A Thought

Musicians have a slight tendency to surprise their more than die hard listeners with serendipitous motifs, enough to make those gawk in laughter. Much of the energy to a less than fine tuned ear may seem at sometimes overwhelming, unable to really feel what is really going on. A broad push against the flow with an unusual key change is as grandeur as royal fanfare is to a crowd, but in all flourishes the listener has gone deaf. Expect to expect, disregarding all subtlety.

Sometimes, one must look closer.

Rachmaninoff in D Major
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Prelude in D Major Op. 23, No. 4: Measures 58-64.

For once, the thoughts of a man are written out in a congealed mess of semiquavers in anxious patterns. An internal struggle between a lost homeland forever in the powerful memory of one who remembers will circumvent all dire needs to protest and mediate. Radically increasing tones, aching through melody to anyone who can hear the bittersweet call of this “Major” piece of work. A distant past that only grows farther away, painful memories of the haunting bells droning out the villa of Semyonov, where everything was perfect. A story of his life as he tries to reclaim the glory of what once was, but this time as a prisoner of time. This is the story of a man who forever immortalized his soul into music that still brings tears and chills, hundreds of years later to a out of touch world who has turned their backs against what is pure and beautiful in this world. Seeing is believing.


Relocating Rachmaninoff – Russia’s Plea to Move Rachmaninoff Back to Russia

A recent plea from Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky wants Sergei Rachmaninoff to be reburied at his childhood estate – Ivanovka in the Novgorod Region.

Rachmaninoff, who died on March 28, 1943 originally wished to be buried at his Villa Senar estate, but because of the ongoing war, he was enterred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

According to the composers late grandson Alexandre Rachmaninoff, it was his best intention and his grandfather’s to relocate his remains to his Estate, Villa Senar near Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Here is where the great composer lived an extensive period of his life composing some of his great works such as his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Third Symphony. He also grew to find the Bauhaus styled estate close to his childhood one, where Rachmaninoff himself found the only place that resembled home away from home.

Rachmaninoff’s great-great granddaughter Sophia Wannamaker told the BBC about the current family’s wishes:

We are not planning to go against his will, so his remains will stay where they were buried.

It looks like Rachmaninoff will remain at Kensico, but who knows – it’s best to leave the resting where they belong.

Intimacy and Music

The true feelings that music does to the human soul, it’s a powerful force has enough to bring one to glee, introspect, infatuation, even lament. All types of music regardless where it comes from, invokes a sentimental change in the heart that could either do good to the listener or bad. Whether it reminds you of the good times or the bad, music has the ability to do some wild stuff in the mind and can do enough to heal the body too. It’s a force that can’t be reckoned with.

And then there’s Mahler’s 5th, the 4th movement “Adagietto”. Notably his most famous symphony work out there and one of my favourite symphonic orchestral works, besides all the others being from Rachmaninoff *rolling of the eyes*. (Hey, at least I didn’t write the whole thing about Rachmaninoff, I’m putting some variety!) Back to Adagietto!

The New York Times writer Gilbert Kaplan shows the back story behind Mahler’s 5th and the pure emotion of a love letter to his wife written in musical form:

The Adagietto served as a love letter from the composer to Alma Schindler, probably shortly before they were married in 1902. The Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg, in his personal copy of the Fifth Symphony, wrote: “This Adagietto was Gustav Mahler’s declaration of love for Alma! Instead of a letter, he sent her this in manuscript form; no other words accompanied it. She understood and wrote to him: He should come!!! (both of them told me this!).” Mengelberg’s own description of the Adagietto was “love, a love comes into his life.”

The often melodic lines that flow the piece together can almost be heard as a lover or Mahler in his words, singing a love song towards his beloved Alma. There are hints of melancholy but there is sorrow or lament in it. Everytime I hear Adagietto, it reminds me of not of the feelings of sorrow and lament, but the of feelings of love and the aching of the heart. It is noted that feelings of this piece especially the certain devices used by Mahler intensify these emotions. And these emotions in their true form are what same emotions of Romanticism I talk about almost all the time…

Mahler Adagietto

In the first few bars of Adagietto, the use of the suspension of the C7th and leading the F Major7th into the F has this melancholy but lyrical passiveness, like a hiding of emotion and the leading into an overwhelming feeling of love and infatuation. It then takes you into this daze and a story is being told. A story filled with raw emotion, a peace that only the listener can interpret. There is a little hint of sorrow when it turns into minor, but then it turns back into the love story and glory of emotion when it reinstates its quiet and beautiful theme. What really gets me about this piece are the ingenious devices in the beginning that Mahler uses to create a fade in and fade out effect. Everything slowly comes in and then rejoices in harmony and melancholy, then after the love poem has been sang, it fades out. What perfection. It’s almost like all the feelings and the emotions were always there, the silence between the piece being a just as important as the music itself. The English Novelist Charlotte Bronte says about silence:

The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.

To end, a quote by Beethoven:

Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.

New Feature

It’s been quite a while since I have posted anything, and I have to say that the long absences will be no more. On to this new feature.

Since I am a fellow musician with most of my readers being either a musician or a avid appreciator of great classics of the past, I will introduce a new page here on YT dedicated to my current works and pieces currently in progress or in rehearsal.

Click here to go there now!

The Silencing of a Epic?

I was awoken this morning from this distressful tweet from Valentina Lisitsa, someone who I often talk a lot in this blog.

Lisitsa, born in Ukraine and who resides in the US was going to play Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto in Toronto but because of her support of the Anti Kiev protesters in her OWN country, they have decided to ban her from playing April 8th. An angry Lisitsa, took to social media to voice her opposition to the decision.

This is the letter she shared with the world:

Dear fans, DEAR FRIENDS!
I have a confession to make and a huge favor to ask all of you. I really REALLY need your help now.
But first, my confession.
Over the last year I have been leading a double life. There was me – a “celebrity” pianist hopping from a concert to a concert, all over the world; learning new pieces, meeting fans, recording, chirping about my happiness in upbeat interviews.
But there was another me: not a musician but a regular human being – a daughter, a mother, a wife. And this human being was watching helplessly how the country of my birth, of my childhood, of my first falling in love – this country was sliding ever faster into the abyss. Children die under bombs, old ladies die of starvation, people burned alive…
The worst thing that can happen to any country is fratricide war, people seeing each other, their neighbors as enemies to be eliminated. This is what has befallen my beautiful Ukraine. My heart was bleeding. You all saw on TV screens all over the world a magnificent revolution, the people of Ukraine raising in fury against their corrupt rulers, for a better life. I was so proud of my people! But the ruling class doesn’t let go easily. They managed to cunningly channel away the anger, to direct it to other, often imaginable, enemies – and worse, to turn people upon themselves. Year later, we have the same rich people remaining in power, misery and poverty everywhere, dozens of thousands killed, over a million of refugees.
So, I took to Twitter ( how many of you know I have a Twitter account? LOL) under a name “NedoUkraïnka” – a word roughly meaning “Sub-Ukrainian”, a stab at Ukrainian Prime Minister who called Russian-speaking Southern and Eastern Ukrainians “SUBHUMANS”! Yes, I kid you not. In an official written document. I am a subhuman, my husband, my mom….I mastered Ukrainian language perfectly, far better than a so-called “president” of Ukraine. But I don’t speak it to my family, I didn’t sing lullabies to my son in Ukrainian, when I sleep I never see the dreams in Ukrainian, when I will be dying my last words will NOT be in Ukrainian….
Sorry, I got carried away telling you those things… To get back to my story – I took to Twitter in order to get the other side of the story heard, the one you never see in the mainstream media – the plight of my people, the good and bad things that were happening in Ukraine. I translated news stories from Ukrainian language websites, I translated eyewitness accounts of atrocities…. I became really good in unmasking fakes published by Western media in order to make one side of the civil war look whiter and softer than Easter bunny, and another – as sub-humans, not worthy of mercy, the “collateral damage.
To give you just one example: one of my feats was to confront French fashion magazine “Elle” who published a glowing cover story about women in Ukrainian army. After the research I have shown to the magazine in my Twitter posts that the “cover girl” they have chosen to show was in fact a horrible person, open Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semite who boasted of murdering civilians for fun! The magazine issued a written public apology.
I was very proud! But with time my activities attracted a lot of vicious haters. I was a particularly important “target” because of being Ukrainian, thus – a traitor. I thought I knew hate – my playing on YouTube certainly “attracted” a fair share of hate mail. But I was mistaken. Death threats, wishes for my family to die, calling me “paid Kremlin wh*re”…the list goes on and on smile emoticon
My haters didn’t stop there. Trying, in their own words, to teach me a lesson, they have now attempted to silence me as a musician.
I am scheduled to play Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 with Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week. Back in December someone in the orchestra top management, likely after the pressure from a small but aggressive lobby claiming to represent Ukrainian community, has made a decision that I should not be allowed to play. I don’t even know who my accusers are, I am kept in the dark about it. I was accused of “inciting hatred” on Twitter. As the “proof” , ironically enough, they presented to the orchestra my tweets containing, of all things, Charlie Hebdo caricatures depicting lying media!!! We all know what those who can’t tolerate free speech did to Charlie Hebdo journalists.
Now, the orchestra based in one of the freest democratic countries is bending over to the same kind of people, helping them to assassinate me – not as a living person yet , but as a MUSICIAN for sure.
Yes, Toronto Symphony is going TO PAY ME NOT TO PLAY because I exercised the right to free speech.
Yes, they will pay my fee but they are going to announce that I will be unable to play and they already found a substitute.
And they even threatened me against saying anything about the cause of the cancellation. Seriously.
And I thought things like this only happen in Turkey to Fazil Say?
Now, the plea.
Before you decide to help me – If you wish, please take time and read my tweets. You might find some of them offensive – perhaps. The satire and hyperbole are the best literature tools to combat the lies. Bear that in mind when reading.
Here is what I ask you to do for me, and in defense of freedom even if you disagree with me on politics (LOLl!)
I ask you to raise your voice and tell Toronto Symphony that music can’t be silenced.
Ask them to let me play.
If you want to write something – great!
Or just share a photo I made ( sorry, I made it on my phone, nothing fancy)
Ask your friends to join in.
If they do it once, they will do it again and again, until the musicians, artists are intimidated into voluntary censorship. Our future will be bleak if we allow this to happen.
Please stand with me.
Here are the links :


Twitter @TorontoSymphony

-Valentina Lisitsa

Hundreds of people are in support of Lisitsa backlash against the Toronto Symphony’s Decision.

Getting silenced all because she’s an advocate of her own country?


Improvising Like Rachmaninoff

Today I am going to attempt to teach you how to compose or rather, improvise like Rachmaninoff. Here we go!


I based my little composition off of two Rachmaninoff Pieces, Prelude in G Minor and Prelude in C Sharp Minor. Measures 1 to 4 are based off of Prelude in G Minor and measures 5 and 6 are based off of Prelude in C Sharp Minor. First of all, if you want any thing to sound like Rachmaninoff, you must compose in minor keys only. Get to know all your minor keys backwards and forwards! Next if you want to have that Russian Romantic Sound, dang out the piano with gigantic chords. It was known that Rachmaninoff had the biggest hand span on a piano, and wrote many pieces with these large chords reaching up to 13ths and crazy stuff like that. Another device that he used was the addition of the chromatic scale to the compositions. As shown on beats 2, 3, and 4 on measures 1 through 3, I augmented the chord such that the chord still has the minor 3rd and 5th of the tonic, but the root of the chord goes down chromatically a half step. It is very crucial that you use the minor 3rd and 5th in whatever key you compose or improvise in, you don’t want the piece to sound atonal if you are not incorporating these devices in. To fix this problem, I added a low G octave to reinstate the tonic whilst augmenting the chord chromatically. Lastly to make the music resolve to the tonic at the end, I used a device that Rachmaninoff used in Prelude in C Sharp Minor, the 6th to the 5th, and finally the tonic. Augment the 5th chord by raising the 5th a half step and or adding the major 7th to add some color end with a large chord expressing resolve. Work with different chords and colors but keep these things in mind. They will help you when you want to sound like Rachmaninoff!

Happy Composing!