Totentanz

A spectacular and hair-raising performance by Hungarian pianist György Cziffra of Liszt’s 1859 paraphrase with variations, Totentanz. The dance of death (or, danse macabre) was brought to the forefront of European human consciousness during the 14th century by famines, war, and the Black Death. Its musical representation is in the plainchant dies irae, and its derivative, the…

My Moment with Proust – From Swann’s Way IV

A sliver of Casablanca recently had come to Robson Street in Vancouver’s West End, where I live. In the guise of a small restaurant owned and manned by a polyglot Moroccan chef who had wound his way from Marrakech through Italy, Germany, Montréal, Edmonton, to Vancouver, and, en route, acquired Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and…

Ten Essential Attributes of Artistic Accomplishment

Sergei Rachmaninoff In March, 1910, Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote an invitational article on the “ten beautiful attributes of pianoforte playing” for the musical magazine The Etude, founded in 1883 by Virginia’s Theodore Presser, also the founder the Music Teachers National Foundation and published in Philadelphia till 1957. Large excerpts of the magazine have been digitized by…

On My Mind – On My Father’s Birthday

My father would have been 92 today, the 25th of October, 2016. He has been dead for 15 years, and I continue to miss him deeply. This memoir that I wrote appeared in The Globe and Mail four months after his death. Henry Slegtenhorst Barber, merchant, citizen, Opa, soft touch. Born October 25, 1924, in Leiden, the Netherlands. Died,…

My mother and I - in the garden of the house on Kanaalstraat, Leiden, summer 1951

The Liberation of the Netherlands and Canada’s Anti-terrorist Bill C-51

On the afternoon of March 14th, 2015, when I still lived in Edmonton, I attended a political rally against my federal government’s intent, through its so-called anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51, to turn my country into a police state by essentially eradicating freedom of speech and assembly, civil rights, habeas corpus, and legal presumption of innocence.…