Program Notes: May 17, 2019

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Dana Suesse – Cocktail Suite

Dana Suesse was an female American composer from the golden age of film music and jazz. She grew up in the Midwest and was part of a vaudeville troupe in her youth, where she would ask audiences for a theme and improvise off their suggestions. In her early twenties, she moved to New York City, where she studied with Alexander Siloti (student of Liszt), Rubin Goldmark (who also taught Gershwin), and later, Nadia Boulanger. New York City heavily influenced Dana, as can be seen in works including “110th Street Rhumba” and “Jazz Nocturne,” amongst others. Her improvisatory style and technical facility is easily displayed in her compositions.

Claude Debussy – Chansons De Bilitis

I. La flute de Pan

For Hyacinthus day, he gave me a syrinx made of carefully cut reeds, bonded with white wax which tastes sweet to my lips like honey.

He teaches me to play, as I sit on his lap; but I am a little fearful. He plays it after me, so gently that I scarcely hear him.

We have nothing to say, so close are we one to another, but our songs try to answer each other, and our mouths join in turn on the flute.

It is late; here is the song of the green frogs that begins with the night. My mother will never believe I stayed out so long to look for my lost sash.

II. La chevelure

He said to me: ‘Last night I dreamed. I had your tresses around my neck. I had your hair like a black necklace all round my nape and over my breast.

I caressed it and it was mine; and we were united thus forever by the same tresses, mouth on mouth, just as two laurels often share one root.

And gradually it seemed to me, so intertwined were our limbs, that I was becoming you, or you were entering into me like a dream.’

When he had finished, he gently set his hands on my shoulders and gazed at me so tenderly that I lowered my eyes with a shiver.

III. Le tombeau des naiades

Along the frost-bound wood I walked: my hair, across my mouth, blossomed with tiny icicles, and my sandals were heavy with muddy, packed snow.

He said to me: ‘What do you seek?’ ‘I follow the satyr’s track. His little cloven hoof-marks alternate like holes in a white cloak.’ He said to me: ‘The satyrs are dead.

The satyrs and the nymphs too. For thirty years there has not been so harsh a winter. The tracks you see are those of a goat. But let us stay here, where their tomb is.’

And with the iron head of his hoe he broke the ice of the spring, where the naiads used to laugh. He picked up some huge cold fragments, and, raising them to the pale sky, gazed through them.

(translations from A French Song Companion by Graham Johnson and Richard Stokes)

David Von Kampen – Under The Silver And Home Again

David von Kampen was born in 1986, and is a prolific modern composer. Under the Silver and Home Again was written for Nathaniel Sullivan, who will be performing it at this recital, and won the 2015 MTNA Award. This was David’s first re-visitation to Walter de Mare’s poems since his first pieces written in high school, set to de Mare’s “The Ruin.” I personally hear a Copland -esque quality (fun fact: Copeland was the first classical composer that piqued David’s interest and study into classical composers), although David attributes influences of Benjamin Britten and Herbert Howells as main influences for this work.

Charles Griffes – Three Poems Of Fiona MacLeod

Charles Griffes was considered the American Debussy. Griffes is probably best known for his piano works (Roman Sketches) and is, in my opinion, sadly under appreciated and unknown. Fiona MacLeod was the secret pen-name of Scottish poet, William Sharpe. There is much unknown about MacLeod/Sharpe’s life, and that of his romantic assignations (or lack thereof) with writers of either sex. In the poetry that Griffes decides to set, it is interesting to note that the speaker of the poems is “Ian the Proud,” which adds a metaphysical dimension to the story. Ian is at the end of his life, reminiscing about his past lover—who has passed—and both the pain and the fond memories of their relationship. In the last song, he longs for death, and there is an almost Liebestod culmination, where he finds ecstasy in the thought of surrendering to oblivion—and rejoining his lover.

Frederic Chopin – Nocturne Op. 62 No. 2 In E Major

This nocturne was written in the three years preceding Chopin’s death, and is one of the last major works he composed. As pianist Alfred Cortot says, “[the] character of noble melancholy suggest[s] the idea of a true ‘Swan Song’…and it is hard not to identify its pathos with that of a resigned farewell.” For those unfamiliar with the legend of the swan song, it is said that swans, who are mute, will in a sudden burst of passion before death, sing a plaintive, poignant song as a last hurrah.

Martha Argerich, Pianist

“She plays piano the way a gazelle leaps from one crag to another, with mesmerising natural mastery.” –Ivan Hewitt, Telegraph

“ Argerich brings to bear qualities that are seldom contained in one person: she is a pianist of brainteasing technical agility; she is a charismatic woman with an enigmatic reputation; she is an unaffected interpreter whose native language is music.” –Alex Ross, New Yorker Magazine

Martha Argerich is an Argentine pianist known for her passionate performances and is one of the great virtuosi of our time. With her beautiful and emotional playing and her signature long hair, she is like a modern Franz Liszt, rockstar pianist of the 1800′s. (In fact, the reason we sit in profile at the piano is because of Liszt: he wanted his fans to see his handsome profile while he was playing concerts…talk about being a divo)!

Just like Liszt, Ms. Argerich is a forceful personality both on and off the stage. Alex Ross sums up her personal history and amazing pianistic abilities best in this following story:

Musicians have a history of falling in love with her and coming away crushed by the force of her personality. It is said that one of her amours would labor for hours over a difficult score, only to watch Argerich, a person of nocturnal habits, slouch downstairs in the middle of the afternoon, rub her eyes, and sight-read the music effortlessly.

Martha Argerich was born in Bueno Aires, Argentina on June 5, 1941. She started playing piano when she was 3 years old, and made her debut concert at 8 years old, playing a piano concerto by Mozart. Ms. Argerich has won many presitigious competitions, including the Busoni International Competition and the Chopin Piano Competition. Her formidable technique has been compared with Vladimir Horowitz. She has made such a grand impression on people, that her performances of Prokofiev Toccata and Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6, are considered the standard interpretations for these pieces. She is also famous for the many piano concerti she has performed and recorded, including favorites such as Rachmaninoff No. 3, Tchaikovsky No. 1, Ravel, Prokofiev No. 3…and the list goes on!

However, while Ms. Argerich is a proficient and noteworthy solo pianist, she is also a big proponent of chamber ensemble music. In interviews, she has said that she sometimes finds playing onstage by herself to be lonely. This is possibly what has inspired her to explore chamber ensembles, and the fun in collaborating with different instruments. Some noteworthy musicians she has collaborated with include Msitslav Rostropovich, Itzak Perlman, and Mischa Maisky.

Although she is notorious for cancelling performances at the last minute, Ms. Argerich is a pianistic force that you don’t want to miss. Her technique is awe-inspiring, and her passion and emotion makes the music (or the music behind the notes, as Horowitz would say) speak in a way that is phenomenal and unique.

Mr. Ross describes a performance of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto:

Then, just as the music was ready to float away to some Ravelian heaven, demonic runs rose up from the bass. The way the piano suddenly thunders under the pressure of Argerich’s small frame is a physical fact that resists explanation. It can only be described as a possession, a visitation, such as seems to happen when great singers take the stage.

Bibliograpy: Bach Cantatas, Wikipedia, Alex Ross

Jaimie Appleton, Soprano

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Q: How did you get involved in opera, and what is a role you would love to play?

“My freshman year, I was in Basic Musicianship, and we had to get a copy of The Magic Flute by Mozart, and we were doing some sight-singing from it. And I was trying to cheat the system a little bit, so I looked up YouTube videos to see if I could find a recording of the section that we were going to be singing…. And the first thing that came up was Diana Damrau singing Queen of the Night at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden….So there were a couple of things that blew my mind about it. First of all, obviously her singing was out of this world…The second thing was the staging: the costumes in that particular opera are so incredibly fierce and powerful and striking…. And I didn’t know what she was saying, but I felt it while I watched it. So that kind of clicked something in me, and I honestly just  fell into a YouTube wormhole, and I found other singers, and during that summer I decided to switch my major.

“I would love to be Lady Macbeth [by Verdi]. First of all, the role has incredible music and it’s kind of a spooky show. I love the Shakespearean play…. I love the dynamic between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. And in that, I love how powerful she is in the relationship, despite when it was written and despite when it was shown…. A lot of times women were able to gain their power over men because of their feminine wiles in that era, or that is how they would be displayed in art and in theater. And while she does do that a little bit, it’s more of her political savvy and her social climbing and it feels more complex than just, “Oh, I’m attractive so I can get him to do this.” She is a very powerful, strong woman; and she has a great dream-sleepwalking scene, which is kind of like a mad scene, which I [normally] wouldn’t get to do because I’m not a coloratura. So, I think Lady Macbeth would be so much fun.”

Jaimie performs in the Cantanti Project’s Her Story on Nov 5th @ 8pm.

You can explore more of Jaimie’s work here.

Andrew Sun, Pianist

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“I’m what they call now a collaborative pianist.  They used to call us accompanists, which means we work with other musicians. In particular I work with singers. So what this means is that I will often play rehearsals for operas and voice lessons. I also coach singers, which means I give them sort of individual lessons that supplement their work with their voice teachers. I mostly work with opera singers who work with classical music.

“There are few other things you can do in this world that feed your brain and feed your soul in the same ways as working in music does….The greatest thing about music is that it is a wonderful outlet that let’s you explore aspects of your personality that you would otherwise would not be able to explore… Even if you’re not a mean person, you can be mean when you’re playing a song about a mean subject. Even if you’re not someone who is particularly flirtatious, you can be flirtatious in your music b/c it demands it, and it just requires that you do it. It’s interesting, you learn a lot about yourself while you’re exploring it.”

Andrew performs on Saturday October 8th @ 5pm as part of the Carnegie Neighborhood Concerts Series.

Check out some of Andrew’s past performances on YouTube.

Vladimir Horowitz

“I am a 19th-century Romantic. I am the last. I take terrible risks. Because my playing is very clear, when I make a mistake, you hear it. But…I am never afraid to dare. The music is behind those dots. You search for it…[and] I play, so to speak, from the other side of the score, looking back.’‘
– Vladimir Horowitz

Our first Persona is Vladimir Horowitz, who is Peiharn’s teacher’s teacher (wow). Mr. Horowitz was considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century, and was nick-named The Last Romantic, because he was one of the last performers to play in a big, exuberant, emotional style. This means, that although sometimes he played some wrong notes, his performances were always very lively and full of emotion.

Emanuel Ax, another famous pianist, said that Mr. Horowitz “brought the idea of excitement in piano playing to a higher pitch than anyone I’ve ever heard. For me the fascinating thing was a sense of complete control, and on the other hand, the feeling that everything was just on the verge of going haywire. It never did go over that line, but there was the sense of an unbelievable energy being harnessed, and the feeling that if he ever let it go, it would burn up the hall.’’

Vladimir Horowitz was born in Ukraine on October 1, 1903. When he was nine years old, he enrolled in the Kiev Conservatory. At fifteen, he made his concerto debut, playing Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, one of the hardest and beloved pieces in the piano repertoire. Mr. Horowitz made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1928. From there the rest is history!

Mr. Horowitz made many recordings, played many performances worldwide, and worked with many famous musicians including Arturo Toscanini. He is famous for his interpretations of many pieces, including the Liszt Piano Sonata in B minor, his transcription of Sousa’s Star’s and Stripes, and the Scarlatti Piano Sonatas.

Mr. Horowitz passed away on November 5, 1989. Many famous musicians and dignitaries were sad to hear this, including Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) and also the President! He left a piano legacy that affected many people and continues to do so. In the words of Isaac Stern, violinist and one-time president of Carnegie Hall:

“How many musicians can say that they have created a standard against which others will be judged? It was not only the personality that was extraordinary, but his pianistic and musical accomplishments, against which piano playing in the future will be measured….

“And when you saw him playing close up, it was as if each of his 10 fingers had a separate intelligence. Each moved in its direction at the right time and with the right weight; and he sat apart, observing it and controlling it from a central organism, without great effort.”

quotes from obituary by Bernard Holland, NYtimes – Nov 6, 1989