Archive for the “Piano” Category
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:
Saturday, 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:
Monday, 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:
March 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 Ives‘ Three 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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It’s high summer, which of course means baseball… which of course means Annie Gosfield… Or at least her 1997 piece Brooklyn, October 5, 1941. You can read about it over at the NewMusicBox archive; seems to me that it’s still the only piano piece out there using two baseballs and a catcher’s mitt (though if you know more I’m happy to hear about it). I just wanted to share this lively performance by Jenny Q Chai, taped live at The Stone. Afterwards head to Jenny’s YouTube channel; you’ll find a lot of other wonderful performances of things off the beaten track.
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Seda Röder is a Turkish pianist who currently teaches in Boston. Those of you who are interested in electroacoustic music may remember her performance back in April during the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival at the CUNY Graduate Center. If you live near Boston, take a look at her website: she will be playing four concerts in the area between September and the end of the year.
Seda has been very active recently, performing and recording works by young Turkish composers including Tolga Yayalar and Hans Tutschku. She believes that most Americans don’t know much about young Turkish composers — I believe she is correct!
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Mauricio Kagel‘s 1984 “Der Eid des Hippokrates” (“The Hippocratic Oath”), for piano 3-hands. Kagel wrote:
This aphoristic composition was inspired by the publication in January 1984, in a medical magazine, of an article on my latest work. Whiling away the time in hospital waiting rooms, I began to think about the generous Hippocratic oath. I could not say if it was because I was wondering about the influence this Greek practitioner had — but there I was, writing a piece for two left hands, while also calling on the right hand [….] One hand keeps on providing a muted drumming, on a corner of the piano, as if transmitting extracts from the early oath in Morse code: “I swear by the doctors Apollo, Aesculapius, Hygieia and Panacea, by all the gods and the goddesses…”
The players here are András Hamary, Markus Bellheimand Armin Fuch, from a 2008 concert.
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[We previewed this concert a couple weeks ago, and were hoping to file a quick review following the performance. Due to unforseen circumstances it’s a few days later than we’d like, but reviewer Eric Johnson came through in the end:]
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Xiayin Wang offered two world premieres on her May 18 recital at Alice Tully Hall. Ms. Wang’s career is on the rise, with a number of orchestral appearances, solo recitals, and her new CD release of music by Scriabin on Naxos. The New York Sun recently praised her for a “robust, confident performance,” attributes she displayed here as well. In addition to Haydn, Chopin, Ravel, Scriabin and Liszt, we heard Richard Danielpour’s Second Book of Preludes and Sean Hickey’s Cursive.
Danielpour says that “the Preludes are evocative memories of real life,” but no explicit narrative was provided for any of the seven movements. The opening “Persepolis” hinted strongly at neoclassical Stravinsky, followed by an angst-filled second movement, an “Elegy” resembling Barber, and a spastic rag. I was particularly fond of the straightforward appeal of “Elegy”; not only in the music but Wang’s performance. Simplicity can often create the most eloquent music, and that was surely the case here.
Sadly, I’m not sure anyone but Ms. Wang and Mr. Danielpour really know what the fifth prelude sounds like. Shortly after the beginning of the piece, a particularly rude audience member answered a phone call in the concert hall. She then proceeded to walk out very slowly, talking in a stage whisper all the while. It’s fair to say that the pianist was the only one not glaring at her!
Sean Hickey has firmly grounded his career in jazz and chamber music, as well as composing for film and theatre. Hickey’s notes for Cursive speak of a desire to write seamlessly, a “mostly unbroken line,” but to these ears it was anything but seamless. The piece was filled with seemingly unrelated ideas — more like sketches than cursive calligraphy. Yet Ms. Wang gave a compelling performance, tying the loose threads together. Wang’s enthusiasm and daring shone clearly in her commitment to these two living composers’ pieces.
The standard repertoire was engaging too, every selection displayed wonderfully. Indeed, the most exciting portion of the program was the final movement of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. Ms. Wang practically lifted herself off the bench as she pounded out Ravel’s exotic, even sultry depiction of Scarbo’s moonlit flight. A complimetary highlight was Chopin’s Ballade No. 2 in F Major – a thing of rare beauty, played most delicately. ~~ Eric Johnson
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