Playing the Piano III

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Two sketches from one of Rolf Keller’s sketch book, showing two undidentified pianists. I don’t know if this sketch originated during a concert (perhaps a musical competition, since the sketches seem to show two different people) or during a more private setting. It might have been on a trip to the Sovjet Union as well. Unfortunately, these sketches are not dated and I don’t know when and where they where made. I wonder if it might be possible to identify these pianists. Doing so would yield a clue to when and perhaps these sketches where made.

Rudolf Hünlich – Tree Studies I

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A watercolor study from Rudolf Hünlich’s sketch book, one of several tree and forest studies. Rudolf Hünlich was an uncle of my grandfather Rolf Keller (a brother of his mother). He was a professional graphics artist working as a xylographer. He was only 24 years old when he died of a lung disease. I don’t have the exact dates of his life. I guess the sketch book is from the 1870s or 1880s, but I don’t know exactly. Here is another drawing from that sketch book.

Mathilde Pajeken – Small Sketch Book 2

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Most of the sketches in Mathilde Pajeken’s small sketch book show either boats or coastal landscapes. Most of the boats are sailing boats of the types used during the 19th century for fishing or to transport goods in the coastal areas or northern Germany. There are cutters (“Kutter” in German) and a type of barge with what is called a ketch rigging in English, a type of boat called “Ewer” in German. I am not an expert on these boat types, but as far as I know, the two vessels shown on this sketch are of a type called “Besan-Ewer” in German. These ships typically have two masts, often with gaff rig (as can be seen in the left boat). The second, mast (the mizzen mast, called “Besanmast” in German) is shorter. The left boat has a leeboard (called “Seitenschwert” in German) that can be lowered into the water, and a jigger or jibheaded topsail (“Gaffeltoppsegel” in German), the small extra sail above the gaff.

I hope I am getting these things right. Boat types and especially rigging types are a complex topic, a science in its own right. A complex technology with a rich and elaborate technical language had been developed here, and after the introduction of steam engines and motors, a lot of that was mostly forgotten. I am missing here the expertise of Mathilde Pajeken’s father, my great-great-grandfather, the ship captain Eduard Pajeken, who commanded large sailing ships and who published a textbook of English for sailors, explaining nautical technical terms. It is likely that Mathilde Pajeken had quite some expert knowledge about these topics as well because of her father.

I have not yet managed to read all of the notes that are written on some of the sketches. The last word here seems to be “gelb” (meaning “yellow”) so maybe Mathilde Pajeken noted down some information about the colors since she only had a pencil. A tentative reading of that is written there is “L. hell bl., Segel hell gelb”, meaning “l(eft) light blue, sail light yellow”. However, I am not entirely sure about the reading.

Given the small size of these sketches (8.2 by 11.8 cm) I am astonished at their detail and accuracy. And I like them a lot, maybe because I have grown up in the city of Hamburg, in walking distance of the museum harbour of Övelgönne, where a number of old ships of this kind can still be seen, among them a gaff rigged “Besan-Ewer“.

Mathilde Pajeken lived from 1842 to 1913. These sketches are undated but where probably made around the year 1900. Note that the name is pronounced “paɪkɛn”, the “e” after the “j” is not pronounced, it probably entered the name because of a clerk’s mistake. There are other branches of the same family spelling the name as “Payken”. Originally, the name was probably “Boyken” or “Boyeken”, a Frisian name probably meaning “little boy”.

Mathilde Pajeken – Small Sketch Book 1

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The painter Mathilde Pajeken, a great-grandaunt of me, left a sketch book to us. The book is quite small, about 8.2 by 11.8 centimeters. It contains sketches (in most cases pencil) that where probably made during a trip to northern Germany. A few of these sketches are dated with a day and month, but unfortunately, there is no year given. The first sketches show several ladies and by the dresses and outfits, I would suspect the sketches where made in the 1890s or shortly thereafter. Many of the sketches show sailing boats (most of them probably fishing vessels) or other boats and ships and some coastal landscapes. In some cases the place is indicated, for example “Helgoland” which is an island in the North Sea. As far as we know, Mathilde Pajeken, originally from Bremen in northern Germany, was living in Munich, which is in the south. It is possible that all of these sketches were made during a single trip to northern Germany. We don’t know whether the sketches of ladies on the first pages of the sketch book where made during the same trip or before. These might be people she knew in Munich, but just as well they might be people she met on the train.

On the inside of the book’s cover, there are some notes that seem to be names, but we do not know if they belong to these ladies or are totally unrelated notes.

The first sketch in the book can be seen here. This type of dress, with puffed sleeves, seems to be typical for the 1890s. This is the main evidence that the sketches date to that time.

Playing the Piano II – Kiyoko Tanaka

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20 years ago, on February 26th, Japanese pianist Tanaka Kiyoko (田中希代子) died. Born on February 5th, 1932 in a family of musicians, she had stopped playing the piano in the early 1970s due to a chronic disease, so her initially promissing career had been cut short, although she still gave lessons afterwards. You can find a few recordings of her on the internet, e.g. here:

In 1963, she toured Europe and also gave one concert in Chemnitz (then known as “Karl-Marx-Stadt”). Rolf Keller, attending the concert, sketched her on the concert program. The sketch is dated to Dec. 3rd, 1963. Behind the date, you can see Rolf Keller’s “24”-logo.

Rolf Keller wrote on the programme (to my parrents) “In case Tanaka comes to Hamburg, don’t miss her, A pleasure!” (Sollte die Tanaka nach Hbg. kommen, versäumt sie nicht. Ein Genuß!”).

According to a newspaper clipping added to a letter Rolf Keller sent to my parents, the concert seems to have been scheduled for December 4th, 1963, but Rolf Keller corrected the date on the clipping to December 3rd, the same date that can be found on the sketch, so that is probably the day the concert actually took place. According to one newspaper article I have found here: https://www.nd-archiv.de/artikel/1425488..html, Tanaka played in Dresden on December 10th, in an “Hour of Music” (“Stunde der Musik”), the same title that can be seen on the the program. It looks like there was a regular classical music event by this name that took place in several cities of the GDR.

As can be seen from the program, Tanaka performed pieces of Händel, Haydn, Schumann, Chopin and Hisatada Odaka (1911 – 1951). I could not find a recording of the particular piece of Odaka she played here (“Toccata”) but here is an example of piano music from this composer, played by another Japanese pianist, Kazuko Yasukawa.

Here are the pages of the program, with the sketch:

The black printing ink of the title page has acted like carbon copy paper, creating a faint imprint of the sketch on the page that was opposite. May we take this as a symbol of Tanaka’s tragic life?

Playing the Piano I

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Among Rolf Keller’s sketches, there are several ones showing piano players, so today’s article is just the first in a small series. This sketch is undated, the “24”-Logo identifies the artist as Rolf Keller. The piano is only hinted at by a single line showing one edge of the instrument. The caption reads “Natalia Karra, London spielt ChOPIN” (Natalia Karra, London, plays ChOPIN). I am not sure about the name, but as far as I am familiar with Rolf Keller’s handwriting, it should be “Karra”. I have not found any information about a pianist of this name, however. I don’t know when this sketch was drawn, maybe in the 1940s, when good paper was hard to get, but I am not sure.

A moment of concentration, captured in a few lines.

Reading Stories 2

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Another drawing by Rolf Keller, showing a book being read to my father as a boy. This time, it’s his mother, sitting in a wing chair, reading to him. The ladder, perhaps brought into the room to take the curtains down for washing or to change a bulb, had been turned into a chair (or a throne, a raised hide, a crow’s nest?).

The captions read “Mutti liest aus Marie Hamsuns die Langerudkinder” (“Mom is reading from Marie Hamsun’s The Langerud Children” and “Svend, siebenjährig (oder acht?) in Grüna Villa Rauschenbach” (“Svend, seven years old (or eight?) in Grüna Villa Rauschenbach”).

Since Svend Keller was born in 1928, this might have been in 1935 or 1936. Grüna is the name of the village (near Chemnitz and nowadays a part of Chemnitz) where the Keller family was living before moving into central Chemnitz.