Saturday, November 17, 2018

Introducing Alma Deutscher and her Piano Concerto in E-Flat

Here is the Piano Concerto in E-Flat by Alma Elizabeth Deutscher, b. 2005 (age 13). The name is German, but she was born and raised in England.

She performs it with the Joji Hattori conducting the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, at the Carinthian Summer Festival in Austria. 

The style of the work is classic to early Romantic, rather like Chopin in some places, perhaps. That is remarkable, when you consider how much commissioned work today is hyper modern and “useful” and clever (and commissioning is turning into a political controversy of its own). This has bearing on my own circumstances, which I will get back to later. 

The first movement (Allegro, 17 minutes), opens with a full orchestra ritornel (with a somewhat noble and majestic theme), and the second subject is rather quiet.  The coda suddenly becomes majestic and builds up to a large climax on a pivot chord.   

The second movement (Adagio, 10 min) is in the dominant key of B-flat minor and is a bit sentimental.

The finale (a rondo, Allegro giocoso) starts out with a theme that is almost Mozartean. The conclusion is not as convincing as the climax of the first movement – to my own post-romantic ear, at least.

The obvious comparison will be Amy Beach.

Of course, there are various other examples of young composers since Mozart.  Eugen D’Albert’s first Piano Concerto (patterned after Liszt) was composed largely at age 19 and perhaps (in the enormous fugue and coda) comes across as an expression of white hot cis male virility. Shostakovich wrote his first Symphony at 19.  And James Pavel Shawcross, 18, entertains us on YouTube with his presentations of different pianos, organs and percussion – and I just found out he comes from an area exposed to the California wildfires.  I’ll check further.  “The young people will win.”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Complete analysis of the gigantic fugal finale of Bruckner's Symphony #5

Richard Atkinson has a 44-minute analysis of the immense fugal finale if Anton Bruckner’s Symphony #5 in B-flat Major.  The work was composed at almost the same time as Brahms Symphony #1.

The fugue (about 20 minutes) has been compared to the Beethoven Grosse Fugue in B-flat (originally a finale to the B-flat String Quartet).

Despite the formal setup as a fugue, the movement still has a clear sonata form, with slow introduction based on previous material, and an exposition, development and recapitulation based on three theme groups, all derived from prior movements.  Atkinson explains inversion and augmentation.  He uses color codes on the scores to identify the thematic group components.

The “coda of all codas” never actually combines all the thematic pieces at once.  Furtwangler concludes is first symphony with very similar effects borrowed from Bruckner.  John Williams seems to have derived “The Force Be With You” from one of the motives highlighted in the coda.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Homeless man gets record contract for piano playing; music community weighs in on politics a little

A homeless veteran who used to play flute in a Marine Corps band just got a record deal for his outdoor piano playing.

That’s Donald Gould in Sarasota, FL

The video is also on Facebook Live, url
He describes the homelessness in terms of family stability and emotional problems.  I would see this on a “Community Assistance” project in Arlington VA a couple of years ago – a lot of mental illness. It seems as though some people are a lot better prepared to be alone than others.
The piano itself reminds me of the out-of-tune job in Berg’s opera “Wozzeck” which I saw in NYC at the Met in 1974.
I also thought I would share a post-election perspective from another (classical) musician I have presented here, Gabriel Kahane, on Facebook.  Usually, I don’t see a lot of commentary on political issues from the music community in NYC, but this one is worth a read.   I think I’ve discussed Book of Travelers here before, but I’ll have to check.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Vaughn Williams, "For All the Saints", to honor those who survived Halloween costume parties unscathed

I don’t think I’ve ever presented this hymn online, “For All the Saints”, on “All Saints Day”, on Nov. 1, with music by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

When November comes to the DC area, it is usually mild for another week or two, and the leaves have finally changed, and you know that the calendar year is winding down.
And the costume season is over.  You find out who survived Halloween with their bods intact.
Saints are not the same thing as angels.  Saints have really sacrificed.
Gender fluidity goes back down a little bit.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

"We Are the Church Alive": a 1980 hymn became known during the AIDS crisis to follow soon

Here is a performance of the hymn “We Are the Church Alive”, composed in 1980 by Jack Hoggatt St. John (lyrics by David Pelletier), shortly before the AIDS crisis would become public.

The hymn was performed this morning at MCC Nova in Fairfax VA.  I think it had been performed at MCC Dallas in the early 1980s when I was living there (Rev. Don Eastman).  At the time, Danny Ray, who lived in the same condo complex in north Dallas where I owned a property, was becoming well known as a hymn composer.

Here is a related sermon from the SunCoast MCC in Venice FL (West Coast) from January 2015. 
Picture: Science rally in DC 2015 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

How "Negative Harmony" is used in many romantic composition conclusions

Negative Harmony, Explained”, by “Creativity eXplained”, or “Why does this chord sound so good?”

The video starts with the opening of a Chopin Nocturne in A-flat. But pretty soon it explains the roles of dominant and subdominant chords in western music.

He gives a chart based on symmetry around the dominant chord that explains the relationship between natural major and minor modes.
Very often, triumphant conclusions of major symphonic works use a subdominant chord with the sixth note of the scale flattened, to a subdominant minor, before the final loud tonic major.  A good example is the end of Scriabin’s “Divine Poem” (Sept. 14, 2018).  The video explains this effect with the concepts of “modal interchange” and “negative harmony”.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

"Voicing" in piano playing, especially of jazz

Watch “What Is Voicing?” video by Glenn Zaleski, with Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Evans.

The video explains piano playing of homophonic materials to bring out the intended melody by playing one note in every chord louder than the others.

This what piano teachers mean by “top notes”. 

The technique seems particularly appropriate for jazz, where there may be multiple paths that create melody.

But intentionally polyphonic music or counterpoint would not work out here.
The technique seems important in guiding a “singable” (like a hymn) experience.