Friday, March 30, 2018

Player pianos; making a performing version of a difficult work with Sibelius



I saw a story in USA Today about a Steinway player piano that looks like it should be shared. ‘

I am considering setting up one of the largest compositions from my youth so it could be performed with the most difficult parts being played on Sibelius (from a connected Yahama or Casio) simultaneously, according to prearranged software.  (Or they could be played from iTunes, which is probably easier to pre-program).  For the planned militant coda, it would be possible to add other instruments. 
  
One question would be whether the Casio would be tuned exactly the same as a concert piano.  The Casio seems very close to most modern concern recordings on YouTube.  However, digital pianos (since the frequencies are precise) may be slightly flatter in higher notes and slightly sharper in the deepest bass (assuming a full 88 keys).

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Music by Julian Wachner, Patrick Doyle, on Palm Sunday



At First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC on Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018, the choir performed the Sanctus from the Messe Ancienne by Julian Wachner.


The YouTube videos are from Trinity Wall Street in Manhattan. 

As far as I can determine from Wikipedia, this may be the same work as the Missa Brevis (1987).

The music is almost a cappella, and the style is modal, somewhat like Renaissance music.

Later, for the offertory, the choir performed Non Nobis Domine ("Not Unto Us Lord"), by Patrick Doyle which seems to be same music that concludes the powerful 1996 film of “Hamlet”, for Columbia Pictures, by Kenneth Branagh. 
  
The postlude was a Sinfonia based on the Cantata #29 by JS, Bach, as played by Charles Pugh.
  
See also the Stoneman Douglas remembrance group picture Palm Sunday morning. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Young cellist was killed by one of the Austin TX bombs



One of the victims of the Austin, TX pipe bombs was a young cellist.  A Facebook friend shared this post with photo. 
  
His name was Draylen Mason. 


I’m not sure I can identify the solo cello piece in the video.  The Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites is a good place to start.

Unfortunately Mason was targeted by a slur from a closed-captioning company in the DFW area. I lived in that area in the 1980s, and sometimes there were problems then. 

I did attend the March for our Lives to End Gun Violence in Washington DC.  Of course, the Austin incident wasn't caused by guns, but it was caused by homemade weapons. 
      
We lost a violinist (Tyler Clementi) to suicide after anti-gay bullying in 2010.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Amy Beach: Prelude and Fugue in A Minor for Piano, a massive late work



Having heard a small organ piece by Amy Beach Sunday, I looked into one of her large solo piano works, the Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, Op. 81, composed around 1917.


The work is hyper-chromatic, recalling Liszt and Scriabin, even in the fugue.  Beach is America’s best known post-romantic classical composer, with a style that sometimes resembles Brahms (the Piano Concerto), Dvorak (the E Minor Symphony) and then becomes more modern and dissonant – Scriabin is a good comparison.  She had command of harmony and counterpoint and piano technique equal to all the familiar great (male) composers of her time.

The fugal subject reminds me of a similar subject that generates the cadenza-fugue of Eugen D'Albert's Piano Concerto #1 (itself inspired by Liszt).
     
This Beach work would be a crowd pleaser.  I wonder if it has ever been transcribed for organ.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Faure Cantique, unusual organ prelude by Amy Beach played at First Baptist DC today




Today, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC offered the “Cantique de Jaen Racine” (Op. 11) by Gabriel Faure, with harp (Rebecca Smith), organ and choir. 


The gentle main theme, in D-flat major, will sound familiar, with its arching melodic line which transposes itself.

Lon Schreber had played the quiet Prelude on an Irish FolkTune, “The Fair Hills of Eire O”.  Later, Beach, America’s most prominent female composer in the late romantic era, would use some Irish folk melodies in her Symphony in E Minor (the “Gaelic”), which has some stylistic reminders of Dvorak.  
  
Later there was a rather modal Sarabande from the Suite for Harp by Lynne W. Palmer  The Postlude was “Paean” by Percy W. Whitlock.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My self-interest in Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion



Joseph Kalicksen and Joyce Yang, pianos, and Markus Rhoten (tympani) and Steven Schick (percussion) perform Bela Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion at La Jolla Music Society’s Summerfest (CA).


I present it here because I am contemplating preparing a version of my own Third Sonata where the coda of the finale, which is loud, will add percussion.
The original work, composed in 1937, as was also prepared as a concerto for two pianos, percussion and orchestra.  There is a version here with the Royal Concertgeobouw Orchestra conducted by David Zinma, with score shown. 

As Wikipedia notes, the prevailing key is C. The first movement opens with a slow introduction implicitly in F# (no key signature) and plays with the tritonal relationship between F# and C (one-half octave).  There does not seem to be a lot of polyphony in the opening and the theme lines are straightforward.  But the fast toccata theme tends to become modal and gradually invites fugal treatment.  The slow movement begins with percussion alone.

The work ends quietly on C.  (Mine will end triumphantly and perhaps martially.)

I have a Turnabout (Vox) recording of the soloists' version on a LP vinyl somewhere (in storage). "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" is on the back. 
   
The work is said to be very difficult to play.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Paul Basler's Missa Brevis performed by Arlington VA church today



Today, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington Virginia integrated a performance of the Missa Brevis by Paul Basler (a University of Florida music professor with some emphasis on horn and brass), for choir, small orchestra and organ.  Carol Feather Martin conducted from the organ.
    
I caught a glance of the score after the service, and it appears to be in G Major.
  
  
The Mass has four movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.  The music sometimes reminds me of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, to which I took a date to the Kennedy Center in 1971 when I was in that phase of my life.  There is a little bit of modality, but less than in, say, the Durufle Mass and that composer’s Requiem, which I heard last night (reviewed on Wordpress).  The music is often loud and jubilant with some fast tempos, even in the Kyrie.  The entire work ends quietly, however.

The music often uses stepwise themes followed by jumps, like at the beginning of the Gloria.  
   
The composer is also better known for the Kenya Mass, which I will take up in the future with another posting.

Carol Feather Martin also played some organ variations on Holy Manna, by Don Hustad (as an “offertorium”) and a Postlude on Llanfair, by Robert Powell.