Two of my students whom I teach together told me that there was a specific song that they wanted to learn to play. I thought it was really too advanced for them and suggested some alternatives. Incidentally, I didn’t particularly like this song. They worked on it and worked on it over a period of several weeks, and now they can play it reasonably well. I’ve started teaching them bowing variations and other ornaments with this piece, since they can play the melody well. They must have consolidated a lot of their skills while learning this song because they are now learning new songs and techniques much more quickly than they used to. So we need to be patient with ourselves and with other people. We also need to be patient with a piece of music which we don’t particularly like but can’t avoid playing. I really like almost all the pieces my orchestra conductor chooses for us, but, once in a while, he gives us one that I can’t stand. I have to be patient with these pieces and remind myself that I’m learning new things with the music. This also demonstrates the importance of good relationships between the conductor and the players.

Another of Marsalis’s “p words” is persistence, which is very closely related to patience in my mind. He talks about other aspects of persistence. No matter how much you learn, there is always more to learn. I remind my students from time to time that when I show them new aspects of a piece of music that they’ve learned, this does not mean that they’re not playing well. On the contrary, they’re playing so well that I’m teaching them more challenging things. Marsalis also says that we need to persist because playing music means a life replete with self-doubt and difficulties that never go away – they just change. If that is true for Marsalis, a very successful musician, it is true a thousand times over for me. Just keep going.

I have some problems with contemporary music which Marsalis shares. He says that most music today is neither melodic nor romantic. We need to hear some music with these qualities, even if we have to search for it. The Internet gives us opportunities to hear things we are not accustomed to hearing, but we may have to do a purposeful search for them. In other places and times, melodic and romantic music thrived, and they can thrive again. We just have to make it happen.

Another p word is Pauline. Pauline will write more later.

[To be continued]

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January 21, 2006 21:38

Here is another photo of Nandina domestica.

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Fire in winter

January 21, 2006 00:06

Are there any gardeners on this site? Does anyone know what this is?


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Bach -- he's dead, isn't he?

January 16, 2006 22:31

Today I went to Barnes and Noble to get/order some CDs. (See my blog 1.13.06.) I had decided to ask the staff to order a couple of Heifetz CDs so I could listen to them and then decide which ones to buy. The CDs I have in mind are undoubtedly great performances, but the original recordings are decades old, and I’m concerned about the sound quality. I have listened to some recently remastered CDs made from very old recordings, and sometimes the background noise is so strong that I can’t enjoy themusic. I also decided to buy a CD that I’ve been wanting for a long time. It’s Musical Offering and Art of Fugue, the Marriner recording. I have it on vinyl, along with gems of Milstein playing Bach, but I don’t listen to my vinyl recordings any more. I know that I looked for the Marriner recording on CD for a long time, and I thought I must have found it and bought it. I looked and looked for it in my home, but I couldn’t find it, so I put it on my shopping list.

I was well prepared. I had found the CDs online on the B&N website and printed out all the ordering information for the ones I was interested in. I figured that B&N would have a few Heifetz CDs in stock. I have bought some there before. Tonight all they had was one copy of one CD, and it wasn’t one that I wanted. I spoke to the one staff member in the music section, a young, slow, unenthusiastic woman. I guessed that she didn’t know much about classical music, so I told her that I was interested in some classical music CDs of Heifetz playing the violin, and I spelled Heifetz for her. She moved slowly and grudgingly to the computer terminal and asked me whether Heifetz was the first or last name. I told her that it was the man’s last name and wondered whether I should just go home, order the CDs online, and take whatever I got. I steeled myself and stayed in the store. She found one of the Heifetz recordings and then came to the Bach/Marriner one. She asked me whether Marriner was the composer. I was losing my patience, and I asked her whether she had ever heard of Bach. She responded, “Yes, but he’s dead isn’t he? I didn’t think a composer would – oh, never mind.” Her disdain for those who have gone before us and paved the way for us bothered me. She is enjoying some very important freedoms that billions of people elsewhere in the world would die for, some of them literally. The American Constitution and Bill of Rights were written by a bunch of dead guys but – oh, never mind. She continued with her task, stopping now and then to ring up a sale, and I kept my eye on her. After a while, she said to me, “I don’t know why, but I just can’t find this one” and pointed to one on my list. I told her that I had seen it on her monitor just a few seconds ago and asked her to retrace her steps. She found it but was still confused. She told me that she had typed in the information for one CD on my list and the computer had come up with the information for another CD. I looked at my list and saw what the problem was. My list had 5 CDs on it. The formatting was the same for each of them: title, picture, B&N number, and UPC code. She couldn’t tell which set of numbers went with which CD. I helped her. I was polite. I did not scream and shout and throw things. I did not laugh in her face. I just watched her complete the order, took my list, and left.


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Making light of the Amanita Trio

January 15, 2006 17:44


What do you think of this, Emily?

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Help me spend some money on CDs

January 13, 2006 02:09

One of my Xmas gifts from the family of a student was a gift certificate for Barnes and Noble. Another gift was a check, and I intend to spend that at Barnes and Noble, too. I want to buy something really special, something that I probably would not spend my own money on. I want the musical equivalent of pigging out on chocolate. Of course, I want violin music, and I want performances by Heifetz. I went to the Barnes and Noble website to start searching. I’m spending my time on this because I want to enjoy the anticipation of the CDs I’ll get.

First, I read the bio of Heifetz on the B&N website. Heifetz started playing the violin at the age of three when his father, a professional violinist, bought him a violin. (According to B&N, it was a 1/4 size violin. Maybe violins were measured differently back then.) The boy prodigy entered a conservatory at the age of five, and made his debut at the age of six, playing the Mendelssohn Concerto. Heifetz Sr. resigned from his job, sold most of the family’s possessions, and moved with his son to St. Petersburg so that his son could study under Auer at the famed conservatory. The rest is history.

Fortunately for us, Heifetz was recorded at a young age, as shown in the photo on one of the currently available CDs. With his longish hair and clothing of that period, he looked almost like a girl would today.


B&N listed 51 CDs of Heifetz, and I’ve narrowed them down to seven that I might buy. Some of them are collections of beautiful encore pieces. Using my chocolate analogy, I call these “dessert buffets.” Here is my annotated list.

  1. The Virtuoso Heifetz. Dessert buffet.

  2. Hora Staccato. More dessert buffet, prepared in 2005.

  3. Selections from the Heifetz Collection. Here is a partial playlist

    • 12 Debussy preludes

    • Transcriptions of a Handel suite for keyboard, played by Heifitz and William Primrose

    • Bach Double

    • Beethoven Spring Sonata

    • Bach Partita #3

    • Mendelssohn Octet for Strings

    • Two songs from Porgy and Bess

    • One movement of the Tchaikovsky Concerto

    • Some Spanish songs by de Falla

    • A few more dessert pieces

  4. Jascha Heifitz, 1922-1934 (2 CDs) This includes:

    • Bach Partita #3

    • Transcriptions of piano music by Chopin and Debussy

    • Schubert Ave Maria

    • Carmen Fantasy

    • Hebrew melody

    • More dessert pieces, including some I’m not familiar with

  5. Jascha Heifetz, 1917-1922 (2 CDs). This is a lot of rich chocolate, but I wonder how good the recordings are. The originals are quite old, but they have been remastred for CD. This includes

    • Ruins of Athens

    • Some Paganini caprices

    • Chopin transcription

    • Zigeunerweisen

    • Part of Symphonie Espagnoli

    • Some Hungarian and Slavonic dances

    • Tchaik, Goldmark, Mozart

    • Hebrew Pieces

    • …more

  6. Heifetz: Never-Released and Rare Live Recordings, Vol. 1. The title is intriguing. It includes works by Wieniawski, Kreisler, Sarasate, and the Vitali Chaconne. The latter is called “spurious,” and I’d like to know why.
  7. Jascha Heifetz Live, Vol. 5. All these performances date back to the Bell Telephone Hour, which was initially a radio show and later (1959-1968) a TV show. I think it’s so interesting that Bell Telephone considered it profitable to broadcast classical music. Times have certainly changed. In this CD, Heifitz is introduced by Lionel Barrymore. I have seen some of these performances on video, but the sound of my TV is not great. I would really enjoy hearing these pieces on CD. Some highlights from the playlist are The Swan from Carnival of the Animals, one movement of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, and other dessert pieces by Sarasate, Ravel, Prokofiev, Brahms, and more

I feel as though I’ve overdosed on chocolate already. It’s really good chocolate, from Ghirardelli (sp?) or Trader Joe’s. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate covered caramels, chocolate covered cherries, chocolate with nuts, chocolate brownies with chocolate icing, Black Forest cake, chocolate fudge, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake with chocolate icing…

This is just too much for me to comprehend. I need input and advice from the v.com community. If you want to see more details on these CDs, go to my wishlist on B&N website.

Chocolate-peanut butter ice cream, chocolate cookies with chocolate chips…

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Positive, Negative, and Prince Charming

January 11, 2006 22:10

This is so strange. I can’t think of anything to say, and I’ve been like this for several days. I’ll show you some photos about positive and negative reinforcement in violin teaching.



One more: I recently noticed the name on this bridge I have. Where is Prince Charming?


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Concert tickets for 2006

January 3, 2006 01:06

It’s time to annotate one of my 2006 calendars with information on tickets I’ve already purchased. Here is what I’ve got.

A stellar season!

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New year resolutions

January 1, 2006 23:03

I gave up making new year resolutions long ago. My resolutions were idealistic, and I never came anywhere near living up to them. I just read Emily’s new year resolutions and got a new perspective. This year I’ll make my resolutions realistic. I’ll use phrases like “a little less” and “a little more.” I’ll start by copying one of Emily’s resolutions.

I resolve to

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