Wednesday, November 23, 2011

musical journey

i fancy myself to be quite a good listener. at least in the world of music. i have a brother who composes and arranges, and is can listen technically at an absurd level. i have another brother who produces and sings. i guess i'm the one who listens to what they and others do or produce.
when i say i can listen, i really mean that i appreciate music more than most. it really goes deep into my soul and is part of my private inner world, if you will. listening for me is more than a hobby; when possible, it has to be done with complete focus, with the goal to feel and understand. i do admit to being pretty restrictive in chosing what i devote time to in this arena. most of the focused listening time has been going to sting, peter gabriel and pat metheny tradicionally, with quite a lot of leonardo goncalves and herbert grönemeyer in the mix. i have my guilty pleasures (aha and simply red mostly in the past, and even the likes of katy perry more recently), and more recently i've been listening a lot to daniela araujo and sigur rós, which she introduced me to.
but to listen and see live, with the visual and the natural surround audio, this had been a rare pleasure in my life. if i had to make a highlight list of concerts i've seen in brazil, even michael w smith (twice!) would have to be included, although i was able to see the russian pianist evgeny kissin play a recital in rio de janeiro, in the 90s.
this has changed since my arrival in bremen july 14, 2010. i've been back in germany for 497 days now (round number coming up!), and life has been a blessing. the by far biggest one shall be a future topic on this blog, but this minor one is surely worth mentioning.
on average, i've been to a high class musical concert every 31 days - basically once a month. this, of course, is without counting other cultural events (1 f1 race, soon 7 werder matches, 1 bayern match, bird parks & other tourisms). here my list and a few thoughts on each one of them.

august 28, 2010
by then i'd seen two jazz concerts in bars in town, but this was the first highlight: vladimir ashkenazy brought his sydney symphony orchestra (by some viewed as a top ten orchestra in the world) to "die glocke", bremen's main concert hall. with hime came young bulgarian top piano talent behzod abduraimov, who played one of tchaikovsky's concerts brilliantly. incredible concert, memorable day.

october 12, 2010
this would be my first live encounter with sting, who i'd known and listened to for over 17 years at that point. still, i wasn't expecting too much since i hadn't really got into liking the album "symphonycities", but it was a huge surprise: fantastic atmosphere in hamburg's 02 arena, and really high quality music with sting singing with authority and the london symphony orchestra causing the emotions to flow. "i hung my head", "this cowboy song", "the end of the game" and "why should i cry for you" stood out - and it was just fitting that the show opened with my traditional all-time favorite song "if i ever lose my faith in you". i left the show with the impression that this had been the best concert i'd ever been to in my life.

december 4, 2010
first high class concert event not alone - my cousin raphael accompanied me to munich to see a recital by evgeny kissin, the above mentioned russian wunderkind (now 40 years old), who played a liszt recital like a true master. it was simply astonishing, exciting and worth every minute. second time kissin in my life... and not the last!

march 17, 2011
i hadn't heard of the trondheim jazz orchestra until a couple of weeks earlier. this very peculiar orchestra (saxophone, 2 violins, 1 cello, a brass section, guitar, percussion and drums) is based in the famous music university in that norwegian town. they constantly play with some of jazz greatest, including pat metheny, and this day they were playing music from a collaboration with joshua redman, considered by me to be the best saxophone player alive. the sendesaal in bremen is a perfect location, thanks to its incredible (and legendary) acoustics and its somewhat informal setting. joshua is really incredible, and it was very exciting to see him perform live... and the music sticks with me until today.

may 7, 2011
i'd seen him around half a year earlier, but in a different setting. dominic miller has been sting's guitarist since the late 80s and has composed a couple of sting's most beautiful songs, such as "shape of my heart". his band held an event in my neighbouring village worpswede, famous for they're culture and events (last month the red hot chillie peppers gave a concert at their famed music hall). the band consisted of a piano, a base and, most memorably, the percussionist sting used for his winter project. i really enjoyed it, sitting in the first row!

may 15, 2011
i drove to braunschweig, which is a 90 minute drive from home, to see this man do a completely solo performance. sitting in the second row and even participating at a certain point (in a kind of choir he set up at the spot), bobby mcferrin was exactly as expected: a musical genius with a huge heart. i couldn't believe that i was seeing all these people live - mcferrin happens to be one of the artists that i have listened to in that focused way. anytime he's back in germany i'd love to go - if it's not too expensive (like his gig with chick corea next year in berlin).

june 2, 2011
the day i saw herbert grönemeyer live. you have to do it once! the stadium in hamburg was packed (normally hsv plays there), and i was sitting at the furthest seat possible (because it was cheaper...), but it was still a memorable experience. even with that kind of crowd, herbert manages to be personal - he stayed there way after official concert time and played and sang for the crowd, no matter what size, even after his band had left. it started at 20h and only ended close to midnight! some really great performances, people singing along a fantastic sound in this mild pre-summer night. another good one!

july 7, 2011
my cousin laura was with me on this one, and the next two. a 2 hour drive to the nice city of strasbourg, france. a quick look into the "altstadt". then concert time - like with grönemeyer in the back for monetary reasons, but it was vital to be there: keith jarrett, gary peacock and jack dejohnette are one of the most prolific trios in jazz history, and you feel like seeing history happening in front of your eyes. i, of course, really enjoyed keith's musicality, his understanding, his musical language - totally worth it! one of their many albums ("the cure") is part of those that i'd listened to many times in that focused mode...

july 12, 2011
cousin lmmc introduced me to this girl: yulianna avdeeva won the chopin competition, one of the most important piano contests in the world, and was playing at a little castle near montpellier, france. so there we were to see the talented jewish russian female player. let's put it like this (sorry dear cuz'), it wasn't her best day. but sitting in the front row, open air, french castle, evening and listening to a high quality recital wasn't the worst moment of the year... ;)

july 13, 2011
this is the reason we went to montpellier: to see the other russian, male and in no need of winning competitions. evgeny kissin plays liszt, i had seen it in december, but not fully understood every aspect of it. this time i was prepared, and it was an even more enriching experience than the first time. during the sonata, i even got emotional.

july 17, 2011
there are a few reasons why this evgeny kissin experience was by far the most emotional one. you see, i've been listening to the 12-year-old kissin playing the chopin concertos for almost two decades now. they are the single pieces that move me most in classical music. and there i was in bad kissingen (northern bavaria, germany) listening to the russian master playing concerto no.1 by chopin, with the woman of my life, recently arrived from brazil, sitting by my side. that brought more than just one tear to the eye, mainly in the second movement. yes, there was a chinse tenor (keija xiong) singing mozart (great stuff by the way) and the invited orchestra (from montpellier, conducted by lawrence foster) played tchaikovsky's nutcracker (complete version, quite breathtaking!). the end of the kissinger sommer in bad kissingen with kissin - what a night!

july 18, 2011
the following day, sizinha (the woman of my life from above) accompanied me to see sting in his symphonicity tour again, this time with the czech national orchestra, and in the city of mannheim. we were sitting in the last row, so it wasn't as personal or imediate as in october, but it was still a hell of a show with some tunes not played in hamburg. special times.

october 25, 2011
in a bar in bremen, my brother leo, his wife dani, our friends mudo & ju and luquinhaz went to see marketa irglova - the girl from the movie "once". she brought her band, with an impressive vocalist/percussionist (great voice & rythm), a guitarist (from glen hansard's "the frames") and a base player. marketa and glen had been in bremen two years ago, not to long after their cult hit movie "once", but this time she headed her own band. the music was sometimes of very high level, but mostly too melancholic and minor to listen to for 2 hours. still, some really great moments in this one, too. and just to see the main actress from one of my favorite movies live was worth it.

october 30, 2011
front row. hamburg kupfernagel. my love sitting next to me, maybe even more excited for me than i was able to express? and then, lights, pat metheny comes out. so very strange to be there, see him and that typical smile of his, and his shirt, always striped. and his toys, his guitar, his craft. soloing much better than i'd ever seen him before, pat was accompanied by larry grenadier (upright base) and bill stewart (drums). i though this would be a good intro do seeing pat live, since i usually don't like the trio setting. but i knew basically all the tunes (most from the pmg set list) and it was just breathtaking. always & forever, question & answer, bright sized life - he even played with his orchestrion, which was really something else, and he varied his guitars, including the picasso. gotta see it and him again. and again. hope to see lyle some day...

november 8, 2011
back to bremen, back to the sendesaal. this time, a solo artist. a lesser bobby mcferrin, let's say. vinx was in town, i caught it in the newspaper just a couple of days earlier. it was cold, he is warm. vinx worked with sting and peter gabriel, with the us government, with stevie wonder - as percussionist and vocalist. his show was something else, a real shame that it was in the middle of the week and sizinha couldn't be there with me. fantastic stuff, a real highlight. and i got to sit in the front row and chat with him afterwards ("sting is a star, peter gabriel is much more human and friendly", he said). great work with voice, and he is a solo act in his own right, having given workshops everywhere, including berklee.

november 22, 2011
he remembered. joshua redman was back to bremen, but this time in "die glocke". of course i had to be there too, sitting in the back and curious to see his duets with renowned pianist brad mehldau. i own mehldau's collaboration with metheny, and he has his very own specific style, that has to do a lot with the way he attacks the keys, loves to explore rythm and texture, filling up the big concert hall. mehldau is special, redman is special, and i had another really special evening yesterday. both of their musicalities are simply over the roof, and people felt it, didn't want them to leave. they knew it was special. what a collaboration - just piano and saxophone (mostly tenor, a little soprano), no rythm section besides their own incredible rythmic pulse and feel. they can both play beautifully, agressively, fast and deep, and they do it moving between these adjectives with competence.

i'm so thankful. and i hope 2012 will be similar, there is always more to come. berlin philharmonic orchestra, for example...


Lilian said...

Nothing like living in Europe, right, cousin? I think it's way better than here in the U.S. even -- since events are closer (geographically).

Delightful post, as always!! Good to hear from you again (I read all the posts on the day I discovered this blog -- I wish there were more!).

I'm sure 2012 will an awesome year on every single level of your life! :)

Anonymous said...

Nice dude :)