We’ve been busy in the last few days with preparations for our Peru trip. We leave at the butt crack of dawn on Friday!
Tonight, as I was searching YouTube for more music to put onto my MP3 player for the trip, I came across this amazing video of a very young Martha Argerich (the video says it’s from when she won the International Chopin competition, which was in 1965):
This is one of my favourite things about YouTube; I just love that I can now watch such incredible old footage of musicians from the past! It’s a wonderful glimpse into another era of piano playing. I’ve even heard Rachmaninoff himself playing! Must dig up that video sometime. And it’s so interesting to see a young Martha Argerich play; the fiery drive and technique that we’ve come to associate with her are all there, minus a bit of the wildness that we will see in later years. She’s such a brilliant artist. As my university prof, Mr. Lee, used to say, “she’s brilliant, but absolutely crazy!” 🙂
And Chopin’s 3rd Scherzo is one of my favourite pieces from his repertoire. I was obsessed with this piece when I first learned it back in my 2nd year of undergraduate studies. I love the darkness and the fire, but more than anything, I love the austere chordal sections, with the echoing, bell-like arpeggios interspersed. Those chords make me weep. When I first heard them, I thought they were majestic. And in some ways, I still think they’re partly majestic. But Mr. Lee showed me a different way of thinking of the chordal sections; he made me see that they are full of grandeur, but with an intense pain and despair as well. And when the chords change from E Major to E minor (the section from 4:57 to around 5:16), it’s so solemn, austere, and heavy-hearted, that I bow my head everytime I hear that part. And that moment when it slides into the D major chord (at 5:08) is my absolute favourite moment in the entire piece. It’s full of sadness and resignation, but is also filled with so much comfort at the same time.
From what I remember from my research into this piece, it was written during the winter Chopin and George Sand spent in Majorca. They had gone there to be wed, I believe, but found out they could not, and as a result, they had a lot of trouble finding somewhere that would house them. As a result, they spent some time hiding out in a monastery. And all the while, Chopin’s health was failing. The hymn-like chords, echoing arpeggios, are all reminiscent of sounds you would hear at a monastery, and the despair, anger, and sadness that are apparent in this piece is a reflection of the trials they had to endure during this time.
* * * *
On another note, my good friend Kathleen is running her first marathon in May, on her 33rd birthday, and is fundraising for the Japan Earthquake victims. Her donation page for the Red Cross can be found here, and she is hoping to raise $100 for each mile that she will run, making it a total of $2620. And her new blog documents her marathon training and why she is doing it. She’s just awesome and inspiring, and it’s for a wonderful cause!