Here’s a book I enjoyed. Why Handel Waggled His Wig is a about six great composers written for children by the brilliant cellist, Steven Isserlis. It follows on from his equally fun-style Why Beethoven Threw The Stew.
Isserlis is a great cellist and he writes as he plays, boldly and brassily. We are told his pieces have been examined for authenticity by a team of eminent musicologists. Was that really necessary?
The composers in Handel’s Wig are: Handel, Haydn, Dvorak, Schubert, Faure and Tchaikovsky. Plenty of variation and eccentricity there.
Kate Kellerway writes for Guardian Unlimited: “From the moment I started this book, I was entertained and laughing aloud. If, like Handel, I had an enormous white wig with which to react, I would definitely be waggling it enthusiastically right now. Steven Isserlis is a gifted cellist, but there is no reason at all to assume that he can, therefore, write. But this is the thing; as a writer, he turns out to be a natural, although not exactly normal.”
The book is published by Faber.
The New York Times has a piece today on a short video over on YouTube in which Pachelbel’s Canon is played with extraordinary virtuosity on an electric guitar by a complete unknown called, Jeong-Hyun Lim.
“The piece that funtwo played with mounting dexterity was an exceedingly difficult rock arrangement of Pachelbelâ€™s Canon, the composition from the turn of the 18th century known for its solemn chord progressions and its overexposure at weddings. But this arrangement, attributed on another title card to JerryC, was anything but plodding: it required high-level mastery of a singularly demanding maneuver called sweep-picking.
“Over and over the guitaristâ€™s left hand articulated strings with barely perceptible movements, sounding and muting notes almost simultaneously, and playing complete arpeggios through a single stroke with his right hand. Funtwoâ€™s accuracy and velocity seemed record-breaking, but his mouth and jawline â€” to the extent that they were visible â€” looked impassive, with none of the exaggerated grimaces of heavy metal guitar heroes. The contrast between the soaring bravado of the undertaking and the reticence of the guitarist gave the 5-minute, 20-second video a gorgeous solemnity.”
Hear it on The Blog Herald.