Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My own basement turns up remnants of a "lost" piano pre-career

So, look what I found last night rummaging through paper records in my basement, which barely escaped the floods of Robert E. Lee (at least in Virginia).

Here’s a courtly (heterosexist  and perfunctory) Minuet in E Major, dated about 1957, which actually won a composition contest.  I don’t think it “deserves it” as much as some other more recent stuff.

Now, I also found some handwritten comments by the judges for my  Piano Sonata in D Minor (1959).  I was somewhat under the spell of Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto, and the writing, out of superficiality perhaps, lingers too much in the dominant key, as with the opening of the Finale.  Later, I tried to pencil in some modulations.

One of the judge’s comments is rather moot, as to ennui with the thematic material.

The other’s is a little more positive. Note how the judges look for neatness in handwritten manuscripts in these pre-computer (pre-Sibelius) days. 

I still remember another typewritten comment, missing now, suggesting that I look at the short pieces of Bartok, Bloch, and Kabalevsky.  Why these?  How about Robert Schumann? 

The “cyclic” work of several movements where at least one movement had a full Sonata form interested me as a youngster. It seemed to take one on a journey.  It’s odd that a formal Symphony (or Concerto), with no connection of themes between the “movements” conveys as sense of an adventure (although connecting the themes of different movements became more common during the 19th Century, perhaps starting with Cesar Franck, or before – Brahms did it with his Op 5 Piano Sonata, and Beethoven actually did it opening the finale of the 9th Symphony).

I do hear a lot these days, though, about the virtues of “miniature” pieces.  Actually some of that became popular with expressionism and atonality: Schoenberg, Berg and Webern all wrote suites of “pieces”.  But Alban Berg’s early “Three Pieces for Orchestra” is practically a short post-Mahler symphony.

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