Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Andres has more compositions based on "trade"; more news from FBC; composition process


NYC composer Timo Andres has posted a few more of his compositions online for listening. I thought I would discuss two or three of them.  His basic link is here. Note his metadata page, which lists some other interesting contemporary composers, like Christopher Cerrone, Ted Hearne, and particularly Nico Muhly (the score for the film "Margaret"). 

Trade Winds” (10 min, for clarinet, string quartet, percussion and piano) is a ground-bass composition, a sort of chaconne, more or less built around the “circle of fifths” concept, with a curious, comforting, Ravel-like effect.  The rhythm seems to be quadruple most of the time but sometimes alternates into triple.  You can look up “chaconne” in Wikipedia and read about the theoretical difference between chaconne and passacaglia, which has become less important since I took piano in the 50s.  The piece was recorded in Saratoga Springs at (apparently) Skidmore College

Timo has another chamber piece with a similar name, “Trade Secrets” (6 min), which premiered in NYC this spring.  The title is curious since it is an important legal concept that I’ve blogged about elsewhere.  I hope the site will offer than piece soon.

I also listed to “Chamber Music” , 13 min, a set or variations for two violins and piano, apparently recorded at Yale.  The variations become more like the original theme as they progress.  For some reason, this called to my mind the palindrome in the last movement of Hindemith’s Horn Concerto, of which I have (packed away) an old Angel recording performed by Dennis Brain in the 50s.  The generic title has precedence in the concert world, as with Bela Bartok's rowdy "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta".  Or try Arnold Schoenberg's eclectic "Variations for Orchestra", Op. 31.  A middle school chorus teacher back in the 50s played for me her piano composition simply called "Ballet Music". 

Timo has a couple of YouTube videos from Fortnight, “The Beginning” and “The Middle” and “End” andwhere he explains how he composes, and talks about the Chopin Scherzo #3  as an inspiration.


The videos that will follow shows how he works with the computer and software (Finale? ; doesn’t look like Sibelius).

In “The End”, Timo discusses why many of his pieces end quietly.  (A major exception is “Flirtation Avenue” in “Shy and Mighty”.)  He says he likes the ability to respond to an “event”.  The piano, of course, cannot sustain a concluding fortissimo as an orchestra can, since it is percussive – an observation which calls to mind the perplexing way that Dvorak provides a “diminuendo” on the very last (brass) chord of his New World Symphony, an effect I’ve never understood.

(For a complete performance of the Chopin on line, try Martha Argerich on YouTube, 2000, Carnegie Hall here).
  
Here’s some more news: The new organ console has arrived at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, and it will be installed on the right side of the chancel after some major construction in August.  The Church is also setting up a memorial room for its late sound engineer (for 50 years), Charles Hailey Jr. (“Chip”) who suddenly passed away (at age 69) in late 2011.  I’ve known Chip all my life and earlier in life I often visited his home in Falls Church and listened to samples of his even larger record and CD collection, which I understand is available to the Falls Church public school system.  (His favorite piece: Liszt’s “Battle of the Huns”.)

Chip also recorded my playing my own "Third Sonata in C" in a DAT tape in 1991, on a grand piano in the Chorus room (or maybe Youth Lounge) at FBC in Washington.  I could not really play it well, but I am now working on getting it coded into Sibelius.  The first three movements were composed in early 1962, when I was home from the William and Mary Expulsion (discussed elsewhere on my blogs), and before I was a “patient” at NIH in the fall of 1962.  My father was recovering from a mild heart attack supposedly caused by the stress of the “expulsion”.  There is a theme in the slow (third) movement that reflects his reaction to these events.  I sketched the finale in 1974, while living in Bound Brook, NJ and traveling a lot for Univac, just before moving into NYC in late 1974 (right after Nixon’s resignation due to Watergate).  Recently, a second chorale theme has come to me, which will conclude the work (very loudly, with no response).  The theme has a remote resemblance to the opening of the Chopin A Major Polonaise Militarie, but harmonically goes off in a very different direction, avoiding simple reflexive (and trite) rhetoric.  (There’s also a similarity to a trick in the finale of Rachmaninoff’s fourth piano concerto.)  I find myself playing with modulations, over the tritone distance between F# Major and C Major.  (Elgar did the same thing with the keys of A-flat and D Minor in his first symphony.)  The interplay is not that of tragedy or lament and triumph, but more playfulness turning serious and finally triumphant.   D’Albert does this brilliantly to conclude his first piano concerto, and we all know the examples of the Rachmaninoff Second and Third Concertos. I start out the finale with a natural fugato-like play theme that seems to develop itself and then rather rains itself out, before the chorale idea is first introduced, with immediate modulations.


Update: July 17


WQXR in New York has a program mix by Timo Andres soon, "Music for an anxious and materialistic week in Brooklyn", details here. 


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