Monday, January 27, 2020

Beethoven's piano

A former student with whom I worked for a few years on a memoir, now a beautiful book, gave me a gift certificate to Koerner Hall as a gift. Yesterday afternoon, the first concert: Louis Lortie playing Beethoven piano sonatas, including the Hammerklavier, a virtuoso feat of physical and emotional strength, breathtaking. It's really something to walk off the street into a concert hall to encounter a few of the geniuses of western civilization: the composer, the pianist, the person who invented the piano —according to Google, Bartolomeo Cristofori, around 1700, who said to himself, we could stretch strings across a sounding board and have black and white keys and soft little hammers hitting them at various frequencies. Astounding. And then that a nearly deaf German musician would hear music in his head and translate it into a million little black dots on paper, and more than 200 years later a French-Canadian would work for a trillion hours to translate those dots back into music for us ... It's good to remember, in this time of despair, how magnificent human achievement can be.

Sunday night, a feast of television: three hours on PBS with the Grammys in between. Howard's End, Jane Austen's Sanditon, and Vienna Blood, about the crime-solving friendship between a detective and a Jewish-Viennese medical student - all terrific, though Howard's End is by far the best. How do the British do it, line up these stunning casts, one actor after another perfect for the part?

The Grammys, the little I saw - sheesh. Too bad I missed Bonnie Raitt, the only performance I think I'd have enjoyed; she stood with a guitar and sang the gorgeous "Angel From Montgomery" in a tribute to John Prine. The rest - the costumes, Jesus, the grotesque over-the-topness of everything - I don't get it. Not to mention the incomprehensible lyrics and names: YBN Cordae. H.E.R. FKA Twigs. Lil Nas X. No, he's okay, he's fun, and "Old Town Road" is my grandsons' favourite, it's just the names ... And the young singers, like the prize-winning, weird Billie Eilish, who sing as if they can hardly be bothered to move their lips or push the sound of the throat - hate it. I watch to try to keep up to date on what matters in popular music, but I think it's too late.

What would Beethoven think? Unimaginable. He'd have liked "Angel from Montgomery," though.

In other news, family friend Holly has taken Eli and Ben to Florida for five days. They are having a miserable time, as you can see. In celebration of their short vacation, Anna and Thomas are going to paint the apartment.

A sign held up in Washington: "Come on people now/ Smile on your brother/ Everybody get together/ And impeach the motherfucker right now." Right on. As we used to say.

Continuing this profane mood, a final word, sent by my beloved friend Patsy on Gabriola Island:

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