I am based in Chicago and avidly attend the Chicago Symphony and other cultural events around the city and elsewhere. Here I will collect my thoughts on them and related issues. I also write for Bachtrack and my articles can be viewed here.
A word on the title of this blog: the epithet to the second movement of Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Grande sonate: Les quatre âges, “Quasi-Faust” is an extraordinary depiction of the work’s protagonist in a fateful Faustian pact. Indeed, the Faust legend has inspired an enormous outpouring of art – hardly surprising given the way it taps into the fundamental human desire to push the limits of knowledge and transcend banality.
The above image is related, being the cover art for John Ogdon’s landmark 1969 recording of Alkan’s monumental Concerto for solo piano. Fusing 19th-century Romanticism with 1960s psychedelia (an inspired pairing, to be sure), it portrays Alkan’s remarkable if enigmatic mind alight with flames and awash with piano keys, an apt description for Ogdon as well. I’m inclined to think that the flames of inspiration further suggest Mahler’s dictum that “tradition is not the veneration of ashes, but the spreading of fire”.