read1 of 10
discover

The School of Music (14)

Igor Levit about the beauty of Bach
11.11.13
2 min
Post

Darf man das? Werke verfremden? Übertragen? Johann Sebastian Bach komponierte 18 Choräle für die Orgel in seinen letzten Lebensjahren. Die schönsten Werke sind das, rein und – wie Beethoven einmal sagte – direkt von Herzen zu Herzen gehend. Wie erklärt es sich, dass es so viele sogenannter Transkriptionen für Klavier gibt? Werke aller Arten, Opernarien, Lieder, Sinfonien, Choräle, Chorwerke, Kammermusikwerke – unzählige, die bearbeitet, frei arrangiert oder wortgenau transkribiert wurden für Klavier (solo). Dabei gibt es ja unendlich viel wundervolles Klavierrepertoire. Nun, man will diese Werke spielen. So einfach ist das. Nichts ist eindringlicher als das unmittelbare Erlebnis. So kamen immer wieder Pianisten dazu, ihre Liebe, ihre Zuneigung einem Werk gegenüber darin auszudrücken, indem sie das jeweilige Werk für das Klavier zu transkribieren. Schon Bach selbst hat viele Werke bearbeitet, Mozart auch, Beethoven auch. Franz Liszt war derjenige, der die sogenannte Klavierparaphrase dann in den Konzertkanon mit einer solch enormen Kraft und Fantasie hinauskatapultierte wie kaum ein anderer vor ihm. Aus dieser Tradition entstanden die bedeutendsten Bearbeitungen “fremder” Werke , so von Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ferruccio Busoni, Egon Petri, Vladimir Horowitz und dem großen Wilhelm Kempff (und unzähligen anderen bedeutenden Pianisten, die alle aufzuzählen einfach unmöglich erscheint…). Das hier ist die mir Liebste. Und Heiligste.

Ashley Passmore
People

I have never talked to Ashley in person. Of course that’s not strange at all. We met on Oliver Polak’s Facebook page. One of us made a joke about Kant being a little shtetl boy by the name of Imre Kantele who grew up to be a comedian in the Catskills – I can’t remember if it was her or me. Now we have a very 21st century correspondence about very 20th century things. Sometimes even 19th century.

There is this Talmudic concept of the tinok shenishba, she explains to me – the “captured infant” who was raised by Gentiles and only later in life comes back, or just in general grew up without learning about Judaism. Ashley feels the opposite might be true for her: a mostly non-Jewish child who was kidnapped and somehow ended up in the strange world of German Jews.

This is the world she’s living in now, which isn’t so easy in Texas. So she’s living very virtually these days anyway – her husband lives in another state, and she’s working on a project on how Jewish identity circulates on the Internet. Which probably means that she’s pretending to be the Lubavitcher Rebbe and trolls Chabad blogs? I must ask her.

Ashley says she has never known anything but “German” and “Jews” in the same breath, but not like you think. This “but not like you think” is a great gift.

If you’ve ever been to an official Jewish event you know that “he or she is a true mensch” is just about the laziest compliment you can make someone. So I’m not gonna say that but of course it’s probably true. What I’m gonna say instead: Ashley knows many things other people have forgotten – and she wants to share them with the world too. A true teacher, as they say.

Mary Staub
People

She drove all the way down with a Greyhound bus from New York City to México, D. F. How long does it take? 100 hours? 100 years? 100 years of solitude. We met in Puebla, Volkswagen city, near the Popocatépetl. We had dinner with guys from Quebec, and couldn’t guess a word they were saying. We continued the journey together South. Always South. Mary was doing the Spanish talking, I was doing the Mexican nodding. We bought papaya, and mango, every single day. And Mary was eating peanuts anywhere we went. Maybe she was doing a Hänsel and Gretel trail to find the way back to New York. We went into the jungle in Palenque where I shot a picture from the same angle my grandfather did, maybe in the 1960s. We continued to the Cataratas de Agua Azul. And there we got robbed. Two guys jumped out of the jungle. They had a rifle and a machete. We got robbed, is actually not accurate. I got robbed (they took my camera with the picture from Palenque and they intended to take my shoes: not the right size). Mary is this kind of person who just doesn’t get robbed. She merely gave them five dollars out of mercy (Mary full of Grace), like a tribute for the fact that we crossed the holy land of their ancestors. Then we ran. South. All South. Yes, we ran very fast. Heart beat of 220. We continued. South. Chiapas. San Cristóbal de las Casas where Mary wanted to stay in the Casa Na Bolom, doing research on lost languages or something else. However, we continued to Oaxaca. We played basketball on 3000 meters. We did handstands on the basketball field on 3000 meters (we once tried to walk down the Freie Strasse in Basel, handstand wise. Guess who succeeded). Then we went to see the Silent Ocean. Mazunte. We separated. Mary stayed, I don’t know for how long. 100 hours? 100 days? While I drove up to Acapulco, imagining a life as a cliff diver. We met 100 years later again under the Brooklyn bridge.

David Knowles
People
When David and I talk about Berlin, we agree on one thing: Berlin is a city of strivers, not of dreamers. In 2009, David was a performer splitting an apartment in Neukoelln with two friends. “I play music and dance really crazy, like a worm,” he explained to me. “It really fucks up my back.” The apartment belonged to a philosopher, and was crowded with books. The oven door was jammed and didn’t close completely, but baked an apple cake perfectly at low heat. I never saw one of David’s shows, but when he ran low on cash, he moved onto our couch, saving his money for ganj. When we eventually fell into collaboration on an artist’s book project, I remember him most for his tempered reactions to the long bus rides, trudges through the snow, desktop computer boxed and hauled to various corner desks throughout the city, waiting for access at the national library, endless discussions about the print budget, shut doors, loud arguments, and most pressing of all, the shortage of pay. There was never enough money. David and I were far from home, far from the lessons of trust and the authority of an education in which the successful completion of a task engendered pay, pride and wisdom. Berlin was an altogether unfamiliar parade, driven by ceaseless cultural production, surplus identity, and an amplification of the self. As we grappled with this new place, I would devolve into histrionics. David would simply say, “You’ve been kind of rough lately.”

On my way to visit David at his Chinatown gallery in New York, he asks me to pick up a coffee for him around the corner. The bridge from graphic designer to exhibition designer was first erected in Berlin. Looking through the glass window, I can see David talking to a visitor. I open the door with my offering.
Tobias Hönig
People
The varying basics of talking and thinking about football are informed by your home team and by the times you live in. Tobias’ home team is Munich (as is mine) and he (and I) underwent the first big trauma in May 1999. It was Wednesday night and Bayern München played Manchester United in the Champions League final in Barcelona. Bayern was 1:0 up and the fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time. Corner for United. With so little time left, Peter Schmeichel, ManU’s keeper, came up to Bayern’s penalty area. Beckham centred the corner, Dwight Yorke, Thorsten Fink, and Ryan Giggs touched the ball, moved it, shifted it, left, back, right, until it went to Sheringham, who nestled the ball in the bottom corner of the net. Minute 90:36.
1:1! Having been behind for most of the match, Manchester pushed extra time (we thought).
30 seconds after the following kick-off, United forced another corner. Now Schmeichel stayed in his half. Beckham swung the corner in, Sheringham, Solskjær, 2:1! (minute  92:17)
Referee Pierluigi Collina had to help most of the Bayern players to get on their feet for the next kick-off. And then it was over. Everything.
It was the Treble for United –– it would have been for Bayern.
Two years later Bayern did win the Champions League. Years later, in 2010, they lost the final to Inter, 2012, they lost to Chelsea. Again München had been the better team but had no luck at all in the penalty shootout. I knew Tobias at that time and we were on our way to Johannesburg. I was in a plane with Julia Hummer (St.Pauli fan) and Arno Brandlhuber (no clue about football) and got the message that Schweinsteiger had missed just before take-off. (Second Fußball-Trauma) Tobias was still in Berlin, watching the game –– which was in Munich! –– on TV. When I saw him a day later in downtown Joburg we were hurt. I remember him guessing that they would not recover, not come back.
In the course of our walk to Miniland Tobias presented his great project about the Double-Berlin, Doppeltes Berlin. A race in representation and architecture between East and West-Germany when the wall was still up. Tobias had performed this already in his Bob-Dylan-manner during the 2081-walk in Berlin. (And later they showed it at HKW). Tobias is an architect studying for his master’s in Nürnberg and he is working at Brandlhuber+.
Back to football: During the walk to Miniland the great philosopher Achille Mbembe told me that Bayern would win the following year and that he sees some wonderful years for German football coming up. And Achille knows what he is talking about, he watches four European leagues every week, one of his best friends is Therry Henry and Achille is an Arsenal fan.
Back to Bayern: Tobias and I watched a CL game together here in Lichtenberg at the Libero. Bayern won but you could see how much Tobias was suffering during the game and he told me he hadn’t been able to sleep or eat in the days before. Now Bayern München won the Treble this year in this wonderful manner: “Mir san Triple”
And Tobias changed in a way. He is a different man.
See for yourself, look at the image.

The School of Music (13)

Igor Levit about the genius of Carlos Kleiber
04.11.13
1 min
Post

Der Größte. Die Art und Weise seines Musizierens suchen bis heute ihresgleichen. Er, der so selektiv vorging, nicht alles dirigierte, was auf seinem Pult landete. Aber was er berührte, das wurde zu mehr als nur zu Gold. Bis heute existiert kaum ein Dokument seines Schaffens, welches nicht den Status des Einmaligen genießt. Und wenn nicht unangreifbar in Fragen der Interpretation, so doch absolut unstrittig im Bezug auf die totale Kompromisslosigkeit eines Musikers vor allem sich selbst gegenüber. Um jeden Ton, jede Phrase und jeden Moment wird gerungen. Wer das nicht glaubt, nun ja, der sollte einfach nur die ersten fünf Sekunden dieser großartigen Dokumentation erleben. Eine Explosion, und Wagners Tristan sticht mitten ins Herz. Carlos Kleiber, 2004 leider zu früh verstorben.

Ayzit Bostan
People

There is something about Munich which might have gotten lost a bit in the last, say, ten years – with the onslaught of Berlin, with the draining of people, this constant trickle of creativity leaving a city which was once built on the very notion of Geist und Intelligenz, I dare say: Because apart from the very Bayerischkeit of Munich there was always a certain sensibility that was less counterculture and more mainstream in a good way, it did not flee and flourish on the margins, which can be easy, but that it wanted to achieve something and aim at the center of things, which might be harder. It was there and it was important, in the 1910s and 1920s with artists and writers like Kandinski und Mühsam and Feuchtwanger, this style, this spirit, this pride, and it should be there in the 2010s – a cosmopolitan casualness that might be best achieved in a smaller city like Munich, rather than in self-congratulatory Berlin, through a concentration on the new ideas, an eye for the international style, a daring, a focus, a network of good: Ayzit Bostan, for sure, would be in the middle of all of this. She is, in a way, an in-between kind of person, between fashion and art, between cultures, between fame and followers who are in love with all the things she designs, clothes, shoes, bags. She could live anywhere, she could work anywhere, and in a way I always have to remind myself that we are indeed in Munich when I go to her studio on Landwehrstraße, a place that has so little to do with this explosion of money that is Munich today, a strange combination of Porsches and Arabs coming for shopping or medicine and all these off-road crazy people heading to some mountain or another, constantly. I love Munich, don*t get me wrong, and this is why I love Ayzit. Munich could be like her, Munich should be like her. A proud and smart and creative place that does not constantly feel the need to position itself against Berlin. A place for a woman with Turkish roots who has this air of New York around her and a pleasant notion of knowing where we are heading. A citizen of the 21st century. Like Ayzit.

Fabian Wolff
People

Whenever I meet Fabian it’s like Vienna in the last days of World War I. I always arrive a bit too late at the coffee house, because he’s expecting that from me. There is always some sort of rage inside of him, even when he appears to be gentle. That’s not even an act, but his soul’s innermost desire: peace and stuff. But the rage is waiting in the backroom of his mind, ready to make a big entrance in the salon.
On Fridays I light his candles for him while making jokes about his French-Polish-Hamburg-Irish-Brazilian-Jewish roots.
So while we sit at the coffeehouse table, as it behooves us, he’s doing his “sad puppy eyes” thing. He’s haunted by caffeine and sugar, just like alcohol always found its way to Joseph Roth. And then we argue about Karl Kraus until we’ve finished our apfelstrudel with cream.
All of this is pure fabrication, of course. Actually whenever I’m Berlin we meet in the lobby of Hotel Adlon, very formal, like two strange spies in a John Le Carré novel. That is the truth.
Fabian Wolff hides behind the facade of a normal young man. He’s even publishing under that name: in the Jüdische Allgemeine, Intro or HEEB. He often listens to music by dead people or reads books by corpses or thinks about Natalie Wood. He’s probably working on a stand-up routine for the Christmas party of the staff of the Cinémathèque française. Mostly Tarkovsky puns I think.
Very inconspicuous – or at least we hope so. But still, he’s a spy at heart.

People

When you are over your Nietzsche obsession, leaving Sils-Maria behind, passing by Lake Sils, and reaching the Maloja pass, you will be finally able to see her. Maira. She flows west through the Val Bregaglia into Italy, sourcing Lake Como, and finally reaching the Mediterranean Sea. But she doesn’t stop there. Sometimes she flows to Berlin. Sometimes she has to play something in one of Georg’s and Bobby’s 80*81 productions. Sometimes it was working for DAS MAGAZIN. Her grandmother’s house in Zuoz must be a dream. If it was to start a new religion, it would be her name to name it. For the time being it’s Berlin. It’s Heimat. It’s Jippie Ja Ja Jippie Jippie Jaay.

Nikolai von Rosen
People

I knew Nikolai from a distance. He was part of the artist duo Future 7 with Florian Wojnar and Future 7 worked on the relation between collector and artist. With his great name and his great moustache I guessed Nikolai would spend his days in cafés reading Raymond Roussel and drinking Sherry all day. He seemed 27,4% Austrian and 27,4% Russian.
Some years later, when Future 7 had past, we met in Brazil with Arno Brandlhuber’s nomadic architecture class. We went from Sao Paulo by bus to Angra dos Reis, where the Germans had build an atomic plant between Rio and SP in the 1970s. A dark decade for Brazil while ruled by generals. The reactor Angra 1 is situated between the beach and a mountain, which tends to slip when it is raining. The Tupinamba Indians called it ‘Itaorna’, meaning ‘rotten stone’. At the time we were there Angra 3 was in prepartion, only the German money guarantee was missing. Even the great Lula da Silva wanted the second reactor. Our interventions however caused the obstruction of Angra 3 and all other projected nuclear plants in Brazil at least until 2030. (When We Were Good)
I still don’t know if Nikolai is or was studying at Arno’s class, doing his PhD or if he just comes along from time to time to these excursions. I know that he teaches in Zurich at the ETH with Karin Sander and I know that he is very active in Berlin when it comes to city planning––he even organizes some cool club of super smart architects. On the field trip to Brazil I got to know him as very clever and elegant and judicious, so maybe 0% Austrian, 0% Russian? And funny. And he has a lovely family.

PS: The only thing which made me slightly suspicious was––Nikolai is part of the Lichtenberg-Tower-4––that he doesn’t fancy the idea of a hill with goats between the towers. Too much of an image, too much of an artist’s idea, he said. He wants another tower built out of containers (see San Gimignano), which is nice. He wants projects, research and things like that. Okay. Even so Nikolai, with the hill you are already overruled.

The School of Music (14)

Igor Levit about the beauty of Bach
11.11.13
2 min

The School of Music (13)

Igor Levit about the genius of Carlos Kleiber
04.11.13
1 min