Posts tagged Be Amazing
Posts tagged Be Amazing
Pianistic leviathan Georges Cziffra lived a dramatic, painful, and completely remarkable life. Born in Budapest to an ethnic Romani family living in abject poverty, he performed in traveling circuses and bars as a child to support them - these lowbrow venues would provide a forum for Cziffra to demonstrate his remarkable talents as a pianist throughout his life. He was scouted by the Franz Liszt Academy at age 9, studying there until age 16, when he returned to Budapest’s nightlife scene, playing at bars and nightclubs to support himself and his family. At the age of 21 he was drafted into the Hungarian army and forced to fight in World War II.
The indomitable Cziffra managed to survive 4 years of battle, but worse was to come shortly after he returned home from the war. After attempting to escape Soviet-controlled Hungary, he was imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor. For 18 months, Cziffra was forced to spend his days carrying 300 pound stones, doing permanent damage to his wrists and his hands. When he returned, he was unable to practice, let alone perform. But Cziffra was not cut from ordinary cloth, and in act of heroic defiance, he stubbornly worked his way back to the heights of his abilities. After delivering a well-received performance of Bartok’s second piano concerto, Cziffra successfully escaped Hungary to Vienna, where he launched an incredibly successful career as a concert pianist, and eventually achieved international fame.
Physicist and all around amazing human being Richard Feynman is one of my personal heroes. While it may be the result of a lack of YouTube videos of earlier scientists, I know of no other human being that managed to employ such an unpretentious balance between lucid, brutal intellectual honesty and modest, childlike curiosity. That a man who helped build the atom bomb can say with the utmost sincerity that he doesn’t “feel frightened by not knowing things” about this life brings me unparalleled faith. After all, it’s “the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly”.
Mozart’s 5th Symphony is an energetic, rhythmically engaging piece, full of the unbridled, childlike joy that is characteristic of much of Mozart’s music. Though not nearly as well known as Beethoven’s now immortal 5th Symphony, Mozart deserves a bit of a break, for he was only nine years old when he wrote it. Mozart, the child genius, is in this respect far more than a musician - he is an incarnation of the indomitable human spirit, shattering normative expectations with a voice that shouts with undeniable clarity, “This is not a child, this is me - Mozart”.
Frank Zappa was one of my musical heroes as an adolescent. Wildly creative and shamelessly bizarre, Zappa was sui generis. He wrote long, complex and highly orchestrated pieces rife with absurd and vulgar lyrics and timbers. He clearly wanted everyone to know he was a genius - and that is readily apparent - but he also wanted us to know that he thought absolutely nothing of normative culture. His music is a gigantic middle finger to expectation.
Make it happen.
Leonard Berstein sporting a Gustav Mahler print sweatshirt.
Vladimir Horowitz at Studio 54.
Icelandic national treasure, artistic powerhouse and human anomaly, Björk is one of my favorite living musicians. Visibly busting at the seems with emotional energy, she’s childlike, prone to goose-wearing histrionics and occasionally violent. The hodgepodge of Björk’s psychological profile is mirrored in her music, which runs through the full gamut of human emotional experiences, from the euphoric to the demented.
“Jóga” is a powerful, proud song, and this performance strips the song down to its core, removing the synthesizers and drum machines, leaving only the chamber orchestra and Björk’s commanding vocals. Jóga’s thoughtful lyrics transform this already beautiful song into an electrifying sensory experience. The lyrics quite cleverly follow the structure of the song itself, with the chorus’ heights marking the start of a new emotional landscape - the state of emergency. The idea that emotions can have a geography, or be thought of as a location, is a theme that Björk explores in a few of her songs. The fact that the chorus marks an emotional shift in the song at an identifiable temporal location suggests that Björk’s concept of an emotional location has real merit, at least as an artistic device.
This time I’m going to shut up and let the art do the talking.
The Lark Ascending is a painfully beautiful violin concerto written by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. This performance by Janine Jansen is particularly expressive, hamming up the piece’s already florid, pentatonic lines. This is a piece that reaches divine heights, making use of a wide range of soundscapes, switching abruptly from the atmospheric to the visceral.
This piece was written just before Vaughan Williams voluntarily enlisted to serve in the British Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I - because he was 41 years old at the time, he could have avoided service entirely. He worked as a stretcher bearer, clearing the wounded from the battlefield in two hour shifts. He was surrounded, day after day, by millions of rats and dead bodies. The horrors he witnessed on the front lines of trench warfare changed the sentiment of his music going forward. When he returned from duty, his works became far more bleak, cerebral and detached.