Sunday, November 4, 2012

October 18, 2012

          Take me in time
          Without torments
          And no pain
          Gather me
          Like a book which is returned
          To the hands of the librarian
          And please
          Leave behind me
          The words which I wrote
          And the notes which I played
          So that the people
          Could carry them in their hearts
          Until the end of time

                                    October 18, 2012
From One-Time by Eyran Katsenelenbogen (translated from Hebrew)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 19, 2012

          Art creates itself
          Therefore an artist's work
          Involves removal of the self
                                                 September 19, 2012

From One-Time, Vol. II September 19, 2012 by Eyran Katsenelenbogen
(translated from Hebrew)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September 17, 2012

On July 28, 2012, a little more than five centuries after my great grandfather Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen was born there, I played a concert in the town of Katzenelnbogen. It was a one-in-a-lifetime experience – a concert and a visit which I will remember and cherish always.

Katzenelnbogen is a small city located in the district of Rhein-Lahn-Kreis in Rhineland-Palatinate, about an hour drive northwest of Frankfurt. It developed around the Castle of Katzenelnbogen which was completed in 1095. The unusual name, which means “Cat’s Elbow”, gave rise to the creation of a local folk tale about its origin. The castle, with its two opposite turrets, is said to have inspired this name because of its resemblance to a cat lounging above the elbow shaped bend of the creek "Dörsbach" which flows below it. From what I’ve heard, in the fifteen century about twenty Jews who were living there, were bestowed the town’s name by the Counts of Katzenelnbogen – that’s how the Jewish Katzenelnbogen family name started. Over the years, some Katzenelnbogens have altered the spelling of their name for various reasons, resulting in several different variations found today. Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen last name is spelled with two “l”s following an “e”, while my father, who was born in Poland, spells it with a “C”: “Kacenelenbogen”. I, probably mistakenly, have always spelled it with “ts”: “Katsenelenbogen”. Interestingly, there is no one with the surname Katzenelnbogen still living in Katzenelnbogen presently.

The concert in Katzenelnbogen was held at the city’s town hall, which is adjacent to the castle of Katzenelnbogen. It was very moving for me to realize that I was standing by the castle’s wall as I was getting ready to enter the performance hall through the stage entrance of the city hall before playing the concert. The Mayor of Katzenelnbogen, Horst Klöppel, opened the event with a heartfelt introduction and greeted me with a warm and friendly: “Welcome to Katzenelnbogen, Eyran Katsenelnbogen!” to the cheers of everyone. The audience was absolutely wonderful and it was a delight to play for such a warm and excited croud. Like me, I think that everyone who attended the concert felt that this was a singular event. It was the first and the only time, more than five hundred years after the Jewish family was born there, that a Katzenelnbogen has returned to its birth place to perform a live concert. Moreover, the invitation to play in Katzenelnbogen was in celebration of the city’s 700th anniversary. When Mayor Klöppel announced to the audience that he would like to invite me to return and play there again, I replied that I would be honored to play again for the town’s 800th anniversary, when I am 147 years old.

The concert, which was planned to take about an hour, lasted three. In the intermission I had a wonderful opportunity to meet many of the people who attended it. It was the first time that when I dedicated a CD to someone who attended the event, I signed my family name not as my last name, but as the place in which the concert took place.

This concert, which was so meaningful and fulfilling for me, took place because of the wonderful initiative of my very dear friend Gerhard Hummer. I am deeply grateful to him for one of the greatest friendships I have ever had. Gerhard has a rare personal ability to naturally nurture the best human qualities in his friends and inspire their personal and artistic growth. In 2011, he organized a concert with pianist Andrei Ivanovitch and me at the wonderful Burg Namedy castle which is not far from Katzenelnbogen. The day after the concert at Burg Namedy, on our way back to his hometown of Sossmar in Lower Saxony, Gerhard, his wife Bettina, Andrei and I stopped to visit Katzenelnbogen. I only visited there once before, with my parents when I was thirteen years old, and was very excited to revisit the town. We stopped at an ice-cream parlor, and while Bettina, Andrei and I were enjoying our ice-creams, Gerhard went in and informed the owner of the restaurant, Edmitro Vanella, that the “real Katzenelnbogen” was sitting outside. Mr. Vanella didn’t hesitate and immediately called the Mayor of Katzenelnbogen to tell him the news. Mayor Klöppel invited us to meet with him and with his assistant, Mr. Welker, in his office. Gerhard kept in touch with the Mayor and his assistant, and a few months later I was invited to perform a concert at the Katzenelnbogen City Hall on July 28, 2012.

Eyran Katsenelenbogen playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Eyran Katsenelenbogen playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Arlen)
I came to Katzenelnbogen from Rome, where I played my annual concert at the Teatro di Marcello on July 25. Following the concert, probably as I was walking with my friend down the stairs from Trastevere to the walkway along the Tevere River, I somehow injured my right ankle. The following morning I wasn’t able to step on my right foot at all. I had to cancel the second concert which was scheduled in Rome, at Villa Torlonia. I believe this was the first time I have ever canceled a concert. The following day, I traveled from Rome to Zurich and from Zurich to Hannover. As I was unable to walk, I was transported in a wheelchair throughout the day. During the last flight, the staircase leading into the plane in Zurich was removed after all the other passengers boarded, and I was driven from the terminal and lifted into the plane using a vehicle which I can best describe as “half a car – half an elevator”, then hopped to my seat on one foot. Being very dependent throughout that day was a humbling experience. I’m so grateful to the airport personnel who helped me, especially to the person in Zurich who had to transport me and another person all by himself at a late hour from the terminal to the airplane.

A few hours before the concert, Gerhard and I arrived at the City Hall of Katzenelnbogen to meet with Mayor Klöppel, see the performance hall and try the piano. I noticed at that time that I sill had difficulty using my right foot on the sustain pedal of the piano, and decided that I would use my left foot for pedaling throughout the concert instead. That would have been quite uncomfortable. But shortly after I started playing that evening, I tried switching back to my right foot and was surprised to see that it was not painful. Perhaps the adrenaline kicked in and neutralized the pain. I think that this physical relief only enhanced the singular sensation of playing such a special concert. Miles Davis has been quoted with saying “It’s hard to say I love you twice”. This concert most definitely felt like saying it the first time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 2, 2012

It is a late Saturday morning, and the summery weather of the past few days has been replaced with one of romantic autumn. Outside my windows, an ocean of green leaves is waving as they cover the trees which are lined along the street. The rain has just ceased. I love these interludial days of respite – autumnal episodes in-between spring and summer. I can sit home all day long during these days of gift, work, play and write, without feeling that I’m missing anything outside – I call them “hot cocoa days”. And now too, the lush wet greenery with its wondrous vitality can be seen through the windows – how simple are the greatest joys of life: just the thought of touching a wet leaf as it’s hanging closely off a gentle twiglike tree branch fills the heart with yearning.

Last night I dreamt a heart-penetrating dream about a death of a childhood friend. I woke up with a profound sensation of loss. First, the paranoid thought of illness struck me, but soon enough the interpretation of the dream revealed itself in the context of the feeling of loss of all the things that I had once and now I don’t have anymore.

The amazingly simple truth is that physically and mentally I could do today everything that I did twenty years ago. The real reason for the sensation of loss is inherent in the many sacrifices made for the lofty cause – Music. Yet I feel peaceful and happy now, because of the continued acceptance of who I am and the understanding that my way is right and goes hand in hand with who I am.

Life here in Boston for already close to twenty years is musically better for me than life in Israel. Beyond that, it requires giving up many things that I had there and I don’t have here any longer: being physically close to many of my loved ones, sensing the Mediterranean liveliness and excitement, the wonderful sea and Tel-Aviv’s never-ending nightlife - all of these and many others are sacrificed day in, day out, hour by hour, for the sake of my musical identity. My dream about loosing my childhood friend demonstrated the painful loss of youth, the reason of which is not any physical or mental limitation or a younger or older age, but the willingness to give away everything in life for one single noble cause.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 15, 2012

A few moments after three a.m. on Friday morning and I am writing, to the light of candles, in circumstances that are presumably unusual. Three days ago, at about seven-thirty in the evening, following a fire which started not far from here by the Hilton and Sheraton hotels, the electricity to the central Back Bay area of Boston was cut off.

I was in the middle of teaching a piano lesson at home that Tuesday evening when the lights went blank. In slang, people use the word “power” for electricity. Everyone around me was saying “there is no power!” but I immediately developed an objection towards using this word. “Power” sounds to me like something much bigger than electricity, and it reminded me of the power of “The Force” - the ultimate goal of obtainment for the Jedi’s in Star Wars! In any event, my wonderful student Nick was as resourceful as a Jedi when he turned his iPhone’s flashlight on, allowing us to finish the last thirty minutes of our piano lesson to its surprisingly strong light.

The following day all the stores were closed. My mobile phone (and here’s another word I don’t like: “cell-phone” – it sounds like a phone you are using in a cell… spooky!) battery become so precious, and even the philanthropic ATM machine tightened its pockets. At the corner store, the salesperson would bring you the items you bought to the door of the store, and you had to pay in cash because the credit-card swiper was not working. The restaurants were throwing out their frozen food. It was quite surreal.

I have to confess that I enjoyed the first day without electricity a lot: waking up in the morning to a world without computer, without Internet, also without hot water and of course without electric light and heat. There was in it, and there still is, something special – a feeling of closeness to oneself, something spiritual. During the morning, for example, I cleaned the windows so that the light will shine through them. All seemed so peaceful, so natural, and everything was in its place. I also went down to the garden, where I ate a red grapefruit. It was a little chili outside, but I stayed there a while reading.

… And also now, of course, this situation, of writing to the light of candles in the middle of the night, while the darkened street is looming through the windows as if it was from another century. It feels like time travel - if only the cars disappeared and grumbling horses leading carriages took their place again. Now too, this quietness - so special and heavenly. Of course, against this moment fantasies of more exciting times of life arise – being on the beach with my friend and my dog too-many-years-to-count ago, filled with sheer exuberance and excitement while feeling the Middle Eastern sea breeze at night, so abundant with its sensual liveliness. But let us not dismiss the power of this moment too, this total tranquility which is almost frightening, that brings one so close to oneself in the midst of this incandescent candle-lit night, a sort of judgment-day of pleasant soul-searching, filled with heavenly forgiveness.

I would like the electricity to come back this morning, but I also wish that this soul-cleared intimacy would be kept, having risen like a piece of cork above the ocean-waves’ foam in its temporary absence.