Friday, May 27, 2011

                                                 photo by David Fung

Artist's Commentary

As sometimes happens, this program assumed a unique theme, which always pleases me. The theme of this recital is different kinds of travel.

The program begins with a work by the 19th century piano virtuoso Franz Liszt: his Sonetto 123 del Petrarca (or the 123rd sonnet after Petrarch), transcribed for piano from a song for baritone and piano he had written in the 1830s. It was included in a set of works called the Years of Pilgrimage, which was essentially a travelogue of his life as a touring performer. This piece was specifically included in the set about Italy, which is probably the most well known of the three (each "book" is about a different place).

Next is a work by Claude Debussy-- Estampes, a set of three "prints" (literally, "stamps") was written in 1905. This work is also a sort of travelogue, though more an imagined kind. Debussy never really travelled outside France.  He never even made it to Spain, yet the second movement from this set is probably the most famous example of Spanish music written at that time. The first movement is about Southeast Asia, so you can imagine how much of a stretch that would have been for this isolated Frenchman. Travel here is approached more as an abstract idea, without any obvious emotional connection to the composer's own life.

Concluding the first half of the program is Dante De Silva's Piano Sonata no. 1, appropriately subtitled "Arcata." Dante is a good friend of mine.  He wrote a large chunk of this piece in 2007 while renting the downstairs living space at my mom's house in Bayside. As a stark contrast to the emotional abstractness of the Debussy, this piece is intensely personal, and was almost a cathartic outpouring for the composer's feelings leading up to his move to Arcata. He had just gotten engaged to his girlfriend of 7 years, and had never lived apart from her, but was suddenly offered this temporary job teaching at HSU that he couldn't refuse. So the piece is in three stages: the first movement depicts the anxiety and anticipation of leaving for something new, unknown, and potentially life-changing. The second movement expresses a feeling of loneliness and isolation in the new place, and then the third movement depicts the return home and all its clangorous excitement (incidentally, the third movement is meant to sound like calypso music, which is of course a big part of cultural life in Arcata).

I start the second half with Beethoven's piano sonata no. 28 in A major, op. 101. This work doesn't fit into the travel theme explicitly, but more in a musical sense. Late in his life, Beethoven became interested in Eastern philosophy, and became acquainted with Buddhism and Hinduism. His later works became more cyclic. This piece is a good example of this, sort of like a snake eating its own tail, the opening movement returning at the end to make you feel like the journey you've been through has changed you for the better. Basically, I programmed this piece because it's amazing and I love playing it.

Last on the program is John Adams' Hallelujah Junction for two pianos, written in 1998. Daniela Mineva joins me on this piece. It is literally named after a place, a small truck stop on the Nevada-California border, and the title is a double pun. The word "hallelujah" becomes the motivic material for the piece ("le-luuuu-jah, le-luuuu-jah"), and is used in full later on, Messiah-style ("hal-le-LUUU-jah.") "Junction" can also refer to the fact that the two pianos are always slightly offset, so they sound like echoes of each other, constantly intersecting. It's a fantastically joyous piece and a great way to end what I think is going to be a fun and interesting program.

The Program

Sonetto 123 del Petrarca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Franz Liszt

Estampes (1905) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Claude Debussy
I. Pagodes

II. La soirée dans Grenade

III. Jardin sous la pluie

Piano Sonata no. 1 “Arcata” (2007) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Dante De Silva
I. Moderato ritmico

II. Largo – Poco animato

III. Toccata agitato

– intermission –

Piano Sonata no. 28 in A major, op. 101 . . . . . Ludwig Van Beethoven
I. Etwas lebhaft und mit der innigsten Empfindung
Allegretto ma non troppo

II. Lebhaft. Marschmassig
Vivace alla Marcia

III. Langsam und sehnsuchtvoll
Adagio, ma non troppo, con affetto

IV. Geschwinde, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit

Hallelujah Junction (1998) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  John Adams
with Daniela Mineva, piano

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