Thursday, November 19, 2015

Louis Gregh's 'Élégie Pastorale' - the title page and verse quotations

This piece, recorded by me twice on YouTube on , and also on has one of the saddest underlying stories and cover art that I have seen.  Here is the cover:

Note the swain on the left offering flowers to his bride - on the right-hand picture he is paying respects to her grave.  The piece is prefaced by an extract from 'Souvenirs Intimes' by the French poet Antoine Queyriaux:

"Quand le soleil d'avril ôtait a la nature
Son lourd manteau d'hiver flétri, par les autans,
Nous allions admirer sa nouvelle parure,
Ecoutant les oiseaux qui fêtaient le printemps.
L'automne vint ravir ma douce fiancée,
Nos serments échangés se sont évanouis! ..
Dans les sentiers ombreux où nous rêvions ensemble
Tout est triste et muet, le soleil est voilé.
Je la vois près de moi ...le cœur ému, je tremble...
Je crois saisir sa main... rien! .. je reste accablé! .. "

Here is my attempt at a translation (corrections welcome!):

"When the April sun has deprived nature
Of his heavy winter coat withered by impetuous winds,
We would admire her new dress,
Listening to the birds celebrating spring.
-------------------------------------------------- -----
Autumn came to rob me of my sweet bride,
Our exchanged vows have vanished! ..
In the shady paths where we dreamed together
Everything is sad and silent, the sun is veiled.
I see around me ... the emotional heart, I tremble ...
I think I am holding her hand ... nothing! I remain overwhelmed ..! "

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cover art for Pessard's 'Le Mendiant'

I meant to include this in my video performance of the piece, but forgot - so here is a reproduction:

The video can be found here on my YouTube channel.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How do I produce my piano videos?

I am often asked how I produce my YouTube piano videos (on my channel PSearPianist), so here is a description of how I am doing it just now.  I have used different procedures in the past, and may do in the future, but this works for me at the moment.

I film my performances on an Olympus LS-20M linear PCM recorder - basically a sophisticated stereo recorder with a fairly basic video camera attached - which sits on a Manfrotti tripod about six feet from the piano. 

I record the video at 640x480, 30fps - not HD but good enough I hope for the sort of video I make, which is really about the music.  The sound is recorded in MP3 at 320kbps, the best quality available on the camera.  I could certainly work in HD, but that would raise issues of computer processing power and bandwidth availability for uploading.

On most videos I play from digitized scores which are viewed on my 22" LG picture frame-style monitor (attached to a laptop by an extra-long VGA cable).  I view the scores on Foxit Reader 7, a Windows program which allows dual page display, and also allows you to choose which page shows up on the left-hand side.  I turn the pages with an AirTurn pedal set operated by Bluetooth.  Getting the connection right can be fiddly (as the computer operates on Xubuntu Linux and gives no choice of Bluetooth manager software), but would probably be more straightforward with a Windows setup.  I sometimes use paper scores (mainly for music that is still in copyright, for which I have the music), and edit out the page turns.

I do two or three takes (at least) of each piece.  Usually the final video is based on the last, with the odd patches from earlier takes, and I may repeat passages within a take if needed.  I am surprised by how often I think I have done a perfect recording, only to find that an important note is inaudible on playback - which is why multiple takes are valuable.

I then attach the camera by USB to the laptop and edit the footage using the excellent free Kdenlive video editing software.  This does everything needed: the cutting and pasting using thumbnails of the audio, adding opening and closing title sequences, and overlaying images and section titles on the footage.  I also usually put a 0.2 second fade at the end of each piece to eliminate the creaking of my piano stool or noise of the pedal coming off!  If you are on Windows, VideoPad is a good alternative (a freeware version is available from ), and this is also available in an Android version.  I render my videos in QVGA widescreen 29.97fps, saving them in MP4 format with MP3 audio at a fixed video bitrate of 4000 and an audio bitrate of 192 (the highest available on the program)

As soon as the video is made and saved to file, I upload it to YouTube as 'Private' so I can store it until I want to release it by making it 'Public', at which point I add the description etc.  I learned to do this the hard way - I lost one or two videos when a hard drive failed!

You can actually set up Kdenlive with a bootable Linux operating system on a USB flash drive.  I have tried to do this for some time, but only recently succeeded, owing the the number of elements needed in a system to make Kdenlive work.  Here's how I did it, but I am sure there are many different routes:

1 - get a USB drive with at least 8Gb of storage.
2 - download the PuppEX Linux Live CD (as an ISO) from here:
2 - download and run the Yumi Multiboot USB Creator available from here: (Windows program - but Linux versions are available) with the USB drive connected.
3 - Use YUMI to install PuppEX from the ISO to the USB drive (it will fall under the 'Other' category, as it doesn't appear in the list of supported operating systems - and you should use Syslinux).  Then shutdown your computer.
4 - Turn the computer on with the USB drive still in, and set your computer to boot first from USB if it doesn't already do that (you do this from the BIOS).
5 -  You will see the Multiboot menu.  Choose PuppEX from the 'Other Linux' distributions menu and then run it and set it up to your liking.
6 -  Run the Puppy Package Manager, on which you will find Kdenlive in the lists of available packages (I think you will need to install Kdenlive and also the Kdenlive data package).
7. - That's it - you can then use the USB drive with any modern computer set to allow booting from USB, which could be useful if you are making videos 'on the road'.

I hope that will be helpful - and would welcome any suggestions for better ways of achieving the same result with modest hardware and bandwidth requirements.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

William Charles Levey (1837-94)

Here is a biography of the interesting Irish composer and stage conductor, William Charles Levey, extracted from 'British Musical Biography' (Brown & Stratton, 1897):

"Levey, William Charles, composer and conductor, born in Dublin, April 25, 1837.  Studied under his father (noticed below), and from 1852, in Paris, under Auber, Thalberg, and Prudent.  While there he was elected a member of the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs. On his return to London he held positions as conductor at Covent Garden; Drury Lane, 1868-74 ; and again, later, Haymarket, Princess's, and Adelphi, etc. He died in London, August 18, 1894

Operas, etc . Fanchette, Covent Garden, January 4, 1864 , Claude ; Nazarille;
Punchinello, Her Majesty's, December 28, 1864; Fashion, Wanted a Parlour Maid; Music to Antony and Cleopatra, Amy Robsart, Rebecca; King o' Scots; Lady of the Lake, Esmeralda, Jack in the Box, etc.  Music to various pantomimes.

Cantatas: The Man of War, Robin Hood (for boys voices); The Ride to Ware

Many songs:
Esmeralda; Here stands a post; Unfading
beauty ; King and the beggar maid , Maritana,
Gay Gitana ; Lullaby, etc.

Pieces for pf , etc.
Irish overture for orchestra.

His father, RICHARD MICHAEL LEVEY, born in Dublin, October 2, 1811, violinist, was apprenticed to James Barton, leader at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, in 1826.  In 1830 he succeeded to the post, and was afterwards musical director. On his fiftieth annversary of office he received a handsome testimonial.  As a violinist he was well known at the Crystal Palace Handel Festivals, etc.  He was
also professor of the violin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and is still living. The violinist known as "Paganini Redividus" is his son, RICHARD M LEVEY. He first appealed in Paris, in 1850, and was for some time principal violin at Muzard's Concerts at the Hôtel d'Osmond. Then he came to London, and at the Royal Polytechnic Institution, gave a wierd impersonation entitled
"Paganini's Ghost" He has given recitals in the provinces and on the continent, but no particulars are available concerning his biography."

I should add to this that the father gave the precocious eight-year-old Charles Stanford his debut as a composer when he conducted a pantomime of his at the Theatre Royal in Dublin.