Suzanne Valdon. Part 4 — Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas

my daily art display

Self portrait by Suzanne Valadon (1883) Self portrait by Suzanne Valadon (1883)

In my last blog, Part 3 of the life story of Suzanne Valadon, I talked about her relationship with the French painter Pierre-August Renoir and looked at his 1883 Dance Series of painting, two of which featured Suzanne.  At the end of the blog I stated that Renoir had nurtured Suzanne’s interest in art.  I suppose nurturing was the wrong word to use as although Renoir’s art influenced Suzanne it was more his dismissive attitude to her early attempts to paint and sketch that had an effect on her.  Renoir had a somewhat condescending attitude towards her attempts at drawing and painting and this along with his preference for Aline Charigot over her rankled Suzanne all her life.  However Renoir’s indifference regarding her artistic attempts galvanised the young woman in her mission to prove him wrong and at the same time it fostered in…

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A Youtube Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, part 2: Woodwinds / Oboe

Classical music for all

Hello! Continuing from the last post, let’s move to the next woodwind instrument, which is the

Oboe

A photo to start with, as before, to see what it looks like:

I couldn’t find one really satisfactory photo this time, so this and this are two more, to show it from different angles. The length, which is difficult to judge from the photos, is about 62 cms, so slightly shorter than the flute — but it’s really not about the size (and anyway, comparing flutes to oboes is like comparing apples to oranges, and I’d better stop before I get completely buried in bad similes/clichés/metaphors).

Seriously, though, as opposed to the flute, the oboe is a double reed instrument, which means its mouthpiece (the part the player blows into — bottom right in the photo) consists of two pieces of cane vibrating against each other. These pieces of cane, called reeds (doh!), are…

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A Youtube Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, part 1: Woodwinds / Flute and Piccolo

Classical music for all

Oy, this took some time!

I have been neglecting the blog for much too long — though this had more to do with being rather badly busy and not so much with neglect per se — but anyway, I’m glad to be back, and hope to complete the first part of a possibly interesting project before the next trip.

This planned project is an Introduction to the Various Instruments of the Symphonic Orchestra, illustrated by Numerous Photos from the Internet as well as by Musical Examples diligently searched for, and encountered on YouTube by the Author. Or in short — tYPGttO (= the YouTube Person’s Guide to the Orchestra) :-P.

This is hardly a novel idea, and several composers have done exactly that — or rather much better than that, writing whole musical works dedicated to showing the various instruments of the orchestra (three such works come to mind —…

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Of the special bond between pianists and pianos – director’s cut

Classical music for all

A shortened version of this article has appeared in the Guardian (link)
It has been originally written in Hebrew for the Opus magazine (link)

Today I would like to talk about pianos. Not necessarily from a historic point of view (invented by Bartolomeo Christofori around 1700, attained its present shape and characteristics towards the later part of the 19th century), nor from the technical one Grand piano action(a complex mechanism of levers, rails, pins, wires and springs that transmits the pressing of a key onto the hammer, which is then thrown and hits a string), but rather from the personal one – to discuss the special bond between the pianist and the piano. Without a doubt, violinists have just as personal and special a bond with the violin they play on, and so do trumpeters, clarinetists or guitarists—but as opposed to them (and, indeed, to…

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The last opera of Shostakovich

Classical music for all

(I first wrote this article in Hebrew for alaxon.co.il)

«We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read”, thus the great and fictitious restaurant critic Anton Ego in the movie Ratatouille. Every artist, whether a performer or a creator, is acquainted with the sinking feeling of opening the morning newspaper or a website, skimming through the content (the eyes stop on their own at key words), and then the growing realisation that the show, the book, the movie, the exhibition were slaughtered by the critic. But in our everyday experience, whether the artist was offended or not, the entire thing stays within the inter-personal field: as a dialogue between the critic and the artist (with the readers crowd for audience). But imagine a cardinally different situation – living under a dictatorship, where art is carefully monitored by the regime, and woe to the artist who treads a path…

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When the world comes crashing down – a personal interpretation of Ravel’s La Valse

Classical music for all

It is hard to think of a work by the French composer Maurice Ravel that would surpass his Boléro in fame and renown. The piece, performed for the first time in 1928, became an immediate success, much to the surprise of Ravel, who regarded it with no little Maurice Ravelcondescension, said it consisted wholly of “orchestral tissue without music” and was certain that orchestras would refuse to play it. The Boléro was the last link in a long chain of dance music composed by Ravel, some of it written for the ballet, some of it conceived as purely instrumental music – as stylized dances for the orchestra or for piano. Dances permeate his work, from the Menuet antiquehe composed when he was 20, up to the beautifully melancholic slow waltz which forms the second movement of his Concerto in G, one of his last works. Within this group…

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