The Sounds and Music of Open Space
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Blog posting written by Jairo Geronymo, pianist, Nurnberg, Germany
On November 8th, I will play a program entitled Three Trios, Three Players, Three Lands with two of my colleagues.
The program at the Rathaus Schoneberg, the City Hall of West Berlin and now a cultural center, will include Johaness Brahms’ Trio opus 8 (Germany), Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music (USA) and Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Argentina). I have played the four-hands version of the same piece by Piazzolla with Diane Birr as part of a previous FLEFF production . Sexy music plus tango plus historical footage spells great project!
Piazzolla had a colorful life, living in Argentina, US and Europe . His main instrument, the bandoneon, is the perfect medium for expressive music with a nationalistic character. Folk music of countries as France, Germany and the USA also utilized the accordion in its many forms and shapes.
Today, in my first trio rehearsal, we breezed through Brahms, without any stylistic controversy. And then… the old question about Piazzolla’s music as it is played outside Argentina poked through. The music is so passionate that the performers become afraid: they don’t want the textures, dynamics and timbres to sound like a Latin American caricature. So I ask: How much is too passionate?
We want to transmit the passion in the music. But a hard question lurks: where is the line between passionate and caricature? We certainly do not want to sound like a Mexican soap opera!
There is a market for Mexican soap opera--and that’s why they do well. So what’s wrong with them? Is passionate expression of what others might hear as mundane condemnable? People in different cultures express themselves quite differently in the world of emotions. Are these cultural differences playing a role in covert racism? Is cool and reserved the model to be followed? Should we all get musical Botox injections and perform in a wrinkle-free, expressionless style? Is there a place in the musical world for both the reserved and the extravagant?
Performance practice today is a minefield. Many performers do not play Bach in concert anymore. They fear being labeled purists or extreme romantics-- sometimes in the same concert. Recordings have created an educated and opinionated audience. We musicians silently agree on standards of performance practice. Then we criticize someone who strays from these standards. These attitudes do not help to expand diversity in the field of classical music.
Are only German performers entitled to play Brahms?Are only Argentine performers entitled to play Piazzolla? Are only American performers entitled to play Schoenfield? No. I suggest that we expand our horizons: we should not accept any dogmas in the art world.
Let music and our performance of it be free!
I leave you with Piazzolla playing ‘Adios Nonino’ with a German orchestra: