Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Recalling a friend's concerto from 1961; reconstructing lost music from memory; organ news


Yesterday, I tried recreating, from memory, a Piano Concerto in E-flat that a freshman classmate at William and Mary in the fall of 1961 said he had composed.

He also said he had composed “57 symphonies”, a claim that sounded fanciful.  104 symphonies from Haydn I can believe, but just barely.

I played from memory on the Casio, and the stiff piano action is a bit of a problem compared to a regular piano.

The first movement had a uprising scale theme that I remember, and then it wound itself back down with a fugato like cartwheel.  The movement was monothematic (like Haydn) and didn’t have a lot development.  The second movement was a kind of larghetto in G minor, with some repeated notes (on D) followed by a descending tetrachord.  The composer (his name was John G. De Long and he had come east from Pasadena, CA) said that the theme had come to him in a hospital setting one time.  All I recall of the schezando finale was that it combined themes from the first two movements, but in triple time.  A quiet, playful ending seemed appropriate, allowing response. This piece was supposed to be “real music”, neoclassical, 18th Century-like, without any hint of superfluous emotion.

I played it from ear and recorded it into Sibelius 7, and then let Sibelius clean it up with the “renotate” facility under “Note  Input” and “Flexi-Time”.

He had played the piece (lasting about 15 minutes total) in a practice room in what was then Ewell Hall. A lot of buildings have been renamed since.  As to what would happen to me there subsequently, I’ve explained in detail in other blogs (such as “BillBoushka”, Nov. 28, 2006).

I remember visiting his family in California over Thanksgiving in 1967.  I remember the home, and riding through the Pasadena Tunnel. I would finish my Master’s in Mathematics at the University of Kansas the following January, and go right into the Army.  The rifle range would not be good for my right ear.  Those were the times I grew up in.

John would say he had played my A Major “Sonatina” for a gathering that winter.  I lost the manuscript, but recently recreated it in Logic in 2011 practically the same day I bought a MacBook. (I need to get it converted to Sibelius somehow).  The first movement had  a perfunctory scalar theme that was said to give away my sexuality.  The last movement is a rather simple tarantella (back to A Minor, with no Picardy Third at the end – like Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony or Brahms’s first Piano Trio) and I swear that the theme music at Tribeca Film Festival played before the movie starts sounds just like it.  Maybe somebody who grew up in Padadena and heard it has a long memory.

I did attend the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC on Sunday (Jan. 6), and it looks like it will be at least March before the sanctuary is re-opened and the new organ is ready. 

One other note. The first movement of the Brahms Piano Trio #1 may be the only Sonata movement in a Major key whose second theme is in a relative minor (except for my own third sonata).  A nice bit of trivia for Millionaire. 

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