This afternoon I popped into my musical home, the Curtis Institute of Music, to play Syrinx. This is room IE, the harpsichord room, where during my student days at Curtis I had many rehearsals, coachings, and worked on Baroque music with the wonderful Lionel Party. The acoustics are nice in this room. A bloom is added to the sound, but not too much so there is a lot of clarity, making it good for practicing. Franz Liszt looks over my shoulder, while an Arcadian landscape unfolds behind me. Though unplanned, this interpretation was somewhat quicker and a little more rhapsodic than usual.
I am pleased to share with you an article by David Patrick Stearns about my “Syrinx Journey” project, which appeared in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.
I played Syrinx for my friend Bobby Kimbel and her granddaughter in Bobby’s beautiful home. From this magenta colored room I looked out the windows at the Philadelphia skyline on a rainy afternoon.
Here is a rendition in the shade of a tree in Philadelphia. Some of you may guess where I am. I find that 11 days in, the length and phrasings in my Syrinx performances are varying more than I would have expected, given that I am playing Syrinx every day and it is such a brief, 2:30″ or so piece. I wonder what will happen as I continue the daily renditions.
This is a quiet evening at home. I noticed afterwards that this Syrinx was on the longer side. It must have been the bamboo and candles.
It was a lovely afternoon so I went to the path along the Schuylkill. It’s not the quietest spot, but this is the city after all. Those of you who know Philadelphia will recognize the Cira Building behind me. The Schuylkill River Trail is the Washington-Rochambeau historic route. I always feel inspired playing Syrinx outdoors because the nature sounds are so evocative of the ancient Greek myth context.
We pulled over in a field about 20 minutes outside of Siena, not wanting to lose the light. It was twilight and very peaceful: evening birdsong, the smell of freshly cut hay and grass, a gentle breeze. I was standing in the mushy earth tracks made by tractor treads, facing a tractor and barns across a small road. I was thinking about the performance tradition of playing Syrinx in a darkened room. I have often had the lights dimmed for this piece at recitals. I smiled to myself thinking that this time, the lighting had been most marvelously adjusted for me in nature. The hush of evening inspired me to play quite intimately and softly in the soft parts, though I did well up with some anguish in the climactic phrases.
I performed Debussy’s Syrinx live on Kol HaMusica, Israel’s classical radio station, as part of a show I did while in Jerusalem recently. It was not video recorded, but I will receive a CD which I will post soon. Host Zmira Lutzky invited me to be a guest on her show “Nuages, Fêtes, Sirènes,” which she named after the movements of Debussy’s Nocturnes. She devotes her program to new music and in addition to promoting new music in general and Israeli composers in particular, she is co-director of the Israel Contemporary Players, a new music ensemble based at the Jerusalem Music Centre. A pianist by training, Zmira studied with the great Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.
The two-hour show I did included an interview, live performances, and the broadcast of selections from my most recent CD “Odyssey: 11 American Premieres for Flute and Piano,” a 2-CD set with my duo pianist Charles Abramovic on Innova Recordings, and airings of live performances of Dolce Suono Ensemble. I was impressed by Zmira’s comprehensive knowledge of new music and absolute command of English, because during the show she interviewed me in English, then gave Hebrew summaries for the listening audience. It was a delight spending time with this warm and gracious woman.
How fitting for me to perform Syrinx on this Debussy-titled show. Zmira always plays one movement of Nocturnes as a lead-in, and invited me to choose the movement. I selected “Fêtes.” Then she had me begin with Syrinx right afterwards. I also performed music by Astor Piazzolla, Tzvi Avni, and Shulamit Ran. The selections from “Odyssey” which were broadcast were by Richard Danielpour, David Ludwig, Benjamin C.S. Boyle, and Zhou Tian. Also aired: Nuit d’étoiles, a Debussy song I arranged, and a Brazilian choro from my first CD “MIMI,” and Dolce Suono Ensemble live performances of music by Telemann, Ravel, George Crumb, and Shulamit Ran. I love hearing Vox Balaenae / Voice of the Whale translated into Hebrew: Kol Ha Levyatan!
Here I am with Zmira Lutzky, host on Kol HaMusica, after our show.
Playing Syrinx outdoors usually means in open air with the sky as the upper limit of my concert hall. This space was different: a covered archway in the Tuscan hill town of Castelmuzio. The stone surfaces bounced my sound back to me, not an echo which might have invited me to alter my pacing, but a slight concentration of the sound.
There was a lot of wildlife, most off camera. While I was playing, three cats and one dog came out and sat facing me across the street. On camera, you’ll notice me brushing a fly off my face near the end of the piece.