Monday, August 31, 2009


The first time I heard classical music, I was staying over at my Grandma Brennaman’s house in Dayton. She would play it while Grandpa was at work, just softly in the background. I never really thought about it all that much until later in life, when I was introduced to what would be my favorite composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, considered the last of the Russian Romantics (along with Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov). One piece of music I always count amongst my favorites is his Piano Concerto No. 2, which I will listen to often while writing.

Yet the piece that fascinates me, as it does with so many musicians of any ilk, is his Third Concerto, which is often considered the most difficult piece to play. It was even rumored that Rachmaninoff himself declared if anyone was to play it better than he did live, he’d never play it again. And that day did come, when Vladmir Horowitz accomplished the feat while performing for Rachmaninoff in the basement of Steinway & Sons in 1928. Rachmaninoff was so impressed, he never performed it live – only once recording it with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1939.

If you have seen the movie “Shine,” the docudrama of pianist David Helfgott, then you would know it is Concerto No. 3 (often called “Rach 3”) that drives him to a psychotic break. Helfgott was one of only a few who actually performed the piece live, along with Horowitz, Rachmaninoff himself, and Martha Argerich (the only woman to perform it ever). Check out her performance below with the Berlin Orchestra:

A difficult wine region to understand is Italy, due to the vastness of the wine producing landscape, as well as the overwhelming number of grape varieties cultivated for grape production, as well as many grapes with regional pseudonyms – I always find it difficult to talk to customers without a little information overload on my part.

One particular region I really get into and enjoy promoting to customers is Sicily. Due to its almost perfect climate of warm summer days and cool coastal breezes on all sides at night, the wines emerging from this region are breathtaking, and many at a terrific value. The Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2007 is a 60%/40% blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, two indigenous grapes that are really getting a lot of attention. Nero d’Avola often promotes itself as Sicily’s answer to Merlot, with bright red fruit, well-balanced acidity, and a soft fruit finish. Frappato is a less-known grape that lends its spicy, juicy character to this blend, which is the newest DOCG appellated wine from Sicily (the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – which denotes the highest quality in wine from Italy). Soft, medium-bodied, with a great deal to offer, this uncomplicated wine in the guise of something quite complicated is something to enjoy at almost any time. Likewise, Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 is a gorgeous piece of music that, once you get past its reputation, is something you can enjoy anytime.

Try them together. It may be an unconventional pairing, but it will be pleasing nonetheless.

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