Published on March 12, 2014
March 9, 2014 Tateuchi Hall Community School of Music and Arts Recital 1.0 Eugene Lee presents Piano Coloratura The painting is titled "Piano Coloratura" and I thought it was a fitting theme for my first recital. As a painting title it's a clever play on words - "coloratura" used in musical settings can refer to elaborate and florid passages with lots of ornamentation, or a specific voice range ("coloratura soprano") that includes notes above high C and the ability to execute elaborately ornamented passages (the "Queen of the Night" in Mozart's "Magic Flute" is the most famous example of this). I also think "Piano Coloratura" describes the incredible range of colors, moods, textures, dynamics, and emotions that the piano - essentially a percussion instrument - is capable of if a masterful composition is presented by a masterful performer. When I was young, our piano was a cheap Wurlitzer upright that was pretty much physically incapable of producing much in the way of anything except notes, and so I had not a lot of interest in learning how to produce different ranges of tones from the instrument (except for the hour or two a week when I got to play Mrs. Koff's lovely Steinway during my lessons). So when I finally was able to become the proud owner of a Steinway B (Concert & Artist model, no less), I felt like my ears and fingers (and the connection between them) was reborn. When I decided to restart taking piano lessons in the fall of 2012, I made learning to produce a wider range of tones and colors from the piano one of my top objectives. So "Piano Coloratura" is a succinct way of expression my intention and goal for today's recital - to share with you my attempt to present, through a broad range of repertoire and my own attempts to execute, the wonderful range of colors that 88 black and white keys can create. About the painting Claire and I stumbled across this painting while furniture shopping a couple of years ago and immediately decided to have it be the centerpiece of our living room (where the piano lives). It's what I see while practicing at home.
Program Program Notes A note about program notesSonata in E Major, K380 Sonata in a minor, K54 ------------------------------------- Sonata in C major, K330 Allegro moderato Andante cantabile Allegretto ------------------------------------- Sonata in c sharp minor "Moonlight" Opus 27 No. 2 Adagio sostenuto Allegretto Presto agitato INTERMISSION Preludes (from Book 1) Les collines d’Anacapri La fille aux cheveux de lin La cathedrale engloutie Minstrels ------------------------------------- Prelude Op. 32 No. 12 in g sharp minor Prelude Op. 23 No. 4 in D Major Prelude Op 23 No. 5 in g minor ------------------------------------- Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 in D flat Major Ballade No. 1 Op. 23 in g minor Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Claude Debussy (1862-1918) Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) Despite being a music geek, I often get turned off by program notes whose sole purpose seems to be to show off the author's encyclopedic knowledge of arcane biographical details about the composer, or an opportunity to create speculative links between disparate topics - with the net effect of intimidating the reader and providing no illumination about the music, what to listen to, or what the performer's intent is. So my intent with these program notes is to share what I find interesting about the music, a few highlights of what to listen for, and an interesting tidbit or two about the composers and their music. Scarlatti Sonatas Domenico Scarlatti was born the same year as J.S. Bach (1685) and died almost at the same time (Scarlatti in 1757, Bach in 1750. While they both composed for the dominant keyboard instrument of the time (harpsichord) their music seems of different worlds. While Bach composed a great deal of music for use in church settings, and his keyboard compositions have a cerebral, almost mathematical feel to them, Scarlatti wrote operas and music for royal court settings. Born in Naples, later living in Venice and Rome, he later moved to Lisbon and eventually Seville and Madrid in Spain, where he absorbed the Iberian musical influences of local folk music and especially Flamenco. He wrote 555 (!) keyboard sonatas, none of which I knew anything about until I heard Horowitz' fantastic "Return to Moscow" concert from 1986. 2 3
The Sonata in E Major K380 is probably Scarlatti's most popular sonata, which evokes sensations of a trumpet fanfare in a royal court with a stately, almost military theme. When I play the Sonata in a minor, I imagine flamenco dancers' feet stamping on the marble floors of a palace court in Seville. Scarlatti also was a virtuoso keyboard performer, and this piece was obviously intended to show off his capabilities. Sonata in C Major, K330 - Mozart Albert Einstein wrote "The sonata appears 'lighter' than the preceding one, but it is just as much a masterpiece, in which every note 'belongs' - one of the most lovable works Mozart ever wrote." I also discovered this piece from Horowitz' Moscow concert, but my teacher Temirzhan Yerzhanov has opened my mind and my ears to so much about this piece, and about Mozart's music in general. He has encouraged me to hear it as an orchestral work in places, especially with tutti ensembles at the end of each major section. While working on the second movement with me, he introduced me to the movie "Madame Sousatzka", starring Shirley MacLaine as a piano teacher, in which slaps her chest and tells her prodigy student "you must play from here" - and so my handwritten notes in my music say "Play from the soul". There also is a revolutionary, for its time, dissonant moment just before the main theme is repeated in this movement - listen for it. The final movement is a classic Mozartian finale, and in Einstein's words "a particularly delighful feature is the way the second part of the Finale begins with a simple little song". Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2, “Moonlight” - Beethoven Beethoven composed this sonata (#14) while in Hungary in 1802. The name "Moonlight" is not from Beethoven - it was given in 1832 by a Berlin critic named Ludwig Rellstab who described the famous first movement as like "a boat passing the wild scenery of Lake Lucerne in the moonlight. Beethoven was frustrated by the popularity of this piece – he complained to Czerny "They are incessantly talking about the C-sharp minor sonata (op. 27, No. 2); on my word I have written better ones." This sonata is in 3 movements, but the end of each movement is marked "attacca" which means no break. The first movement is - well, you all know it. My intention is to play it without the cliches we are all too accustomed to hearing. The second movement is a short, slightly tongue-in- cheek play on 3/4 dance rhythms - with interesting starts/stops and hesitations. I imagine a teenage couple at their first formal ball in an 18th century court who sheepishly creep onto the ballroom floor, and then are upstaged by a confident couple who knows what they're doing. Then, without pause, comes the third movement, marked "Presto Agitato" (extremely fast and agitated). This movement is fast, full of emotional extremes, and sudden loud outbursts that remind me of the many stories of Beethoven's forceful playing breaking several strings during concerts. Thankfully the modern Steinway pianos are more robust. Program NotesProgram Notes 4 5
Preludes from Book 1 - Debussy Les collines d’Anacpri – The hills of Anacapri Anacapri is one of two towns on the island of Capri (located in the Bay of Naples), where Debussy spent several vacations. (Interestingly, the Romans called the island "Goat Island", and the Latin word for goat is capreae.) Some of its best-known cultural features are its natural beauty and its' people's joyous spirit, and its national dance, the tarantella. (Tarantella is a folk dance whose origins date back to the legend that someone bitten by a tarantula spider had to dance an upbeat temp in order to sweat out the spider's poison.) Anacapri sits 1600 feet up along a steep hillside cliff. Debussy "paints" into this piece morning bells, first fragments and then full refrains of the Tarantella, a tenor singing a folk song in a cafe or bistro, and then a flourish of bells again. I can almost feel and smell the sea breeze as I listen to this piece. La fille aux cheveux de lin – The girl with the flaxen hair Do you remember the pure innocence of your first crush? That's what I think of when I play or hear this piece. It opens with the sound of an innocent girl humming - probably barefoot in a field picking dandelions - with simplicity and joyfulness infusing the atmosphere throughout. Debussy was inspired by a poem of the same name written by Leconte de Lisle, translated below: Who sits upon the blooming lucerne, Singing from the earliest morn? It is the girl with the flaxen hair, The beauty with cherry-red lips. Love, in the bright summer sun, Sang with the lark. Your mouth has divine colors, My dear, and is tempting to kiss! Do you wish to chat upon the blooming grasses, Girl with long lashes and delicate curls? Love, in the bright summer sun, Sang with the lark. Do not say no, cruel girl! Do not say yes! I shall better understand A long gaze from your large eyes And your pink lips, o my beauty! Love, in the bright summer sun, Sang with the lark. Farewell to the deer, farewell to the hares And the red partridges! I wish To kiss the flax of your hair, To press upon the crimson of your lips! Love, in the bright summer sun, Sang with the lark. Program NotesProgram Notes 6 7
La cathedrale engloutie – The sunken cathedral I discovered this piece while in high school and it immediately spoke to me for several reasons. First of all, Impressionism was my favorite art period, with Monet's Reims Cathedral series at the top of my list. Secondly, the legend that this piece is based on - the Legend of Ys - I found particularly fascinating and moving. The very short version of it is that the city of Ys, once one of the most beautiful in all of Europe, sank into the sea off the coast of Brittany after its sinful princess Dahut literally (but unknowingly) slept with the devil. Legend has it that at low tide the tips of the city's cathedral spires could be seen above the waves, and the cathedral's bells could be barely heard from below. Debussy masterfully captures the sights and sounds of this long-lost city's cathedral gradually emerging from the depths of the ocean, its bells eventually flourishing in a momentary return to their former glory days, only to reluctantly return to the murky watery depths to which it was doomed. Minstrels The best notes for this prelude are from "The Piano Works of Claude Debussy" by E. Robert Schmitz, and so I'll just quote directly: "This is not the medieval scene with troubadours and their menestrels, the household entertainers of great feudal lords. This is the American scene and one of its rich Negro heritages, born around 1828 in the plantations, where household servants put on minstrel shows with … cake-walks, solos, scratchy banjos, and drums… minstrel groups … started appearing in Europe around 1900 in fairs… Debussy was among the first whose discerning curiosity was captivated by the minstrel groups, and this prelude is a tribute to his keen sense of observation and capture of the mime and humor, the quickly shifting moods and offerings of the show." Prelude Op. 32 No. 12 in g sharp minor - Rachmaninoff Toto, we're not in Paris any more. From Spain to Vienna to Hungary to France, we are now squarely in Russia for the next three pieces. There are many different and somewhat conflicting interpretations I've tried to integrated into my intention for this piece. Valentina Lisitsa (famous for becoming famous direct to YouTube) describes it as a sleigh ride, but not a joyful one - full of melancholy and departure. My teacher Temirzhan disagrees and instead hears birds flying overhead. Other sources (ok Wikipedia) describe it as a typical Rachmaninoff usage of the Dies Irae theme. That should give you enough to think about! Prelude Op. 23 No. 4 in D Major My teacher encourages me to think of the Volga river when playing this piece. The Volga is so wide at some points that you can't see from one side to the other - and so it is this gradually flowing, stately, majestic type of motion that Rachmaninoff elegantly captures in this piece. Its compositional structure is pretty straightforward - it's a simple folk tune with 2 variations - and yet it's by far the hardest piece of all on today's program to memorize, due to its complex harmonies and non-repetitive finger patterns. Please send positive mental endurance and focus energy towards the stage! Meanwhile, enjoy this quote by Rachmaninoff: "What is Music? How do you define it? Music is a calm moonlit night, the rustle of leaves in Summer. Music is the far of peal of bells at dusk! Music comes straight from the heart and talks only to the heart: it is Love! Music is the Sister of Poetry and her Mother is Sorrow!" Program NotesProgram Notes 8 9
Prelude Op. 23 No. 5 in g minor This is definitely one of Rachmaninoff's most famous and popular pieces. The prelude is marked "Alla Marcia" (in the style of a march) whose simple but catchy opening tune is set in a percussive military envelope full of tricky jumps just begging for cracks and missed notes. The middle section is a beautiful over-the-top schmalzy melody with a piano-substituting-for-orchestra left hand that together reminds me of sections of his enormous piano concerti, and then concludes with a recapitulation of the military opening. It's a physically taxing, fun piece to play - and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 in D flat Major - Chopin I was inspired to learn this piece after watching my teacher Temirzan Yerzhanov's recording of this on YouTube in which he performed it as an encore at one of his recitals, and also because I specifically wanted to work on developing a more "singing tone" on the piano. Chopin hung out with many different musicians and artists while he lived in Paris, including the Italian opera composer Bellini. Bellini's bel canto melodic opera writing influenced Chopin significantly, which is well-evidenced in this beautiful Nocturne. After the opening theme is presented by a solo soprano, she is then joined by a mezzo voice who is determined to be treated as an equal rather than an accompanist. While the piece is structurally simple (3 treatments of the theme), there are some intricate and exquisite harmonies and modulations as well as some (for the performer, anyway) heart-quickening technically difficult moments that need to be presented with elegance and control. The moments leading up to these virtuoso filigrees remind of me of those moments when Olympic figure skaters skate backwards and prepare one foot just before attempting a Quadruple Lutz! The Nocturne closes with an extended coda on a D flat pedal point. Beautiful music. Ballade No. 1 Op. 23 in g minor - Chopin Chopin began work on the Ballade in G Minor in 1831 in Vienna and completed it four years later in Paris. (By contrast, I started learning to play this piece when I was 17… and it's still not completely complete.) It's a composition of epic proportions, and I like to think of it as a Greek drama structured heroic saga - with narrator, hero, story, and Greek choir. While you listen to the Ballade use your imagination to see what sort of characters and story lines your mind visualizes - I see our hero taking various journeys, some triumphant, some tense and dramatic, with the repeated first theme (it comes back two more times in different keys) being the scene- changing choir-filling-in-the-story motif. The end of the piece is infamous amongst pianists - often referred to with adjectives like "dreaded" in many books - it's a passionate, athletically virtuoso coda that always reminds me of the first time I encountered a black diamond run while skiing. Strap yourself in - this piece is a wild ride! Program NotesProgram Notes 10 11
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