The arrival of Martha Argerich in any musical community is greeted with a sense of disbelief often dispelled only the moment she walks onto stage—“yes, it is happening”—only to be replaced by another form of disbelief and incredulity when witnessing her musical powers. Joining her for this occasion is a pianist of equally staggering prowess, long known to Cleveland audiences, and with quickly-growing fame throughout the world: Sergei Babayan.Read More
I woke up to this somber, half-luminous scene—the light over the lake was almost primordial, and then I suddenly remembered a book I had read years ago by Max Frisch. It was a reflection of my mood, which did not want the end of this festival of music in paradise. My hotel, after all, is in the aptly-named part of town called Paradiso. A taxi conveyed me to the hall and cost a fortune. I noted that people here drive like maniacs. It’s a small town. Why go so fast?
Max Frisch’s “Man in the Holocene” was a story of fate, acceptance of mortality, and one man’s struggle against nature in solitude. Incessant rains and waiting for the instability and landslide in the valley had the unsettled mood of uncertain doom. It was set in Ticino, the region which cradles Lugano. That suddenly struck me as I looked out the window. Sometimes, artists trying to define their work’s role in the world are also in their own Holocene.Read More
These past three days were a whirlwind, and have felt exactly rather like five. To experience in the work, rehearsals, and behind-the-scenes life of two enigmatic great pianists—Sergei Babayan and Martha Argerich–is almost unthinkable. These days were apart from any sense of time and were dictated by the musical tasks at hand.
Because of my unique vantage point—an intimate look at the private world of artistic preparation and work, I must be especially careful in how I write this entry and to respect the privilege and trust I was given. What I can try to do is give a general sense of their uncompromising work, their incredible humanity, and the excitement I was able to derive from first-hand learning and observation.Read More
In this entry: Maisky at the Cinema, A triple wardrobe change, Lugano nightlife and restaurants, ballroom dancers in the streets, and other tales. Includes many photos~
Weekends here in Europe prove challenging for those attempting to keep gluten-free or low-carb diets, since the bakeries and cafés display their full repertoire to hapless passing visitors. Fortunately, the sheer amount of walking required here offsets the requisite guilt.
My presence as a page turner was not required at today’s rehearsals, which were undoubtedly even more intense and extended. This pace was a distinct contrast to my hopping between café-lined squares of well-dressed locals and browsing the window displays of the boutiques–here they are mostly high-end fashion retail.Read More
Almost no sleep last night, due to the excitement of the concert and all the meetings with the legendary musicians. But then, the atmosphere here is framed by groups of musicians staying up until 4 or 5 in the morning, rehearsing and practicing for the concerts. It is hard to settle into a comfortable sleep knowing that Martha Argerich is still awake and practicing at the Radio hall at the top of the mountain as though there were no more tomorrows. Her prolific practice habits are the talk of the festival.
Waking up with a window to Lake Lugano is unforgettable because of the color of the water—it always changes depending on the sky. Breakfast at the “Grand Hotel Splendide Royal”, as I remarked to my friend, strikingly evokes the rich interiors and liveried regalia of 19th-century hotels, much as in Luchino Visconti’s “Death in Venice”. People coming and going, footmen and waiters offering theatrical flourishes of hospitality, and families of somewhat unrealistic beauty speaking in hushed tones gather for hour-long breakfasts.Read More
As part of an International Festival Society grant for my summer musical plans (including the Martha Argerich Project in Lugano) I am keeping a little daily log of the goings-on, because many of them have been extraordinary, weird, or surprising. This is a public blog post, so I tried my utmost to protect the privacy of all involved while recounting these stories.
A flight from a balmy Cleveland to Newark passed quickly because my flighty neighbors all wanted to speak, and all asked the same unlikely question “So, are you with The Orchestra?” …What is “The Orchestra”? I tell them that pianists usually play solo or as soloists with an orchestra, and their reaction usually betrays disappointment anyway.Read More