Excelsior!

April 30, 2009

competition-launch I wrote here last summer about the thrill of hearing a whole bunch of talented teenage pianists who mastered a terrific new (and pretty terrifically difficult) work for piano. The same piece, John Musto‘s “Improvisation and Fugue,” is one of the four finalists in another kind of competition, detailed by Anne Midgette here.

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The unending mystery of musical talent.

For the most touching link you’ll click today, give this one a try.

susan_boyle_audition

Enough

April 2, 2009

There is a basic terminological malaproprism in wide use that really must stop. When it appeared in today’s Paper of Record, I decided to raise my voice in protest.

Since the Middle Ages, there has been a distinction between two kinds of organs: the portative and the positive. The portative was made to be carried with one hand and played with the other, for use in processions:

portative

The positive was, and is, fixed and played (like a piano or harpsichord) in one place, with both hands:

positive

The positive might be either an independent, small instrument (as above, seen used in an orchestra) or part of a larger instrument — often hung on the gallery rail, behind the player, as with the German Rückpositiv, the French positif de dos, Spanish positivo de dos, or the English chair (or choir) organ:

groningen-martinikerk-organ

To call a positive organ, just because it can be carried around by three or four members of the Stagehands Union, a “portative organ” is to overthrow a basic distinction of many centuries’ standing. And when the most venerable music critic of the Times — with all its influence over common usage — allows himself to confuse portative with the merely portable, something must be said.

So it might as well be said here.