Thursday, July 16, 2009

Landowska leads me to Thomson

Sometimes I think that the best thing I will gain from my fits-and-starts research on Wanda Landowska is knowledge of (and connection to) so many other artists & musicians whose work matters to me.

For instance, I discovered the terrific writer and composer Virgil Thomson because of his writings on WL. A few lines I particularly loved were these, from a recital review that appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on Oct. 22, 1942: "Landowska's program was all Bach and Rameau... She played everything better than anybody else ever does. One might almost say, were not such a comparison foolish, that she plays the harpsichord better than anybody else ever plays anything."

Thomson is the only person I've ever heard called a "Franco-Missourian" — his music is equal parts Kansas City and Paris, just as his life was. Working in film and theatre, he collaborated with Gertrude Stein and Orson Welles, and his film score for Louisiana Story earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1949. For the playfulness and thoughtful muscularity of his music criticism, he has become one of my heroes. Get yourself A Virgil Thomson Reader , and you'll understand why.

The YouTube video of pianist MMLeung playing Thomson's Double Glissando Etude has already been viewed 20,586 times. To me, there's something sweeter about Edward Leung playing the Ragtime Bass. Could be that it was the guy's first concert. See below.

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