Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Gabriela Montero

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is the pianist and composer Gabriela Montero:

Gabriela Montero knows how to boogie. And she knows how to boogie all sorts of music.

Gabriela Montero is a classical trained pianist from Venezuela. But she doesn’t just perform classical pieces the way they are normally performed. Often she improvises those pieces the way a jazz musician improvises and perhaps the way some of the composers improvised. Often she asks for suggestions from the audience or the musicians in the orchestra.

Here she is performing Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor Op. 48, Nº 1:

And here’s a documentary of her piece: “Ex patria”:

Near 500 Words: Treat Yourself to a Year of Wonder in 2019

Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day By Day by Clemency Burton-Hill Published by Harper-Collins 2018

I came to “classical” music late. It was the early 1980s and I was dissatisfied with much of the music I was hearing. I’d loved rock ‘n’ roll and I’d loved folk music. There wasn’t much coming round the bend that I cared for.

In the past, I had avoided “classical” music the way I avoided Shakespeare. Like the plague. The fans of “classical” music drove me away by their devotion to this artist or that artist playing this composer or that composer. So-and-so had mastered Chopin but Such-and-such couldn’t play Shostakovich worth a hill of dirt. Only they wouldn’t say, “Hill of dirt.” What did I know about “classical” music other than I had heard it as the soundtrack of cartoons I grew up with?

Then I found myself being drawn to the Philips series “Set Your Life to Music” and CDs like “Bach for Breakfast,” “Baroque at Bathtime” and “Beethoven for Book Lovers.” They seemed to be saying, “Try this. It won’t hurt.” It was a way into the music without being scared off. The more of the CDs I listened to the more I liked the music. I ended up purchasing something like ten CDs from the series. This led me to a series of Adagio CDs put out by Decca that included “Baroque Adagios,” “Romantic Adagios,” and “Mozart’s Adagios”

During this time, I also saw Milos Forman’s film of “Amadeus.” Though it’s a fictional take on the life of Mozart, it humanizes the great man and took him out of the clouds and brought him down to earth where the rest of us mortals live. The best part of the movie was the soundtrack. The music was intertwined into the film to make the music accessible. Then I found a book that was helpful. The Vintage Guide to Classical Music: An Indispensable Guide for Understanding and Enjoying Classical Music by Jan Swafford was an excellent field guide.

This journey led me to find wonderful musicians, playing some of the most beautiful music ever produced by mortals: Joshua Bell, Carol Rosenberger and Barbara Bonney’s performance of Schubert’s Lieder. When John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls” honoring the 9/11 victims was released, I purchased it and was deeply moved by Adams’ tribute.

Recently I was in Barnes and Noble and rummaging among the books on music when my eyes stumbled upon Year of Wonder by the musician, columnist and novelist Clemency Burton-Hill. Each day of the year she gives a suggested composition. The suggestions range from the earliest compositions to the most recent. Even if you have a background in “classical” music, you might just find some surprises. If you don’t have the background, this is wonderful way to expose yourself to some great music.

If there’s one thing I learned about “classical” music, it is this. “Classical” music is like rock ‘n’ roll or country or rap or jazz or whatever music we listen to. There are those pieces of music I am going to love and there are those I won’t care for.

So dip your toes into the river we call “classical” music and try it. You  might just find some pieces you’ll like, and maybe even love. Make 2019 a year of wonder.

Here’s today’s selection:





Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Finlandia

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia”:

Need I say more.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Rhapsody in Blue

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is Leonard Bernstein’s performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”:

America’s produced some great classical composers.  Duke Ellington, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein are among the best known. But it is George Gershwin and his “Rhapsody in Blue” many of us think of when we think of the quintessential American classical music.

Strongly influenced by jazz, it celebrates American urban life, especially the New York City. The lights, the noise, the wonderful chaos. Then it breaks out into a wonderful segment that makes me think of more than the city. It makes me think of the land of America the Beautiful, then it returns to the city and then there is the bitter sweetness of the blues. And running through the whole piece, there is the river that is American life. And the chaos that has been democracy.

I would have loved to have been there that night when it was first played before an audience. The applause must have been loud.

All I know is that when I hear it, I think of the best of my country. And what better person to perform it than Leonard Bernstein.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: The Banks of Greenwillow

t’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: English composer George Butterworth’s “The Banks of Greenwillow” (1913), performed by Sir Neville Marriner conducting Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

I never go in search of music. It usually finds me. That’s the way I chanced upon this lovely music. I was researching “The World of Henry Orient”. I was checking out the biography of its director George Roy Hill. It seems he directed a Broadway musical in 1960 called “Greenwillow”, with music and lyrics written by Frank Loesser. It only lasted for 97 performances. The only striking fact about the musical was that it featured Anthony Perkins as Gideon Briggs, singing “Never Will I Marry”. He was rehearsing the play at the same time he was filming “Psycho”.

Like so much new music I discover, I found this one on the right side bar of the You Tube video of Anthony Perkins performing his song. Curious I listened to it and fell in love with the piece.

This is a great piece to listen to first thing in the morning as I am getting ready to meet my day. It’s also a lovely piece to listen to after a stressful day.

Just a couple of notes about George Butterworth. He was a good friend of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. He also based a composition on A. E. Housman’s collection of poems A Shropshire Lad. Butterworth was killed during the Battle of the Somme in World War I, just one of many great losses in the “war to end all wars”. The sadness of it all is what might have been. It’s sadder that this composer is poorly remembered.