MATTHEW HINDSON Pulse Magnet (2001) for two pianos and two percussion
list of percussion required:
duration: 16 minutes
Published by Faber Music
Pulse Magnet has been described as a rhythmic exploration of attraction and repulsion, exploring the vibrancy of sonic interaction between piano and percussion. It is a work in three movements, following a fast-slow-fast structure.
This piece is scored for two pianos and two percussionists, and was written for the Australian Virtuosi in 2001. The huge battalion of percussion used in this work provide access to a wealth of tone colour possibilities, but Hindson has also explored a number of ways in which a pair of pianos can be used.
Pulse Magnet was initially conceived with the idea of a ‘super-piano’ in mind, that is, with both piano parts acting to do things that a single piano was not capable of doing. Hence the two piano parts are frequently antiphonal and canonic, and create chords of great density and complexity, stretching the ability of all four hands.
adapted from a note by Kim Waldock
JOHN CAGE: LECTURE ON THE WEATHER
Dated September 1975, Stony Point NY, this work is for 12 readers/vocalists, and was composed in collaboration with Luis Frangella who produced the film and Maryanne Amacher who made the recordings and tape. The 12 readers are reading and singing text fragments by Henry David Thoreau and/or play instruments (ad libitum). This is accompanied by sounds (on tape) of wind and rain. Later, the lights in the theater are dimmed and the performers are accompanied by the film and the sounds of thunder. The film consists of Thoreau drawings printed in negative, the projection resembling lightning. The performers have to agree on the total duration of the work between 5-8 periods of 273 seconds. Every performer creates his or her own program of starts and breaks, covering the duration of the composition. The work was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in observance of the bicentennial of the United States of America in 1975.
THE 12 READERS WERE THE COMPOSERS DAVID AMRAM, JON DEAK, DAVID DEL TREDICI, SEAN HICKEY, LAURA KAMINSKY, DAVID LEISNER, TANIA LEÓN, ARTURO O’FARRILL, NED ROREM, JOSÉ SEREBRIER, JOAN TOWER, NOEL ZAHLER.
JOHN CAGE: SONATAS and INTERLUDES
Adam Tendler, Prepared Piano
PROGRAM NOTES by ADAM TENDLER:
"Each one of us must now look to himself. That which formerly held us together and gave meaning to our occupations was our belief in God. When we transferred this belief first to heroes and then to things, we began to walk our separate paths. That island...to which we might have retreated to escape from the impact of the world, lies, as it ever did, within each one of our hearts. Towards the final tranquility, which today we so desperately need, any integrating occupation - music is only one of them - rightly used can serve as a guide." -John Cage, "A Composer's Confession," 1948
We might consider the "invention" of the prepared piano one of John Cage's happiest accidents. In 1938, choreographer Syvilla Fort approached Cage, then 26 years old, to compose a new work for her dance company. At the time, Cage wrote mainly for percussion ensemble, but Fort's space only had enough room for a grand piano. So Cage improvised, placing ordinary objects between some of the piano strings to create percussive effects and, in doing so, effectively put "in the hands of a single pianist the equivalent of an entire percussion orchestra." To create his "exploded keyboard," Cage said he chose his sounds "as one looks for shells on the beach," discovering that "with just one musician you can really do an unlimited number of things."
Around this time, Cage also began to study a host of different philosophers, ranging from medieval mystic Meister Eckhart, to Buddhist scholar Dr. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, to even the Indian metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy. The latter's seminal book, Dance of the Shiva (1924), introduced Cage to the concept of rasa, a Hindu aesthetic theory that divides human emotion into eight permanent states; the heroic, erotic, wondrous, mirthful, sorrowful, fearful, angry, and odious, with all eight sharing a common tendency toward tranquility. Cage took to this concept and for two years (between 1946 and 1948) applied it toward his Sonatas and Interludes, working on the masterpiece in his "new apartment on the East River in Lower Manhattan, which turns its back to the city and looks to the water and the sky." The premiere stunned audiences and crowned Cage the darling-in-chief of the American avant-garde. The New York Times declared the young Cage's prepared piano "vindicated musically," and Cage himself as "one of the country's finest composers." This, at a time when American classical music was generally ruled by the likes of Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber (Copland's The Red Pony film score and Barber's marginally twelve-tone Piano Sonata had appeared around the same time).
Few might have guessed that Sonatas and Interludes, for all its audacious modernity, actually borrowed heavily from the baroque musical era. In a fusion between East and West, Cage structured his prepared piano's bells and gongs within the strict binary form employed by Italian keyboard composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) in his over 500 keyboard sonatas. The Scarlatti sonata structure typically involves two repeated sections of music, each relatively equal in length (AABB), and while Cage follows the form most of the time, he also obscures it at points though false repeats, unequal section lengths, introductions, epilogues, attached movements, and embedded transitions, for starters; effectively disguising a meticulously constructed and conventionally notated score in an Eastern-inspired aural landscape that sounds at once improvised, meditative, and startlingly new.
While John Cage's future musical commitment to indeterminacy (chance) may seem to contradict the painstakingly controlled ethic of Sonatas and Interludes -- he later derived music from sources ranging from the ancient Chinese I Ching to the celestial maps of Czech astronomer Antonín Becvár -- Cage admitted in a surprising 1988 interview, four years before his death, that Sonatas and Interludes may actually have represented one of his first lessons in confronting the element of chance in music. He says,
"Each time the Sonatas and Interludes are being played they sound differently...I became very sensitive to that. So instead of being annoyed by all those changes I accepted them; it's a part of...moving from control to acceptance of what happens, and that also means the acceptance of chance operations - the whole thing of moving from composition as the making of choices to composition as the asking of questions."
Cage later noted that the popularity and longevity of Sonatas and Interludes owed simply to the piece's "usefulness," that people could "use" it more easily in a concert hall than his other music. But for Cage, a composer who spent his lifetime prioritizing nature over fashion, discipline over taste, and creative integrity over reputation, the fact that audiences preferred his early music, Sonatas and Interludes included, bothered the composer. To Cage, the present moment bore a continually-renewing opportunity for anything, and in his case as a composer, for music, to occur. As he developed this exquisite personal credo into musical practice from the mid-twentieth century onward, the results typically aroused confusion, outrage, and even abuse. Still today, twenty years after his death, musical establishment largely grapples with his legacy, continuing to dismiss Cage's contribution to American art as the quirky, unreasonable, and dangerous musings of a radical mind, because indeed this is easier than reconciling musical history with a composer who changed and shaped it time and time again. Cage's Sonatas and Interludes in essence represent a springboard from which he began creating an overwhelming and indispensable body of work based solely upon the principles of chance as pure expression. Fusing art with the principles Eastern thought, Cage liberated music from the sentimental influence of personal preference and quietly yielded authority to the universe, transforming the role of composer-as-dictator into something more along the lines of composer-as-mediator, or facilitator, or even participant, revolutionizing the dichotomy between creator and audience and performer. In 1957's "Experimental Music," Cage writes:
"And what is the purpose of writing music? One is, of course, not dealing with purposes but dealing with sounds. Or the answer must take the form of paradox: a purposeful purposelessness or a purposeless play. This play, however, is an affirmation of life -- not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we're living, which is so excellent once one gets one's mind and one's desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord."
José Serebrier, one of today's most frequently-recorded conductors, who works and tours with most major orchestras around the world, established himself as a significant composer as far back as the 1950s, having written over one hundred works. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay of Russian and Polish parents, he composed his Opus 1 - SONATA FOR SOLO VIOLIN at the age of nine (having barely started violin lessons), and at age eleven made his conducting debut. Recipient of many of music's most coveted honors, including the Ford Foundation American Conductors Project Award, (together with James Levine), as well as 8 Grammy awards and 39 Grammy nominations, he made his recording debut with Ives Fourth Symphony, eliciting a euphoric review in Hi-Fi News: "Serebrier's recording of the Ives Symphony is one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of the Gramophone". Serebrier’s Symphony No.1, which he wrote at the age of 17, was selected by Leopold Stokowski to premiere with the Houston Symphony.
At the age of 21 Serebrier made his New York conducting debut with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall to wide critical acclaim, and shortly afterwards Leopold Stokowski named him Associate Conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, a post Serebrier held for five years. Stokowski conducted the first New York performance of Serebrier's Elegy for Strings in 1962 at Carnegie Hall, and in 1963 Stokowski opened the American Symphony Orchestra season at Carnegie Hall with the premiere of Serebrier's Poema Elegiaco, a piece recorded later by the Louisville Orchestra, which recording prompted High Fidelity Magazine to hail Serebrier as "the logical successor to the crown of Villa-Lobos".
For the 1968-69 and 69-70 seasons, George Szell named José Serebrier Composer-in-Residence of the Cleveland Orchestra under a special grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. While in that position, he wrote the harp concerto Colores Magicos and shortly after, Serebrier wrote Nueve, a concerto for double bass and orchestra, commissioned for the double bass virtuoso Gary Karr. Serebrier and Karr have performed this concerto all over the world and received a Grammy nomination for its recording with the Bournemouth Symphony. Serebrier has also written concertos for various instruments and orchestra as well as several works for percussion ensembles. His Symphony for Percussion was recorded by John Elliott Gardiner.
Serebrier's Violin Concerto Winter was premiered at Lincoln Center in New York in 1995 to wide critical acclaim, and has since been performed in London (Philharmonia Orchestra), Madrid (National Symphony), and many other cities around the world. Other recent published works include Dorothy & Carmine! for flute and chamber orchestra, At Dusk, in Shadows for solo flute; Night Cry for brass ensemble, George & Muriel for double bass and chorus, Tango in Blue, in various versions, Almost a Tango for English horn and strings, Carmen Symphony (winner of the 2004 Latin GRAMMY) after Bizet, orchestrations of Gershwin's Three Preludes and Lullaby, (commissioned by the Gershwin family for Gershwin's 100th anniversary), orchestrations of 14 Songs by Grieg, and the Symphonic Synthesis of the opera The Makropulos Case.
Steps/Throbbing Still for solo piano
STEPS is a short piano piece written as an homage to Debussy, a composer that I believe Milton [Babbitt] never particularly liked or understood. As a pianist, I played a good deal of Debussy’s piano music which I learned to love and which had an effect on my own music. But inside the Debussy-like textures of Steps, there are 12 tone rows that get tossed around in the more active and loud passages — a kind of salute to the memory of that feisty, brilliant and articulate man — Milton Babbitt.
THROBBING STILL (2000) was commissioned by Franklin and Marshal College for the pianist John Browning who premiered it at the Ann and Richard Barshinger Center for Musical Arts in Hensel Hall at Franklin & Marshall College on September 16, 2001 It is the last movement in a suite of four movements for piano titled "No Longer Very Clear" taken from a poem of the same title by John Ashbery. The titles are from selected phrases inside the poem. Throbbing Still suggests the music of Stravinsky and the Latin Inca rhythms that I grew up with in South America, which continue to play a powerful role - to "throb still" in my music.
CLOCKS for solo guitar
CLOCKS (1985) was commissioned and recorded by the guitarist Sharon Isbin. In the exploration of time, there is the local ticking of a repeated single quarter note which turns into intervals and chords later at various tempos throughout the piece. There is also a kind of "historical" time drawn from my past: Latin American and flamenco styles of music that I heard throughout my childhood in South America, as well as overtones from the music of Haydn and Bach which I played as a developing pianist.
FLUTE CONCERTO (1989) was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra and dedicated to Carol Wincenc who gave its Carnegie Hall premiere in 1989 with Hugh Wolff conducting. The 15 minute work starts with the low register of the flute alone before the orchestra comes. As the flute gets more active, the chamber size orchestra provides competitive tension which is matched phrase by phrase as the piece heads relentlessly towards a finale where the "music blows wide open" (Wincenc) in a virtuosic display of flute scales and arpeggios.
RISING for flute and string quartet
I have always been interested in how music can "go up." It is a simple action, but one that can have so many variables: slow or fast tempos, accelerating, slowing down, getting louder or softer — with thick or thin surrounding textures going in the same or opposite directions. For me, it is the context and the feel of the action that matters. A long climb, for example, might signal something important to come (and often hard to deliver on!). A short climb, on the other hand, might be just a hop to another phrase. One can’t, however, just go up. There should be a counteracting action which is either going down or staying the same to provide a tension within the piece. (I think some of our great composers, especially Beethoven, were aware of the power of the interaction of these "actions.")
The main theme in RISING is an ascent motion using different kinds of scales — mostly octatonic or chromatic — and occasionally arpeggios. These upward motions are then put through different filters, packages of time and varying degrees of heat environments which interact with competing static and downward motions.
STRING FORCE (2010) for solo violin was commissioned by the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis for the 2010 Competition and underwritten by the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation in honor of the children and families of Christel House. It is dedicated with great affection to the violinist Jaime Laredo.
The 7 minute work was an attempt at writing a challenging piece for violin.
When I heard 16 very good semi-finalists from around the world play this piece(without any rehearsal of any kind with me), I was dumbstruck at what was working and what was not.
I changed several things after that and learned quite a bit about the extremes of tempo and register of the violin. (I want to thank Ida and Ani Kavafian and Maria Bachmann for their advice in writing this piece.)
WILD PURPLE was written for the violist Paul Neubauer, who premiered the work at Merkin Concert Hall (New York City) in September of 1998.
I always thought of the viola sound as being the color purple. Its deep resonant and luscious timbre seems to embody all kinds of hues of purple. I never thought of the viola as being particularly wild. So I decided to try and see if I could create a piece that had wild energy in it and meet the challenge of creating a virtuosic piece for solo viola.
The title PETROUSHSKATES combines two ideas that are related to this piece. One refers to Stravinsky’s Petroushka and the opening Shrovetide Fair scene which is very similar to the opening of my piece. The celebratory character and the busy colorful atmosphere of this fair provides one of the images for this piece. The other is associated with ice skating and the basic kind of flowing motion that is inherent to that sport. While watching the figure skating event at the recent winter Olympics, I became fascinated with the way the curving, twirling, and jumping figures are woven around a singular continuous flowing action. Combining these two ideas creates a kind of carnival on ice – a possible subtitle for this piece.
This work was composed by David Amram in memory of his close friend Theolonius Monk, an influential jazz pianist and composer, widely recognized for his great contribution to the bebop style. Amram's association with Monk and his family began in 1955 when he moved to New York City. “They took me into their home and made me feel welcome and encouraged me to do what I was doing and were really nice to me. T.S. Monk was only five years old. So the piece itself was kind of a thank-you to the whole Monk family for their kindness to me and also a tribute to Thelonius himself and all that he did to upgrade twentieth-century music. I was trying to use elements of what Monk himself used for his compositions, and I stayed always within the harmonic framework of the 12-bar blues. That’s of course what Monk so often did in some of his classic composition. It’s just that he used expanded harmonies and amazing rhythmical procedures and sounds and colors.” Amram's intention was that the entire piece conveys the feel of an improvised solo. “It would be something that would sound as if it was being made up on the spot but really had a perfect musical structure.” When Amram wrote Blues and Variations for Monk, he had no idea that the piece would acquire such a following. “I was out in Taos, New Mexico doing something with a whole orchestra. . . . I gave Douglas Hill a manuscript copy with a signed picture of me in a cowboy hat playing a French horn and I think I signed it ‘For Doug Hill and the underground horn players of America’ or something. I assumed he was just going to play it one time. But then copies of the piece began to circulate in the horn community and it was performed many times”.
Peter Breiner is one of the world's most recorded musicians, with over 180 CDs released and record numbers sold (1.5 million reached by 2008) both as albums or online streams. Known as a conductor, pianist, arranger and composer he has conducted, often doubling as a pianist, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, the Hungarian State Radio Orchestra, the Nicolaus Esterhazy Orchestra Budapest, the Polish Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra, the Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Capella Istropolitana, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra National de Lille, France, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, to mention just a few.
Some of his most acclaimed recordings include Beatles Go Baroque (over quarter of million CDs sold worldwide) and Elvis Goes Baroque representing the collections of his commercially most successful Baroque arrangements together with Christmas Goes Baroque 1 and 2. His arrangements of national anthems of ALL participating countries were used during the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and illegally in Beijing in 2008. He recorded his own arrangements of the anthems of the participating countries of the Rugby World Cup 2011 and a new 10 CD set of the National Anthems of the World for Naxos to coincide with the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Most recently Peter recorded two new albums for Naxos due for release in October 2012. They are his own arrangements of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Songs and Dances of Death and The Nursery and Tchaikovsky's Operatic Suites from The Voyevoda and The Queen of Spades. These recordings with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Breiner, are the subject of the new documentary film Bask, also due for release this October. These albums will take a unique place in recording history being Naxos' inaugural virtual-only release available for stream/download only and not available as CD product. Following this will be the release of Peter's own arrangements of Debussy's Piano Preludes , also for Naxos.
The world premiere recording for Naxos of his own arrangements of Janacek’s Six Operatic Suites with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Breiner conducting earned tremendous acclaim, Gramophone stating "Splendid disc .... conducted with passion and sympathetic understanding .. " the Chicago Tribune adding "Breiner fills the void with beautifully crafted symphonic suites based on the music of Jenufa". Ten Best Classical CDs of 2009.
TO DEAR Mr. BACH ON HIS BIRTHDAY
To Dear Mr. Bach on His Birthday was originally composed in 1985 as a tribute to J.S.Bach on his 300th birthday anniversary. This piece for piano and violin was inspired by Bach’s Partita No.3 for Solo Violin. In 2002, Breiner rearranged his original composition for piano, violin and cello.
“I found the music extremely enjoyable and very well crafted, and liked it a great deal. I did give it my thumbs up.” said Henry Fogel, President and CEO of the American Symphony Orchestra League and former President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association.
In the review called Human Fate Melted in Tones, the press described this rare piece as “ … demonstration of intense observation, sincere understanding and masterful composition skills.”, “[Breiner] truly created the world of ‘intimate’ contrasts; nevertheless, he kept the piece concise, technically as well as conceptually."
Rock Ethic for solo violin
by Norman Zocher (Cadenza by Mimi Rabson)
New York Premiere
“Rock Ethic” for solo violin incorporates elements of jazz and rock without throwing itself fully into either genre. “For starters, I use a lot of perfect fifths in the low register, known in the world of rock as power chords,” Zocher says. “They are very difficult on the violin. Pentatonic scales, a rock staple, are incredibly well suited to the violin. I use pentatonic scales layered in fifths in many of the fast, linear sections. A good portion of the harmonic vocabulary is triadic, especially in the Led Zeppelin/Bach-inspired intro anthem repeated throughout the composition. Also, some of the uses of odd meters were influenced by jazz-rock fusion and 1970s progressive rock.”
- NORMAN ZOCHER
When Elmira Darvarova asked me to contribute a short piano quartet for the concert “A Tribute to Mahler” at this year’s New York Chamber Music Festival, she sent along a copy of Mahler’s 2-page sketch for an intended second movement to his Piano Quartet from 1876. My composition FROM VIENNA WITH LOVE is based on the theme outlined in this sketch.
The piece starts out with the main melody presented in two very different musical environments: first a slow introduction, divided in half between solo piano and strings, and harmonically foreshadowing musical developments to take place in Vienna early in the 20th Century. Then, an upbeat section incorporating uneven meters - a reflection on Vienna’s cultural plurality at the time (many Eastern European nations were part of the Austrian Empire). The theme here is carried by violin and viola in 2-octave unison and supported by a jazzy combination of pizzicato cello and piano.
Jazz continues to be an audible factor during the middle section of the piece. Written out, but could-have-been-improvised soli for cello and piano build towards a massive ensemble unison in which again the main theme is spelled out. From there on the composition calms down. A gentle ostinato tapestry of pizzicato cello and piano sets the mood, and a mirror version of the theme appears in the violin, harmonized by the viola. The composition seems to end the same way it started, with a quiet, pensive presentation of the main melody (this time the strings go first), but an upbeat tag brings us back in the world of uneven meters and lets the piece end on a forceful note.
Ironically, being from Austria my first real musical love was neither Haydn, nor Mozart or Mahler. It was the wonderful jazz coming from the instruments of guitar greats Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall. My love for concert music emerged much later in life. However, growing up in Austria one cannot escape the sound of authentically performed classical and romantic music, and that sound I consider Austria’s gift to me.
Los Angeles, September 2011
On a day that we remember Mahler, his absence often turns into a sharp sense of loss. What would I tell him if he is sitting among us watching this concert unfold?
Songs for Mahler in the Absence of Words depicts that moment of mind. Words can never be sufficient enough for what only music can bear and utter. To quote from Mahler's most beloved song Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world):
I live alone in my heaven,
In my love and in my song!
Le miroir de l'ombre was commissioned by the New York Chamber Music Festival for the New York Piano Quartet and is dedicated to the Festival's founder, the extraordinary violinist Elmira Darvarova.
The request for the work was for a short "reflection" on the Mahler Quartet (1876). As such, the composition derives its thematic material from one of the main motives of the Mahler, but treats it in an entirely personal manner. Four short sections follow the opening and explore a previously stated element.
In most of my chamber music, I am interested in the composite ensemble working as a single instrument. Le miroir de l'ombre continues this interest. I try to make each of the parts the performers play interesting and expressive, but nonetheless challenging. My hope is that both the listener and the performer will be intrigued by a glimpse into my imagination, here derived from the Mahler composition, as I work with the sounds and rhythms that comprise my sonic vocabulary.
Avatar was commissioned by violinist Ilya Gringolts in 2006. The piece, in three distinct movements, explores the peculiarities of independence and ensemble among the three instruments: clarinet, violin and piano. The title refers to the embodiment of some of my explorations in the area of meter and rhythm in my work up to its time of composition.
The basic material introduced on the first page of the restless and extensive first movement is subjected to quick transformation throughout, musical fragments taken apart, reassembled and put in different places, a sort of musical cubism. A brief violin cadenza leads into a slower section that is short-lived, the dominant cell of two sixteenths and an eighth reasserting itself throughout each contrasting section. Marked “somewhat secretive”, the second movement is exactly that, marked by a dotted rhythm often stated in the lower register of the clarinet. At two points, the texture thickens dramatically, yet gives way to a short, chorale-like passage in the piano. The final movement returns to the spirit of the first yet concentrates on an elongated metrical modulation. A four-note ostinato in the piano left-hand stubbornly plows through a constantly changing meter, while the violin plays an equally insistent set of chords. The effect is of three instruments playing straightforward rhythms grafted onto an unstable background, often tossing parts to one another before returning. An occasional inserted short rest provides a hiccup in the insistent rhythm before an exuberant conclusion.
SERENADE (World Premiere)
I composed Serenade for Violin and Piano in April 2008 for Anne-Sophie Mutter. I first met Ms. Mutter in 2002 when the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Kurt Masur premiered my Hemispheres at Avery Fisher Hall in New York. On that program she played the Beethoven Violin Concerto and as I listened from backstage I could only imagine that such beautiful playing would inspire any composer to want to write something for the violin. She asked me if I would be interested in composing something for her and that’s how this piece came about.
I composed these short etudes in March 2011 and they are dedicated to my good friends France and Rolf Graage.
Each of the three contrasting movements consists of short melodic ideas some no longer than three or four notes.
The etudes are easy going in style both harmonically and technically.
I would say that etude one was inspired by Poulenc, etude two by Chopin, and etude three by Prokofiev.
The first thing that struck me about Mahler's Piano Quartet was the ambiguous opening rhythm. Listening to it for the first time without the score, I thought that the piece began in 6/8. The opening triplets sounded to me like a compound meter against which the left hand plays syncopated octaves. The polyrhythm created in the first few measures inspired me to use that kernel as a basis for a new piece. For the past few years I have been fascinated with rhythm and the different ways in which rhythm is perceived. Mahler's Piano Quartet was the perfect piece for me to explore the different relationships and interplay of those ideas.
Mahler Remixed is formed by looping actual fragments from Mahler's quartet. Each time a loop appears, it is transformed through a changing rhythmic texture. Just like the original, Mahler Remixed opens with the solo piano. It continues in a sort of polyrhythmic conversation between the strings and piano.
- Cristina Spinei
Stylistic Variations on a Song by Mikis Theodorakis
(American Premiere)Past, present and even a glance from the future of the piano music are combined in this piece.
One of the most beloved Greek melodies (from the song called ''Denial'' and also known as ''At the secret shore...''), written together by the two famous artists - composer Mikis Theodorakis and Nobel Prize winner poet George Seferis, is at the core of this work.
A kaleidoscopic synopsis of music history, intending to prove that a song or a melody, as much as it may be absorbed or transformed through time and technique, always remains at the heart of music of any style and epoch.
I selected this theme not only as a tutorial for my fellow Greeks but especially because of its timeless simplicity - it is so simple that anyone could have written it, no matter to which epoch or style he or she belonged.
“ Stylistic Variations for piano on a song by Mikis Theodorakis ” is a 30-part set of quite peculiar variations. Each one of them refers to the style of a certain composer or epoch, starting with Couperin and traveling back and forth through music history (Mozart, Webern, Debussy, Chopin etc.) up to our present day with even pop sounds and, of course, computer music (a variation coming out from loudspeakers at the beginning and at the end of the piece, symbolically representing “the future”).
In other words, these variations attempt an all-around musical trip following the path of piano music. They expand from Cembalo playing to the sounds of Keith Jarrett, while covering most of the prominent music styles and composers. It seems as if only for the sake of this musical argument, the composers have been resurrected exactly as they were in their own time. While keeping their distinct personalities unaltered, they interact with each other at the same time and space, taking turns at the piano trying to make us understand the essence and the common thread of them all.
It was always my ambition to gather and culminate all these styles in one piece. Although such a piece should be written by only one person, it should also maintain at the same time an objective view of all these various personalities. Therefore, I was very happy when Mr. Theodorakis mentioned that “ If someone is not aware of the primal intention and the styles involved, one might naturally perceive this piece as a work of a single composer ".
REFLECTIONS ON MAHLER
This is a short piece that reflects the Colombian folklore view about the first three notes appearing in Mahler's Piano Quartet. The strong rhythms and the typical Colombian music, accompanied by the chromatic harmony, virtuoso passages, glissando effects, counterpoint development and even a little fugue, give their own personality to the music, always keeping as clear as possible Mahler’s principal theme.
The particular stamp in this work is based on the rusticity of rhythm and the use of "bambuco", which is one of my favorite traditional Colombian rhythms.
- Nicolás Prada
In 1912, Alma Mahler met the young Viennese painter Oskar Kokoschka. They began a passionate love affair that soon evolved into an intensively obsessive relationship. When Oskar wasn’t loving Alma, he was painting her. Oskar’s already jealous temperament escalated in his constant fear of losing Alma. Although she had many suitors, the one man always standing between them was Alma’s late husband and composer, Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). To Oskar, Gustav’s memories surrounded Alma and lived inside her with his music, preventing the kind of emotional intimacy Kokoschka longed for with her. Although their love affair ultimately could not endure, Kokoschka´s most famous painting, The Bride of the Wind, is a testament to his true, yet tormented, love for Alma.
Written in 2003, Strangely Close, Yet Distant, was inspired by Kokoschka’s painting The Bride of the Wind. Like the painting, I wanted this composition to portray the passion, the longing and the madness of the relationship between these two extraordinary people. The piece is composed for piano, viola and cello. The opening themes for Alma and Oskar invoke the possibilities of new found love. These themes continuously transform and ultimately break down, as their relationship began to disintegrate. The opening four bars of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (last movement – Adagio) are used throughout the piece as bridging material between Alma and Oskar’s themes, initially in soft, distant fragments, then clearly and completely as the piece concludes. This bridging theme symbolizes how Mahler’s music always came between these ill-fated lovers prohibiting Alma and Oskar’s themes from ever touching. The title of this composition comes from Alma’s diary entry of 1922, when she met Kokoschka by chance in Venice. "strangely close, yet distant" is how she referred to their meeting.
- Patricia Leonard
Arabesque has two meanings:
1 ) an artistic design motif in art and architecture (with many animal and floral geometric patterns), associated with the Eastern or Arabic world;
2 ) the well-known and beautiful ballet position, often en pointe, which creates and extends the line in the body in a lovely continuous flow.
But another meaning of Arabesque for me is the spirit of a youthful and lyric Debussy, whose music (as taught to me by my master Nadia Boulanger) has always been my muse.
All three meanings of Arabesque are in my piece, which was composed on commission by the New York Chamber Music Festival, especially for Elmira Darvarova, her talented friends and the great pianist Pascal Rogé.
Paul Chihara, July 2010
AMI SUITE for FOUR HANDS:
Four-hand piano music is the most intimate and personal of musical combinations, and has inspired some of the most loving pieces from Mozart, Schubert, Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, and others. It is not an instrumentation that inspires grand concertos (there are none, to speak of!) or public statements, but rather intensely personal, almost confessional, utterances that often reflect the relationships of the two performers. It was originally a teaching format, and this pedagogical tradition is felt in the interaction of the four hands sharing a single keyboard, often suggesting teacher and student, or husband and wife, or more recently -- the marriage of two great artists. My AMI was written in loving tribute to my friends Pascal Roge and Ami Hakuno on the occasion of their marriage in Japan. It suggests the tradition of Faure and Debussy, with an occasional nod to Ellington and Gershwin. These are my musical mentors. And of course there is a Japanese children’s song included: Aka Tombo (“Red Dragon Fly”).
Paul Chihara July, 2010
Three musical snapshots of Asia:
I On the magical island of Bali, flowing gamelan melodies intertwine with the sound of the suling (Balinese bamboo flute) to form rich colorful tapestries. The marimba and flute start out as one, their sounds indistinguishable. Bit by bit the flute asserts its independence, straying further and further from the marimba melody. An argument ensues – but all is resolved at the climax.
II The haunting sounds of the Japanese shakuhachi flute float out over the warm echoes of the rolling landscape.
III Complex rhythms and South Indian scales set the two instruments off in a race to see who can outplay the other. The marimba is set in a three bar cycle of 5/4+5/8+5/16 but the flute plays a different cross rhythm each time, returning to the marimba’s pattern at the end of every cycle.
In the first movement of this piece I tried to achieve an effect of outward simplicity. A tune or melodic cell with a certain ‘groove’ repeats itself, time after time, subjected only to what appears to be just minor variations. I imagine my audience listening to the Dance of the Nigh Wind with a certain abandon. And as the structure and rhythms get more complex the listener might just sink into them without expecting great tension or drama to unfold. In this sense this movement is unlike most of my music where the complexity of the form and local syntax is apparent.
I was not seeking simplicity, which is not much, but what Jorge Luis Borges has described as ‘secret complexity’, a feeling that there are more layers to a discourse than it appears to be and that we are happy to let that underlying complexity remain in the background.
In the second movement I return to one of my favorite themes: the preoccupation with polyrhythms and their ability to give the impression or create the illusion that more than one time is going on at the same time. Here the influence of Nancarrow and Ligeti is never far.
The subtitles of the two movements – Dance of the Night Wind, and Los Pies del Viento (The Feet of Wind) were taken from the poem “The Night Wind “ by Rudyard Kipling.
At two o'clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen,
You would hear the feet of wind racing towards the sun.
Trees in the darkness whisper, and trees in the moonlight glisten,
And though it is still dark, you know that the night is done.
- Alejandro Viñao