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Prelude on Rhosymedre
by Ralph Vaughan Williams

After more than 30 years of service, the choir director at my former church in Illinois retired this week. This is one of her favorite pieces for organ, which I got to play for her during my trip to Illinois last month. Happy retirement, Charmian! You have been a wonderful colleague.
This week on the blog:    FRIDAY MAY 25, 2018

Hail, Cesar!

You may never have heard of him. If so, don't feel bad.

Cesar Cui, one of the "Mighty fistful" of Russian composers in the 19th century, is mostly known for his invective. He had a day job as an army officer (military engineer). The one place you are most likely to run into him is in the program notes at a concert in which Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto is being performed. The reason is that, prior to writing that work, Rachmaninoff had been in a depression for two years and hadn't written anything. This was caused by the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony.  Probably owing to a drunken conductor, the piece, which I've heard on recording and can testify is really pretty good, if not a masterpiece like his Second, went badly. Cesar Cui made a habit of writing strongly opinionated reviews in the newspaper. His famous line after that performance is that if there were a conservatory in hell, they would have given Rachmaninoff the prize, "so devilish are the discords he dishes up!"

Cui has had exactly a century to personally enter hell's composition competition, and doubtless is quite aware of the sort of discord its inhabitants prefer. He passed away in 1918. The world has not lacked for nasty music critics in the meantime, but it may be missing his unique musical voice.
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"classic" blog: from March 16, 2015

The Tasty Science

I have definitive musical proof that Shostakovich loved to play tennis.

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When you are a working musician time is important. I estimate I play around 60 different pieces of music each week. I play for five choirs, for four weekend worship services, with two bands, and in the last two weeks I had two different concert programs to play. There is never enough time to practice everything, let alone practice it as thoroughly as you'd want to.

That's where being able to figure out just how and how much to work on each piece becomes not only a useful skill, a point of pride, but a necessity, a survival skill.

A few thoughts I've collected about how to do that effectively:

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Wed. Nov 20, 2013

Why they really named it twice

A civil diatribe about civic inferiority complexes

I like New York in small doses. I wouldn't want to live there. A short visit is an adventure. If you have been fed on the stereotype of pushy, argumentative New Yorkers you might be surprised to learn that some of that is actually true. My last handful of visits to New York all began with such encounters. Within the first five minutes of my arrival--if that--a couple of citizens would have a go at each other. You will of course suggest that it is my fault for riding the subway. One time a guy held up the train for at least five minutes because he had managed to get his hand in the door as it was closing and he was determined that the door be opened so he could get on. The operator of the subway was equally determined not to let him on even if it meant holding up the train in perpetuity. With the tired but resolute manner of a grade school teacher he kept coming on the intercom at intervals saying "sir, we're not going anywhere until you get your hand out of the door."

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