If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche

ArevManoukian directs a dramatic and visual short film. The story of how he became a director is rather interesting. He was thrown right into it. He applied to be a production assistant on a music video shoot but their director had just quit. After the producer saw his reel, he invited Manoukian to the location scout and gave him the job. The producer met the artists and made a shot list on the spot while listening to the music for the first time. It was Manoukian’s first job with a real crew, 35mm film and about 60 extras. The next morning Manoukian did not know what to do when he got to set early, so he started hauling sand bags to help the guys. The key grip told him never to touch the gear. He was a director!

Nuit Blanche explores an experience many of us have lived before – a fleeting yet powerful connection with a perfect stranger. Set in a dark cobblestone street in the 1950’s, a man catches the gaze of a woman in a cafe across the street. This split-second moment becomes suspended in time, as the two gravitate towards each other in a hyper real fantasy where nothing can hold them back.

Directed by: Arev Manoukian
Cinematographer: Arev Manoukian

  • Prix Ars – Golden Nica Winner
  • LG Film Festival – Grand Prize Winner
  • Featured at the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow (MMOMA)
  • Featured at Siggraph 2010
  • Featured in Wired, Motionographer, Stash, Schon and Shots magazine

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Terrible beside the Beautiful - Vesuvius and Pompeii

                                       E Y E W I T N E S S E S

Vesuvius is a geological marvel with which Neapolitans have formed a strained but near-familial bond, as if it were some sort of rogue relation, a 4,203 feet tall cousin of graceful beauty and deadly fits. It lies to the east of Naples, where it catches the sunset light and commands one’s attention as might any large, moody creature to which humans will be forever beneath notice. Bounded by the shore of the Bay of Naples to the south and west, it is cupped on its northern quarter by a sloping crescent of ruined mountain called Monte Somma. Monte Somma curves around Vesuvius like a cowl, a 3,700 foot high remnant of an older mountain that had stood upon that very spot until 79 AD, when the eruption that destroyed Pompeii blew most of it away and built the present cone.

R- This painting of Vesuvius was discovered in 1879 on a wall in the Casa del Centenario, one of the largest houses in Pompeii. Bacchus is pictured standing before the mountain; at the time Vesuvius was covered in vineyards. Archeological Museum, Naples.

Vesuvius makes lots of stone, but it can sleep for centuries.  Hannibal saw Vesuvius erupt in 215 BC, but it was snoozing in 73 BC when Spartacus and his band of rebellious slaves hid on its summit. 

A century later the Greek historian Strabo realized that Vesuvius was a volcano like Etna because their rocks were much alike, but that information was largely forgotten until August 24, 79 AD, when Vesuvius reawaken.

On that hot, languorous August morning sixteen-year old Pliny the Younger looked up from his studies to see an odd pine-tree-shaped smoke cloud rising from the mountaintop. 

Years later, in two letters to the historian Tacitus, he described the event in the earliest eye witness report of a volcanic eruption. 

Volcanologists have honored Pliny by ascribing the name “Plinian” to the kind of violent eruption and the type of tall, coherent, mushroom-shaped plume that he saw that day.

Pliny was residing at Misenum, a point of land across the Bay from the volcano, at the villa of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, a prolific scholar and commander of the fleet of the Bay of Naples. 

As the eruption cloud shot into the sky it showered ash on the towns across the water, and Pliny the Elder made plans to launch a boat and investigate.

Just as he was leaving, a letter requesting rescue came from a woman trapped in her villa at Stabiae at the foot of the mountain. Changing plans, Pliny the Elder set sail and headed straight for the mountain. Pliny the Younger and his mother stayed behind and watched devastating ash clouds roll down the mountain and spread across the Bay, and he describes their flight from the villa, the earthquakes, the lava, the lightning, and the distinctive, depthless darkness that falls when a volcanic cloud obliterates the sun. 

The Eruption of Vesuvius by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. Valenciennes witnessed a Vesuvius eruption in August 1779, and he used his impressions in this depiction of the eruption of 79 AD. He shows the death of Pliny the Elder on the shore at Stabie. Private Collection.

Pliny the Elder perished on his rescue, and countless more died in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other communities nearby.

In the following centuries, Vesuvius experienced long
stretches of both quiet and violence. In 1764 it began nearly three continuous decades of activity that became one of the must-see spectacles in Europe.

On the scene through its duration was one of history’s most noted volcanophiliacs, William Hamilton, British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples. Tall, thin, with deep-set eyes, and a hook nose, Hamilton was a suave diplomat with enormous sway over Neapolitan society and court and is considered the first modern volcanologist.

He made hundreds of trips to the volcano and seventy ascents to observe the flowing lava. 

Many of his excursions became social events, as gentlemen with tri-cornered hats and waistcoats and ladies in long gowns, assisted through the rocks by guides in rough cloth caps and capes, followed him up the slopes to the lava.

Hamilton had been at his post barely a year when, in September, 1765, he watched Vesuvius awaken.

R- This illustration from Hamilton’s 1776 Campi Phlegraei: Observations on the volcanoes of the two Sicilies shows a party of sightseers watching a lava flow. Hamilton, at center left, his hat removed, leads the group
He rushed to the mountain to spend the night at the crater’s edge, and he returned over the following months to pass the night at the summit, watch the lava and record his observations. He compiled histories of past eruptions, collected mineral specimens and from his Villa Angelica in Portici drew the changes that day by day altered the summit’s silhouette.

On the night of October, 29, 1767, lava descended upon the Royal Palace, and King Ferdinand I took flight. 

The sixteen-year old king, a spoiled, thick-headed, boor who had mounted the throne at the age of eight and had been governing in his own right for mere months, ordered 20,000 of his subjects to march on the volcano and brandish the remains of San Gennaro, the city’s patron saint.

R-Ferdinand (1751-1825) ruled Naples twice, as King of Naples for the latter half of the eighteenth century, and again as King of the Two Sicilies from 1816-1825. Only eight years old when he ascended the throne (his father had become Charles IV, King of Spain), the court officials kept him isolated and ignorant so that they could run the kingdom themselves. He assumed power in 1767, and married Marie Caroline, daughter of the Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria. Marie Caroline became the kingdom’s real ruler. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

San Gennaro, bishop of Benevento in 305 A.D., had refused the Roman Emperor’s orders to renounce his faith; when thrown before hungry lions and tossed into a flaming furnace, he emerged unscathed. In 472 AD, prayers before his tomb stopped an eruption, and now, face to face with his relics, the volcano quieted again.

Hamilton sent countless rock samples back to England for analysis, and he submitted his observations to the Royal Society in London in six lengthy letters. In 1776 he published Campi Phlegraei: Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies, which featured magnificent hand colored plates of the eruptions, volcanic landscapes, and minerals.
Hamilton’s writings were a scientific landmark for their careful descriptions and for his assertion that volcanoes were positive agents of constructive change.

Torre Del Greco was again the victim of Vesuvius in 1794 when six vents opened on the mountain’s southwest flank and flooded the town with lava. Private collection.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Tchaikovsky Recital - Richter

Pyotr Tchaikovsky(1840 -1893)

created a great number of piano works. These compositions were intended to serve specific purposes and be performed in certain environments.  Works like the First Piano Concerto were created for big concert halls to celebrate solemn moments of Russian history and unify the national spirit.  Miniatures were usually performed at home, in a circle of friends and family.  They are a symbol of the privacy and comfort of many wealthier Russian homes and reflect their style of life in the 19th century.  Though Tchaikovsky's piano miniatures were addressed mostly to nobles and prosperous townsfolk, his music speaks to everyone.  Intimate and sincere, with rich melodies and simple to perform, the music gained great popularity for the composer.

This album combines Tchaikovsky piano miniatures from Op. 5, 7, 10, 19, 40, 51 and 72.

 Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997),

one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century, was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine, into a family of musicians.  His talent was recognized and encouraged from a very early stage.  The Richters soon moved from Zhitomir to Odessa, a provincial city in Southern Ukraine.  Theophil Richter, father of Sviatoslav, was a professor at Odessa Conservatory.  At the same time and in the same city lived also David Oistrakh and Emil Gilels.  By the age of eight Richter played opera scores by Wagner and at age nineteen he gave his first solo piano concert.

    We often hear funny things about Richter.  For example, that his development as a pianist started when 22-year-old Richter first met Heinrich Neuhaus in Moscow.  In fact when Neuhaus listened to Richter's playing he said that there was nothing he could teach him.  Being already an accomplished pianist Richter never passed the exam to enter the Moscow Conservatory as a student.  He was enrolled without examination after Neuhaus listened to his playing.  Can we imagine the same happening at our state music schools which charge 100$ only for applying and where composers and performers are evaluated by accountants according to form-filling instead of personal inspiration and experience?  Indeed, Neuhaus knew that real diplomas are issued in Heaven.

    Richter won the All-Union Competition in 1945 and was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1949. Being a jury member at the First Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 he awarded van Cliburn one hundred points out of possible ten.
    The communist regime kept Soviet artists on a short leash and there was a reason for that.  Too often Soviet artists chose not to return.  The first time Richter was allowed to cross the border with the West was at the end of 1960.  That was his debut in the US with the Second Concerto by Brahms conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.  After that Richter played seven recitals over ten days in Carnegie Hall.  He became an extremely busy performer.  However he also became known for cancellations of his performances at the very last minute.  He tried to avoid travelling by air.  The exhausting life of a travelling concert pianist was not his cup of tea.

    Richter preferred to stay in France and Germany.  The environment around Tours in France reminded him of Zhitomir.  In 1964, Richter founded an annual festival - the "Fetes Musicales en Touraine" at Meslay.  He also established the December Nights Festival which annually takes place at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.

    Richter's repertoire was vast, though the music he performed was selected very consciously.  Besides basic piano repertoire he loved to play sonatas by Schubert and Haydn which evoked delight in his audiences
As time passed Richter's interpretations became more and more rigid and restrained, though each composer was always for him a special world and Richter treated each of them very differently, naturally and easily.  A natural ability to merge different styles and epochs was probably his most impressive talent, though most people first of all valued his unlimited abilities as a virtuoso.

    After 1980, the only light he allowed in the concert hall was focused on the piano and around the same time he stopped playing by heart though his memory was always extraordinary.
    Richter's last concert was in Lubeck, Germany, in March, 1995.  He was eighty years old and in poor health.  On the program were three Haydn Sonatas and Variations by Beethoven.  Richter died in Moscow on August 1, 1997.

Titan. That is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of the pianist Sviatoslav Richter. Not only for the imposing physical presence (Richter frightened the orchestra conductor, Rozhdestvensky) but also because of the way he grasped the keyboard. Was it because he had as professor at the Moscow Conservatory, the famous Heinrich Neuhaus?

One can hardly find fault in Richter’s playing. He unleashes all of his power, with an infallible sense of rhythm.
Direct and warm, these pieces are a part of his soul and he delivers them with just the right combination of technical panache and sentimentality.

It’s rare indeed to get such a broad sampling of Tchaikovsky’s shorter solo piano works, and to have them played by a great Russian pianist like Richter is a bonus.

Sviatoslav Richter, piano Recorded in Studio 3 of the Bavarian Radio, 1983. Engineered by Wolfgang Karreth DDD
Licensed from Olympia

Nocturne op.10 n°1 0:00
Waltz-Scherzo op.7 4:29
Humoresque op.10 n°2 8:45
Capriccioso op.19 n°5 11:25
Chanson triste op.40 n°2 15:20
Waltz op.40 n°8 18:19
Romance op.5 21:39
Romance op.51 n°5 28:16
Un poco di Chopin op.72 n°15 36:59
L'espiègle op.72 n°12 40:25
Rêverie du soir op.19 n°1 42:35
Menuetto-Scherzoso op.51 n°3 46:58
Valse de salon op.51 n°1 51:07
Méditation op.72 n°5 56:12

The Seasons op.37b
May. White Nights 1:01:32
June. Barcarole 1:06:01
November. Troika 1:11:47
January. By the Fireplace 1:14:45