Monday, July 3, 2017

Symphonie Chapter Four


S Y M P H O N I E


Movement One
Allegro Con Brio

04     God . . . it was an invitation to a concert!  Well, sort of!

The message read, “I will be performing Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole* (Spanish Symphony) with the Coast Symphony Orchestra at the Cathedral Church on second of February; thought you might like to know.”

Of course he liked to know.  He loved to know.  But wait a minute . . . Symphonie Espagnole was for violin and orchestra!  Now a violist wanted to perform it?!  Like most violists, he understood, she was a violinist originally and then switched to the viola.  But Lalo’s work was not an easy one for a violist to do.

February the second: it was a Wednesday.  Eight pm, good, he had enough time to go home after work and change and go to the concert fresh, although the church was only one block away from his office.  But what about tickets; where and when and how could he get one?  He had to tell the world about the concert.  But first, he had to organize his mind . . . first things first.


He googled the Coast Symphony and found that the orchestra had a decent website, although a local small ensemble.  Then he found that there were no tickets; admission was only by donation at the door.  The next step was trying to take more spectators to the concert.  Suddenly, he froze like a hard disk!  It took a small moment.  What was he doing?  Why so much enthusiasm for a lady he barely knew?  He tried to fool himself: it was for Muse, the goddess of arts, not for Julia.  No . . . it was music he loved so much and he did what he did only for the sake of arts and music.  Okay, good, now he could continue; he himself was smiling at the fake reason he found!  Later, Julia told him that she could clearly feel his support.

He posted it on his Facebook status: “Hey folks . . . my friend, Julia, will be performing Lalo with the Coast Symphony next Wednesday.  Do not miss it.”   He was pretty sure not all his fellow Persians liked classical music and that not more than one or two of his Facebook friends, if any, would attend the concert; but he had to do whatever he could.  He did not feel like messaging Julia again.  He was not sure how she would feel: an intruder, a bugging stranger, what?  He had to wait . . . just wait, poor, old boy!

The next day, he sent an e-mail to the editor-in-chief of the magazine for which he used to write years before.  He asked for a large size ad in the next issue inviting Persians to the concert.  


In his homeland, before immigration, he was a very well-known writer and columnist.  He wrote articles on a variety of subjects such as earthquake  (focused on the effect on buildings), computers (focused on the use in engineering), Persian literature and poetry (in which he was an expert although not a professional), and, of course, music.  After arriving in his new country, he soon found a few Persian publications and started writing for them for free.  He loved to write, it was kind of breathing the air for him.  This made him widely known in the small community of Persian emigrants, some 50,000 people in town.  And of course the editors of those publications deeply respected him and longed to have a chance to do something, anything, as a favour for him.

He had done whatever that could humanly be done.  Now he could only wait and see the fruits of his efforts in a week.


* Edouard Lalo, was the French composer of Symphonie Espagnole.  This work is rather a violin concerto (for violin and orchestra) in form, but the composer used the title of symphony for it.  Also, please note the spelling of "symphonie" in Spanish...not author's error!

Symphonie, Chapter Three
Symphonie, Chapter Five

Friday, June 30, 2017

Symphonie Chapter Three


S Y M P H O N I E


Movement One
Allegro Con Brio

03     Julia looked quite ‘professional’ in chat.

Her responses were pretty much fast which showed she was typing with the lightning speed! 

“You must be exhausted after a great concert, so I say good night and hope to talk soon,” He suggested.

“Well, yes, a concert always dries the batteries!  Thanks.  Talk later,” She approved.

That’s it.  Suddenly he felt lonelier than ever.  He felt . . . well, feelings for her.  It was strange, very strange.  Something was happening in less than a couple of hours, after only one distant look, and exchange of a few words.  This was the third time he had this feeling.

The first time it was a young girl, Janet, sixteen years old, when he was seventeen, about thirty-seven years before.  They were madly in love.  In his culture there was no room for very close relations--if you know what this means-- before marriage, but only pure, Platonic love.  However, being from very open minded, modern families, they had small kisses now and then, and he could still feel the taste of her kisses, and the beautiful scent of her hair and her lovely body.  It did not last forever though; not that they broke up or something.  She got leukemia, and died in less than six months.  C’est la vie . . . that’s life!  Damn, cruel life. 

A few months after Janet’s tragic death, the loveliest Love Story of all time was on the silver screens.  He was shocked that it was his story—their story!  The movie was based upon a novel with the same title by Erich Segal.  Beautiful Ali MacGraw played Jennifer Cavalleri, a Radcliffe student of music, and Ryan O’Neal played Oliver Barrett IV, a Harvard law student.

As a classic typical scenario in 1960s, Oliver was from a super rich family
with a banker father, but he hated the family fortune and influence.  Jenny was, on the other side, from a poor baker family, but about to graduate from the well-known college.  They fell in love at first glance, married, and had a happy life.  But soon they learned the sad fact that she was sick—very sick.  At the death bed, she was complaining that she, a Radcliffe music graduate, could not recall the Kochel* number of Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number Twenty-one! 

Segal published another novel later, Oliver’s Story, which started where Love Story ended with the tragic death of Jenny.  It was—and still is—another great work of Segal’s, but not even close to Love Story, a best seller of that time and then a classic in English literature.

Later, whenever Farhad felt bad, he checked his memory (remembering that last chapter of the book); yes, he still knew the concerto was Kv. 427 and it was in C major.  And Symphony Forty was Kv. 550 in G minor.  And the sacred Symphony Nine was Op. 125 in D minor.  So he was not dead, not yet!

Now that he was thinking about all such details, he was amazed by the magic of the names.  Was it just a coincidence that all these names started with a J?  Janet, Jenny, and now Julia! 

Back to Julia, the new Julia . . . he googled** the name; no many returns: a short video in which a quartet was performing one of the movements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons***.  Her brother was leading from the first violin chair, Julia on viola, and two others were playing the second violin and the cello.  And in another one, a TV channel was interviewing her about the Middle Eastern music.  It was good to know that her ex-husband was from the Middle East and she had learned a lot about the culture and music of that region of the world.  Nothing else could he find.

The day after, he went out for a photography session.  He had started to shoot photos when he was fourteen, with a Canon Cannonet 28 camera he bought for eighty-five dollars of his savings, but he never learned it seriously.  It was only five or six years back that he got an inexpensive point-and-shoot digital Canon and fell in love with digital photography.  He started to read tens of books and learned all technical matters.  Then it turned to be his second serious hobby, after music.  Now, he had an SLR**** camera and took pretty nice pictures.  He was almost mastering in two categories of photography: floral and portraiture.

When he returned home late afternoon and started to download the photos from the camera to his laptop, he noticed a message from Julia . . . still in private messages of Facebook!  He was reading it before he could even know how fast he opened the message. 

God . . . it was an invite!


* Kochel (Kv.) is the serial number of works by Mozart.  In general, a number called ‘opus’ (Op.) number (opus means work in Latin and opera is the plural) is used as serial number for other musicians.  But Mozart did not write down the opus number of his works himself, so a musicologist called Ludwig von Kochel organized and numbered his works after his death

** Google was first a search engine in the Internet.  But so widely used in place of search, now ‘to google’ is a substitute for ‘to search’, with googled as both the past tense and past participle

*** Antonio Vivaldi: the famous Italian composer.  And four violin concerti (concertos) called ‘The Four Seasons’ are his most widely performed works

**** SLR: single lens reflection, the high end, more sophisticated and expensive cameras

Symphonie, Chapter Two
Symphonie, Chapter Four

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Symphonie Chapter Two


S Y M P H O N I E


Movement One
Allegro Con Brio

02     He knew what the next step could be.

Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg*, searching the name in Facebook would be the easiest way.  But what if she was not interested in social networks and did not have an account there?  It was even possible she was not interested in the Internet at all or did not know how to use it, or even the ID was not the real name . . . everything was possible.

He opened his Facebook page, moved the cursor to the search tab, and typed the name letter by letter very slowly: J-U-L-I-A, and pressed the enter key.  Tens of names and pictures were returned.  His heart was pounding.  Dammit . . . she should be somewhere there.  Julia, Julia, one after another, and yes, she was there: Julia from his town.  No more information though.  But the photo showed she was her!  ‘Julia only shared some information with everyone; he had to add her as a friend or send her a message if he knew Julia’, as dear Facebook said!

What now?  What now?  Quit?  Forget?  Continue?  He decided to continue.  Clicked on ‘add friend’.  The request was sent . . . done. 

Now he had plenty of time to sip the beautiful Margarita!  He was sure he would not get any response for a few days, if any!  He sat back and shut his eyes.  The images of youth flooded back again. 

He was fifteen.  A class violinist from Romania, Ion Voicu, performed Paganini’s first concerto**, D major, Opus 6, with Tehran Symphony.  Two weeks after, a Persian young violinist graduated from Vienna Conservatory, Bijan Khadem-Misagh, performed Mendelssohn’s E minor concerto.  Later that season, the King of Persia awarded him with a Strad*** as a prize.  It was then that the young boy suddenly fell in love with the instrument. 

He soon decided he had to learn to play the violin.  His classmates laughed at him; why the most difficult instrument?  A guitarist friend (now a professional composer in his homeland) insisted he could play guitar or keyboard pretty well in a few months while he had to practice violin for years to get a clean sound if he was lucky.  But the answer was negative, violin or nothing!

Ding . . . ding . . . a message in Facebook took him out of the tunnel of time! 

Julia had accepted his friend request and was asking him in a private message: “Have we met?”  Well, what now?  It did not take more than thirty minutes or so!  He decided to try sort of kidding, “No, but I noticed a pair of beautiful legs and a pair of gorgeous eyes in the concert tonight and decided to know those eyes better!”

“Very good intention, lol,” she replied.  He lied, “Kidding aside, as a music lover, I decided to have a few musician friends in my Facebook account; so requested you and a few of your colleagues in first and second violins and also the viola section.”

“But how did you find me; I mean . . . find us?” she asked.  He was straight this time, “I looked for the names at the orchestra’s website and picked your name.”

“And why me, if I may ask, lol” she asked.  “Well, because......” he replied.  She was laughing at the other end, “Good reason! Lol.”  She used that “lol” every few words which suggested she was a happy, cheerful person. 

* Mark Zuckerberg: the founder and creator of the famous social network, Facebook
** Concerto is a music form for a solo instrument accompanied by a symphony orchestra
*** Stradivarius or Strad in short, is a brand name for the finest violins and other strings made by Antonius Stradivarius in eighteenth century in Cremona, Italy.  A few of these instruments have still survived.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Symphonie Chapter One



S Y M P H O N I E


Movement One
Allegro Con Brio

01     It was twenty minutes to eight when he was seated.

Always impatient when the Ninth Symphony* was in the program . . . he was trying to read the background of the four soloists singing that evening: alle menschen werden bruder . . . all men should be brothers.  His eyes focused on the paper, but his mind flew . . . far, far back . . . far, far away.



It was 1977 when, for the first time, he was attending a live performance of the Ninth Symphony in his homeland, Iran.  The Roudaki Hall was the only opera house in the capital city of Tehran, and the Tehran Symphony Orchestra performed there as well.  He loved the orchestra and the artistic director and conductor, Farhad Meshkat. 



When the lights were dimmed, he was back in the hall, the beautiful home of the Symphony Orchestra of his town; he loved it so much.  Row one, right at the centre.  He had kept the habit of sitting in the first row from his youth . . . just loved watching the conductor, the soloist, and the front row strings very closely although the overall sound was not the best there.



He also loved the artistic director of the orchestra, Maestro Bernard Torney, but that evening, a young guest was conducting the symphony.  The concertmaster** entered, the principal oboe played La (A), and all musicians started to do the final fine tuning of their instruments.  The young conductor then came onstage.

The strings started the opening tremolos.  He shut his eyes trying to swallow each note.  But the hallucination started again . . . went back, back.  His life was like a novel: the sweet years of youth, careless laughters, colourful lights, and love . . . all before the Islamic Revolution.  He was studying civil engineering when the Revolution started in 1978 and the universities were all closed.

The chorus rose at once.  He was hallucinating during all first three movements.  Beethoven switched the slow movement (conventionally the second) and scherzo (conventionally the third).  He also used solo timpani in scherzo just like opening his violin concerto with solo timpani in the first bar. 

Two years later, after the victory of the Islamic rebels over the 3000 years of monarchy in Iran, the universities were re-opened.  He finished his degree.  But soon after, the war started, against the blood-thirsty Saddam of Iraq.  People said it would come to an end soon, but it lasted eight full years with 500,000 young innocents killed and even more disabled.  People thought it could only happen in the movies: waiting for missiles, rockets, and chemical weapons several times a day flying over the heads.  Ah…thank God, it was another neighbourhood; we are fine . . . only until the next missile.  It was like a Russian roulette!

The third movement was a beautiful theme followed by several variations.  This could be one of the most beautiful slow movements of Beethoven’s if the great choral finale was not to come, making the audience impatient.

It was the sacred moment he loved so much, when the long introduction of the finale with all those flash backs to the previous movements ends and the chorus rise with a mysterious sound like a storm.  And thus sings the baritone***: O freunde, nicht diese tone . . . Oh friends, not these tones!  Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing and more joyful songs . . . Joy!  Joy!

Now his eyes were wide open!  Browsed the strings, left to right . . . right to left and again left to right . . . God, what a pair of beautiful legs!  Moved his head up, upper . . . who was that beautiful lady in the violas section?!  She was gorgeous.  How come he had never noticed those shining eyes?  The strings of his heart started vibrating in harmony with the chorus: Freude schooner gotterfunken, tochter aus Elysium . . . alle menschen werden bruden, wo dein sanfer flugel weilt.  Joy!  Beautiful spark of divinity.  All men should be brothers, where your gentle wing rests. 

One thing he knew for sure: he had to find that violist!

He drove home like crazy in fifteen minutes.  You bet no one could do it faster, from the concert hall to North parts of the metro town.  He fixed a glass of Margarita and took a slice of pizza left over from the night before.  Patience!  Patience!  O heart!  Stop beating as if you are a teenager’s!

He wanted to pretend—to himself— that he was patient and that nothing new, nothing out of ordinary life, had happened.  Very slowly opened his laptop, but then quickly and directly started the website of the orchestra.  He knew what he wanted.  With no more patience opened the page “The Orchestra”, then a new window “The Musicians” . . . first violins . . . second violins . . . violas . . . principal . . . assistant . . . yes, got it. 

Her name was Julia.  She was an emigrant from South America.  She had studied violin with her mother, but then continued studies in performing music to a Master’s degree in viola from a well-known university of the town.  She then joined the orchestra; that was ten years before; and now she was in her late thirties.

The photo was not that good.  He thought it might have been an old picture.  It showed her with dark brown hair, but the image recorded in his mind was a curly blonde—gold hair that so beautifully framed her sweet smile.  But late thirties; is she not too young?  He was in his early fifties.  He used to joke about his age when talking to friends: consider each year of the war equal to twice the calendar year and then, by calculation, I am sixty-two!  And he was.  Kind of!  He felt tired, at the end of his rope.  There was nothing to make him excited.  Or was there?



* Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in d minor, Op. 125, ‘Choral’.  In general, a symphony has four parts each called a movement.  Italian words are most widely used to demonstrate the tempo (speed) of each movement.  ‘Allegro’; for instance, means fast, and ‘con brio’ means lively.
** Concertmaster, generally the first violin player left to the conductor, is the lead of a symphony orchestra, responsible for the final tunings of all instruments before the conductor comes onstage.
*** Human’s voice in a choir is divided to six groups: soprano, the highest female; mezzo-soprano, mid female; and alto, low female voice; tenor, high male; baritone, mid male, and bass, the lowest male voice.


Any similarity with the names of real persons and places is totally incidental.

Symphonie, Chapter Two

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Like




This Facebook "LIKE" has turned to a dilemma these days.  Let me show you why you should not get upset when a friend does not "LIKE" your post.

Assumptions:
- You have 1000 friends
- Each friend posts twice a day average
- Browsing each post takes 1 second
- There are 5 of 2000 posts that might catch your notice
- Reading/watching good ones takes 2 minutes each

Now let's do the math:
(1995 x 1) + (5 x 120) = 2595 seconds = 43 minutes

So in order to see one round of all your friends' posts, you need to stay in, and focus on, Facebook for 43 minutes nonstop.  Most people do not have this much extra time (in one nonstop session) to do so.  Add to this, some people have many more than 1000 friends (I do 3000+).  And artist friends (musicians, photographers, etc) generally post more than two times a day, and some music videos may be much longer than 2 minutes.

Hence (Mathematically speaking), do not get upset when you don't see my "LIKE" on your post, my friend!  It does not mean I don't like your post (although it might be the case...individual taste, you know) or even worse, I don't like you!  No!  It just means--most possibly--I have missed your latest post. 

One more thing, probably worth to add: that "heart" does not mean one loves you...it only means your friend really loves your post.

Smile...life is good!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lang Lang Played Emperor

Last evening, Lang Lang performed Beethoven's fifth concerto with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Jean-Marie Zeitouni at the podium.  Opposite to what many professionals say, he did extremely
well . . . a beautiful performance and even better with Liszt's Romance as the encore.


Vancouver Symphony was excellent as always, but the conductor was not at the level of VSO, did not succeed in getting a nice sound--as Maestro Tovey does--from the orchestra.  Many times, some string played pizzicato today, some others the day after!  And the second movement of the symphony was too slow, very boring!

A few quick notes:

- Opposite to most soloists, Lang Lang was looking at the front row audience most of the time.  He is a good actor too!
- The volume of the sound of Dale (concertmaster) was too high, almost like a solo.  He and the conductor should control it in the future.
- Nick is doing quite well in place of Brent (principal second) although Brent is really different, both in the leading role and as a gentleman.
- Jeanette was perfect in absence of Karen (assistant second) too.
- It was good to see that Jennie (assistant concertmaster) fixed the colour of her hair (it was half red half black for a few months) which was only good for a rock band! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

VSO Played Beethoven & Mozart

I’m just back from Orpheum…another fabulous concert of Vancouver Symphony.

It was strange…after forty years of continuous concert going, I was thinking in the interval, how this habit of mine to sit in the first row started when it’s not an interesting location for the overall sound heard, nor the best place for visual purposes…the best can be viewed is the strings section and only the first rows!  Then I went back, with the wings of imagination, to my home town 40 years back, when viewing Henryk Szeryng, for instance, playing Beethoven with the Tehran Symphony Orchestra from the closest distance possible was a once-in-a-life-time chance, especially for a young 14-year boy.

Anyway, Maestro Tovey opened the concert with “Earth Songs” by Professor Stephen Chatman, Head, Composition Division at The University of British Columbia.  This piece was commissioned by the UBC in honour of its centenary four years ago (2007).  Vancouver Bach Choir joined the VSO in performance of this work.  A beautiful work...made me buy the CD at the interval!

The all-classic part of the evening started after that with the beautiful second concerto of Beethoven, totally a Mozartian type.  Opus number 19 shows it all.  The 39-year-old pianist from Vienna, Till Fellner played the solo part...very soft and pretty much beautiful performance.

First movement begins with a long introduction by tutti in the tonic key of B-flat major.  Solo enters after a few chromatic passages and a full classic conversation between the solo and tutti continues the movement. 

Adagio is one of the charming Beethoven’s movements in the subdominant key of E-flat major.

And finally comes the finale, again a totally classic 7-part rondo in a 6/8 rhythm.  A Beethoven typical musical joke can be heard right before the last appearance of the rondo theme when solo moves to a G major key by mistake but tutti guides the solo to the correct tonic key!

After the interval, the glamorous Symphony No. 40 of Mozart was performed.  The amazing sound of the orchestra of our town shows much better in symphonies far from natural mistakes of the soloists that distract the average audience.  And Maestro Tovey, as I told him once in the West Vancouver Library, is as wonderful as his guru, the late Leonard Bernstein I loved.

The first theme is just charming, although a bit dark and sad.  It starts in the tonic key of G major with the accompaniment of the lower strings.  This technique was widely used later by early romantics.  An example is the beginning of Mendelssohn’s first violin concerto.

Slow movement moves to E-flat, the submediant major of the main key.

The minuet is a true Mozartian-classic ¾ dance including a happier trio.  To me, it was performed too fast for an eighteenth century court dance...should be more elegant.  Probably Maestro Tovey wanted to finish the fastest concert (under two hours) even faster and go home!

Finale, allegro assai in the tonic G minor is a very rhythmic live movement, a happy ending for a great symphony.

This time, nothing exciting happened, no baton flew in the air, no D string of the second violins broke…nothing!
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