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NELSON MANDELA’S CLASSICAL PIANIST

 

The world is a poorer place for Nelson Mandela’s passing. Over the last few days I have read many articles about him and about my native South Africa during the dark days of apartheid. One item, in particular, surprised me. The piece below, by British journalist Norman Lebrecht, was posted on his daily blog ‘Slipped Disc’:

“One of Mandela’s close friends in the 1950s was the Welsh-born pianist Harold Rubens, who moved to South Africa when his prodigy career dried up (he is pictured below as a boy, playing for George Bernard Shaw).

A brother of the novelist Bernice Rubens and the hero of her novel, Madame Sousatzka, Harold became active in anti-apartheid activities. His home became a secret meeting place for Mandela and other leaders of the resistance. When confidential plans were discussed, Harold would sit at the piano and hammer out ffffs so the conversation could not be picked up on secret service microphones.

Albie Sachs recalled: ‘We were meeting in the underground in their cottage in Newlands. We would hear him practising the fourth Beethoven piano concerto, going over it and over and over again while we were doing our secret planning in the room next door. Happily the music was very loud, and if there were any bugs, all the security police would hear would be Beethoven and not us planning resistance to apartheid. Beethoven would have been happy. Such complex and mixed-up feelings in this simple building.’

Harold refused to play before segregated audiences. He returned to London in 1963, taught at the Royal Academy and died in 2010.  He’ll be playing G-major for Nelson right now, bless them.”

Harold Rubens

Harold Rubens performing for George Bernard Shaw

Harold Rubens was a professor of piano at the College of Music in Cape Town, which was the music faculty of the University of Cape Town. I was a pupil of his from 1957 to 1961. To describe Harold Rubens as a colourful individual would be an understatement! He was very short and had a complicated personality. Actually, he terrified the living daylights out of me. I would stand outside the door to his studio with butterflies in my stomach!

We all knew that Professor Rubens was involved in anti-apartheid activities, but most of the people I knew were. I don’t think that any of us realized that he was engaged in the activity that Mr. Lebrecht has written about. I called two of my good friends who were at the college with me over the weekend and neither of them knew about this. And to see Harold Rubens playing for George Bernard Shaw makes me feel ancient!!

Leila Getz

 

VRSchubert – Day 8: the student, the master, and the message

 

Alfred Brendel

Paul Lewis is internationally recognized as one of the leading pianists of his generation. While there is perhaps no question that Lewis’ impressive talent comes from an innate musical ability, his musicianship has also been shaped by the tutelage of some of the worlds most deft and magnanimous  piano masters.

Lewis studied with Ryszard Bakst at Chethams School of Music and Joan Havill at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, before going on to study privately with Alfred Brendel. Renowned for his masterly interpretations of the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Liszt, Brendel is one of the indisputable authorities in musical life today and one of the very few living pianists whose name alone guarantees a sell-out anywhere in the world he chooses to play. The passage below summarizes Lewis’ reflections on studying Schubert under the guidance of Alfred Brendel:

“With someone like Schubert, there are many layers, many things being said at the same time, shedding different light. The tricky thing, the point, is to get the delicate balance that conveys the message – and Alfred was the master of the message.”


SPECIAL TICKET OFFER! As part of the #VRSchubert campaign we’re offering a 25% discount* on Paul Lewis tickets. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE or call the VRS box office at 604-602-0363. Use code TWEET when ordering.

VRScubert: In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and the celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/blog.

* Discount on A, B, C, D price sections only and cannot be combined with other offers.

 

VRSchubert Day 7- The Singular Schubert: Quotes v.2

 

“I am in the world only for the purpose of composing.” -Franz Schubert

More Schubert quotes can be found here.


SPECIAL TICKET OFFER! As part of the #VRSchubert campaign we’re offering a 25% discount* on Paul Lewis tickets. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE or call the VRS box office at 604-602-0363. Use code TWEET when ordering.

VRScubert: In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and the celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/blog.

* Discount on A, B, C, D price sections only and cannot be combined with other offers.

 

VRSchubert-Day 6: Quoting the divinely inspired Schubert

 

“I am composing like a god, as if it simply had to be done as it has been done.” – Franz Schubert

Read more of Schubert’s illustrious words here.


SPECIAL TICKET OFFER! As part of the #VRSchubert campaign we’re offering a 25% discount* on Paul Lewis tickets. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE or call the VRS box office at 604-602-0363. Use code TWEET when ordering.

VRScubert: In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and the celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/blog.

* Discount on A, B, C, D price sections only and cannot be combined with other offers.

 

VRSchubert- Day 5: Jailbird Schubert

 

During the early 1820s, Schubert was part of a close-knit circle of artists and students who had social gatherings that became known as “Schubertiaden”. The tight circle of friends with which Schubert surrounded himself was dealt a blow in early 1820. Schubert and four of his friends were arrested by the Austrian police, who (in the aftermath of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars) were on their guard against revolutionary activities and suspicious of any gathering of youth or students.

One of Schubert’s friends, Johann Senn, was put on trial, imprisoned for over a year, and then permanently forbidden to enter Vienna. The other four, including Schubert, were “severely reprimanded”, in part for “inveighing against [officials] with insulting and opprobrious language”. While Schubert never saw Senn again, he did set some of his poems, “Selige Welt” and “Schwanengesang”, to music.


SPECIAL TICKET OFFER! As part of the #VRSchubert campaign we’re offering a 25% discount* on Paul Lewis tickets. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE or call the VRS box office at 604-602-0363. Use code TWEET when ordering.

VRScubert: In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and the celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/blog.

* Discount on A, B, C, D price sections only and cannot be combined with other offers.

 

VRSchubert- Day 4: Hometown boy

The house in which Schubert was born, today Nussdorfer Strasse 54, in the 9th district of Vienna.

Unlike any of the major composers who worked in Vienna during the Classical and Romantic periods, Schubert was the only one actually born in this musical capital. Joseph Haydn was born in  Rohrau, Austria. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg. Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn.

Franz Peter Schubert was born on January 31st, 1797. His father was Franz Theodor Schubert, the son of a Moravian peasant, was a parish schoolmaster, and his mother, Elisabeth (Vietz), was the daughter of a Silesian master locksmith, and had also been a housemaid for a Viennese family prior to her marriage. While Franz Sr. was not a musician of fame nor had he had formal training, he provided Schubert with rudimentary musical teachings.


Spread the word and save: if you re-tweet or re-post any of our VRSchubert posts, you have the opportunity to save 25% on regularly priced tickets*. Call our box office to reserve your tickets: 604-602-0363.

VRScubert: In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and the celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/blog.

* Small print: discount on A, B, C, D price section not to be combined with other offers.
 

VRSchubert-Day 3: Graphic Schubert

 

Bringing Schubert closer to young readers, Dutch author and artist Jeroen Janssen and Pieter van Oudheusden are preparing to publish a graphic novel about the last days of Franz Schubert’s life.

Fighting a losing battle against death, Schubert’s final days are haunted by the ghosts of his past, including Beethoven, his family, and his many secret and hopeless loves. In the feverish brain of a dying man, Schubert’s world has turned into a chain of nightmares, each bearing the title of one of his songs and containing fragments of their lyrics.

About The Last Days of Franz Schubert, the author writes, “[this is] a visual song cycle around the major themes of his life, playfully interpreted from a modern point of view – sometimes willfully anachronistic, but always inspired by the love for the man and his music.”

On a special Facebook page, the author shares numerous sketches for the upcoming book.


Spread the word and save: if you re-tweet or re-post any of our VRSchubert posts, you have the opportunity to save 25% on regularly priced tickets*. Call our box office to reserve your tickets: 604-602-0363.

VRScubert: In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and the celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/blog.

VRSchubert- Day 2: the Shape of Schubert

 

Franz Schubert

Chubby and short at only 5 foot one inch, Franz Schubert had to endure the nickname “Schwammerl” or mushroom by his friends.

Perhaps these attributes are the reasons for a life unlucky in love, but they are certainly not apparent in the youthful, charmingly handsome 16 year old seen in this portrait by Kupelweiser.


Spread the word and save: if you re-tweet or re-post any of our VRSchubert posts, you have the opportunity to save 25% on regularly priced tickets*. Call our box office to reserve your tickets: 604-602-0363.

VRScubert: In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and the celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/tag/vrschubert/.

VRSchubert- Day 1: Lewis on Schubert

 

In anticipation and celebration of Paul Lewis’ performance of the Late Schubert Sonatas on October Tuesday, October 23, the VRS is embarking on 23 days of tweets, Facebook and blog posts about the life and work of Franz Schubert and this celebrated interpreter of his music.

Follow us daily on Twitter with the hashtag #VRSchubert, visit facebook.com/vancouverrecitalsociety, or check back in with us each day at vanrecital.com/tag/vrschubert/.


Paul Lewis has been described by Gramophone Magazine as “arguably the finest Schubert interpreter of his generation.” Modest as he is, here is the artist’s perspective on performing music by Franz Schubert:

“This is the music I love, and my hope is that the people who come and hear it can love it too. That the experience will be long-lasting – and if it is, it will be because of Schubert.” – Paul Lewis

Spread the word and save: if you re-tweet or re-post any of our VRSchubert posts, you have the opportunity to save 25% on regularly priced tickets. Call our box office to reserve your tickets: 604-602-0363.

Small print: discount on A, B, C, D price section not to be combined with other offers.

Three Violins and the Talented Trio

 

Imagine my delight when I received an email from Jonathan Chan in London, where he is studying at the Guildhall, telling me that he had been awarded the 1715 Dominicus Montagnana violin on loan from the Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank.  Canada’s finest young talents compete for the opportunity to use these instruments for a period of time. The competition is tough.

“I ended up leaving with the absolutely gorgeous Montangna that I had been eyeing since they (the Canada Council Instrument Bank) sent me the list of violins available.  It’s easy to play on and also easily the smoothest instrument I have played on”.

Jonathan is a tremendously gifted young violinist from Vancouver whom the Vancouver Recital Society has been mentoring for the past several years.  He has played twice for the VRS – once at the Kay Meek Centre, and he also gave a stunning performance of the Ysaye Unaccompanied Sonatas for Violin as our first ever surprise concert artist. Interestingly, there was someone from South Africa in the audience (alright, I’ll confess, my cello teacher from my university days in Capetown) and she was so taken with Jon’s performance that she arranged a concert tour of South Africa for him a couple of years later. And, imagine… on that tour he played both piano AND violin!

Then, next day I received a phone call from another young protégé of ours, Aaron Timothy Chooi. He’s a young violinist from Victoria who is entering his first year at Curtis in Philadelphia.  He could hardly speak, he was so excited. “Leila, I got a Guarneri. It’s worth a fortune. My mom says I have to lock my room every time I go out.  I get to keep the violin for three years. I’ve never had a violin for that long.”

He is the recipient of the Canada Council’s 1729 Guarneri del Gesu.  Timmy (as he is known) has also played for the VRS; once in our “Budding Brilliance Concert” at the Chan Centre a few years back; as the “opening act” to the recital at the Orpheum by pianist Yuja Wang, celebrating the 30th Anniversary Season of the VRS; and finally, he played our surprise concert in the spring and gave a splendid concert and talk for local school children.

His older brother (just by a little), Nikki Chooi, has just received his second violin from the Instrument Bank, having had to return his first. He now is playing the 1700 Taft Stradivari.  Nikki graduated from the Curtis Institute last Spring and I had the pleasure of attending his wonderful grad recital, sitting between his teacher and his mother.  Nikki played a recital for the VRS at the Kay Meek Centre a couple of years back.

It is indeed thrilling to be involved with young musicians like these… at the beginning of what we hope will be illustrious careers.  Naturally, they are all smart as well as gifted, and they are well aware of the challenges ahead.

May the violins take them to great heights!

Leila Getz

PS read about our talented trio and other winners on the Instrument Bank website.

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