PipeChat Digest #3292 - Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Re: misconception questionnaire
  by "John Foss" <harfo32@hotmail.com>
What to Say About Careron Carpenter? Greenwich, 11/22/02
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>
Re: What to Say About Careron Carpenter? Greenwich, 11/22/02
  by "Alan Freed" <acfreed0904@earthlink.net>

(back) Subject: Re: misconception questionnaire From: "John Foss" <harfo32@hotmail.com> Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002 21:34:59 +0000   I tried out Bruce's idea on my Proficiency class - 15 year old Greek children who are reasonably fluent in English. Obviously this was by way = of being an English lesson rather than a music lesson, but, allowing for = their age, they are typical mixed musical ability/interest group. I promised = them I would post some of their comments on the web, and they may be of = interest to those of you aiming your recital programmes at a young audience: Listening to music December 10th You are going to listen to a short organ recital and I would like you to answer the following questionnaire. The idea came from an Internet discussion and the results of this will be published on the Internet. = Before we start I would like you to write down adjectives you might use to = describe music. What=92s an adjective ? Well, some people seem to be confused by = this concept! QUESTIONNAIRE It can be suggested that music can be appreciated at three main levels =96 1 Physical =96 the actual sound, i.e. pitch, volume and tone quality. 2 Emotional. Does it help create or enhance a mood? 3 Intellectual. An understanding of the composer=92s art in creating the = music he has written and how he achieves this. I Which of these levels are you aware of when you listen to music? Have you ever thought about this aspect of music? Which level would you say is the most important? Which level or levels do you think you listen at? II The program: Chorale Preludes J S Bach Wir Glauben all an einen Gott. Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam. Meditation Maurice Durufle A song of sunshine Alfred Hollins Symphony V 1st Movement C M Widor III What were your expectations of the music? i.e. How did you expect to feel? IV Did the recital live up to your expectations? i.e. Did you enjoy it = more or less than you had expected?   Their reactions included : "Why do you play Church Music it's a bit = boring! (the Chorale preludes)? "We would like more strong pieces." They meant louder - their lesson was at 4 p.m. and this is Siesta time in Greece, so = I had to keep the volume down. Wir Glauben doesn't really work mp. "The Song =   of sunshine made me think of a garden and flowers" "I like the Durufle - sort of mystical" "I expected to be bored, but I liked it very much, especially the last piece." (I decided that my neighbours would be awake = by then, so I gave them full volume on the Widor.) "I don't understand = anything because I have never been interested in that kind of music." "It was good. = I really enjoyed it - more than I expected." The adjectives included = sadness, vibrant, vivid, powerful, energetic, loud, happiness, bright, oh yes - and =   bored! Now, in the normal course of events not many children this age would go to =   an organ recital, but I think enough enjoyed it to want to come again, and =   they definitely listened more carefully to the music because of having an objective. The comment about being driven into a spin by adjectives and adverbs = reminds me of my taking a class of 11 year olds a long time ago. Those of you who listen to Richard Baker on the radio - or even remember him from his TV = news broadcasting days may know that he has two twin boys, and they were in my class. They were bright children, and being at a bit of loss for ideas I decided to explain the parts of specch to the class. I got through nouns, verbs and adjectives, but when it came to adverbs my mind went blank. How = on earth could I explain what an adverb was? Young Baker put his hand up. Saved, I thought. Yes, Baker? - Sir - you've got through 30 years without knowing what an adverb is. Why have we got to learn about them? Entire class, including myself, collapsed into laughter. Incidentally you can read what my Greek students have written in English = on my web site at "The English Times of Katerini" link. I have updated the site, but my server has had a problem downloading the files, and we have been trying to sort it out for three weeks now. It was supposed to be = fully on line today, but the "articles" are not working yet, though the links are.   www.johnfoss.gr         _________________________________________________________________ The new MSN 8: smart spam protection and 2 months FREE* http://join.msn.com/?page=3Dfeatures/junkmail    
(back) Subject: What to Say About Careron Carpenter? Greenwich, 11/22/02 From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002 20:51:54 -0500   Cameron Carpenter at Second Congregational Church, Greenwich CT St. Cecilia's Day, 2002   "What to say about Cameron Carpenter?"   I guess my subject heading for this piece is a bit provocative, but Mr. Carpenter will not mind one bit, having said at least three times in his chatting during this concert that he is very controversial. Well, he has stirred up some controversy within me. In my 6? years, I have, often subconsciously, developed criteria by which I judge a musical performance, = I hope not rigidly. I am not unwilling to be shown new paths! In any case, = Mr. Carpenter very much taxes my existing criteria, as he does those of some others, and I do believe he likes doing that.   The Organ was a bit of a shock to me, the sweet old Casavant upon which I practiced for the last two of my Juilliard years, in return for singing in the very competent church choir. My practice time was 5 to 8 a.m. every = day, after which I drove to the Greenwich Railway Station in those dear dead = days when a parking space was easily to be found, and headed off to Manhattan. The Organ has been given a new console, which it sorely needed, and a lot = of digital stops, speaking from two chambers at balcony level, on either side of the nave, just (liturgically speaking) west of the crossing. These additions are capable of limitless volume, which was unleashed on a few occasions, and I found it all quite unsettling. The immense opacity of the sound swamped the rest of the Organ, and to me, I am sorry to say, a lot = of it was really ugly and artificial sounding. Nothing about the acoustic of the building helps any. There is carpet everywhere, and I guess there was when I sang there. I can't remember being enchanted with the acoustic = then, but that was over 40 years ago.   I arrived about 15 minutes before take off, and the artist was at the = Organ, in tee shirt and jeans, checking some very tough bits with the music. From that point on, no printed music appeared again. Once done with his = checking at the console, Cameron came down and wandered around the nave greeting people, Carlo Curley style, something he did again after he had had time = to get into his suit, just before the concert was to begin. The church was = not full, but certainly better than half of this quite large building was occupied, and this on a horrible windy, rainy night.   Some organists, perhaps of the sort that get pre-concert jitters like me, try to find some gentle "'Come to Jesus' in Whole Notes" sort of piece to begin with, settling the nerves and the fingers. I am not sure Cameron = would recognize a jitter if it attacked him. He chose to begin with Leo = Sowerby's early 30s display piece written to show off the prodigious pedal technique of Fernando Germani, who played the world premiere. Due to a somewhat delayed arrival of the score in Italy, Germani is said to have learned the Pageant tapping his feet on the edge of the bathtub in his stateroom! I heard Cameron knock the stuffings out of this piece in Atlanta back in = May, at the American Semi-Final Round of the Calgary International Competition = in Spivey Hall. It was nothing less than spectacular, both on that occasion = and on this, and when it was over, the audience was on full alert.   I desperately need a quick word or two with Johann, but my personal medium has not been able to persuade him to appear at a s=E9ance. From a very = high point, as in the Pageant, we entered what was for me the absolute nadir of this recital, the glorious Bach E Minor Prelude & Fugue, as in "The = Wedge." While the pure music of Bach has a built in indestructibility, making a = kind of sense on the Accordion as with a Saxophone orchestra, both of which I have heard at one time or another, that is a kind of orchestration = matter. But in terms of actually playing the notes, a technically sure, = expressive, articulate Organist who comprehends and loves the Bach aesthetic can rivet an audience to their seats with no gimmickry needed. In a way, I think Cameron is more intent upon the show than upon the inherent beauty of the music, unadorned, undistorted. In a number of pieces in this concert, the registration of the Pedal was calculated to allow Cameron's prodigious = Pedal technique to sound out above all, a crowd-thrilling but unattractive distortion, particularly impossible to miss in the Fugue. Anyway, the Prelude was full of exaggerations, of registrational games, and of fluctuating tempi, and the huge, blown up ending essentially asked for applause, which appeared in abundance, with Cameron jumping off the bench for a bow, and then rapidly getting back on again, hardly waiting for his bottom to actually make contact with the wood before beginning the fastest Wedge Fugue I hope never to hear again, replete with a kind of pecking at the keys and pedals that seemed to trivialize the immense dignity and excitement of this towering Fugue. In his pre-Bach announcements, Cameron said that the E Minor Prelude is a "desperate search for truth." That was one of the things that I want to discuss with Johann, if he ever shows up. = I think, concerning this piece, Cameron needs to keep searching.   Next, we heard the Schumann Canon in A-Flat Major. This was preceded by a bit of verbal "Chutzpah," followed by a bit of musical "Chutzpah." If you need a translation of this Yiddishism fully taken into New Yorkese, write me. Cameron said: "My specialty is the use of color - note how I bring out what Schumann felt." If I can get Schumann to a s=E9ance, we also need to talk. This performance was overly busy, with sounds shifting from loudspeaker to loudspeaker around the building, with sounds from slush to piquant. It really was not the Schumann I think I know. Robert, please = show up at the next s=E9ance!   Cameron spoke about Brahms's admiration for Bach (as evidenced by the Chorale Preludes we all love to play). He suggested that perhaps the = Prelude & Fugue in G Minor that he was about to play could be a tribute to Bach. = It sounds good to me, and I think the performance perhaps won a few friends = for this sadly neglected little gem. It is often played rather heavily and somberly, for some reason, certain not the case in this recital. Well = enough done.   Well, it is clear positive sailing from here on in. I regret not being = able to be more positive about the Wedge and the Schumann, but I have to call what I see, not doubting for a moment that others may diametrically disagree. I can speak of the performance of Book 1 Prelude & Fugue in G Major from the Well Tempered Clavier which we next heard, by quoting from myself at length, always a safe bet! This was written after a recital of Juilliard students at Tully Hall back in February. Cameron played two of = the Book 1 Preludes & Fugues, the G Major of this evening, and also the C = Major. I think the following commentary applies fully to tonight's performance of the G Major. Here goes:   <One can quibble about whether the spirit of these Preludes & Fugues is = well <served in a transfer to the Organ - perhaps the question deserves more = than a <quibble. In the two chosen, there is something of a perpetual motion <feeling, and the rather brittle, mixture-driven plena of this organ gave these <tightly composed works something of the clatter or chatter of a <Harpsichord performance, albeit at a very different volume level. Tempi were <quite fast, but I did not think overly so, and J. S. Bach is not telling us. Both <pieces were organized to allow for much flashy pedal display, and the playing <was indeed flawless. There was always a Pedal = reed drawn to make sure the <pedal workout was not missed. I went into this thinking: "Aren't there plenty of <great Bach Organ works around - do we have to raid the Well Tempered <pantry?" But, in the end, I was beguiled = by the show of virtuosity, a perfectly <legitimate response to a musical performance, and the fact that I thought the <music well served. It was = fun.   I think the only thing needed changing in the above is the bit about the "brittle, mixture-driven plena of this organ." Otherwise, I'll let these earlier remarks stand for our hearing of the G Major on this occasion.   If there is a mission in life for this young man that I can cheerfully endorse, it encompasses his enthusiasm for and willingness to play music that takes one to the outer limits of what is humanly possible. The next work on the program, Perpetuum Mobile, or "Perpetual Motion for Pedals Alone" by Wilhelm Middelschulte (1863-1943) surely fits the bill. It is based on the Wedge Fugue subject, one of two Middelschulte pieces so = based, and in addition to almost dizzying contrapuntal movement seemingly not = quite possible for just two feet to accomplish, it ends with rapid four voice chords, still in the Pedals. At the end, there were cheers, long and loud, including my own. It was a thrilling display, an intended virtuoso piece given a completely virtuosic performance.   After Intermission, by prior request from someone in the audience, we = heard Chopin Etude No. 10 in C sharp minor, transcribed for Organ (probably by Cameron - I don't think he said). He was not at all shy about giving the most intricate and rapid passages to the pedal, which, other than the fact that he provided it with some pretty grotesque sounds, made for a breathtaking display.   Next, Cameron gave us an improvisation - Theme and Variations on the = ancient tune "L'homme armee." Who among us conservatory graduates has not had this tune drummed into us in Music History class, as the subject, or "tenor" of at least 30 Renaissance Masses, when it was still possible to write a Mass based on a secular tune? Cameron learned this lesson well, at the hands of Professor Samuel Zeman, at Juilliard, who was present at the concert with his family, and suggested the tune to him as the theme for his improvisation. I think it was an interesting choice, in that its rhythms somehow match Cameron's particular type of energy, which is very rapid and = a bit rigid, not in any bad sense. He just moves very quickly. Like the = tune, the improvisation was quite angular, as well as wild and clever. I have to say that I did not particularly like it, musically, but I admired it, skillful as it was. The best improvisers have the surest technique, as = does Cameron. Perhaps one of our Australian readers can give the context for = the following passage that I discovered somewhere. What game do the Groundhogs play, and whatever it is, what Conservatory would be likely to field a = team for it? At Juilliard, we used to boast about starting a Tiddly Winks = league!   <The Air-Pacific Groundhogs are in fighting form this season after <a listless season spent mainly adding more depth to the team. <Coach Nemeth has been seen humming "L'homme Armee" to himself in <the halls of the Conservatory, always a bad sign for the opposi- <tion. Meanwhile, Music History students brace for a grueling <battery of listening quizzes...   We next heard Cameron's transcription of the Liszt Piano piece, "Funerailles," which I thought worked quite well, and was beautifully played.   Before the last work on the program, Cameron's transcription of the last movement of the Mahler Fifth Symphony, Cameron spoke of having heard this work at the age of 14, it becoming a pivotal experience in his life. He began work almost immediately transcribing the entire work for Organ, finishing the task two years later, certainly a great achievement. He = played for us the fifth movement, Rondo-Finale, and I was taken back in memory to = a conversation I had in London with my old friend Felix Aprahamian on the subject of transcription, some years ago, when there was lots of = opposition to such things being played on the Organ at all. He said something that, = on the surface, seems perfectly obvious, but as a criterion to be applied to transcription, is actually a quite important thought. One must ask in each instance if the work under discussion is diminished or improved by the transcription process. We love the Pipe Organ, and have a tendency to want to bring to it non-Organ music we love, I guess, but it does not always make complete sense. I have a wish to transcribe the slow movement of the Beethoven Seventh, and I think that has a good chance because of its structural clarity and contrapuntal nature. Well, the performance of this long and complex Mahler movement was really splendid, filled with = remarkable complexities and technical challenges, all deftly handled. I have to say I do not think it a happy candidate for transcription to the Organ, or at least not this particular instrument. A full orchestral ensemble is in no way suggested by large Organ combinations topped by Mixtures. I found it = all rather wearing, and I am a lover of Mahler from a long way back. I think = it might better want to be heard at Woolsey or at the Wanamaker - that would = be interesting.   Anyway, the evening was over, and I headed off into the still nasty rain = and wind and darkness, kind of musing on all I had heard. From my reckoning, = the score card was: Totally successful performances in every way, meeting my = own peculiar requirements: Five, being the Sowerby, Brahms, Bach Well = Tempered, Middelschulte, and the Liszt Funerailles. Forgetting my own aesthetic judgement, but assessing the performance technically, certainly add the improvisation and the Mahler. Both the Wedge and the Schumann were for me really untenable, and I find that troubling. Cameron said more than once = in his chats between pieces that he sees himself as having a mission to popularize the Organ. Judging from the reactions of the Greenwich = audience, he certainly did succeed in this place. They bought it all, the whole shtick, the walkabout before the concert, the chat, and the virtuosity of the performances, in full view. He read his audience perfectly, and they were with him all the way. With this kind of relationship goes a terrific responsibility, one which I think is abrogated when the integrity of the music of great composers is tinkered with. A very false impression of, for example, a work like The Wedge Prelude & Fugue is given, and unnecessarily so. The audience has already been won over with the Sowerby, and I have no doubt but that they can understand and enjoy a pure performance of The Wedge, done with verve and clarity. The same goes for the Schumann, which according to my own personal aesthetic, got smothered in excessive registrational cleverness.   I think that this guy deserves to succeed, and he is, of course, already enjoying a measure of success. He has fingers and feet that can do = anything, and has obviously toiled long and hard on the bench. I can only make a reasonable guess that he does not take The Wedge as he played it in Greenwich into John Weaver's studio at The Juilliard. It would, I think, = be in his best interests to close that gap, to avoid turning off an important part of his potential audience.   To dispel any doubt about Cameron's unlimited technical prowess at the keyboard, he improvised, upon request, at the last moment just at the end = of the recital, a brilliant fugue on "Happy Birthday" for a member of the Greenwich Center for Chamber Music, which sponsored the event.   Cheers to All,   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com              
(back) Subject: Re: What to Say About Careron Carpenter? Greenwich, 11/22/02 From: "Alan Freed" <acfreed0904@earthlink.net> Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002 22:08:17 -0500   On 12/10/02 8:51 PM, "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> wrote:   > "What to say about Cameron Carpenter?" > Bravo, Malcolm. I cannot imagine that anyone anywhere can write organ recital reviews as you do. We are enriched by your having been there and communicated what happened.   Alan