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From the monthly archives:

November 2008

Nice, summer 2008
Liszt, Grandes Etudes de Paganini no.6

Liszt, Grandes Etudes de Paganini no.6

II was dreaming about a tattoo parlour called “Graceland”, in which people pay to be marked by branding irons, when my phone buzzed under the pillow. A text message said: “There is going to be an opera sat eve in williamsburg. To be inside a one hundred year old restored building.” I fell back asleep, and in a new dream I went to the opera. Packed house, the scent of crinoline. I shuffled in with the crowd, worried that there’s no room for me. Did I buy a ticket? I didn’t buy a ticket! One by one, the seats filled. Shifting from foot to foot, I skimmed the sea of hair-do’s and spotted the last empty seat, toward the back. Sorry, excuse me, pardon me, sorry. The Last Empty Seat had been saved for me: there was a red rose lain diagonally across its cushion.

The Last Empty Seat has been saved for me, but by whom?
The Last Empty Seat has been saved for me, but why?

Until November 16th, the Morgan Library is running an exhibit called “Liszt in Paris“, featuring the letters, manuscripts, and first editions from the Hungarian pianist’s time in the City of Light. Only twelve years old when he arrived in Paris in 1823, Franz Liszt was denied entry to the Conservatoire (due to a recent law banning foreigners), but by 1830 he had started to situate himself well within the city’s cultural and monied circles. His red hair, good looks and precocious technique had become trademarks: everybody loved Liszt!

At a benefit concert in April, 1831, Liszt heard the violinist Paganini’s “24 Caprices” for the first time and was invigorated. He determined that he should play the piano as Paganini did the violin, with a technical and expressive mastery hitherto unknown. By 1838 his Études d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini was completed. The two composers remained friends until Paganini’s gruesome death in 1840. I find it touching that the elder Paganani influenced Liszt so profoundly.

If you live in New York City, get yourself to the Morgan Library! Admission is free on friday nights, with a classical ensemble on the ground floor. There’s also an exhibit of the Babar drawings…you remember Babar don’t you?


Procession of the Ghouls

by CSLi on November 8, 2008

Grand Procession of the Ghouls, Halloween NYC, 2008
Grand Procession of the Ghouls, Halloween NYC, 2008

Grand Procession of the Ghouls, Halloween NYC, 2008

WWhat did you do on Halloween?
This is a question best avoided if your answer is: I stayed in bed, under the covers, fearing that zombies might scramble toward my window at any moment. What better night than All Hallow’s Eve for them to freely roam? I’m not sure when my ambulothanatophobia took root, but it maintains a stronghold on me. I watch zombie movies alone, I write about it, I do anything conceivable to confront my irrational feelings, but these efforts merely result in an entrenchment of the fear. Maybe I should do as others do, and avoid zombies.

This year, I did not stay in on Halloween. At the behest of my piano teacher, I attended Ralph Lee’s Halloween Extravaganza and Procession of the Ghouls. (Mr. Lee is famous for creating the West Village Halloween Parade). This year’s Extravaganza featured a screening of the 1925 Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, accompanied by Cathedral Organist Timothy Brumfield. There’s something perfect about watching a creepy silent film in the world’s second-largest Cathedral (not that anyone’s counting), a perfect joy matched only by that of witnessing demon hordes sauntering down the aisle of said Cathedral. It reminded me of a recurring motif from my childhood, the wicked movie Legend.