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Keys to the Future will present an evening of Minimalist solo and duo piano works on Sunday, April 5 7:30PM, at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street, between Thompson and Sullivan).

Pianists Stephen Gosling, Blair McMillen, Lisa Moore, Molly Morkoski and Joseph Rubenstein will present a wide range of Minimalist solo and duo works, including Steve Reich’s seminal Piano Phase (1967) and John Adams’ Hallelujah Junction (1996). As the date approached, I thought I’d write a few words about a couple of the pieces on this concert.

I will open the concert with 6 selected works of Howard Skempton. Skempton has worked for decades in England as a composer, accordionist, and music publisher. He studied in London with Cornelius Cardew in 1967 and Cardew helped him to discover a musical language of great simplicity. Since then he has continued to write unaffected by compositional trends, producing more than 300 works – many of which are miniatures for solo piano or accordion. Skempton calls these pieces “the central nervous system” of his work. Many of his compositions have been recorded, including selected piano works performed by John Tilbury on the Sony Classical label. I will be performing 6 works from the 1970s and 80s, the last of which – Well, well Cornelius (1989) – was written as a tribute to Skempton’s teacher.

Lisa Moore will then play Ryan Brown’s Ceramics (2002) – here are some notes by the composer: “My grandmother had an enormous collection of fancy old teacups that she kept in a large glass china cabinet in an immaculate, incredibly quiet, and primarily white-toned living room. I used to clean every single cup by hand when I stayed with her during the summer. The image of all those cups shining in that large, bright, glass-and-mirror cabinet kept coming to me while I was writing Ceramics. This is music for teacups.”

Blair McMillen and Stephen Gosling will conclude the program with Steve Reich’s Piano Phase (1967), which was Reich’s first attempt at translating his famous “phasing technique” from recorded tape to live performance. In Piano Phase the performers repeat a rapid twelve-note figure, initially in unison. As one player keeps tempo with robotic precision, the other speeds up very slightly until the two parts line up again, but one sixteenth note apart. The second player then resumes the previous tempo. This cycle of speeding up and then locking in continues throughout the piece, casting a hypnotic spell.

I’ll try and post here again tomorrow about a couple of the other pieces on the program, which are John Adams’ “Hallelujah Junction” (1996), Ryan Brown’s “Ceramics” (2002), Nico Muhly’s “A Hudson Cycle” (2002), and David Lang’s sublime “Wed” (1997).

“SPOTLIGHT on Minimalism,” takes place this Sunday, April 5, at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City at 7:30PM. Admission is $15. Le Poisson Rouge is on 158 Bleecker Street, between Sullivan and Thompson St. For complete information about this concert and our upcoming 3-day festival of contemporary solo piano music (May 19-21), please check out our newly updated website: http://www.keystothefuture.org/

Any questions can be directed to Le Poisson Rouge: (212) 505-3474 or to info@keystothefuture.org

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you there.

Joseph Rubenstein

Artistic Director, Keys to the Future

“Keys to the Future: SPOTLIGHT on Minimalism” is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

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Keys to the Future is presenting an evening of contemporary four hand piano works this coming Monday, February 9 at 8PM, at a free concert at Mannes College’s Concert Hall. As the date approaches, I thought I’d write a few words about a couple of the pieces on this concert, both of which will be premieres:

The first is a piano duet version of Arvo Pärt’s 1976 organ piece Pari Intervallo. Manon Hutton-DeWys and Evi Jundt will give the this version of Pari Intervallo its U.S. premiere. I heard them rehearse it earlier in the week, and it’s similar to his other works of that period in its use of the style known as “Tintinnabulum”, first introduced in Pärt’s r Alina (1976) and Spiegel Im Spiegel (1978). Pari Intervallo definitely casts a spell, and I would be surprised if this doesn’t become a very popular work for piano duos.

Here are a few comments from composer Bruce Stark about his Four, which will be played by virtuosos Karén Hakobian and Gabriel Escudero:

Four is a set of variations based on two themes: one is quick and syncopated, the other broadly lyrical. The title refers to a predominant structural motif of  the piece: four variations, four hands, 4/4 time, and the lyrical theme is (mostly) comprised of four phrases of four notes moving up (or down) a scale. Every variation uses both themes, providing contrast and imparting a sonata-like quality to some of the music. There is no definitive presentation of the material; each variation offers a version, like viewing the same object through four different lenses.

Bruce will be unable to make the concert, as he lives in Tokyo, but through the magic of the internet he has been guiding the pianists on their interpretation of this robust piece.

I’ll try and post here again tomorrow about a couple of the other pieces on the program, which are Andrew List’s Mystical Journey (2005), William Bolcom’s Recuerdos No. 1 (1985), Doug Opel’s Dilukkenjon (2002), and Steve Reich’s seminal Piano Phase (1967), which will be performed by the awesomely talented Keys regulars Blair McMillen snd Stephen Gosling.

“Keys to the Future: SPOTLIGHT on Four Hand Piano” will take place Monday, February 9 at 8PM at Mannes College’s Concert Hall in New York. Admission is free. For complete information about this concert and about our upcoming “SPOTLIGHT on Minimalism” concert (April 5) and our annual 3-day Festival of contemporary solo piano music (May 19-21), please check out our newly updated website:

http://www.keystothefuture.org/

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you there.

Joseph Rubenstein, Artistic Director, Keys to the Future

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The Keys to the Future festival, at Greenwich House’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall, presents 3 consecutive nights of recent solo piano music – each concert features 4 pianists. The fundamental premise of this festival is that the contemporary scene is characterized by unprecedented diversity, and that that is a good thing. On these poly-stylistic programs, sometimes the only thing that two given pieces on one of our programs have in common is that they are notated and contemporary. I prefer this to a concert of works all in the same style – when a post-minimalist work follows an atonal modernist work on the same program, they tend to highlight characteristics in each other in interesting and unexpected ways. Audiences have really responded to this aspect of the shows.

A few words about a couple of the pieces on Evening 3 (Thursday, March 27 at 8PM). Bang on a Can alumnus Lisa Moore, virtuoso Tatjana Rankovich, Yukiko Tanaka and I will play works of Chick Corea, Kevin Puts, Ingram Marshall, John Adams, Arvo Pärt, Bruce Stark and Robert Muczynski.

Here are a few comments from composer Kevin Puts about his “Alternating Currents”, which will be played by Lisa Moore: “Writing piano music is a daunting task due to the enormous repertoire of great works pianists already have available to them. So in my preliminary improvisations for Alternating Current I allowed myself to gravitate toward the aspects of piano pieces I have studied since childhood: the motoric clarity of toccatas by Bach, the ennobling harmonic progressions of Beethoven’s slow movements, the terrifying neurosis of Ravel’s Scarbo. The title refers to the use of alternating meter which occurs in all three movements, and also to the flowing nature, which characterizes the entire work. The movement that will be performed by Lisa Moore is quick and Baroque. Like the other two movements, this movement ‘alternates’ in mode as well as meter, shifting between the key signatures of D and F.”

And a few words from composer Robert Muczynski about his “Desperate Measures (Paganini Variations)”, which Tatjana Rankovich will play: “It was 1992, and I was at a loss as to what direction to take for my next composition. Over the years I’d produced a considerable amount of solo piano music as well as sonatas and trios for instruments of all sorts of combinations. One evening I was enjoying a drink with a good friend and remarked ‘I know it may sound like a silly idea, but ever since I was a music student I had this notion of doing some piano variations on the Paganini “Caprice” – and now I think I’d like to have a crack at it; I must be desperate!’ That’s how the title (and pun) came about, Desperate Measures… It consists of the theme and twelve variations. My variations are not grand, etude-like, nor European-born (Brahms, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, etc.)… I think of them more as entertainments.”

Chick Corea’s “Children’s Songs” are lively and brief, little capsules like the Chopin Preludes; “China Gates” is probably familiar to many of you, but this is Lisa’s first time performing it, so I know she will bring her own special flair to it; Ingram Marshall’s “Authentic Presence” is profound and totally unique; and Bruce Stark’s “Fugue, Interlude and Finale” is a whirlwind tour de force, which is tailor-made for Tatjana’s take-no-prisoners style. Hope to see you there! For more complete info, please check www.keystothefuture.org.

Thanks!
Joseph Rubenstein
Artistic Director, Keys to the Future

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The Keys to the Future festival, at Greenwich House’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall, presents 3 consecutive nights of recent solo piano music – each concert features 4 pianists. The fundamental premise of this festival is that the contemporary scene is characterized by unprecedented diversity, and that that is a good thing. On these poly-stylistic programs, sometimes the only thing that two given pieces on one of our programs have in common is that they are notated and contemporary. I prefer this to a concert of works all in the same style – when a post-minimalist work follows an atonal modernist work on the same program, they tend to highlight characteristics in each other in interesting and unexpected ways. Audiences have really responded to this aspect of the shows.

On Evening 2, Amy Briggs Dissanayake, David Friend (winner of our first young artists competition), Stephen Gosling and I will play works of Chester Biscardi, Hans Otte, David Rakowski, Martin Kennedy, Charles Wuorinen, William Bolcom, John Musto, Elena Kats-Chernin, John Halle and Derek Bermel. Now a few words about a couple of the pieces.

Pianist Amy Briggs Dissanayake has become the leading new music pianist in Chicago, and is a great performer and protégé of Ursula Oppens. On the first half of Wednesday’s concert, she will play four etudes of David Rakowski. She has recorded two CDs of them, and is about to do a third. Two of them marry jazz styles (stride piano in “Strident” and bop in “Bop it”) to harmonies that sound post-Schoenbergian. One of them (“Plucking A”) has Amy doing all kinds of things inside the piano – in addition to occasional notes played normally on the keys, it exploits, in an eerily beautiful way, harmonics, plucked strings, and stopped (or muted) tones, in which one hand damps the strings near the pins while the other strikes the keys. The fourth Etude (“Martler”) is about hand crossings, and makes a stunning musical and visual effect on stage.

On the second half, Amy will close the concert with five contemporary ragtime pieces by Bolcom, Musto, Kats-Chernin, Halle and Bermel. All five of these talented composers take the basic ragtime concept in five different directions. Derek Bermel’s “Carnaval Noir” is summarized by the composer as “Ragtime meets South American street fair.” This set will be a lot of fun, and will cap a very diverse program – Otte’s piece combines minimalism with improvisatory elements, Charles Wuorinen’s “Bagatelle” is quiet and haunting, and the rest…well, hopefully you will see and hear for yourself. For more detailed info, please check our website www.keystothefuture.org. Hope to see you at the shows! Please look for some notes on Evening 3’s program in a day or two…

Joseph Rubenstein
Artistic Director, Keys to the Future

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The Keys to the Future festival, at Greenwich House’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall, presents 3 consecutive nights of recent solo piano music – each concert has 4 pianists. The fundamental premise of this festival is that the contemporary scene is characterized by unprecedented diversity, and that that is a good thing. Each of the 3 evenings presents some strange juxtapositions of styles – sometimes the only thing that two pieces on one of our programs have in common is that they are notated and contemporary. I prefer this to a concert of works all in the same style – when a post-minimalist work follows an atonal modernist work on the same program, they tend to highlight characteristics in each other in interesting and unexpected ways. Audiences have really responded to this aspect of the shows.

A few words about a couple of the pieces. On Evening 1, Marina Lomazov, Blair McMillen, Tatjana Rankovich and I will play works of Louis Andriessen, Poul Ruders, Joan Tower, John Fitz Rogers, Joseph Rubenstein and Henry Martin. Andriessen’s “The Memory of Roses” presents a particularly intimate and personal side of the composer’s work. Over the last 4 decades, Andriessen has written short pieces for family and friends, often performed at birthdays. He decided to collect 20 of these pieces, and I will be playing the 7 of these works that are for solo piano. These are very small-scale charming works with all kinds of stylistic influences, from Chopin and Chabrier to Stravinsky and Cage. Speaking of the latter, one of these short works (“Chorale”) was written and completed the day John Cage died and is a moving tribute. There is another piece that can be played on music box or piano (I’ll play it on piano), that uses exclusively the highest register of the piano, to beautiful effect.

Closing Evening 1, the phenomenal virtuoso and new music champion Tatjana Rankovich will play 4 Preludes and Fugues by Henry Martin. Henry has composed Preludes and Fugues in each key – obviously, they look back to Bach but they are also firmly rooted in the present – particularly the Preludes, but even the Fugues manage to sound contemporary. (This is not easy to do.) There isn’t any way to pigeonhole these pieces – neo-Baroque and neo-Romantic both apply to some extent, but none capture the totality of the music. The final Prelude and Fugue, in one movement and subtitled “A Slow Drag,” is a technical tour de force and a lot of fun – it closes Opening Night of our little festival down at Greeenwich House.

The Rogers “Variations” is a monumental neo-Romantic work of ‘face-melting’ virtuosity – Marina plays the hell out of it. Tower’s “Throbbing Still” is aggressive and viscerally powerful, and Blair plays the hell out of it. The Ruders has minimalist and jazz influences. My “Romance No. 2 (aurora)” is a flowing, hybrid work in which I express my love for the instrument. For more info, please check our website www.keystothefuture.org. Hope to see you at the shows! I’ll write some more notes tomorrow about Evening 2.

Joseph Rubenstein
Artistic Director, Keys to the Future

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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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Keys to the Future is an annual festival of contemporary music for solo piano here in New York City.  This year’s event will take place November 7-9 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) at Greenwich House’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall. If you’re interested in checking out pertinent information, the website is http://www.keystothefuture.org/ or you can contact me directly at joe@keystothefuture.org.

The six pianists participating this year are: Lisa Moore, Blair McMillen, Tatjana Rankovich, Lora Tchekoratova, Polly Ferman, and myself. I thought I’d talk briefly here about the Festival and then focus on one piece from each of the three programs.

My goal as Artistic Director of Keys is to get listeners up to speed on what’s been happening in recent years with solo piano music. This season, the Festival has opened up a bit to include a handful of pieces from the 1970s and 80s. Keys to the Future has embraced the stylistic diversity of the contemporary scene, and you will hear pieces on the same evening of a type that are rarely if ever performed on the same program (for example, a short work by Berio followed by an arrangement of a Radiohead tune on 11/8).

Here’s a look at three of the pieces:

On the first night (Tuesday, 11/7), the brilliant pianist Lisa Moore will perform Henri Dutilleux’s Le Jeu des Contraires (Prelude No. 3) (1989). Here are some notes on the work by Etienne Moreau:

“The piano has been—and continues to be, at age 90—a source of inspiration to Dutilleux, his piano works providing a significant key to the evolution of his aesthetic beliefs. The possibilities in terms of sound offered by its harmonic richness and the diversity of its timbres attract Dutilleux to the instrument.

In Le Jeu the composer has concentrated all his harmonic, rhythmic and acoustic ability, displaying a remarkable mastery of ‘mirror’ writing. This piece seems to represent the very culmination of the musical and sound world of Henri Dutilleux, exemplifying the merging of intelligence and instinct inherent in all his compositions.”

On the second evening (Wednesday, 11/8), I will perform Arvo Pärt’s “Für Alina.”

Pärt composed “Für Alina” in 1976, and this little piece announced – quietly, thoughtfully – the arrival of his “tintinnabuli style.” The music is reminiscent of ringing bells, hence the name. Tintinnabuli works are rhythmically simple, and do not change tempo. It was written originally as a gift for an Estonian girl on her own in London.

On the third evening (Thursday, 11/9), virtuoso Tatjana Rankovich will play Bruce Stark’s “Winged.” Here are some comments on the work by the composer:

“The notion of angels has been a source of musical inspiration to me for years. Often the mere thought of other-worldly, high-energy beings in unseen dimensions brings forth a rush of ideas, as though they were eager to share their cosmic music if only I would turn them a listening ear. Winged is in one movement containing essentially two parts. The first and largest part represents a visitation by angels from invisible worlds, depicted in materials ranging from swirling figures to gentle melodic passages to ecstatic outpourings. After their disappearance, the last part (introduced by a low drone in the bass) represents a reminiscence from the human perspective on having witnessed these wondrous creatures. Here I quote the famous Christmas song Angels We Have Heard On High in fragments, with a slight reference to its “Gloria” section as the work closes.”

I hope you come to one or more of the evenings. It should be fun. Please take a look on Sequenza21.com next Friday for my third and final post.

 

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Keys to the Future is a festival of contemporary music for solo piano that began here in New York in 2005. Season 2 takes place November 7-9 (Tues., Wed. and Thurs.) at Greenwich House’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall. (If you haven’t been there, this intimate hall is ideal for listening to piano music.) If you’re interested in checking out pertinent information, the website is http://www.keystothefuture.org/, or you can contact me directly at joe@keystothefuture.org. The six pianists involved are: Lisa Moore, Blair McMillen, Tatjana Rankovich, Lora Tchekoratova, Polly Ferman, and myself. I thought I’d talk briefly here about the Festival and then focus on one piece from each of the three programs.

My goal as Artistic Director of Keys is to get listeners up to speed on what’s been happening in recent years with solo piano music. In 2005, we were fairly rigid about the pieces on the programs being very recent, but this season, the Festival has opened up a bit to include a handful of pieces from the 1970s and 80s. My rationale was that pieces by a great but little-known British composer like Howard Skempton are so rarely performed that, despite the fact that some were composed 25 years ago, they will be as new to most listeners. The Festival has embraced the stylistic diversity of the contemporary scene, and you will hear pieces on the same evening of a type that are rarely if ever performed on the same program (for example, a short work by Berio followed by an arrangement of a Radiohead tune on 11/8).

Now to 3 of the pieces:

On the first night (Tuesday, 11/7), I will play 8 short works by the aforementioned Howard Skempton. These pieces combine minimalism and the English folk tradition, expressed in the form of extremely condensed miniatures, some of which last for less than a minute. Three of the pieces were composed in memoriam: for Cornelius Cardew (“Well well Cornelius”), John Cage (“Of Late”) and Morton Feldman (“Toccata”). I thought rather than start the Festival with a dazzling virtuosic showpiece, I’d begin the Festival with some peaceful, meditative sounds.

On the 2nd evening (Wednesday, 11/8), brilliant pianist Tatjana Rankovich will open the program with Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s “Music for Piano” (1997). Ali-Zadeh is a native of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan whose eloquent music is poised between the Middle East and the modernist West. “Music for Piano” is notable for turning the middle register of the instrument into a stand-in for the “tar,” a long-necked lute played across the Middle East and Central Asia. To accomplish this, Tatjana will prepare the instrument with a beaded necklace over the central portion of the strings inside, as instructed in the score.

On the third evening (Thursday, 11/9), Polly Ferman, the world’s foremost specialist in the piano music of Latin America, will close the program with Osvaldo Golijov’s “Levante: Fantasy on a Chorus from the ‘St. Mark Passion’” (2004). This is Golijov’s first piano work. Based on the eleventh section of his 2001 Passion–a setting of the story of Judas offering to betray Jesus for silver coins–the piece is fired by Latin American dance rhythms. The composer has compared the section to a raucous Cuban meal in which a drunken priest relates the biblical narrative. Interestingly, in the process of transcription to piano, the music morphed from Cuban rhythms to tango.

I hope you come to one or more of the evenings. It should be fun. Please take a look on Sequenza21.com next Friday for my second post.

Joe
Joseph Rubenstein
Artistic Director, Keys to the Future

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