CLASSICAL GAS

Enough with the Canucks, a subject too depressing even for Mr. Blue, here.

Time to soothe my battered soul with a riff on classical music. I realize there are those who believe classical music, particularly a solo piano recital, is somehow elitist, difficult to sit through, and dull. Go to a concert and try to find young people who aren’t music students. They’re almost as rare as a goal by the Sedins. Most wouldn’t be caught dead at something old fogies go to. Music without words that they can’t dance to or download easily on to some iPod thingamajig. You kidding me, pops?

I come by this honestly. Eight hundred years ago, in the time of typewriters, I was young, myself. Did I attend classical music concerts? Not a chance. Bring on the Doors, man. Luckily, in the early days of a long romance, my friend was far more worldly than I, images-1o callow youth. She had tickets to a piano recital by the great Russian pianist, Vladimir Ashkenazy. Dutifully, I went, expecting to be bored out of my gourd. Instead, much to my surprise, I found myself completely enthralled, mesmerized by the sheer beauty and brilliance of Ashkenazy’s playing and the music, itself. The concert resonates with me, still. It opened me up like a can opener to so much I’d ignored all my life. Classical music, opera, Renaissance music, the lot. I now embrace it all. There’s an added cultural richness in my life that wasn’t there before.

Anyway, if you’re one of those referred to above, who, like my pre-Ashkenazy self, can’t relate to classical music, I offer you some examples of just how pulsating that music can really be. Yes, these are merely the program notes for a wonderful, recent recital at the Chan Centre by the acclaimed Murray Perahia. But wow. Who could resist buying a ticket to this sort of excitement? I offer some modest examples.

Bach’s French Suite No. 4 in E flat major, BMV 815 displays “more leaps than a skateboarder’s trick set…”

Beethoven’s Sonata in F minor, Op. 57 is “one of Beethoven’s most emotionally charged and ‘edgy’ compositions…that pushed piano music to new extremes in dynamics, in technical difficulty, and in sheer expressive power.” It includes “an extended coda that reaches its emotional climax in a virtuoso cadenza spluttering with rage and apocalyptic fury…The work ends…stomping , skipping and finally racing to its finish in a whirlwind of F-minor broken chords cascading from the top to the bottom of the keyboard.” Phew. AC/DC, anyone?

Chopin’s Étude in A flat, Op 25, No. 1: “Particularly perilous are the exhilarating leaps – in opposite directions! – at the emotional climax of the piece.” That’s ‘perilous’, folks.

Chopin’s Étude in E minor, Op 25, No. 5: “To each attack in the right hand is attached, like a barnacle, a chromatic inflection a semitone away that makes it walk like it has a stone in its shoe.” Ouch.

And the pièce de resistance…Chopin’s Scherzo in B Flat minor, Op. 31: “It opens with a dramatic exchange between a whimpering triplet figure and an explosive salvo of raw piano resonance, only to be followed by an ecstatic exclamation arriving from the extreme ends of the keyboard, which then in turn morphs into a yearning, long-lined lyrical melody singing out over a sonorously rippling accompaniment in the left hand.” Yikes.

Thanks to written notes maestro Donald G. Gislason, who certainly had my pulse racing before a single key was struck. And thanks, too, to one of this city’s cultural treasures, the indomitable Leila Getz, founder and artistic director of the Vancouver Recital Society, who has been bringing such great artists to our shores for more than 30 years.

Next up at the Chan, on March 9: the startling young pianist, Behzod Abduraimov from, of all places, Tashkent. Based on his last appearance here and Leila Getz’s absolute raves about him, this could be one of those Ashkenazy moments Still a few tickets left, if you can stand the excitement. As for me, I’m going to try and cope by not reading the program notes. There’s only so much stimulation a guy can take.

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2 thoughts on “CLASSICAL GAS

  1. Did someone say AC/DC? Gets lively at the minute mark.

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