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CLASSICAL  November 2007

CLASSICAL November 2007

Subject:

Re: Brahms in Vancouver

From:

David Lamb <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 16:56:22 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (56 lines)

Bert Bailey strikes near to home:

> One pianist who put on a recital of great moment to me was Artur Ozolins,
> who studied under Vlado Perlemuter but may sadly be obscure outside of
> Canada as he seems to have little on CD. (snip)
>
> The main program was a concerto for piano and orchestra by Volfgangs
> Darzins, a Latvian composer -- like Ozolins himself, who'd transcribed
> it for solo piano. I wasn't very fond of it, finding it massive and
> overwrought, although perhaps it was a case of pearls at the unworthy.
> My companion, no musical dumbell, found much to enjoy.

Good heavens, man!  Darzins was my teacher.  I know the piano concerto
well, but it is important to hear it in context.  It is perhaps massive
and overwrought, but it was composed when Volly was barely out of
conservatory.  His life changed radically after that.  He became a music
critic for the leading Riga paper and lived a bohemian, non-composing
life for the next 17 years.  WW2 changed all that.  He and his wife
managed a harrowing escape from Riga under bombardment in the last stages
of the war, and they ended up in DP camps in Europe.  It was there and
then that Darzins began seriously practicing the piano again so as to
have an excuse to "tour" to other camps.  His aim was to avoid being
repatiated to Latvia which was behind the Iron Curtain.  Because he had
been active in the resistance to the Soviets, he knew that he would be
imprisoned or executed if he were returned.  It was thus the urgency of
survival that drove him back to music.  He composed his first piano
sonata while in the camp.  It must have been around 1950 when he and his
wife, Anna, were able to come to America sponsored by the Lutheran Church
in Spokane, Washington.  He was required to be the church organist and
to lead the choir.  He also found time to teach music at a small, local
music school.  It was there that Kenneth Benshoof, the composer, met and
studied with Darzins.  In the meantime, Darzins made some piano tours
to Latvian communities in the US.  He even went so far as a Carnegie
Hall concert which included some of his own music.  In 1955 the Darzins
family (there was now a little daughter, Daina) moved to Seattle.  I met
Benshoof in 1955 at San Francisco State, learned about his teacher, and
determined to study with him.  In the spring of 1956, I moved with my
family to Seattle and began working with Darzins.  By this time, Volly
was writing piano music that was very different from the early, turgid
romantic things, and he would not discuss those works.  I worked with
him until he died of cancer in 1962 at the age of 56.  He was an
extraordinary teacher and from him I learned most of what has been of
value to me as a composer.  It is frustrating that these exciting late
works have not been recorded and made available.  If anybody would like
to pursue this further and enquire about possible access to private
recordings, please write to me off list.  And if you do not know the
work of Benshoof, you are missing a composer who is at least as good
as his teacher.

David Lamb in Seattle

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