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H.E. Huda Ibrahim Alkhamis: A Cultural Dialogue from the Music of the Heart

For most people the name of H.E. Huda Ibrahim Alkhamis may not mean anything at all. And it may be a good thing her name does not really ring a bell to you, because her work as a philanthropist should go unnoticed. It is others —specially young people— this incredible woman helps to shine. Huda is the Founder of ADMAF, the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, and the Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival, which each year honours a different country —being Korea the Country of Honour in 2019— and welcomes young artists from all over the world, among many others, the Spanish pianist Juan Pérez Floristán. Huda’s dedication to the arts and music as a philanthropist for almost 25 years now is really praiseworthy. She has received numerous awards and commendations from all over the world. Her voice is sweet and calm, her eyes look with kindness and compassion. But when you speak with her face to face, you can tell that behind her aura inviting you to meditation, behind that face with a serene and gentle smile, there is a woman of determination and iron will. Huda was in Madrid and I had the chance and privilege to talk to her at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía.

Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo. Madrid, June 2019. Photo: Kirill Bashkirov

H.E. Huda Ibrahim Alkhamis. Madrid, June 2019. Photo: Kirill Bashkirov

I need to be honest with you and I must admit that I hadn’t heard of you before your visit to Madrid. And the few things I know about you now it is because I read it on the Internet. You were born in Beirut…

My mother is Syrian. I was brought up in Lebanon until the beginning of the civil war and then we left. My father is Saudi Arabian. Of course, I come from the UAE. So, my origin is Saudi.

Since you always say you want to use music as a dialogue, I’d like to have a true dialogue now with you even if it means I have to ask some tricky questions.

Please, do.

Your work with the foundation has to do with music culture. What’s your perspective when you look, for instance, at Lebanon, a country at war. Isn’t that a conflict for you, I mean, to speak about music and culture while people are dying?

Not at all. I’ll tell you. Of course, I left Lebanon long ago when I was a child… War and peace, peace and war, they’ll always be there. In every country, in every place, in different ways we had the cold war and so on. But I feel our role, we as individuals, we have a choice. What do we support? Do we support peace? Do we support a conversation? Do we support to find ways for understanding? To find ways to counter the decisions of war? I wish from my heart that, at a very high level, war will be abolished. Slavery abolished! War abolished! It’s not a choice. [Huda takes a deep breath and there is a little silence; then she smiles and continues] Until this happens, me and you, we make the choice that the way to counter that is finding ways of understanding culture. Culture is the arts, it’s the music, it’s the story of humanity, it’s what you are doing through your writing, documenting our story, through what I’m trying to do: to invest in the youth, invest in every individual. I believe in the message that we can build something together, benefit the humanity. That’s culture. And that’s when music comes in. And that’s why I’m here. Many people do not know what it stands for. And now today we met. So, there’s a curiosity. And from this curiosity we open doors. Where will they take us? I don’t know. But I know one thing: if there is a will, a true will, a true will to build up on civilizations, to build up on the future, to converse and to work together for the embetterment of the humanity using the arts, the music as our tools to bring up a society of happy youth. Let them decide, let them take us. This is what I stand for.

Maestro Péter Eötvös, Paloma O'Shea & Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo at Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía. Photo by Kirill Bashkirov

Maestro Péter Eötvös, Paloma O'Shea & Huda I. Alkhamis at Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía. Photo by Kirill Bashkirov

In your speech at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía for the final concert of the academic year with the Freixenet Orchestra conducted by Péter Eötvös, you said your presence in Madrid was due to two women you admire: Queen Sofia and Paloma O’Shea. From Mrs O’Shea you said you had learnt that in order to become a leader, you have to have a vision, a dream and the will. To me it’s quite clear you have willpower, I can tell, but what’s your vision? What’s your dream? Precisely, now.

[There is a little silence again. Huda closes her eyes and lets her inner voice speak]
My dream is to give the youth the future, the chance for a better life in every single aspect, the chance to be happy through creative thinking, free creative thinking, open the doors for them. Let them feel that they can dream themselves, that they can move forward themselves, that they can get every strength they have, they can find every strength they have and be free, be free! When we have no fear, we are free. My dream is to have a youth with no fear and free in their minds, in their spirits to think and to move forward in every aspect. My currency, my tool is the arts. Music is at the heart. And why music? Because music opens the hearts, it opens the minds, opens the souls and has no boundaries. Get them these tools and let them discover. So, my dream is to have the youth with no fear and with freedom. Freedom of spirit and freedom of the mind.

What would you say, for instance, to young people who feel disappointed? How can they overcome that disappointment with life?

I would tell them one thing: you will need to be disappointed to be appointed in the future! Learn from it, learn from your failure and take it as an advantage and not as a disadvantage.

So what did you learn from your failures?

Perseverance. My failures drove me to the right path. If I fail at something, I know it was not the right way for many reasons. Where are the reasons? 1, 2 3… So, Huda, the right way is to avoid these 1, 2, 3 and go to 4 and 5. But never give up! Never! You know, I celebrate my failure.

Being a woman has it been an advantage or a disadvantage for you in the path towards achieving your dream?

It’s like a diamond with different facets for this question. As a woman, being from the United Arab Emirates, I was lucky. Why? Because the leadership in my country gives equal opportunities for women and men. Prove yourself and we will support you! Talk to us, convince us and we will support you! So, here I am almost 25 years ago going to the leadership and to my supporter one of my major sponsors was here today, who came specially from Abu Dhabi to Madrid for the press conference and the concert. Going to them and tell them “I would like to invest in the youth and everything we were talking about just one minute ago, my currency will be the performing arts at the heart of ii is music, and I’m saying classical music, opera, and I need your money to do that”. At that time there was no music conservatoire, the facilities we have today, we played under the stars. But they understood me. Do you know why they understood me? Because this was their vision. They wanted a better future, they wanted to invest in the youth, they wanted a youth with an open mind… But how do we do it? It’s the individual. It’s for us to move and to help the leadership to move forward. I come from a very young country… So, they saw that and they supported me. And I was lucky in here. I had many obstacles, of course, difficulties? Of course. Challenges? Loads until today. But I took it. So, as a woman I was lucky, because I am from the United Arab Emirates. As a woman with children and husband and babies —my husband comes from a pioneering business family; we have the house open and receive their guests—, I love to be with my children… Family for me is the essence of my life. They are very important. So, to balance that was not easy. But, again, I was privileged to come from a family that we support each other. So, I have my mother, I have the neighbors coming there. So, I took advantage of all that and they help! And we need to help each other. And I am grateful! But a woman today can do everything once she decides and I think in every business, I believe that. It’s only for her to decide and to manage. I think it is so simple.

You have been talking about youth, what would you say to a Western woman who is in her twenties and who is feeling in her own flesh the lack of employment and opportunities?

The first thing I’d say is “Don’t lose hope”. As you said, lack of opportunities and unemployment is very high. I agree with you. But I say: don’t lose hope. Always find a way! Keep your determination. Think of what you want to do and if you have the conviction, then you will do it. Keep your focus. And what I see for the young ladies today… You know, we live in the age of technology, but don’t forget the values. Believe in yourself and keep at it. Never compromise! If you do your job, do it well, from your heart and don’t just do it halfway. Do it perfect!

And why did you decide to go for music and not painting or writing or any other kind of arts?

I really don’t know. They asked me this question many times. Music is so powerful! Music is the ultimate power of the art forms. It’s so abstract yet it so powerful! It’s so reachable! I just love it. I don’t know, I’ve been born this way. My path was followed with music. You know, we are surrounded by magnetic fields, we are surrounded by sounds, we are surrounded by vibes… From the beginning, I must have had these vibes of music that elevate the soul and elevate the person.

You’ve travelled the world, you’ve met lots of people and had lots of interviews, I guess, so what’s the question you’ve never been asked?

There will always be a question that has not been asked, but I don’t know. When it comes, I will answer.

That’s a good answer. Maybe this one is that question. What will happen with all your projects, with your vision, when Huda is no longer there, when you die?

[Huda closes her eyes, gently smiles and starts speaking]
I believe that this vision of conversation, of understanding, of culture, of tolerance, of music from the heart will survive Huda for ever long. It will have to survive. This is what I feel.

What are your musical projects for this year and for the future?

We’ll continue to invest in the youth and the educational programs. These projects of creating new opportunities not only take efforts but continuous funding, continuous work with the students and they come from everywhere in the world. The Abu Dhabi Festival will continue to flourish in the classical music, in the performing arts, in the jazz.

When you look back in life and see the twenty year old Huda, what would you tell her?

Huda, when she was twenty, was studying Arts History in Paris and part of her studies was history of classical music. I went to my dean and I told him “I’m gonna drop this course, I can’t take it, I don’t understand music, I don’t feel music, you’re taking me to the opera Garnier and I’m the only Arab in the class, I feel like a stranger.” And he said: “Huda you don’t drop; please, just be patient. If anyone else told me, I’d say, ok, do so, but you are very sensitive for the music, so please don’t drop.” So I did not. And I say to Huda of the age of twenty: “Thank you Huda for not dropping the history of music! Thank you for working hard, because, Huda, look what you are doing today!”

And what would the twenty year old Huda say to you now?

Oh my god, Huda, Bravo! You made it!

We have been speaking about the youth but what would you tell those people we call elderly, who have a life and think there is nothing left to do?

Talk to me, please. Tell me your story. Tell me how I can keep on. Help me! I need you!

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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The 13 Behaviours Of High Trust Leaders

STBook--CoverHardWhat separates the great leaders from the good ones? What makes a manager a manager of choice by her reports, peers, and boss? What makes an individual credible with customers, suppliers, distributors, investors, and other stakeholders? While there are many dimensions to these questions, there is one common thread throughout: being an individual who can be trusted.

Perhaps a more important question than, “Who do you trust?” is the far more personal question of, “Who trusts you?” There are some organizations who ask all their employees directly the following simple, key question in formal 360º feedback processes:

“Do you trust your boss?”

These companies have learned that the answer to this question is more predictive of team and organizational success than perhaps any other question they might ask.

A High Trust Leader is an individual who has unquestionably strong personal credibility, has the ability to create and grow trust with others interpersonally, and who is then able to extend that trust organizationally.

High Trust Leaders are managers of choice who understand the impact trust always plays on two key outcomes—speed and cost—and how low or high trust either extracts a tax or produces a dividend on every activity and dimension within a relationship, team, or organization.

High Trust Leaders have learned how to interact with others in ways that increase trust levels while avoiding the pitfalls that deplete trust. While there are numerous actions and behaviors that affect trust accounts, we have identified the 13 key behaviors that High Trust Leaders have in common (the first five behaviors are primarily character-based; the second five are primarily competence based; the last three are equal parts character and competence).

As you go through these behaviors, you may also find it valuable to consider the opposite of these 13 behaviors and how such “withdrawals” deplete trust.

What’s most exciting is that these 13 Behaviors of High Trust Leaders can be learned and applied by any influencer at any level within any organization. The net result will be a significantly increased ability to generate trust with all stakeholders in order to achieve better results.

The 13 Behaviors of High Trust Leaders are as follows:

CHARACTER BEHAVIORS

1. Talk Straight

Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Use simple language. Call things what they are. Demonstrate integrity. Don’t manipulate people nor distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions.

“I look for three things in hiring people. The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is a high energy level. But if you don’t have the first, the second two don’t matter.”
- Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire-Hathaway

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
- Oprah Winfrey

2. Demonstrate Concern

Genuinely care for others. Show you care. Respect the dignity of every person and every role. Treat everyone with respect, especially those who can’t do anything for you. Show kindness in the little things. Don’t fake caring. Don’t attempt to be “efficient” with people.

“The end result of kindness is that it draws people to you.” – Anita Roddick, Founder & CEO, The Body Shop

“If people know you care, it brings out the best in them.” – Richard Branson, Founder, the Virgin Group

3. Create Transparency

Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Get real and genuine. Be open and authentic. Err on the side of disclosure. Operate on the premise of, “What you see is what you get.” Don’t have hidden agendas. Don’t hide information.

“The people I have trouble dealing with are people who tend not to give full information. They purposefully leave out parts of the story—they distort facts.”
- Shelly Lazarus, CEO, Ogilvy Mather Worldwide

“Trust happens when leaders are transparent.” – Jack Welch, Former CEO, G.E.

4. Right Wrongs

Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible. Practice “service recoveries.” Demonstrate personal humil- ity. Don’t cover things up. Don’t let personal pride get in the way of doing the right thing.

“What I call Level 5 leaders build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”
- Jim Collins

“Watergate wasn’t so much a burglary as it was the failure to recognize mistakes, to take responsibility for them, and to apologize accordingly.”
- Jon Huntsman, Chairman, Huntsman Corp.

5. Show Loyalty

Give credit to others. Speak about people as if they were present. Represent others who aren’t there to speak for themselves. Don’t badmouth others behind their backs. Don’t disclose others’ private information.

“If you want to retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent because the key to the many is the one.”
- Stephen R. Covey

COMPETENCE BEHAVIORS

6. Deliver Results

Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen. Accomplish what you’re hired to do. Be on time and within budget. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t make excuses for not delivering.

“There is no ambiguity around performance at Pepsi, which some people perceive as harsh. I see it as an important and necessary part of how you operate. You can’t create a high trust culture unless people perform.”
- Craig Weatherup, former CEO, PepsiCo

“Get good people and expect them to perform.” – Bill Marriott, Jr., CEO, Marriott Corp.

7. Get Better

Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner. Develop feedback systems – both formal and informal. Act upon the feedback you receive. Thank people for feedback. Don’t consider yourself above feedback. Don’t assume your knowledge and skills will be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
- Alvin Toffler

8. Confront Reality

Take issues head on, even the “undiscussables.” Address the tough stuff directly. Acknowledge the unsaid. Lead out courageously in conversation. Don’t skirt the real issues. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Confront the reality, not the person.

“We strive to tell everyone everything we can. We want a culture with open dialogue and straight answers. In terms of our work with employees, we have been direct with them even when they don’t like the answer. Our goal is not to please everyone but instead for them to trust that what we tell them is the truth. You can’t work the tough issues we face unless everyone, starting with the senior team, trusts one another.”
- Greg Brenneman, former CEO, Continental AIrlines

“Leaders need to be more candid with those they purport to lead. Sharing good news is easy. When it comes to the more troublesome negative news, be candid and take responsibility. Don’t withhold unpleasant possibilities and don’t pass off bad news to subordinates to deliver.”
- Jon Huntsman, Chairman, Huntsman Corp.

9. Clarify Expectations

Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible. Don’t violate expectations. Don’t assume that expectations are clear or shared.

“Almost all conflict is a result of violated expectations.” – Blaine Lee

“An individual without information cannot take responsibility. An individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.”
- Jan Carlzon, former CEO, Scandinavian Airlines

10. Practice Accountability

Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Take responsibility for results. Be clear on how you’ll communicate how you’re doing – and how others are doing. Don’t avoid or shirk responsibility. Don’t blame others or point fingers when things go wrong.

“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.”
- Booker T. Washington

“Remember, when you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown, you were given a responsibility to bring out the best in others. For that, your people need to trust you.” – Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric

CHARACTER AND COMPETENCE BEHAVIORS

11. Listen First

Listen before you speak. Understand. Diagnose. Listen with your ears… and your eyes and heart. Find out what the most important behaviors are to the people you’re working with. Don’t assume you know what matters most to others. Don’t presume you have all the answers – or all the questions.

“Nothing beats personal, two-way communication for fostering cooperation and teamwork and for building an attitude of trust and understanding among employees.”
- David Packard, Co-Founder, Hewlett Packard

“We’ve all heard the criticism, ‘He talks too much.’ When was the last time you heard someone criticized for listening too much?”
- Norm Augustine, Former CEO, Lockheed Martin

12. Keep Commitments

Say what you’re going to do. Then do what you say you’re going to do. Make commitments carefully and keep them at all costs. Keep commitments the symbol of your honor. Don’t break confidences. Don’t attempt to “PR” your way out of a commitment you’ve broken.

“Trust is established through action and over time, and it is a leader’s responsibility to demonstrate what it means to keep your word and earn a reputation for trustworthiness.”
- Hank Paulson, CEO, Goldman Sachs

“Trust doesn’t mean they tell you everything. It doesn’t mean they don’t posture. But it means if they say, ‘We will do this,’ they will do it. It is credibility. It is integrity.”
- Scott Smith, Publisher, Chicago Tribune

13. Extend Trust

Demonstrate a propensity to trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned your trust. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning your trust. Learn how to appropriately extend trust to others based on the situation, risk, and credibility of the people involved. Don’t withhold trust because there is risk involved.

“People ask me how I’ve had the interest and zeal to hang in there and do what I’ve done. I say, ‘Because my father treated me with very stern discipline: he trusted me.’ I’m stuck, I’ve got to see the trust through. He trusted me. I trust other people. And they did the job.”
- Robert Galvin, Jr., Former CEO, Motorola

“The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him.”
- Henry Stimson, U.S. Statesman

“I have found that by trusting people until they prove themselves unworthy of that trust, a lot more happens.”
- Jim Burke, former CEO, Johnson & Johnson

Stephen M. R. Covey

© 2004, 2008 CoveyLink | www.coveylink.com

Mikhail Pochekin: Six Sonatas & Partitas by J. S. Bach BWV 1001-1006 – Live Concert!

mikhail_banner2.001Next Sunday May 26th 2019 at 7:00 pm, the Russian-Spanish violinist Mikhail Pochekin and former student at the prestigious Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Madrid will offer a recital at Ateneo de Madrid to present and celebrate his acclaimed double CD “J.S. Bach – 6 Sonatas & Partitas for violin solo BWV 1001-1006″ (tickets for just 5€). This is a unique opportunity for people visiting Madrid to enjoy the works of Johann Sebastian Bach performed by a violin virtuoso like Mikhail Pochekin.

PROGRAMME
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Sonata no. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001
I. Adagio
II. Fuga
III. Siciliana
IV. Presto

Partita no. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004
I. Allemanda
II. Corrente
III. Sarabanda
IV. Giga
V. Ciaccona

Partita no. 3 in E major, BWV 1006
I. Preludio
II. Loure
III. Gavotte en Rondeau
IV. Menuet I
V. Menuet II
VI. Bore
VII. Giga

Awarded with the National Prize of Violin “Pablo Sarasate” in Madrid, Mikhail Pochekin has played as a soloist with great orchestras such as the Russian National Orchestra, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and the Swiss Sinfonieorchester Basel.

His double CD, released at the end of January 2019 on Solo Musica, has been acclaimed by different international newspapers such as the German Süddeutsche Zeitung (with reviews by such prominent critics as Harald Eggebrecht and Reinhard Brembeck) and different music magazines around Europe: Pizzicato, Concerti, Audio. In Spain, Mikhail Pochekin’s CD was recommended as “February No. 1″ by Ritmo, as “April 5 Stars” by Melómano and it has been praised by the prestigious classical music magazine Scherzo in May 2019. His double CD has also been highlighted as the best album of the week or the day by different radio stations such as ORF/Ö1 in Viena, Orpheus in Moscow, HR2 in Frankfurt or NDR-Kultur in Hamburg.

Over the first months of 2019, “J.S. Bach – 6 Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Solo BWV 1001-1006″ has been presented in concert in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Moscow. For the recording of this album, Mikhail Pochekin played a violin built by the famous Venetian luthier Francesco Gobetti in 1720.

You can find more information about Mikhail Pochekin here: http://www.mikhailpochekin.com

“I first met Mikhail Pochekin on a cold Sunday morning of snow in Madrid. It was back in February 2018 and I had to cover for the Spanish music magazine Scherzo Pochekin’s recital accompanied by the great pianist Yury Favorin —his Prokofiev’s interpretations have no equal— at Fundación Juan March. When the recital was over, I made for the artist’s dressing room and Mikhail, with those cat eyes of his, as profound as profound his music performances are, talked about his brother Ivan with admiration. They both had just recorded a CD and he gave me a copy as a present to listen to. And that was what I did: listening to it attentively and with delight. After some months touring around Russia and Europe, destiny made us meet again in Becerril de la Sierra, a little town near Madrid, Spain, where Pochekin’s parents have been living for some years already. Mikhail invited me to see his dad’s workshop. Yuri Pochekin is an internationally renowned luthier who has just turned 70 this year. Most of the violins with which the Pochekin brothers play at their recitals have come out of this little workshop. Mikhail Pochekin is a violinist of exciting musicality, impressive technique and deep musical insight; intelligent —he speaks Russian, Spanish, English and German—, friendly and enthusiastic. When it comes down to music, things are clear to him. One of his aims is to bring classical music closer to people of all walks of life.

Mikhail Pochekin’s most important project so far is Bach. He has just recorded the whole sonatas and partitas for violin by the German composer, which will be soon released as a double CD. Playing these works is a challenge for any violinist. And it has been a long and difficult way for Mikhail as well. He has been discovering his own voice over the years: “first you learn this extremely difficult pieces, then you make them your own and then your heart takes over them and the music grows within you”, he says. Mikhail thinks classical music will always stay with us: “Bach does not physically exist since 1750, but his music will exist as long as there are human beings on this planet Earth. We do not only enjoy music, music also makes us think about life, think about eternity. Somehow, we musicians are always playing eternity. And we people are especial thanks to artists like Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Shakespeare, Pushkin or Rafael. And this is what makes us different from animals.” – Michael Thallium

Here you are the official video recorded at St. Ludwig in Berlin-Wilmersdorf:

You, dear reader, if you have just read these lines, and if you ever have the chance to see Mikhail Pochekin play live, come up to him —don’t be shy— and talk to him, let his profound cat eyes take over you. You will see that behind the artist who plays eternity and moves you with sounds, there is also a human being like you and me, a human being who loves to talk with words, someone who is close and friendly.

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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(Español) Arturo Reverter: “Siempre aprendes algo aunque no te des cuenta”

Sorry, this entry is only available in Español.

Andrea Casarrubios, The Wayfarer Of The Strings and The World

Andrea Casarrubios

Andrea Casarrubios, cellist, pianist and composer.

I get up on a Sunday morning as usual. I go out for an early breakfast with my father, a ritual that these days I can only do at the weekends. It has been a while since I last had a look at the classical music new releases section on iTunes. I decide to take a look when I get back home. For different reasons, there are three CDs recently released in February 2019 which draw my attention: the pianist Kirill Gerstein performs the Concerto in C major, op. 29 by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) on Myrios Classics; the picture of some Camille Pépin, a young French composer I have never heard of, appears on the cover of Chamber Music, a CD on Elegant People; then I happen to see another cover of a CD on Odradek Records. The title “Caminante” (Wayfarer) and the name Andrea Casarrubios catch my attention. I have never heard of this woman either. I google her name on the Internet. I find out that Andrea Casarrubios is a Spanish cellist. She also studied piano as a child and later, when she moved to the United States, she studied composition with no more no less than John Corigliano! In fact, the works in the album Caminante have been written by Andrea Casarrubios herself. I keep looking up on some web pages and I can read that she was born in San Esteban del Valle —a little village in the province of Avila, in Castille, Spain— in 1988. She was brought up in Arenas de San Pedro. When I read “Arenas de San Pedro“, I recall the times when, as a child, my parents use to take me to a natural swiming pool of freezing water in Arenas de San Pedro. Who knows, I might even have come across Andrea there when she was little! I also happen to read that Andrea Casarrubios is quite successful in the United States and that she is living now in New York. I don’t know if it was because of my memories of that swimming pool or because of the title Caminante or just because I found it really interesting that Andrea Casarrubios has a successful career in the States, the thing is that I ended up requesting Andrea’s friendship on Facebook and purchasing her CD. Actually, I am listening to Caminante while I am writing these lines.

The first piece is the one that gives the name to the CD, Caminante. It was written in 2014 for cello and choir. It is based on a famous poem by Spanish writer Antonio Machado (1875-1939): A path, Wayfarer, there is none / As you walk on, the path is done. The piece starts with the cello singing a kind of lament, as if Andrea would walk her fingers along the strings of melancholy creating a beautiful melody. Then joins the choir singing the verses of Machado. On the booklet which accompanies this recording, I can read Andrea’s own words saying that she dedicates this work to Alicia Rodríguez Blanco, who guided and supported her throughout her studies and trips abroad.

The next work is Speechless, composed for cello and percussion (vibraphone, cymbal and marimba) duo. It starts with the smooth sound of vibraphone later joined by the cello on lower strings. This work seems to be a journey which starts by the end and it tries to give an answer to the following question: what does it mean to have a voice? Andrea wants this piece to be an experience based on the dialogue of the inner voices of one’s self, following that maxim of never visiting the same place twice. In her search for this vital centre, it looks as if she would be sculpting the music backwards, as if you took off the layers of a finished painting until the first trace, the essence, appeared. Garret Arney is the percussionist who embarks on this Speechless journey towards the essence in a harmonic dialogue with Andrea’s strings and bow.

In Crisol (Melting Pot), Andrea Casarrubios shows her skills and exquisite musicality on the piano. Crisol is an improvisation based on motives from the Sonata no. 39 by Haydn (1732-1809). In words of this Spanish composer and musician, the improvisations begin with my own harmonic and textural language, soon to melt into a musical world from the Romantic era. The music walks through a jazz-like moment and then unveils the purity and simplicity of Classicism, with the second movement of Haydn’s Sonata No. 39, which is harmonically linked to his last movement, the Finale. In fact, the work following Crisol is the Finale of Haydn’s sonata; both blend beautifully as if it were just one and only musical work.

Next piece is Maktub, a trio for cellos. Andrea wrote it while she was living in Los Angeles for the 6th Luigi Boccherini Festival of Arenas de San Pedro, Spain. In Maktub, the cellists Thomas Mesa and Ismar Gomes go along with Andrea Casarrubios on another musical trip full of the flavours of different cultures from Asia, America, Africa and Europe. Maktub finishes with a reference to the last movement of the Sonata opus 109 of Beethoven (1770-1827). Andrea dedicated this work to her parents. How proud they must be of the fabulous artist their daughter is!

The last work of this album is La Libertad se levantó llorando (Liberty rose weeping), a duo for violin and cello written by Andrea on request from the violinist Emily Daggett Smith, who also plays on this recording. It is based on a Pablo Neruda’s poem of the same name. The violin and the cello start a dialogue in a musical cry full of the agresiveness and the vulnerability of the words of those who fight for freedom in the world. Eight and a half minutes into the work, you can hear a female voice reciting Neruda’s poem and I assume it is Andrea’s voice.

With this album, Andrea Casarrubios has shown, with great sensitivity and personal touch, that she is a wayfarer of the strings and the world. Using her fingers and compositional imaginación, Andrea has taken music and emotions closer to the ears of people who dwell upon this planet Earth. Music, dear listener, there is none. As silence walks on the music is gone.

Michael Thallium

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Trio VibrArt: Vibrant Art, Epiphany & Catharsis

Madrid. Café Comercial, 05/12/2018. Trio VibrArt: Miguel Colom (violin), Fernando Arias (cello) y Juan Pérez Floristán (piano). Works of Franz Schubert, Trio No, 2 in E flat major, D929; Dmitri Shostakovich, Trio No. 2 in E minor, op. 67.

By definition, it is impossible to grasp what is ungraspable. And that is what happens “just a little” with that ephemeral art which is music: grasping it becomes impossible. However, —even if we cannot grasp it— that “just a little” is what makes us enjoy music “just a lot”, instant by instant, as time passes by, when the sound waves, by some kind of organic magic, get transformed in our brains and turn into beautiful sounds and harmonic melodies which make us vibrate in tune. Very, very few times that succession of sonic instants turns into truly vibrant art. And that is precisely what the Trio VibrArt achieved at Café Comercial in Madrid. There are moments when you become aware of the transcendence of what you are witnessing, when you realize something is far beyond mere entertainment. I think I am not mistaken by saying that those of us who were witnesses of the Trio VibrArt recital would agree and state that Miguel Colom (violin), Fernando Arias (cello) and Juan Pérez Floristán (piano) created not just good, but exceptional and unique vibrant art. They raised the bar beyond the immense height —and hard to match— of the two composers they performed: Schubert and Shostakovich.

The quality of The London Music N1ghts cycle —sponsored by The London Nº 1— at Café Comercial is growing with each recital. And this is a real challenge for both the artists to come —they are expected to rise the challenge— and the audience attending those recitals —they do not want to be let down. The alma mater of the cycle, Benjamín G. Rosado, hit the bullseye by bringing in the Trio Vibrart to Madrid. On the programme, two chamber music works by two great composers with unmistakable trademarks: the Trio No. 2 in E flat major D929 by Franz Schubert and the Trío No. 2 in E minor op. 67 by Dmitri Shostakovich. These two works are separated by 116 years, but closely connected by the presence of death: Schubert’s work was written in 1828, the year of his death, and it is a real swan song; Shostakovich’s work was written in 1944 amidst the horrors of World War II, it is an anguished song evoking the Jewish holocaust.

Miguel Colom (violin), Juan Pérez Floristan (piano), Fernando Arias (cello).

Miguel Colom (violin), Juan Pérez Floristan (piano), Fernando Arias (cello).

The first part of the recital started with Juan Pérez Floristán as a master of ceremonies. With that particular high pitch and delicate voice of his —something striking given the strength and powerful character of his hands on the piano—, he explained the first of the works to be performed: Schubert’s Trio. It is a quite well known piece —Stanley Kubrik used its second movement in his 1975 film Barry Lyndon— by the audiences. It has four movements: Allegro, Andante con moto, Scherzo and Allegro moderato. It is a work of exquisite melodical beauty and expressive power. In their days, Schumann and Brahms admired this trio above Beethoven’s trios. It was also one of the last works Schubert could see performed before his passing away. It lasts between 40 to 50 minutes. The Trio VibrArt performed this work with a mental and sentimental inner vision, full of clearness and definition, which surpassed the greatness and highness of the schubertian melopoeia.

The second part of the recital was introduced once again by Juan Pérez Floristán in his own distinct voice. It was an invitation to an epiphany and a catharsis. Shostakovich’s work in four movements, full of Jewish melodies and dances, starts with a delicate and melancholic singing of the cello, in an extremely high pitch —all harmonics and really difficult. Then the violin joins in, in a very low pitch and, finally, the piano accompanies them both. The Trio VibrArt achieved the catharsis: expressiveness, anguish, contrast, dynamism, beauty, sentiment, power, struggle, rapture, delicacy… And lo and behold the epiphany: the three Spanish musicians manifested themselves as a real world reference in trio chamber music.

The enthusiastic applause of the audience, aware of the exceptional performance they had just witnessed, had its reward when the cellist Fernando Arias —interestingly, also with a high pitch and delicate voice that does not match the low pitch and powerful sound of his cello— announced that, as an encore, they would be playing one of Federico Mompou’s Scenes from Childhood arranged for the trio by Juan Pérez Floristán. This short arrangement showed, once again, the musical genius and penetrating intelligence of Juan Pérez Floristán. The Trio VibrArt: vibrant, epiphanic and cathartic!

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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Great Music & Performers I Recommend (II)

“Six sonatas & partitas for violin solo” by Johann Sebastian Bach performed by Mikhail Pochekin. Label Solo Musica.

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“America”, works for piano solo by George Gershwin and Astor Piazzola performed by Claudio Constatini. Label Ibs Classical.

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Works for cello and piano by Chopin, Franchomme & Schubert. Steven Isserlis (cello), Dénes Várjon (piano Érard). Label Hyperion.

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Variation on a Rococo Theme & Piano Trio op. 50 by Tchaikovsky performed by Sergei Istomin (cello), Claire Chevallier (fortepiano) and Martin Reinmann (violin). Label Passacaille.

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Works for piano solo by Clara & Robert Schumann, Schubert and Liszt performed by William Youn. Label Sony.

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Michael Thallium

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Fingers, Hands & Messages

The first thick digit, just a simple finger they call thumb.
It is that strong finger which shows all its strength and greatness
when it is lifted up. It is the finger that says:
EVERYTHING is going to be ALRIGHT.

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Never forget that when you point the finger at someone,
there are three other fingers no one see which are pointing at you as well.

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Michael Thallium

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Writing In The Margin And Becoming The World

“There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader’s hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text. The world is one of those books.” ― George Santayana (1863-1952)

2What is life? This is an old question that many of us human beings have been asking ourselves for centuries. Philosophers, scientists, artists, writers, ordinary people… And lots of answers have been given as well; some convincing, some less convincing and some others completely unsatisfactory. But in the end it all comes down to living… and living well. No-one likes problems or having trouble going through life. Unfortunately, we all come across problems in our ways and try to find solutions to them. The thing is that sometimes solutions come hard and it may even seem impossible to find them no matter how hard you try. So, what to do when you have been struggling to change things in your life and you still end up pretty much in the same place? What to do when it seems no transformation is possible? Yes, I know, you may be thinking that there is always “transformation” —something Heraclitus said thousands of years ago—, but I mean that “transformation” you really want in your life. Well, here your are a tip: know your limitations and accept them. This is a good start, but not enough if you still want to transform your life. That is why I chose that quote of Santayana. Let’s assume life is just a book we cannot change. Sometimes its text may be so dull and boring that we want out of our particular chapter. But the text is written in indelible letters and either we keep reading the rest of it or quit, and by “quit” I mean “die”. So, the only alternative we have left is to use our resources to scrawl comments in the margin or add footnotes to make our lives more interesting —and remember, the first person to whom your life must be more interesting is YOU. And this is my suggestion: if you want to transform the book of your life, just start by writing in the margin and become the world you want to live in. Then you may even realize that the assumption that you cannot change the book of your life is wrong.

Now, don’t be fooled. Using your resources requires effort and perseverance. It is nothing magical, but practical, that is, you need practice, practice and practice.

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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George Santayana, Persons And Places

SantayanaEnI am writing these lines while I am listening to Musica Ficta perform the Requiem by Tomas Luis de Victoria. I chose this music for practical reasons. Victoria was born in the province of Avila. He was a catholic priest and arguably the greatest Spanish composer of all times; he spent part of his life in Rome and died in Madrid in 1611. He became a choirboy at Avila Cathedral were he was trained as a musician before leaving for Rome, where he masterfully wrote the greatest music. So, what? What are those practical reasons? Let me first tell you that it is not Tomas Luis de Victoria the one I want to write about, but another man born over 250 years after Victoria’s death: George Santayana. So… what? What is still practical about your reasons? Well, Santayana was born in Madrid and spent his early childhood in Avila before moving to the United States, where he became a philosopher, an essayist, a poet and a novelist. So, what? Santayana loved cathedrals and died in Rome. Can you connect the dots? Madrid, Avila, Rome…

I think I should first explain how I came across George Santayana —quite a chance encounter by the way—, whom I had never heard of in my life. Of course, since he died in 1952, I do not mean I met him personally unless I were dead —knock on wood!— and had that strange power of coming back to life from the afterworld. No, my encounter with him was a bit more intelectual than physical. It was reading Invitation to Philosophizing Following The Spirit and Writings of Antonio Machado (“Invitación a filosofar según espíritu y letra de Antonio Machado”) by Juan David García Bacca —another Spanish philosopher— that I read the name “Jorge Santayana”. It caught my attention, because I had never heard of him before, and my attention turned into curiosity when I found out about him and got to know that Santayana had written all of his books in English. Actually, he changed the Spanish name “Jorge” —roughly pronounced ‘Horhey’— by “George” and he is considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. However, he always remained Spanish. That was striking to me! Was it possible that a Spanish born in 1863 would turn into an American man of letters? After a little research I did, I manage to buy one of his books, Persons and Places, at Menosdiez, a little second-hand bookshop in Madrid downtown. I wanted to try and see whether he really was such a great writer as they said. Santayana had been a nominee to the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Last Puritan (1936), but he was never awarded with the prize, apparently because he was not an American citizen and had always kept his Spanish passport.

And what a great writer he is indeed! I loved Persons and Places, an autobiography written at his late 70s where he beautifully describes an amazing life of academical achievements, travelling and philosophy. The book is divided up into sixteen chapters where he speaks about his origins in Spain, his teenage years in Boston, his achievements at Harvard University as an adult and his later return to Europe when he quit Harvard at age 48.

George Santayana may be the writer —not only prose but poetry as well, see A poet’s testament and O World who best wrote about Spain in English. And for sure reading Persons and Places is a great exercise for those of us who want to master the English language and the knowledge about life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, Spain and Europe. In all that regards himself, his thoughts, or his happiness, Santayana crossed a desert more than once in his life; so that when he looks back over those years, he sees objects, he sees public events, he sees persons and places, but he doesn’t see himself. His inner life, as he recalls it, seems to be concentrated in a few oases, in a few halting places, Green Inns, or Sanctuaries, where the busy traveller stopped to rest, to think, and to be himself. Now you may understand the practical reasons why I chose the music of Victoria while I was writing these lines. If you don’t, don’t worry, maybe someday you too will connect the dots.

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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