Archive for the “Piano” Category

Pianist Marilyn Nonken is performing Triadic Memories on June 4 in Philadelphia as part of “American Sublime,” a festival devoted to the works of Morton Feldman. Marilyn was kind enough to tell us a bit about working on Feldman’s music, as well as some of her other upcoming projects.

-What were your early encounters with Feldman’s music like?

I can’t remember my first live Feldman experience as a listener. One of the first works I remember hearing was FOR SAMUEL BECKETT. My first experience playing Feldman was with Ensemble 21, when we performed VIOLIN VIOLA CELLO PIANO, which was just a transformative experience for me, as a chamber player. After that experience, I very much wanted to find a solo work of his to perform and possibly record.

Listening to Feldman is special because there is that great luxury of time. It can take, in TRIADIC MEMORIES for example, maybe a half-an-hour or forty-five minutes to get acclimated to the environment of the work, and to become familiar with the kinds of things that happen in that special environment. In each of his pieces, I think, there’s an extended period where the materials introduce themselves, so to say.It’s not dynamic in the sense of something happening right away, or a conflict being presented, or a big question being asked — and so I feel it’s best to not aggressively try and “figure out” what is happening.

– Which pieces by Feldman have you performed?

VIOLIN VIOLA CELLO PIANO, EXTENSIONS 1, THE VIOLA IN MY LIFE, INTERSECTION 2, PALAIS DE MARI, and TRIADIC MEMORIES —

– What do you think Feldman meant by titling a piece Triadic Memories?

Feldman’s piano music is all about decay, what he would refer to as a kind of receding landscape …. For me, that sense of resonance and the dying of the sound is perhaps the most important part of the piece. His harmonies are gorgeous, very lush and evocative — but as beautiful as they are, more of the piece is spend listening to them fade.

– When did you record Triadic Memories for Mode? Has your performance of the work changed over time?

I believe this is 2004, recorded perhaps summer 2003. I’m sure my performance has changed — although not drastically. In terms of timing and rhythmic precision, I believe it’s very consistent with the recorded version. I’m still convinced by that “magic” (for me) tempo and the specificity of the rhythms, and the way I first conceived of articulating them. But I do feel that I’ve become more sensitive to the harmonic nuances of the work, as I’ve become more familiar with it over the years —  the way I voice things, and the way I anticipate the decay, I think, has become more personal.

– While they’re not often showy, Feldman’s pieces make significant demands of their own on performers. Can you tell us a bit about those, and how you prepare to perform Triadic Memories in concert?

I feel these works are very virtuosic, despite the fact that they’re not fast and full of passagework. There’s a moment-to-moment control that Feldman requires, in terms of dynamic and timbre and attack, which requires a tremendous amount of physical and mental preparation. To be that attuned to the smallest nuances, and physically in total control, for such a significant span w/o any real “recess” requires a special kind of concentration. For me, there is no substitute for playing the work — in real time, w/o interruption, — daily for at least a week or two before the concert. There is always detail-work to be done (specificity of rhythms, defining colors, making certain that the surface of the work is somehow “flawless” and w/o rupture — but doing everything sequentially, in tempo, is always a test.

– After Triadic Memories, what are some of your upcoming projects?

I’m very excited to be working again with the fabulous pianist Sarah Rothenberg on a four-hand Kurtag program, combining (as the composer himself has done) Kurtag’s JATEKOK with his Bach transcriptions, presented as a concert program on an upright piano. Sarah and I had a fantastic time working on Messiaen’s VISIONS DE L’AMEN, touring and recording it, and this is a very different and intimate kind of project —  I’m also preparing for a recording of American spectralist composer Joshua Fineberg’s complete solo piano music, which will appear on CD with Hugues Dufourt’s recent ERLKONIG — a follow-up to my complete Murail disc. It will feature a new work written for me by Joshua, amd I am very much looking forward to touring with that, as a complete program in itself. And just after this Festival, I’m recording Elizabeth Hoffman’s “organum let open,” a beautiful work she wrote for me last year, based on texts of theatre artist George Hunka. It’s wonderful to be doing such recent music, and inspiring to be working with such talented composers.

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Turkish pianist Seda Röder has been around these parts more than a few times; sometimes for her wonderful playing and sometimes for her wonderful podcasts. Now an Associate at Harvard, since coming over to the U.S. in 2007 (after graduating the Mozarteum in Salzburg) Seda has been a bit of a whirlwind when it comes to new music. Not content to take the standard performer’s trajectory, Seda gives almost equal measure to not onlyconcertizing, but also informing and promoting on behalf of the lesser-known — both newer and older — corners of modern classical music.  Of course, in one of the corners most dear to her lies the work of living Turkish composers, a corner most of us have never paid any attention to.

Now Seda has taken a pretty big step on the way to rectifying that gap in our awareness: first, with the release of her new CD Listening to Istanbul, a collection of six newly-commissioned piano works by Turkish composers both established and emerging; and second, through a marvellous accompanying website that amplifies the CD and the works on it with all kinds of extra information, background, notes and interviews with the composers themselves.

Here composer Tolga Tüzün talks about his work Permanence:

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(Houston, TX) On February 25th and 26th at 8pm and February 27th at 2:30 pm (the third date added due to popular demand), the Houston Chamber Choir and Da Camera present Music for Rothko, a concert program of contemporary music in one of Houston’s most unique performance spaces. All three performances are sold out.

Presented in the interior of Rothko Chapel, the Music for Rothko program includes piano works by John Cage and Erik Satie, Tagh for the Funeral of the Lord for viola and percussion by Tigran Mansurian, and choral compositions by John Cage including Four. Feldman’s Rothko Chapel for soprano, alto, choir, celesta, and percussion, is the centerpiece of the program. The performers include the Houston Chamber Choir conducted by Robert Simpson, pianist Sarah Rothenberg, percussionist Brian Del Signore, and violist Kim Kashkashian in her first Houston appearance in more than 20 years.

New Yorker Magazine music critic Alex Ross recently tweeted: “It’s Rothko Chapel week” in reference to several performances taking place this week across the country of Feldman’s elegy for his friend painter Mark Rothko. It is exciting to find out via Twitter that this piece is receiving so much well deserved attention. Last Fall on Sequenza 21, I wrote about the Houston Chamber Choir and this upcoming concert. But I didn’t know at the time that several other performances of the piece would take place within a short span of time. And now I’m interested in contemplating what will set the Houston performance of Rothko Chapel apart from those taking place in other cities?

In his wonderful collection of writings Give My Regards to Eighth Street, Feldman describes Rothko’s paintings as “…an experience in depth…not a surface to be seen on a wall.” Music for Rothko will be complimented by the fourteen paintings Rothko painted for Rothko Chapel; and this setting is one that venues in other cities will not be able to approximate. Rothko’s paintings seem to move beyond the edges of the canvases, their surface appearances changing constantly thanks to the light coming through the chapel’s skylight and Houston’s unpredictable weather patterns. A fusion between the paintings, the architecture of the octagonal room, AND the live music is in store for the chapel’s capacity audiences.

Rothko Chapel

Music for Rothko takes place February 25th and 26th at 8pm and February 27th at 2:30pm at Rothko Chapel. All three Music for Rothko concerts are sold out.

A standby list will be created beginning one hour before the performances, and if there are unoccupied seats, ticket will be sold for $35 at the door beginning about 10 minutes before the concert begins.

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Russian composer/theosophist/sensualist Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) spent a lot of his life dreaming of a kind of sensory extravaganza, pieces that would submerge the audience in swirling sound, dance, colored light, heady aromas… Yeah, kind of like the 60s, but a little more Old-World refined. One result of Scriabin’s musical synasthesia was that he held very specific views on which colors were inextricably tied to each key and note. As Wiki tells it:

In his autobiographical Recollections, Sergei Rachmaninoff recorded a conversation he had had with Scriabin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov about Scriabin’s association of colour and music. Rachmaninoff was surprised to find that Rimsky-Korsakov agreed with Scriabin on associations of musical keys with colors; himself skeptical, Rachmaninoff made the obvious objection that the two composers did not always agree on the colours involved. Both maintained that the key of D major was golden-brown; but Scriabin linked E-flat major with red-purple, while Rimsky-Korsakov favored blue. However, Rimsky-Korsakov protested that a passage in Rachmaninoff’s opera The Miserly Knight supported their view: the scene in which the Old Baron opens treasure chests to reveal gold and jewels glittering in torchlight is written in D major. Scriabin told Rachmaninoff that “your intuition has unconsciously followed the laws whose very existence you have tried to deny.”

Scriabin’s grand schemes barely came to fruition during his life, but that’s never stopped later generations from debating, analyzing or even attempting realizations of his ambitious vision. One such attempt is in store for New Yorkers this coming Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 25th and 26th., at the Jerome Robbins Theater (located within the Baryshnikov Arts Center, 450 West 37th Street). Georgian pianist Eteri Andjaparidze and lighting designer/Macarthur Grant “genius” Jennifer Tipton will be mowing through a wide swath of Scriabin’s piano music, all accompanied by lighting inspired by his ideas on musical colors. More information on time and tix here; And to warm up your ears here’s a recording of Vladimir Sofronitsky playing Scriabin’s Sonata No.4, which will be on the concert:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAeLmHxrYxM[/youtube]

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Two more pieces of recommended listening from the BBC Proms concerts: Robin Holloway’s Reliquary transforms Schumann’s, er, problematic Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart into a genuinely beautiful, affecting work. It’s reminiscent of reconstructions and expansions of 19th century music by Berio and Schnittke, and you can listen to it here until Thursday.

Jonathan Dove’s A Song of Joys for chorus and orchestra is a brief and buoyant setting of Walt Whitman. How appropos to see Galen’s post on the influence of John Adams, because that’s who I would have guessed composed this work if I heard it without knowing the composer. However, Dove isn’t an upcoming student composer–he’s 51 years old, and was influenced by Adams ahead of the curve of plenty of other composers his age. The BBC disagrees with me about Dove’s youth, however, where the announcer matter of factly describes him as a “young” composer. I guess Elliott Carter has raised the average age of composers. I turn 50 in November, and I just started writing pieces again. Wow, I’m a young composer!

You can listen to Dove’s A Song of Joys here (give it a try, it’s under 5 minutes).

Finally, Kathy Supove’s The Exploding Piano concert at Le Poisson Rouge from August is available in full at WQXR.  Just click here to listen to lots of piano and electronics and Kathy making what sounds to me like chipmunk noises (intentionally per composer Michael Gatonska’s request). While the streaming can’t convey Kathy’s brilliant red hair or whatever fantastic outfit she wore that evening, the whole concert is a nice preview of her new CD, The Exploding Piano. A neat feature about this page is that unlike other streaming broadcasts, you can isolate individual works on the program. My favorite was Missy Mazzoli’s Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos. I don’t hear any Adams at all in her trippy work, so there’s at least one young star on the rise owing nothing to Big John.

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The final American Modern Ensemble concerts of the season are happening this Thursday and Friday (June 24 and 25, 8pm) at Faust Harrison Pianos.

Stephen Gosling and Blair McMillen will be throwing-down on works for two pianos by John Adams (Hallelujah Junction), John Corigliano (Chiaroscuro), Mary Ellen Childs (Kilter), Amanda Harberg (Subway), Doug Opel (Dilukkenjon), Frederic Rzewski (Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues), and the world premiere of Deep Blue Ocean by AME founder and Artistic Director, Robert Paterson.

There will be limited seating over at Faust Harrison so you might want to save a couple bucks over the price at the door by ordering online (or ordering by phone at 800.838.3006).  They are even throwing in a free CD for every ticket purchased online.

You can also listen to short interviews with Blair McMillen and Robert Paterson about their experiences working with composers here (Blair) and here (Robert).

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I don’t normally quote press releases wholesale, but I don’t know what I could better in my own account (though be sure to read the last paragraph for some extra sweet deals). So…

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On Thursday, May 20th, Metropolis Ensemble will present Home Stretch, in two performances featuring the compositions of composer/pianist Timothy Andres presented alongside two composers who have inspired his unique style: Wolfgang Mozart, and the father of ambient music, Brian Eno.  Also featured will be the New York Premiere of Anna Clyne’s elegiac work for string orchestra, Within Her Arms. In keeping with Metropolis Ensemble’s mission to re-imagine the concert experience, each audience member will be handed a chair as they enter the Angel Orensanz Center and will be allowed to seat themselves where they like, giving them the opportunity to control their concert experience and to create a more social and interactive environment.

Andres‘ piano concerto, Home Stretch, was written as a companion piece to Mozart’s K. 465. He explains that, “My last attempt at a piano concerto was when I was 15, and since then, I’ve mostly lost interest in the typical “virtuosity for its own sake” soloist versus orchestra dynamic of the genre. Luckily, the Mozart-sized forces led me to approach Home Stretch as chamber music, allowing for more subtle gestures and interplay between musicians.”

For the concert Andrew Cyr, Metropolis Ensemble’s Artistic Director/Conductor, asked Andres to write music to pair with Home Stretch, which led to Brian Eno: Paraphrase on themes of Brian Eno. Andres remarks that, “I immediately thought of the spacious, static opening section of Home Stretch and the huge debt it owes to Eno’s harmonies and timbres. The result is a 19th-century style “orchestral paraphrase” on the subject of Eno’s music, focusing on the albums Before and After Science and Another Green World, with some Apollo by means of an introduction.

Much of the solo part of, Piano Concerto No. 26 “Coronation”, one of Mozart’s most popular concertos, was left unfinished by the composer. Inspired by the conception of music as a living art form, Metropolis Ensemble has commissioned Andres to compose new music for the left hand part as well as an entirely new solo cadenza to be performed on the evening concert by Andres.

Anna Clyne‘s Within Her Arms was a 2009 commission from Esa-Pekka Salonen as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella series. Metropolis Ensemble presents the New York Premiere of this work for string orchestra. Within Her Arms, dedicated to Clyne’s mother, brings to mind the English Renaissance masterpieces of Thomas Tallis and John Dowland.

Also, only on the afternoon concert’s bill, Andrew Norman‘s work for eight virtuoso violins, Gran Turismo.  Norman writes: “Rewind my life a bit and you might find a particular week in 2003. I was researching the art of italian Futurist Giacomo Balla for a term paper, watching my roommates play a car racing video game called Gran Turismo, and thinking about the legacy of Baroque string virtuosity as a point of departure for my next project. It didn’t take long before I felt the resonances between these different activities, and it was out of their unexpected convergence that this piece was born.”

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Remember now, we’re talking two concerts, both on Thursday, May 20: at 1pm, Trinity Wall Street (79 Broadway), and again at 8pm at the Angel Orensanz Center (172 Norfolk Street). The afternoon gig is FREE, but click here for an RSVP or tickets to the evening gig.  And that’s not all, folks: “This project has been in the works for two years and coincides with the Nonesuch release of Andres’ new CD Shy & Mighty. We will be running a promotion at Timo’s CD launch event at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday, May 17. Anyone who buys a ticket for the Thursday night concert at the event on Monday will receive a free copy of Shy and Mighty. We would also like to extend a special offer to readers of Sequenza21: we would like to offer 2 for 1 general seating tickets with the code sequenza21“.

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We may have missed the first volleys of southern California’s MicroFest — concerts devoted to tunings other than our standard, boring old 12 steps to the octave — but there’s still plenty of time to get your octave-tweak on; events will be running all the way to the end of June. Composers represented include Cage, Harrison, Partch, Crumb, Lachenmann, Tenney, Alves, Corigliano, Gosfield, Haas, Ives, Wadle, Schweinitz, McIntosh, Kriege,  etc. etc… Quite a constellation of stars. For all the details head over to their website.

But I wanted to draw your attention to the MicroFest concert happening this weekend, since it involves an old pal and S21 alum. On Saturday April 24, 7:00 PM at the Steinway Piano Gallery (314 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood), pianist Aron Kallay with Grace Zhao will be giving a concert of music for “quartertuned+” pianos. In addition to pieces by Charles Ives, John Corigliano, Bill Alves, Georg Haas, Annie Gosfield and my internet friend “Down Under”, Kraig Grady, Kallay will be giving the premiere live performance of Jeff Harrington‘s monstrously difficult Prelude #3 for 19ET Piano. It’s taken a lot of years for someone to step up and take on one of Jeff’s preludes, many of which we’ve known and loved for years only through Jeff’s own MIDI realizations. It’s going to be fun, I’m telling you. You can hear part of the piece in this KPFK interview with Kallay.

Then on Sunday April 25th, back NYC -way, our long-time contributor Elodie Lauten is celebrating the 2-CD release of a whole passel of her piano music from the last 30 years, PIANO WORKS REVISITED (Unseen Worlds), with a performance at the Gershwin Hotel (4PM, 7 East 27 Street, $10).  Elodie herself will perform the Variations on the Orange Cycle (cited by Chamber Music America as among the 100 best works of the 20th century), and some of the early piano tunes that featured on WNYC as early as 1981;  also the Sonate Modale, released for the first time on these CDs. The Gershwin Hotel main lobby provides a beautiful grand piano and a colorful and elegant environment for this special venue, and there’ll be refreshments. So come on out and cheer the home team!

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I recently spent some time with three amazing pianists who are all based on the West Coast:  Sarah Cahill, based in the San Francisco; Vicki Ray, based in Los Angeles; and Cristina Valdes, based in Seattle.  As usual, I asked each of them about their experiences working with composers, and you can listen to what they have to say here: Sarah, Vicki, Cristina.

It’s great to hear what these ladies have to say, but trust me, it’s even better to hear them perform live.  All three of them they will be performing (separately) across the country during March and April…

Go see Sarah Cahill:
1246478656_98_largeSaturday, March 27 at Miller Theatre, NYC – performing with trombonist Monique Buzzarte in Pauline Oliveros’ improvisational The Gender of Now.

Sunday, March 28 at Caramoor in Katonah, NY – performs the premiere of Annie Gosfield’s Five Characters Walk Into a Bar, along with Annea Lockwood’s Ear-Walking Woman and Ingram Marshall’s Authentic Presence.


Go see Vicki Ray:
Vicki_RayMonday, March 15 at The Wild Beast, CalArts – solo piano music of Chinary Ung

Thursday, March 25 at Roulette, NYC – encore performance, music of Chinary Ung

Sunday, April 11 at Walt Disney Concert Hall – new piece by Meredith Monk with the LA Master Chorale

Thursday, April 22 at University of San Diego’s Shiley Theatre – Sur Incises with Pierre Boulez

Tuesday, April 27 at Zipper Hall, LA – PianoSperes presents Olivier Messiaen‘s Harawi with soprano Elissa Johnston and video artist Lars Jan.

Go see Cristina Valdes:
valdesMarch 4th-6th at On the Boards, Seattle – performing with the Seattle Chamber players in Heiner Goebbel’s “Songs of War”

Saturday, April 10 at The Stone, NYC – performing a Wayne Horvitz premiere as well as music by John Luther Adams, Ives, Ziporyn, and Rzewski.

Friday, April 23 at The Chapel at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford (Seattle) – performing some Peter Garland “stuff”

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Champ pianist Sarah Cahill performing Henry Cowell’s Tiger and Lou Harrison’s Largo Ostinato, from the December 2008 Other Minds “New Music Seance”:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7Qm6rEwT54[/youtube]

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