Monthly Archives: October 2013

107: Violantor

Violantor (Latin verb) – third-person plural future passive imperative of violō

Today on flaglock: Julian unblushingly spotlights himself for being chef of the day and thinks some more about the Polonaise (specifically an album of the seven big ones, released in October 2013).

Go me! Today’s dinner was all me, me, me, from start to finish. I defrosted the chicken, I washed and skinned and chopped the potatoes, I threw them all in a pan and shoved the whole thing in the oven, all the while making sure to not get chicken juice all over the counter (my skills with the cutting-board aren’t good enough for me to discard this task as trivial). Then I left the vegetables out to defrost, and monitored the baking chicken every now and then. When it was about ready, I shut the oven off and left it to coast on the remaining heat; I threw some oil, salt, and pepper into a pan and fried the last of our frozen vegetables. Then I drew the pan of potatoes and chicken (they smelled good by now) from the oven and rang the dinner gong.

It was … surprisingly delicious. It wasn’t filling enough, though; I realize only now that there was hardly enough stuff to go ’round.

It’s been a few days since I extracted Rafal’s new album of the Chopin Polonaises to my hard disk; I’ve enjoyed one or two playthroughs now, and I’ve been trying to sink myself into the Polonaise-Fantaisie.

What can I say about these pieces and these performances that hasn’t already been covered? They’re a delight. I have found a new love in every single piece (I already have all of them, save the Polonaise-Fantaisie, by different artists) through the gorgeous playing of Rafal Blechacz. The closest I’ve had to a complete set before now is a cobbled-together set of Evgeny Kissin’s Carnegie Hall Chopin recital and his program at the Verbier Festival 2010. I like what Kissin does (a pity that I really dislike the recorded sound from the Verbier); I grew up on his Carnegie Hall recital, and I’ve become kind of well-acquainted with his playing. And yet what Rafal does is just – maybe better?

For once I am not convinced of the absolute artistry (and if I were, I would rightly deserve ridicule for being a close-minded fanatic), but I know that there’s something there. I very much like what I hear; the only thing I could possibly take exception to is the rendition of the op. 53. I already have Blechacz’s two previous iterations of the piece, on his debut album for CD Accord and on his segment of the competition chronicle from the Chopin Competition XV. Things get faster and faster until present-day, as Blechacz takes the studio recording version of the op. 53 at a brisk clip. I am not really that fond of this, but time will probably enlighten me to the reasons Rafal might have had for jogging along.

Other than that minuscule complaint, I can do nothing  but sing praises for this particular album. These are real dances for the piano, the kind that gets you up moving around. The playing is dynamic, rhythmic, motor-infused … I don’t even know any more. It’s good. It’s wonderful. I love it. I drool in anticipation of his next album, which, if memory serves, is neither oriented at Chopin nor other Polish music. (And the concerto album that presumably follows, I haven’t a clue! I’m hoping for something esoteric.)



106: Unsuspect

Unsuspect (Adjective): 1. Unsuspected; not subject to suspicion. 2. Not suspect; trustworthy or reliable. 3. Unforeseen.

TODAY on flaglock: I shiver at the arrival of winter and ponder more strange dreams, feedback on Polish dance, and thoughts on “Say I Love You.”

I threw a scarf around myself (like Merlin throws his beard around himself) and took a dive into the cloudy morning. I saw my breath for the first time this season. Mom remarked today, “It’s about time you started digging up your scarves.” The nights are sharper and the days are sluggish to grow warm. The winter really drives home just how much it would suck if our sun went out.

I can’t be the only one who’s noticed: why the DEVIL would any alien civilization suffer themselves to physically come round and launch an invasion of our Earth? If they’ve read any of the stupid invasion fiction that we’ve spawned, they’ll know that we tend to win in the most improbably stupid and the most colossally unfair ways ever unblushingly penned. I enjoyed H.G. Wells’ solution: death by delayed reaction to some errant Earthling bacteria that they had no immunity to (good job sick bay, real great work in speedily working up and deploying a cure).

But back to my point about winter: there’s absolutely no point in getting your little green hands dirty. If the subjugation (or even extermination) of mankind is your goal, why bother? Get your fancy technology up and running to deploy a MASSIVE solar umbrella over the earth. Once you block out our sun, I guarantee that pandemonium will reign. Once our governments somehow manage to control the madness, you deliver your demands. And then everyone is ready for your arrival whenever you feel like descending. The upshot of this plan: you get to perch yourself atop your gigantic horrible solar umbrella and tan yourself for a couple of days (weeks, I imagine) while we Earthlings get our stuff sorted.

On Rafał’s new album: I have dug up positive reviews from The Telegraph and at least one German source (which, despite its long-winded suggestion for improvement, assign the album a ten-for-ten in every category of pianism on its rubric) that give favorable reviews. The Guardian is less charitable, but who cares what they think. It has received a single five-star review on Amazon from a certain “Santa Fe Listener” and another five-star review on The signs look good. I hope this means better and better sales for Rafał. Already we are told (sources from Preludia) that the next concerto album is almost ready-to-go – orchestra, conductor, repertoire, missing only dates – and that the next solo album is planned out too (no Chopin, no focus on Polish stuff). Barnes & Noble has finally gotten around to shipping my copy, but I cannot yet find tracking information about the package. I continue to refresh the page in high hopes.

This weekend at home has done good things for my hands: I have shed almost everything from my repertoire now, and focus tightly on a core of technical exercises, a lone concerto, and selected arrangements of mine. This is mostly Moritz Moszkowski’s Etude op. 72 no. 6 in E-flat major, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 4 in G minor, and then the wibbly-wobbly stuff that goes all over the place when it comes to keyboard performance. I’m surprised that my touch appears to have improved with neglect.

Mom cleans the house very well when given free reign. I notice, conspicuously, that the workroom is left untouched (and it looks a little sad and out-of-place compared to the rest of the spotless house). It is all too good to be home again, and all too sad that I have to go back again tomorrow afternoon. Life can really be dull at all the wrong times.

I had another one of those last night. And again I played an strongly protagonistic role – not a common feature in my dreams. The monster of Nian had come to our little village to lure away our children: the children were out on the grass playing, and the men were banding up to check up the mountain about a huge apparition that had appeared earlier. In a moment of clarity I admonished them: “You idiots! Can’t you see it’s trying to lure us away so it can take the children?”

I was hitherto unmoved by the score to “Say I Love You.” I confess that it was half the reason that I decided to pick up watching it at all, because seeing the name of my favorite film composer plastered on created an enormous incentive. It has been mostly minimal work with keyboard, strings, some kind of wind instrument (organ offshoot?), and other stuff. I suspect that he may have arranged the opening too, because that’s just his style. But today, I really smiled as he flexed his musical biceps. Episode eleven, where the male lead and female lead take a lovey-dovey trip to the analogous in-universe Disneyland™, is Nomi’s breakout moment in the series. The first shot over the entrance is given a fanfare in a cozy chamber string group (possibly as small as a quartet). This instrumentation comes and goes in the scenes at the park, all intimate and cheerful and lovely (and above all, HAPPY) at the same time. Nice work there, Mr. Nomi, you’ve got me back on track again. I’ll be looking for this particular score in stores from now on, maybe.

On the whole, “Say I Love You” is an interesting experience. There’s a lot of “modernist” imagery in there that tries quite hard not to be traditionally romantic. Props to the creators, there’s a pronounced (and pretty well-executed) attempt to be original. The romance is pedestrian and the story is hardly groundbreaking, but the atmosphere is what I’d pay for. There’s almost a little economy of smiles going on with the female lead: in the later episodes, you will get to see her smile more and more, and it melts your heart after the thorough freezing it got from her icy countenance in earlier episodes. It’s a really sweet story with a nicely unobtrusive score (which, as I’ve mentioned, in places has the opportunity to really take the rug out from under you) and a surprisingly original feel to its opening. I’ve yet to see an opening that opens with vocals over keyboard and string quartet, never going above a mezzo-piano. Now THAT takes some patience.