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Newsletter 1: January - July 2002

On this part of my site I intend to write a newsletter twice a year in which i will give you a brief report about concerts I have given and about concert tours abroad. Maybe there are visitors among those who consulted my concert agenda, who are curious for the outcome of the activities which were announced.
I want to apologize in advance for any error in my English, which is not my native tongue...

This year started with a visit to the Spanish pianist Carmen Bravo in Barcelona. Ms. Bravo is the widow of the Spanish composer Federico Mompou. As I intended to perform Mompou's 'Musica Callada' several times this year (see under 'solo programs') I wished to visit her. On the Internet I found out her address and I discovered that she is still travelling around to perform Mompou's pianoworks.
On a sunny day in January I ringed her doorbell at the Paseo de Gracia, Barcelona's elegant 'Champs-Elysées', close to Antonio Gaudi's 'Casa Milau'. In this house Carmen Bravo has lived with her husband, who composed 'Musica Callada' here. She turns out to be very kind and informative, speaking French fluently. In spite of her respectable age she has an excellent memory. During two sessions on two successive days, I play all of the 28 movements of which 'Musica Callada' consists. She gave her comments: there are some evident printing errors in the score and many dynamic indications are lacking or find themselves not at the exact place where they should have been written.
Two remarks she makes frequently and which I do remember clearly , are: 'chantez, chantez...' (sing, sing!) and 'le piano chez Mompou ne doit jamais être timide' ('piano' in Mompou's music may never sound timidly). I learned also that 'Musica Callada' may well signify 'silent music' or 'the music of silence' but that it is not intended all the time to sound meditatively and modestly. It should be considered more like music which results from introspection and which reflects turbulent, passionate feelings as well and not only feelings of contemplation.
As I told Carmen Bravo where I would have dinner that night, she remembered vividly that she had been in that restaurant with Mompou, Poulenc, Darius and Madeleine Milhaud as well as Honneger. When erudite women like Carmen Bravo and Madeleine Milhaud will not be around anymore some of the threads which do connect us to a very exciting period in 20th century music will cease to exist forever..... Since then I performed 'Musica Callada' various times in the Netherlands and I tried to put Carmen Bravo's suggestions into practice.

For a concert at the German Institute in Paris until now 14 composers, living in Germany, contributed with a Blueslike piece. The musicologist Michael Arntz, who already interviewed me once for the nationwide German radiostation 'Deutschlandfunk'. managed to have the concert hall of the radio in Cologne for a whole day at our disposal. So I had the opportunity on March 7 to play 11 of the pieces for the composers, which were subsequently interviewed by Michael Arntz. The result of this recording can be heard on 'Deutschlandfunk' on September 22.
It is always very exciting to play music for the composers who wrote it. During the last years I am so intensively involved in new music that I can hardly imagine preparing new works without being able to consult the composers!

From 12 till 18 of april I stayed in Mexico. The Netherlands Embassy in Mexico City had invited me to play my Blues program there at the EU Jazz Festival. I took a day to get used to the altitude, the time difference and the polluted air, but still was somewhat bothered by the circumstances in this city with some 20 million inhabitants. I did the first performance of 'Highway 61' by the German composer Moritz Eggert (I managed to play the highest keys on the piano with my shoeless right foot after an intensive training....) as well of 'Mexicakerouacblues' by Ignacio Baca-Lobera. In that piece bluesy fragments alternate with choruses from the famous Kerouac poem 'Mexico City Blues'. At the jazz department of the Escuela Superior de Musica (the oldest institute for jazz training in Mexico) I did a lecture recital on my Blues project. It always strikes me in rather 'exotic' countries, how much interested students are in new music. I had the same experience with lectures in Malaysia, Russia, Indonesia and South-Africa. This makes a stay in such countries often more rewarding than giving concerts in Western countries where people are exposed to so many different musical performances that they tend to become kind of blasé sometimes...
In Queretaro (250 km. to the north) I could repeat the same program in a more refreshing atmosphere (less cars and much more oxygen there). Composer Ignacio Baca-Lobera had organized the concert for me in the 'Teatro de Republica' in the hall where in 1917 the Mexican constitution had been signed.

From 23 until 26 of april I was present at 'the new music scene of Pristhina' in Pristhina, Kosovo. It was the first Festival in Kosovo that was completely devoted to contemporary music.
The organisation of the Festival was excellent which is surprising in a country which is still recovering from war. I stayed in the famous 'Grand Hotel' which played such a prominent role in the recent war. Since my last visit (november 2000) the city had really undergone an enormous facelift. The Festival generated much interest: posters were to be seen everywhere in the city, the interest from the public was overwhelming and newspaper and television payed a lot of attention to the events.
My concert (the Blues program once more with a première of Slovenian composer Larisa Vrhunc's 'to the last Madrigal') took place on April 24. The audience was less numerous than I had hoped (some 170 people, I guess) because of a light earthquake that morning (I was rehearsing in the hall by that time and saw people running out of the building) and people were afraid of aftershocks. People reacted enthusiastically to the concert. The music was clearly new to them. There is a great curiosity for new music as I recently experienced also in non-western countries like China and Mexico. The Kosovarian TV recorded the concert.
On April 25 I lectured about my Blues project at the Academy of Art for some 30 students and teachers. I played Rafet Rudi's 'Pristhina Blues' during the lecture. Rafet Rudi, a well known composer from Pristhina and the artistic director of the Festival, very modestly didn't want his own piece to be included in the official Festival program. The audience was very much interested, there were many questions and scores were eagerly studied and copied. I feel that visits like this absolutely make sense. Of course people need to have their basic needs been satisfied first. However I feel that a Festival like this contributes to people's feeling of self respect. It is greatly appreciated that musicians from around the globe are coming to Kosovo which is not in the first place the ideal spot to promote one's career. The fact that Kosovarians and Albanians love to have extensive and lengthy dinners after the concerts is a pleasant incidental circumstance....

On May 14 I played my Blues program in the BKA Theater in Berlin. I had already the wish to perform in Berlin for a long time. Historically the city is of course already so interesting and at this moment it is one big playground for architects. Also in the field of music Berlin is trying to become prominent again in the international scene.
In the morning I visited composer Peter Köszeghy who is living in the former eastern part of the city, in 'Ostkreuz'. Compared with the super clean and smooth western part it was very refreshing to spend some time in this area which felt like being in a village. That night I did the first performance of his Blues 'WRATH'. In a cosy and intimate ambiance a small but attentive audience witnessed this concert.

From Berlin to the former German colony of Namibia (22-31 of May) is a relatively small step. In Windhoek (= windy corner) and even more in Swakopmund, where one can feel the Atlantic Ocean everywhere, one feels more like being in Germany than in Southern Africa (once you manage to forget the palms and the black people), the more when your hotel is named 'Eberwein' and its owner 'Frau Rita'. And when in the shop, belonging to the well known Windhoek restaurant 'Joe's Beer House' the book 'Herman Goering: his life and work' is exposed in a prominent manner. At the Concordia College in Windhoek some 500 black students in the age of 12-18 listened to a concert, given by singer/guitar player Jackson Kaujeua and myself. Jackson is close to being a national hero: in the seventies and eighties he was a protest singer (Namibia was part of South-Africa and a system of apartheid had been introduced) and had to go in exile. In 1989, on the evening of Namibian independence, he returned and was welcomed as a hero. My jazzy pieces (Gershwin, Morton Gould, Antheil and others) provoked mainly laughter and admiring (?) cries, especially in virtuoso passages and after sudden dynamic accents. For most of the students it will have been the first time that they were listening to music in a concert setting. But Jackson's songs they all knew. And as the singer knows how to play on the emotions of the audience ('Are you there?' , 'Are you happy...?'), the people really get wild! In the meantime I tried to accompany as convincingly as possible the songs about the supressed and consequently liberated people of Africa. After all I refused to buy Outspan oranges long time ago...... In Windhoek (with Jackson as 'special guest') and in Swakopmund (this time without him) I played also a solo program with Tango's and Blues. Swakopmund is absolutely a surrealistic place. Germany in the desert. Applestrudel at 'Café Anton' and a ride in the desert to the famous sand dunes with Hans-Dieter. In Windhoek I did a workshop with local jazz musicians for two days. Although jazz is hardly ever to be heard in Namibia, I am surprised how well the musicians have mastered the jazz standards. And in spite of some logistic problems the workshop resulted in a rather successful concert with an occasional band consisting of saxophone, piano, keyboard, bass guitar and percussion. We have even two guest soloists: guitar player Jackson (another one!) and Peter de Leeuw, who's regular job is at the Dutch Embassy in Windhoek.
The idea of Embassy people as persons who for most of the time are involved in representation and parties is of course out of date since long. Still I was impressed to see how involved the Embassy is in the problems of the country and how important the job is they are doing there. We will have a right wing government in the Netherlands soon, which is expected to cut in aid to the developing countries. May they keep their hands of the Netherlands Embassy in Namibia and other African countries...!

On June 7 I played at the German Institute in Paris. The program consisted of new, Blueslike pieces, which I commissioned to German composers and to composers, living in Germany temporarily or permanently. While 14 first performances at one single concerts seemed rather much to me, I had already played some of them in the past months. 10 new Blues had their first performance at this particular concert: pieces by Shigeru Kan-no (Frageolett + Passacaglia = Blues???), Joanna Stepalska (Amsel Blues), Yasuko Yamaguchi (Zwölf ), Dimitri Terzakis (Dorischer Blues), Valerio Sannicandro (Sacrae Cantiones ), Georg Hajdu (Blue Marble ), Juan Maria Solare (Red) , Christian Banasik (Spell out), Robert Platz (November) and Rochus Aust ((Wormser Nibelungen Blues).
Five of the composers had come to Paris to attend the concert. All the more reason to feel sorry about the relatively small audience which was present this night. Every musician, who performs contemporary music, from time to time is being confronted with the question why this kind of music does not attract the same interest as for example modern literature or modern cinema and why this was different before Schönberg started to compose his atonal music. I do have some ideas about the answer but a definite solution of this problem I cannot offer! Anyway , I think that it remains a necessity to compose new music and to perform it in order to prevent that music will become a museum like art. In spite of experiences which can be somewhat disappointing (small audiences, the feeling that there is little need for contemporary music) I still love to be involved in new music and I am already looking forward to the recently commissioned works, which I expect in the second half of this year.