Dreams of Pianos

So, I have been away from this blog for about 2 months, and enough has happened during that time that I’m going to try to break it down into 2 or 3 different blog entries, because I’m kind of lazy.

Anyway, first things first. I did a piano recital! And it turned out kind of awesome, I guess. If you are interested in seeing the program and hearing the recordings (there’s a really bad one, but I’m not gonna tell you which one, you have to guess. First one to get it right gets to see me cry!), you can head over to the event page here.

Putting on a piano recital turned out to be a lot of work. It basically consumed my whole life from about a month before, and I’m pretty sure I had PTSD for like a week afterwards. Without a doubt, the hardest part was programming the crazy thing. I’m an incredibly indecisive person and I could never decide what exactly it was I wanted to play and if it all went together. I literally added a new piece a week and a half before my recital. Somebody should have hit me over the head with a brick. But, somehow, it all turned out really well.

Somehow, the recital turned out to be a 45″ exploration of dreams, spearheaded by the Mazzolli work. (I’m going to say a little bit about each piece right now, but if you want to read my more formal program notes, click here.)

The Mazzolli piece (Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos) was the first piece of hers I ever heard, and I instantly fell in love. A big part of my mission as a performer is to present new works that people might not ever have heard of otherwise and to present old works in new ways, and presenting this piece first definitely prepared the audience for what was to come. There’s something that is so much fun about walking onstage for a piano recital, sitting down, putting on a pair of headphones, and listening to 15″ of processed electronic piano sounds before you ever play a note. The hardest part of preparing the piece was A) dealing with the balance between the electronics and the piano, which I’m not sure we ever got totally right and B) trying to balance each section in the work as a whole. It’s made up of like 5 or so small sections that each look like a big, long crescendo, so it’s tricky to make sure the climax of the piece actually sounds like THE climax and not just ANOTHER climax.

Next up were 3 short, fairly straightforward French pieces. The first was a moderately well-known Debussy prelude, which was perhaps the most standard thing I played. It was a lot of fun to quickly put together, and helped me to fulfill my deep love for French habaneras. As did the next piece, the 5th of Arthur Honegger’s Sept pieces breves. Honegger was a new name for me when I first learned these piece last year, and I’m not sure how much of his other music I like, but I am in LOVE with these pieces. I only played the 5th and 7th on this recital, but the others are so much fun. Honegger was perhaps the most stylistically interesting of Les Six, if not always the most successful. The 7th was an absolute nightmare to learn, but once I learned it, it was a lot of fun to play.

Dream by John Cage was the second to last piece I added to the recital program, I think about 3 weeks from the recital date. It’s a piece I had been wanting to perform for a long time, and with it being the Cage centenary, and the title of the piece, it was the perfect excuse. I can’t really describe what it’s like to play this piece. Something in it just absolutely tears me apart every time. The end of the 2nd repeat is when I lost it during this performance, so the 3rd repetition turned into this very soft, achingly slow elegy. (More on Cage at the end of this entry.)

Whoa my gosh, Liszt. I had never played any Liszt until this semester when I learned this piece, mostly because I thought I didn’t like Liszt. Well, my teacher forced me to play something, so I had to go searching through the arpeggios and octaves to find something of his I could actually connect with. I had my heart set on Sursum Corda when I first heard it, but it doesn’t really work out of context. (One day, I really want to perform the whole 3rd year of the Annes. But that day is probably very far away.) Then one day, he suggested I look at the Harmonies poetiques et religiuses, and I found the Invocation, and for some reason it was love at first sight. Sure, I had to deal with all these octaves, but there was something deeper in there that I really loved and connected with. It turned out to be one of my favorite pieces I’ve played, and I’ve ended up playing it a lot since then, including as part of a church service, and at my grandmother’s nursing home as part of an impromptu recital.

The last piece, and maybe my favorite to play, was the Theofanidis. This was the piece I added the week before, but it wasn’t such a big deal because I had been playing the piece for a couple years anyway. I’ve carried this piece around for a long time, but I had never formally presented it until this recital. It’s been a very personal piece to me for some reason, and I’ve never really found the right occasion for me to send it out into the world. It somehow seemed appropriate to end a program of dreams with the thought of new dreams beginning.

All in all, I had an absolute blast preparing for the recital, and I can’t wait to do it again. Speaking of doing another recital, be on the lookout for dates, because I’ll be presenting a recital entitled “Quiet Music” (works by Bach, Adams, Walden, Muhly, Gershwin, and Andres) most likely in July, and this September I will be giving another recital entitled “Time Will Tell” (works by Cage, Satie, Feldman, Glass, maybe Walden, and Andres) for John Cage’s 100th birthday. (I had a faculty member comment that I should be giving 3 or 4 recitals a year, and I perhaps took her too literally.)

 

Next on the docket, Leaves of Greens at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival.

 

PW

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