Season two of Keys to the Future, a festival of contemporary music for solo piano, takes place next week, November 7-9 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) at Greenwich House’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall.  The six participating pianists are Lisa Moore, Blair McMillen, Tatjana Rankovich, Lora Tchekoratova, Polly Ferman, and myself. 

On the first night (Tuesday, 11/7), the brilliant pianist Blair McMillen will perform Fred Hersch’s gigantic piece called 24 Variations on a Bach Chorale. Here are some notes by the composer: 

The original chorale melody is by Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612), but was borrowed several times by J.S. Bach, mostly famously as “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunder” in his St. Matthew’s Passion. But I first became familiar with this melody as a teenager in a secular English version known as “Because All Men Are Brothers” with lyrics by Tom Glazer; it was recorded by both The Weavers and Peter, Paul and Mary. After the events of September 11th, 2001, the powerful, timeless melody and those words inspired these variations.”  (Fred Hersch)

On the second evening (Wednesday, 11/8), I will perform Christopher O’Riley’s arrangement of Radiohead’s song Exit Music, which was written specifically for the closing credits of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo and Juliet. The song appears on Radiohead’s highly acclaimed third album, OK Computer (1997). In 2003, Christopher O’Riley released True Love Waits (Sony) the first of two CDs of songs by Radiohead arranged for solo piano. Radiohead’s dense, multi-layered music leans heavily on electronic processing for its moody sonic atmospherics; O’Riley evokes those complex textures with abundant but judicious use of the sustain and soft pedals, a deft use of dissonance and a rhythmically anxious left hand. 

On the third evening (Thursday, 11/9), virtuoso Tatjana Rankovich will play Pierre Jalbert’s Toccata. Here are some notes by the composer:

Having grown up as a pianist and being familiar with the toccatas of Schumann, Prokofiev, Rorem, and the like, I had always wanted to write a short, virtuosic work for the piano. I completed Toccata in the spring of 2001, while living in Rome at the American Academy on a Rome Prize fellowship for the year. Set in rondo-like form, the central feature of the piece is a rapid repeated-note figure, which appears in different guises throughout the work. (Pierre Jalbert)

It’s going to be great fun. I hope you come to one or more of the evenings. For further details, go here.

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