For Israel’s Ehud Barak, More Time For Music?

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Israel’s Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced earlier this week that he is quitting politics. A first-class pianist, music has always been his companion and on an earlier appearance on Mad About Music, he revealed to host Gilbert Kaplan:

— How playing Chopin calmed him before his first visit with Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

— Why during his campaign, that led to being Prime Minister, he pledged to restore the piano at the official residence.

— Coping with a neighbor who always called the police when he played piano late at night.

— The emotional impact of playing Beethoven over the telephone to his dying father.

— How he learned Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” in hiding preparing to lead a commando raid.

— How he discovered Mahler at age 40.

— The piano music he most wants to play.


Felix Mendelssohn: Bartholdy Lieder ohne Worte [Songs without Words]. Opus 30, No. 3. “Consolation.” Daniel Barenboim, piano. Deutsche Grammophon 5263727.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35. Second movement. Philadelphia Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy. Isaac Stern, violin. Sony SMK 66 829.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 23, “Appassionata.” Third movement. Murray Perahia, piano. CBS Records / Masterworks MK39344.

Scott Joplin:  Piano Rags. “The Entertainer.” Joshua Rifkin, piano. Elektra / Nonesuch 9 79159-2.

Frédéric Chopin: Polonaise No. 1, Op. 40, “Military.” Artur Rubinstein, piano. RCA 09026-63048-2.

Johann Sebastian Bach/Charles Gounod: “Ave Maria.” Achinoam Nini (aka Noa). Geffen GEFD-24619.

Gustav Mahler Symphony: No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand.” “Chorus Mysticus.” Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Vienna Boys’ Choir. Vienna State Opera Chorus. Vienna Singverein. Sir Georg Solti. Heather Harper, Lucia Popp & Arleen Auger, sopranos; Yvonne Minton & Helen Watts, contraltos; René Kollo, tenor; John Shirley-Quirk, baritone; Martti Talvela, bass. Musical Heritage Society 514500W.

P. Anka, C. François, J. Revaux, G. Thibault: “My Way.” Frank Sinatra. Reprise Records 9-26501-2.

Comments [3]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

EHUD BARAK proves the admonition "let music calm you and allow you to concentrate on what to do to survive." Famous scientists like EINSTEIN and politicians of every ilk like Presidents TRUMAN and NIXON achieved the serenity before making momentous decisions, which rightly or wrongly channeled future events to certain directions. Since my childhood at age 10, when on WNYC I heard the Rhine Journey and Siegfried,I have been an ardent fan of Wagner's oeuvre. I started vocalizing with my child's voice on the music I studied from the Wagner partiturs [full orchestral scores] and piano vocal scores of Wagner's operas that were donated to the Jersey Avenue Main Library of Jersey City by the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration as part of their Works Project Administration. Wagner's music convinced me that I JUST HAD TO COMPOSE AND SING. Because of that ALLADIN'S LAMP inspiration, I have made a career as a Wagnerian heldentenor and an opera composer. My cousin MICHAEL BLANKFORT wrote both the books and screenplays for the 1953 film THE JUGGLER, the first Hollywood film made in ISRAEL. I am a romantischer heldentenor. I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I opened my three hour concert with the Invocazione di Orfeo from Jacopo Peri's opera EURIDICE composed in 1600, the first opera, composed in the same year as Shakespeare wrote HAMLET. Also, at this same three hour long solo concert are my singing of Florestan's monologue "Gott! welch dunkel hier!' from "FIDELIO" and "Sound an Alarm" from Handel's "JUDAS MACCABAEUS." They can be heard from my live performance on my three websites,, ,, and They received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. My voice teachers were the legendary MET OPERA singers Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Frieda Hempel, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell and Margarete Matzenauer. As an opera composer myself ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"] I fully comprehend the assumed urgency of recognition of the still living. However, it's important to revere and enjoy the MASTERPIECES of art, music, literature, architecture and science in its multiple formats . I am the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute in Boonton, NJ where I train actors in all the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers in all the Wagner opera roles. On my websites one may download, free, at "Recorded Selections" my singing of Siegfried, Gotterdammerung Siegfried, Tristan, Siegmund, Parsifal, Lohengrin, Rienzi, Walther von Stolzing, Otello, Eleazar and Florestan.

Dec. 25 2012 08:08 AM
Anthony Drago from Jackson Heights, NY

In my opinion, Mr. Kaplan dropped the ball early in the program when he failed to follow up on Elud Barak's mentioning Scriabin as one of his favorite Russian composers because of his unusual harmonies. One could hear the passion in his voice as he uttered Scriabin's name; obviously this composer means a lot to him. Yet the name of Scriabin proved to be a teaser since Mr. Kaplan did not follow up by playing an example of Scriabin's music. This could have easily been done since he wrote many short piano pieces (Preludes, for example), so a good sample would not have taken more than a few minutes. In fact, Scriabin wasn't mentioned again during the program, which I found odd. I would have liked to know, too, if Mr. Barak has ever attempted to play one of Scriabin's piano pieces, which are admittedly difficult. Except for the slighting of Scriabin, I enjoyed the program very much. It is rare to find a politician who cares so deeply about piano playiing and classical music.

Dec. 02 2012 11:00 PM
Mary Elizabeth Nordstrom from Kennebunk, Maine

The calming effect of music, well selected for the occasion, is one reason that people in general should realize how important music education is as a foundation for all other learning. I continue to refer people to a book review of "A Well-Tempered Mind" by Peter Perret and Janet Fox based upon a Winston-Salem, NC, school survey some years ago. You can search for the review at Classical Voice of North Carolina, an online music journal. It is also posted at Classical Voice of New England's "Performing Arts of New England," dot org, but difficult to find as I remember at that web site. The world would be a much more peaceful place if there were well-selected classical background music in large public places instead of more common denominator choices.

Dec. 02 2012 01:28 PM

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