Week of 9-28-2009
News + Thoughts
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 16:30

I played a concert this summer with cellist and long-time friend, Carter Brey, up in the Berkshires at Tannery Pond (a sumptuously warm acoustic; a converted barn, actually). An acquaintance told me of a drive up from NYC for the show in the company of a young lady who remarked, looking forward to the concert, that it seemed to her there was a whole mafia of O’Rileys: there’s the one with the radio show, one who hosts a TV show (not the evil and misspelled Bill O’Reilly), the pianist she was about to see collaborate with Carter, the other pianist who does all those Radiohead songs, the conductor… My friend gently informed her “It’s all the same guy.”

It’s been a great summer, not so much peripatetically (Michelle and I have been loving time we’ve been able to spend uninterrupted with Moochie, Chiquita, Adeline and Elliott, and our adopted feral cats living in our outdoor pavilion, Cleo and her two orange kittens, Stevie and Larry; and Cleveland weather has been paradisical), but certainly creatively: the finishing touches were put to Out Of My Hands, my latest CD for WhiteTie/Mesa-Bluemoon. The CD, out August 18th includes songs from many different bands, R.E.M., Portishead, Tori Amos, The Smiths, Tears for Fears, Cocteau Twins, The Bad Plus among them. Uncle Dave Lewis wrote an exceptional appreciation of the disc for All Music Guide; my cherished recording experience with Barry Wordsworth and the Royal Philharmonic was reissued lovingly by Allegro, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and other great orchestra pieces by Ravel and Debussy; and TWO discs celebrating working friendships with some of our favorite From The Top colleagues: Caroline Goulding’s debut recital record for Telarc, on which we collaborate on works by Paul Schonfield, Gershwin, and Kreisler, and From The Top @ The Pops, a collaboration with the Cincinnati Pops, also for Telarc, which found eight young soloists playing concerto movements under the generous, supple and graceful leadership of the late Maestro Erich Kunzel. Sad though it must be, as the Maestro’s last Telarc recording, it was a week-long celebration captured compellingly on disc.

My arrangement work has always been more a matter of serendipitous passions, a song that takes hold and insinuates to me its pianistic possibilities. Having the relaxed time at home leaves my ears an open canvas, and two pieces came to me, unbidden, during the course of the summer: Elliott Smith’s ‘True Love’, and Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ (actually, taken more from the Michael Williams rendition heard on the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Geez, that means I’ve done a cover-of-a-cover?).

I’ll look forward to premiering Mad World at the next live taping of From The Top, back at our old stomping grounds at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. This year, we’re celebrating our 10th broadcast season, and if that weren’t reason enough to cheer, From The Top Live @ Carnegie Hall, our PBS series, just won two Emmys. Part of the celebratory year will be revisitings with kids who’ve appeared on the show over the past decade. It’ll be great to see them and make music with them, and I’m also looking forward to revisiting great centers of hospitality where we’ve taped before; Jordan Hall in Boston, of course, but then immediately to new territory in Salt Lake City, where I’ve played chamber music and with the orchestra before, then back to old friends at Emory University in Atlanta, Denison University in Granville, OH (the leaves should be perfect right about then), and Waco and Dallas in the state who came out forcefully and first for From The Top, Texas.

Our From The Top alums continue to surprise me and make me proud. William Harvey, a violinist who appeared in our very first season, is now preparing to move to Kabul to teach music. After his own life-changing moment during 9/11, he’d played at the Armory for troops who were there to organize and recoup as they went back and forth to Ground Zero/WTC, and has since then found his own way to make his music a force for social motivation and support. His foundation, Cultures in Harmony has brought communication through musical performance to every corner of the globe.

I’ve had an amazing amount of time to read, everything from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine to crime novels by favorites Ken Bruen, Anthony Neil Smith, Joe R. Lansdale, Andrew Vachss, Megan Abbott, Duane Swierczynski, Allan Guthrie, Cornell Woolrich (a writer I’d never heard of, but was steered inerrantly by a fellow noir enthusiast who happens to be one of our most thoughtful and zealous writers on Music, Greg Sandow)and the multi-nom-de-plumed Donald E. Westlake, to William T. Vollmann’s massive study of American life and lucre in IMPERIAL, the desert region shared by California and Mexico. With an hour a day on the Stairmaster and all kinds of time at airports and in between, I must read a book every other day. One of my main passions, reading.

The other most obvious non-musical passions of mine would have to be film, and this summer was memorable for its rare but spectacular successes: I’m a huge Sasha Baron Cohen fan, so Bruno was a must. Twice. Inglorious Basterds, also twice, and District 9 (once was harrowing enough; a phenomenal film). Francis Ford Coppola’s long-awaited return as screenwriter/director was well worth the wait; Tetro was a beautiful film. And the highlight, which will bear reviewing, just to try and begin to make sense of the sweep and imagination of it all, Synecdoche, New York, the directorial debut of master screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman.

Most of all, I’m looking forward to playing concerts. I couldn’t have had more fun in my first concert of the season as I had with Maestro Timothy Muffitt and the Lansing Symphony Orchestra (also fun that it was the first road trip in my Toyota Solara Convertible, a car Michelle had found for me). It was a Spanish-themed program, with my participation being deFalla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, really more of a collaborative work for piano and orchestra than a warhorse/showpiece. It was fantastic to have such simpatico with Tim and such responsiveness, color and virtuosity from the orchestra. A great way to start the season.

Thanks to the ingenious and enthusiastic advocacy of Don Osborne working my Classical beat, and Marc Baylin covering all else, I’ve got newly-added shows to the fall schedule:

October 15: Montreal, QC @ eXcentris (stuff from Out of My Hands, plus some Classical surprises)

October 17: McLean, VA: The Barns @ WolfTrap (ditto)

October 23: Baton Rouge, LA: Manship Theater (more surprises)

October 24: Atlanta, GA: Chopin Society of Atlanta—program of works by Debussy, Beethoven, Schumann & Chopin

November 28-29: Honolulu, HI: Beethoven Concerto #1 with the Maestro Andreas Delfs and Honolulu Symphony


Looking forward to seeing you soon, down the road.

Ron 2009-10-02

Looking forward to seeing you at Wolf Trap in Virginia later this month. I have
listened to much of your Radiohead work and I have really enjoyed your
interpretations of that band. I am excited to hear more of your work.

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