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Light digression for a table of friends

November 18th, 2010

Filed under: MUSIC


Grand-café-restaurant Meneer Frits, the locale for Vriendentafels 2010 - 2011

Technical hitches get us off track
I went to a Vriendentafel (Friends Table) music lecture at Meneer Frits Grand Café Restaurant on Tuesday this week. After the show over a drink with Frank de Munnik, the speaker, we lamented some of life’s irritations. Like how the new technician guy – whom I believe turned up early – should have made sure Frank’s audio was working before Frank started his lecture. Not having checked the connections, it took 20 minutes to hook it up while Frank stood in front of an expectant audience. While the techie did some adjusting of cables and switches, Frank did a bit of random stand up which was actually quite amusing (mmm, something about winning a very large pair of The Beatles memorabilia underpants … you had to be there). And good on him, because he’s not technically a comedian, he’s a musicologist.
But I digress.

Praise for the non-pushy parent
Given Frank’s penchant for music, whether it’s baroque or pop, he has neither forced nor passed his love of music onto his 8 year old son. I come from non-musical parents and have been trying to learn to play the piano well for a few decades now. I don’t have kids, but I somehow see myself as softly encouraging any kids I may eventually have, to tinkle the ivories, sing like nobody’s listening, or maybe scrape some horsehair over some cello strings. But Frank’s not the type. He thinks his kid should make up his own mind. Given that he had been talking about the genius of gifted-children like W.A Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn that evening, it was refreshing to hear Frank’s own views.
But I digress.

Mendelssohn – either you love him or feel-a-bit-luke-warm about him
I was always a bit “mwah” about Mendelssohn, and although Tuesday’s Vriendentafel was a good one,  I have come away firmly deciding that I don’t really like Mendelssohn much  (Felix, that is. I quite like the actor, Ben. Actually, I always liked him, since The Year My Voice Broke.)
But I digress.

I think his work is generally too light and happy. Is that wrong? He had a privileged life and that led to delightful music and in my opinion, not much more. But knowing more of his story explains why it is the way it is. I have had two piano teachers in my past who were a bit not-very-excited about Mendelssohn and I never understood why. One said she preferred almost anyone else over him, and the other said that he didn’t know much about him. Then there was the teacher who made me play Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso (sounds like a pizza, but … I digress), and became furious at me for taking 2 weeks to learn the notes. “I could play this piece when I was 14!” This is not encouraging to hear when you’re 20 years old, but I just wasn’t very talented and I could safely say that that’s probably when I started to mildly dislike Mendelssohn.
But yes, I digress.

When learning about a composer results in much eye-rolling and eye-opening
Most of the pieces we heard during the were seminal works that influenced the very young Mendelssohn and many of the snippets we heard were written by the composer, aged 10. At that tender age he was already a freakishly talented pianist and was known for taking precocious requests at the end of a performance – “Which of the (33) Beethoven piano sonatas would you like me to play?” (Eye-rolling here). What we all found very interesting was the reminder that most ensemble or orchestral music from the 19th century had to be arranged for piano so people could hear the pieces by playing them at home. Most people only got the chance to hear a couple of times in a lifetime the pieces of music we’ve heard a million times (in films, ads, tv programmes) – and at sound studio perfection. (To think, people played music back in the day, made it themselves. These days we play music too, but we mostly just touch a button). How critical we can be if we witness/detect the errors a musician makes, live! How disappointed some of us get when we deem a recording to be “better” than the concert! Mitsuko Uchida famously mentioned in an interview of the recording of a Schoenberg piece (read: very difficult) that “I felt really good working on it. It was like playing it live. We only had 40 takes.” Only. (That’s the eye-opening bit).
But, I digress.

Want a distracting yet interesting way to practice your Dutch?

Well, this will only be a useful tip if you are mildly interested in history, music and being told a ripping yarn or two – and can understand Dutch. See below for the list of Vriendentafels during the 2010 – 2011 season. Normally I’ll be there with a few friends at the high tables, because it’s sort of a habit now. If you come to Meneer Frits on December 14, you’ll see we’re the under forty people and you’ll hear us chattering in English over pre-lecture drink. Speaking of which, Meneer Frits is one of the few cafés in town that serves Ginger Ale!
But I digress.

I’ll leave the details below in Dutch, because if you can’t read them, well, the lecture won’t be any good to you either!

di 14 dec 2010 – De Cellosuites van J.S. Bach
di11 jan 2011 – Introspectie en de late muziek van Liszt
di 8 feb 2011 – Muziek uit de Hermitage
di 29 mrt 2011 – Maximaal minimaal
di 12 apr 2011 – Een avond met de Bach Partitas
di 17 mei 2011 – De vooruitblik: piano in het nieuwe seizoen
De Vriendentafels worden mogelijk gemaakt door de Vereniging Vrienden van Muziekgebouw Eindhoven. De avonden vinden plaats in grand café-restaurant Meneer Frits en beginnen om 20.30 uur. Entree gratis.

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