Archive for the “Piano” Category

 

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:

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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”:

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So recalls Felix Heltmann of then-West Berlin, in a comment over at the BBC, “and without question I just started pounding away at the Wall. I was so excited that I got exhausted after some time and I gave the hammer to my other mate who started hammering away too. What a night…”

To celebrate that night on this night, NYers might want to head to Le Poisson Rouge, where admirable pianist Heather O’Donnell will be in town — she herself has lived in Germany now for some years — to give a commemorative concert thanks to the Wordless Music series. On the bill will be Walter Zimmermann‘s the missing nail (at the river), for piano & toy-piano, and Wüstenwanderung; Oliver Schneller‘s Five Imaginary Spaces and Tomorrow…, both for for piano & electronics; and Charles IvesThree Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos (new version for piano & electronics).

Heather’s also taking her show on the road the next few days: tomorrow the 10th she’ll be at An die Musik in Baltimore with music of Schneller, Ives and Schumann; the 12th she’ll repeat that recital at the Goethe Institut in Boston; and the 15th she’s at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia doing Zimmermann, Ives and Schumann.

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Many of our regular s21 readers should be familiar with Amsterdam’s own Samuel Vriezen, both as a visitor here on these pages, as well as a composer selected to be on both of our past s21-produced concerts. Samuel’s always been a highly active explorer, whether in his own or others’ music, poetry, concert production, cross-continent discussions with artists of all stripes, you name it. With a strong interest in Language Poetry, it’s not surprising that his explorations have led him to what I might call “Language Music”.

No composer could better typify this kind of piece than ex-pat American (and former Village Voice critic) Tom Johnson. For quite some time, Johnson’s own brand of ‘minimalism’ has produced a whole series of stunning pieces, often from the most basic and transparent idea and means. The beauty of Johnson’s work is that he’ll take some very simple starting concept or question and, without trying to finesse or “art it up”, follow the process all the way through in the most natural and even mundane fashion. What’s fascinating is how such a simple starting point can end up creating it’s own rich and absorbing musical experience.

Case in point: Johnson’s 1986 piece titled simply The Chord Catalog. The work consists of all 8178 chords you can play using the 13 tones of one full octave, from the 78 2-note chords up to the one 13-tone cluster. The progression unfolds on the piano with absolute regularity, both through the notes and through time. While this may sound dry as dust, what happens over time is a strange tension, anticipation, and eventually even a bit of rich disorientation. It’s also incredibly difficult to perform; Johnson himself had such a hard time mastering it that he was pretty sure there’d be no one to follow. But along came Samuel, who became enamoured enough with the piece to put in all the work necessary to not only master it, but to surpass the master in accuracy and speed.

And now there’s a chance for you to hear Samuel bring his performance of The Chord Catalog to our own shores. He’s winging his way across the pond to give two performances here: the first in Washington D.C. this Monday, October 26th at 7:30pm at Ward Recital Hall, Catholic University of America, 620 Michigan Ave. NE); the second in New York City on Wednesday, October 28th, 8:30PM at Roulette (20 Green St.).

The Concerts are titled “Chord Catalogues” because also on the bill is Samuel’s own 2006 piece Within Fourths/Within Fifths, a work that forms a kind of natural extension to the Johnson.

Just to complete the hat-trick, Samuel also has the world premiere of his piece Sept Germes Cristallins at a concert Friday, october 30, 8PM, presented by the Ensemble Lunatics At Large at the Mannes College of Music (Mannes College Concert Hall, 150 W. 85th St) in a bill that includes Chen Yi, György Kurtág, Ryan Brown, Luciano Berio, William Funk and John Harbison. About the new work, Samuel tells me it “was written at the request of the Flemish literary review, Deus Ex Machina, as a contribution for their Valéry issue. Given that I am a poet and a composer with some background in mathematics, the idea was that I would somehow respond musically to one of the fragments from Valéry’s Cahiers – the extraordinary and humungous collection of thoughts and notes that he diligently was penning down every single morning for many decades. I chose a brief text that compares a sudden memory to the sudden crystalization that can happen in an over-saturated solution, because it suggested musical textures to me. It’s a piece in which every musician has lots of freedoms, with the soprano in control of the pacing, and every now and then a sudden fractal canon crops up.”

So if you’re in any of those neighborhoods then, drop by for some truly astounding music, and say “hi” personally to one of the nicest minds I know (for an in-your-face Dutch guy, that is ;-) … ).

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This summary has to be a short one, since I need to finish preparing for my paper presentation tomorrow morning, but today was another excellent conference day.  During the day, in addition to papers there was a concert of Tom Johnson‘s extremely minimal Organ and Silence performed by Neely Bruce.  At dinner time Robert Carl gave a plenary address about In C, a subject on which he has just published a book.  Then we all had some of the justly famous Kansas City barbecue.  In the evening Sarah Cahill, a great champion of contemporary music, gave a concert which included two recently completed transcriptions of Harold Budd‘s The Children on the Hill.  The piece was originally improvised, and there exist two vastly different recordings, which Kyle Gann has painstakingly transcribed.  The pieces are quite beautiful.  The rest of the concert was good too, but the other highlights for me were an excerpt of Hans Otte‘s Das Buch der Klange, which is virtuosic, beautiful, and spectacular, and John Adams‘s China Gates, which he actually wrote for Sarah Cahill many years ago.

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