Thursday, May 14, 2009

Timothy Andres gives entertaining concert of modernity at Strathmore Mansion in Maryland

Timothy Andres (b. 1985) gave a solo piano concert as the last “Strathmore Concert at the Mansion” for the 2008-2009 season, in Bethesda, MD. The concert was called “A Celebration of the Piano: From Bach to Boogie-Woogie and Beyond”. Mr. Andres's blog site is this and has some recent additions. (Note the picture of "LondonTown" on Oct. 6, 2009, with music that sounds derivative of or built upon the opening of one of the Prokofiev piano sonatas.) It's called "Hymn to the Big Wheel" (on the Thames) and I can imagine disco dancing to it at the Town DC. (By the way, the music plays differently in Google Chrome than in IE, maybe because of ActiveX.)

There were six compositions. Before the intermission, Mr. Andres played two of his own compositions, “How can I live in your world of ideas?” (sounds like it’s about psychological growth, doesn’t it) and “Sorbet”, which he says was written for Richard Dyer, for the retirement of that music critic from the Boston Globe. The composer says his “ideas” piece starts out as a passacaglia but becomes gradually distracted, rather like an overplush computer. He prefixed his compositions with Ingram Marshall’s Authenic Presence (2001).

After the intermission, he played the suite “Surely some revelation? …” by Stephen Gorbos (b. 1978), who was present, and the sonatina-like piece is supposed to track the “end of days”. But the most remarkable piece as Frederick Rzewski, “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues" (1979), which is workaday program music in the spirit of Mosolov’s “Iron Foundry”. The piece starts out with repeated clusters in the base, simulating the assembly line work on a cotton mill, early in the days of the Industrial Revolution. The workers get a meek break when some jazz blues comes out (after a climax where Andres let the Steinway sound board die down). Then the piece dies away with a gentle fugato, leading to a mechanical effect with the piano keys that I have never heard before. The piece is almost a musical picture of the regimented lives of workers caught in a particular circumstance of karma and time, and there is some sense of their desperation for a better lot.

The last piece in the concert was the movement “The Alcotts” from the Concord Sonata (#2) by Charles Ives (1910-1915). In spots the piece almost resembled a Chopin nocturne.

Mr. Andres performing style is entertaining, almost with a touch of Justin Timberlake. The body movements are geometric, almost Pixar-like, and he goes for extremes in dynamics at the end register of the piano. At one point in the Rzewski he plays a whole tone cluster with a forearm. He comes across as an entertainer, and one could almost imagine him playing the Rzweski on “Saturday Night Live,” or perhaps on Oprah or Ellen.

In his own compositions, and some of the others played, there was a sense of improvisation; I did not get a feel for tight form with a drive toward a resolution, that we get used to with a diet of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin, even Rachmaninoff.

Timothy Andres was to share the concert with Tudor Dominik Maican, who is briefly sidelined with what is reported as a minor injury. You can play one of Maican’s piano pieces on the Internet, “La ou la mer rencontre le ciel” (“Where sea meets sky”), a piece that is a bit Ravel-like, and reminds me of Fire Island, at this link on National Public Radio.

I hope Andres will learn the first piano concerto of Eugen d’Albert (itself a teen composition with an interesting massive one-movement architecture) and play it with an orchestra (maybe Dudamel would conduct it). The massive fugal cadenza in the d’Albert reminds me of some of Andres’s own writing. Another piece that I think that Andres would enjoy performing is the last prelude (D-flat major) of Rachmaninoff's Opus 32.

The Los Angeles Times has an article May 9 by Yvonne Villarreal, "Timothy Andres is enjoying his moment in the L.A. sun", about the premier of his chamber piece "Nightjar" conducted by John Adams ("Doctor Atomic"), link here.

Andres has a couple of other pieces "La Malinconia" and "Antennae", the latter of which sounds remotely like an adaptation of "Fairest Lord Jesus" (See Feb. 21, 2009 entry on this blog for link).

Mr. Andres contributes to the blog for Metropolis Ensemble, here, about Nov. 15, 2009.

Update: May 18

The Ellen DeGeneres show presented an unbelievable piano prodigy, a girl (Umi Garrett, 8 years old) who played a Liszt etude -- one that I remember reading when I took piano as a teen.

Update: July 20

Andres offers this embedded video (may require adobe flash and ActiveX) from his blog entry June 23 at (This worked for me on Vista with Internet Explorer 8 all right; I had trouble with Firefox; OK -- later it worked; Vista is very tricky in making you close Firefox completely to install plugins...)

Synesthesia from Terri Timely on Vimeo.

Update: Aug. 29

Here's a YouTube clip with Andres at the e-keyboard and a cellist (Nick Photinos) playing another of his works. It sounds like a kind of takeoff on a Back passacaglia. The link is on Tim's blog Aug. 4. Visually, the clip speaks for itself.

Check Tim's blog entry Sept. 22; he mentions thinking about a violin concerto. I just noticed it this morning because of Google Chrome's list. I guess telepathy is prescient: last night (Sept. 27), I dreamed about a Symphony in Three Movements (not Stravinsky's), with a wordless chorus, lots of compound rhythm configurations, and a loud ending with an "A-D" repeated sequence after a lot of scalar melodies in between. I need to get an e-piano in here and get my own stuff back to work on my own music. Check this blog, Oct. 21, 2008). By the way, many people don't know that film composer John Williams has a violin concerto to his credit. Or, try the little known violin concerto in D by Beethoven contemporary Franz Clement, with it's famous "hymn tune" in the first movement (F#--A--D--EF#GABE--) -- again, as with D'Albert, a case a familiar music (used in Hollywood and in church hymnals alike) from obscure romantic composers.

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