Program Notes March 11th, 2007 Graduate Recital James Berry, piano Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971 (J.S. Bach) This famous composition by Johann Sebastian Bach was a unique piece for its time, conceptually representing a small chamber ensemble and soloist within a single keyboard work. Unlike concertos of the classical era, you will not hear a second piano or orchestra surrounding the solo pianist, but instead Bach used dynamics and style to create a bigger piece than his typical contrapuntal keyboard work. In fact, Bach rarely used dynamics in his compositions, with the exception being this piece, which contains thirty-three separate dynamic markings of either forte or piano. The forte markings in this piece are meant to represent the Vivaldi-like chamber orchestra, and piano markings representing the lyrical and precise soloist. Overall, the first movement is quite regal in mood with the rhythms very dance-like with a definite sense of motion. Bach voices this movement as to give the listener a picture of what instruments may represent the various themes. There are several portions in this movement in which the theme is tossed between hands in an almost invention-like fashion, each with their own particular articulation. Bach doesn‟t stray too far from the tonal center of F major, with the exception of a few modulating episodes, and ends the piece just as it was begun, with a very regal and majestic cadence. The second movement of this concerto has no dynamic markings, however is certainly the most meditative and ethereal. Bach uses the relative minor and more thoughtful key of d minor. The range of the notes in this middle movement determines the division of soloist and orchestra instead the marked dynamics. The treble clef register only plays single notes, however melodically covering the entire range of alto and soprano. The left hand simultaneously expresses two voices. The notes in the tenor range represent the harmonic countermelody moving closer and farther away, while the bass range notes and played as the root of the entire chord occasionally acting as a pedal tone. The effect is wonderful together as one could image a string quartet playing this piece with the solo first violinist taking the lead. The meditative state of this movement is never broken through all of the various phrases and ends reflectively where it began in d minor. After becoming entranced by the second movement, the listener is suddenly shocked by the jolting energy of the Vivace third movement. This movement is even more contrapuntal and dance-like than the first with the left hand often echoing the right hand a measure later. The melodic direction and episodes lead to strong and definitive cadences with all voices. Articulation is certainly the most exciting element of this movement capturing the fun spirit of each voice and playfully dancing to the final cadence. Sonata in C major, Op. 53 (“Waldstein”), Ludwig Van Beethoven The “Waldstein” sonata is considered to be one of Beethoven‟s greatest piano sonatas, written in 1804 displaying his mastery of motivic development, form, and virtuosic writing. The name is derived from its dedication to count Ferdinand von Waldstein. The first movement begins in an unassuming manner with a repeated rhythmic pattern in C major. Soon, the melody is introduced with tremendous energy leading eventually to the second theme. The second theme is surprisingly in E major (as opposed to the traditional G major) and sounds far more lyrical as a beautiful string quartet. The rhythm again becomes more exciting with overlapping triplets, which eventually become sixteenth notes and lead to a very exciting cadence. The rest of the movement takes more surprising twists, such as reintroducing the first theme in Db major and ending more as a concerto with a cadenza like passage and final coda. The overall feeling of the movement is one of great depth, patriotism, and drama. Originally, the second movement of this sonata was conceived as a longer work (which has been published separately), however the version contained in this sonata is more of a thoughtful introduction to the third movement. This movement is mysterious at the beginning with a fairly thin texture and use of the soft pedal, until the main theme is introduced in F major. This theme in the tenor register is quite simple, but yet beautifully melodic. It builds and foreshadows ending on the dominant chord of C major. Although this movement is barely over a page long, it leads directly into the third movement, setting the mood for the rest of the sonata. The third movement of this sonata is certainly considered to be technically the most challenging of the entire piece, yet begins unassumingly with one of Beethoven‟s most beautifully conceived and simple melodies in C major. This melody contains several different harmonies below it, however Beethoven instructed the sustain pedal to remain down during these chord changes. Interestingly, this creates a sort of misty sound as if staring into the fog and barely making out the boats. This is interrupted with a series of broken triplet chords, and a staccato dark theme in a minor. For the remainder of the movement, Beethoven has several transitions, variations, sudden changes in dynamics and a very technically challenging Prestissimo coda, which makes this piece a true „tour de force‟. Overall, this movement is the most symphonic of the sonata, difficult and a prime example of Beethoven‟s genius. Three Schubert Songs from Schwanengesang, D. 957 (transcribed by F. Liszt) You won‟t find many graduate piano recitals containing three transcriptions, but these three Schubert songs transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt, make wonderful solo works of their own. I was inspired to add these three works to the program, after hearing two of them on a recent CD by pianist Evgeny Kissin. Liszt adapts these songs perfectly for solo piano often containing several technical challenges such as crossing hands, overlapping chords, rolling chords spanning nearly two octaves in one hand and melodic lines contained in the inner fingers. Instead of describing each piece in detail, below you will find the English translation of the text associated with these Schubert songs to the find the meaning in the music. Aufenthalt (Sojourn) The roaring river, the howling forest, The craggy cliff, by these I sojourn; Just as one wave succeeds another, My tears flow, perpetually renewed. High up in the treetops there is a waving motion; In the same way my heart beats incessantly, And like the primordial minerals in the rocks, My sorrow remains forever the same. Liebesbothschaft (Love Message) Little murmuring brook, so silvery and bright, Are you rushing to my sweetheart so gaily and fast? Ah, dear brook, be my messenger; Bring her greetings from one who is far away. All the flowers she tends in her garden And wears so charmingly on her bosom, And her roses in their purple glow – Refresh them, brook, with your cooling waters. When by your bank, lost in dreams, Remembering me, she casts down her eyes, Console the sweet girl with your friendly glance, For her lover will soon return. When the sun goes down with a reddish glow, Rock my sweetheart to sleep. Murmur until she falls into sweet slumber, Whisper dreams of love to her. Ständchen (Serenade) My songs send quiet entreaties Through the night to you; Into the silent grove down here, Darling, come to me! Slender treetops rustle in a whisper In the moonlight; Dear one, do not be afraid That a hostile informer will overhear us. Do you hear the nightingales singing? Ah, they are imploring you, With the sweet lamenting of their music They are imploring on my behalf. They understand the bosom‟s longing, They are acquainted with the pain of love, With their silvery tones they touch All tender hearts. Let your bosom be stirred, too, Darling, hear me out, I tremble as I wait for you! Come, make me happy! Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin) This work is most likely one of the best-loved compositions by an American composer and familiar to the world audience. Gershwin grew up in the immigrant neighborhoods of Brooklyn not far from another American composer, Aaron Copland. Both Copland and Gershwin in their careers were searching for a sound that was uniquely American. Although Copland became a European classically trained musician, Gershwin went the more jazz and Broadway route, composing numerous short songs with his brother Ira penning the lyrics. Rhapsody in Blue was initially conceived as a concerto with jazz themes and advertised as a part of all American music concert. Ironically enough, the work was advertised by Whiteman as a jazz concerto on January 3rd, 1924 before it had even been composed. Gershwin got right to work on the piece and finished only eight days before the premiere on February 12th, 1924. Musically, Rhapsody in Blue sounds like an extended improvisation with orchestra. It would take several pages to describe this in depth, but to summarize Gershwin used his jazz influence, and mastery of improvisation and modulation in composing this piece. The rhythm is the key element of this work with very interesting and unexpected syncopations and unfamiliar patterns to the western European influenced ear. For instance at one point, during the rapid repeated note section in one of the cadenzas, one can detect the Cuban clave rhythm. At another point in the piece, the listener almost gets the sense that you are riding on a train with the rhythm of the engine. At one other point, you can hear the influence of the ragtime „stride‟ piano. The more melodic and beautiful theme is very familiar and uplifting, but isn‟t introduced until two thirds of the piece has already been played. Overall, Rhapsody in Blue is a classical composition in form, however contains jazz elements that make it hard to fit into the mold of a traditional concerto. Despite having mixed reviews from the music critics, it has been a piece that has stood the test of time as a piece of Americana. Personal Thanks I would like to thank God, my wife Stacy, and other family and friends that have encouraged me in my journey of preparing for this recital. I am grateful that I am able to share this night of music with you. I have been looking forward in particular to playing Rhapsody in Blue since high school, and hope you will enjoy this interpretation. Special thanks also go to my piano teacher Dr. Del Parkinson for his mentorship and guidance. Enjoy!
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