Recital and Concerto works by Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Medtner, Messiaen, and Tan Dun
"Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911 by Johann Sebastian Bach Johann Sebastian Bach, born in 1685, came to be widely recognized as the preeminent composer of the Baroque era, and foremost among the numerous musical members of the Bach family. He established a harmonious blend of technical mastery, artistic originality, and philosophical symbolism (including numerology and biblical references). Relying on traditional chorale tunes (often those composed by Martin Luther) and rich counterpoint, he developed each musical idea to its utmost capabilities. One of the major keyboardists of his day, the majority of his works were instrumental. He took a lifelong interest in pedagogy, composing works for the keyboard and overall musical education of his children, including the Inventions and Well-Tempered Clavier (Book I). In addition to his didactic works, he contributed many of the Baroque's major works for the pleasure and edification of performing artists and their patrons, including the keyboard Partitas, French and English Suites, the Art of Fugue, Musical Offering, Toccatas, and numerous other landmark works. The term toccata first appeared in published form in 1536 in an Italian collection of lute music, and by the 1590s, began to come into more general use to describe keyboard pieces that called for extraordinary manual dexterity in performance. They often called for rapid filigree figuration, including scalar passagework, arpeggios, and decorative embellishments of a basic chord progression. By the time of Bach, the toccata had come to include imitative counterpoint, from fugato passages to extended, fully developed fugues. While its structure remained generally free, it continued to preserve the elaborate figuration of earlier times. Bach's organ compositions include monumental use of the toccata, principally in compositions of his Weimar period. His seven toccatas for the harpsichord date variously between 1706 and 1717, but fall largely into the period during his service as court organist in Weimar. The C minor Toccata opens with a brilliant prelude, leading to an Adagio and then a fugue, a much longer subject, interrupted briefly by the freer figuration of the opening, before the fugue resumes, now with a second theme added. The Toccata ends with the embellished chords linked by runs that provide a common feature of the form. The opening segment, feature a bold toccare (""touching,"" referring to manual dexterity) section, utilizing scalar passagework and rapid figuration. The piece moves directly into an adagio section, featuring complex imitative counterpoint in four voices. Based loosely on an ascending natural minor scale, the music thickens and modulates through several keys. As this section progresses, the imitative polyphony gives way to a more dramatic and improvisatory section before proceeding to the fugue. The head motive of the fugue's rather lengthy subject is based on a quite straightforward broken triad. Unlike the complex examples of polyphonic writing of the Art of Fugue and Well-Tempered Clavier, this fugue relies more on episodic ideas than contrapuntal devices. Frequent use of shifting modes adds color and variety to the generally thin textured musical design. As the fugue draws to a climactic moment, Bach infuses a brief fantasia-like passage reminiscent of the opening, and then resumes the fugue, in the original key, with few changes from the first section (there is a thicker texture, some improvisatory interruptions and new harmonic regions). The piece ends in a coda, beginning with a declamatory section, followed by a rapid finale, both in a freecomposed form, rounding out the monumental work. Piano Concerto No.3 in C Minor Op.37 by Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven, the eldest son of a singer in the Kapelle of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne and grandson of the Archbishop's Kapellmeister, was born in Bonn in 1770. He moved in 1792 to Vienna where he had some lessons with Haydn and others. By 1815 the deterioration of his deafness had made his public performance impossible. However, it didn't stop him from exploring new field of music. As a controversial figure who made heavy demands on listeners by both the length and the complexity of his writing, there is no doubt that Beethoven extensively enlarges the possibility of music, widening the horizons of later generations of composers, and capturing the imagination of listeners throughout the world for more than two centuries. The Piano Concerto No.3 in C Minor, dedicated to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, is considered to be composed in 1800, whereas the autograph score in 1977 shows in Beethoven's handwriting, 1803. The fact that it has more in common with the First Symphony than with the Third Symphony or the ""Waldstein"" sonata, proves the contradiction, which inspires scholar's further research. Nevertheless, the year of first performance and publication of Piano Concerto No.3 is certain. It premiered on the 5 th of April in 1803, when the composer was the soloist in the performance and publicized it in 1804. During the same performance, his second symphony and oratorio Christ On the Mount of Olives were also premiered. Along with Beethoven's first two piano concertos (No.2, Op.19 and No.1 Op.15), the third piano concerto is modeled on Mozart's piano concertos. Beethoven follows the ‘ritornello principle' in the Piano Concerto No.3, Op.37, allowing orchestra tutti to present much of the material that later be stated during the solo exposition in tonic where the first theme with vigorous and masculine tonalities is introduced by the strings in C minor and the second lyrical theme is performed by clarinet in the relative major key, Eflat major. The statement of the material in the orchestra retains the aesthetic function of preparing the entry of the soloist before a complete exposition is executed by soloist and orchestra together. Nevertheless, Beethoven makes an attempt to move beyond the ‘classical' form in the C minor piano concerto by experiencing the symphonic procedure. His innovations in the first movement - monumental plan served as model for next generations of composers and listeners. The first theme embodies the procedure of segmentation of material. Forceful modulations to parallel keys take place throughout the whole composition which surprises audience. Two motives (upward thirds- C to Eb and downward fourth intervals- C to G) from the first theme, along with the whole theme, are shown extensively throughout the whole piece. Before cutting the material from the first theme into segment, development section almost transpose the whole exposition to D major. The chromatic descending lines enlarges the possibility of the tension and dramatic and listeners. The composition is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B-flat, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in E-flat, 2 trumpets in C, the timpani, strings and a piano soloist. As a typical Classical/ Romantic-era concerto, the work is in three movements. I. Allegro con brio The first movement is in Sonata form with ritornello principle. Orchestra tutti (mm.1-110) states all the materials from the exposition. Exposition (mm.111-248) consist of 1 st theme, transition, 2nd them, and transition with coda (mm.180-248). The coda is combined with transition after the statement of the fairly compact and second lyrical theme. Based on the material of the first theme from the exposition, development cuts the themes into segments where instability of tonality occurs: D-g-f-g-G-c. Recapitulation (309- 415) remains in C minor. The second theme transposes forcefully to the parallel keys, C major. The Cadenza is full of stormy chords and a series of trills, which suddenly jumps down to pianissimo. Coda (417-443) ends the work with descending arpeggios, ascending scales, and an octave in C. II. Largo The second movement is in ternary form. The theme originates from the second theme in the exposition of the first movement. Beethoven elaborates on the theme with the change of rhythm, dynamics, and adding of notes. The soloist, playing arpeggio, is reduced to background accompaniment in the middle section, whereas the strings, playing pizzicato, lead the music back into the theme. III. Rondo- Allegro The finale is cast in sonata rondo form, a more specific breakdown of it being, AB-A'- C-A- B'-A' –Coda. The A' is always followed by a little cadenza. Among all the themes in the third movement, C has the most contrasting character. Its lyrical character reduces the tension of the development and creates peaceful and joyful atmosphere, which exhibits the lighter style characteristic of finales. Piano Sonata in C major Op.2 No.3 by Ludwig van Beethoven The three sonatas of Beethoven's Op. 2, recognized to be the first of the Beethoven's virtuosic sonatas, are all large-scale works which are in four movements, more commonly used in the symphony and the string quartet. The set ends with a splendid, magnificent sonata in C Major, the weightiest one amongst the three of them. It is dedicated to Joseph Haydn and was published in 1797. It foreshadows the 19th -centrury sonata scheme considering its four movement plan. The first movement - Allegro con brio It is an experiment where young Beethoven attempts to break away from the strict sonata structure of the late Classical period. A written-out cadenza is executed in the recapitulation, which makes the work in a concerto style and scope. Symphonic idea expands the work, which can be evidently shown by the use of rhythmic and melodic motifs, which is a technique also successfully used in the opening movement of the Fifth Symphony and exploited to the extreme by Wagner, and contrast between orchestra-tutiilike (mm.13-21) and string-quartet- like passages(mm.1- 12). The second theme landing on G minor is very unusual. The procedure, for which Beethoven breaks the expectation of modulating to G major, the closely related key of home key, C Major, has an unusual effect. Instead of landing to G major at the second theme, Beethoven postpones the arrival of G major until the presentation of codetta to intensify the degree of inner tension in the exposition. The first movement of Op.2 No.3 is also noteworthy for its false recapitulation in the development. Followed by completing the statement of ascending and descending arpeggio, a seemingly misleading statement of main theme in D Major, a foreign key, takes place, which strongly arouses the expectation of ‘double return' in recapitulation. Second movement- Adagio Compared to the slow movement of two previous sonatas, it is nearly twice long. The opening theme is heard like a string quartet. Beethoven doesn't stop the use of harmonic surprise in this slow movement. Followed by the unexpected key of E major in the opening, a shift to E minor brings in the second part of the movement, the theme-andvariations format where octaves in the bass support the swirling, arpeggiated music on the top until the second arrival of the main theme. The sudden dip into C major comes with a shock, implying instant a rude awakening from contemplation. Third movement -Scherzo The third movement is a lively scherzo in compound ternary form. It opens the first theme in C major with contrapuntal imitation and fleeting vigorous rhythms. The turbulent Trio section in relative minor key consists of broken chords in triplets. The Coda has a humorous ending that fades out with ascending intervals. The style of this short movement indicates the stylistic direction the scherzo would take in later works of Beethoven and his contemporaries. Final movement- Allegro assai The final movement is a pianistic and virtuosic firework in rondo construction. The fast tempo and melodic intensity make the composition technically demanding. The brilliant figuration, such as ascending chords, wave-like contour of the melodic lines with 16th notes, sufficiently leads the music to achieve a peak before the appearance of soft trills and silences near the end. Finally, the whole sonata ends with a thunderous chordal cascades reaffirming the tonic. Ballade No.2 in B Minor by Franz Liszt The Second Ballade was composed in the spring of 1853 and published in 1854. During those years, Liszt composed his 8TH Symphonic Poem, titled “Orpheus” and conducted the Weimar premiere of Gluck's opera “Orfeo ed Euridice” in which the original overture was replaced with his own Symphonic Poem. This is considered as the link between this Ballade and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydic. As one of Liszt's greatest compositions, Ballade in B minor continues Liszt's thoughts in the key of B minor shortly after completing the monumental Piano Sonata in the same key. The work presents an enormous canvas of resonances and a wide range of emotional states. As with the Sonata, Liszt continues to explore methods of thematic transformation in his Second Ballade to achieve a sense of unity and coherence. The entire Ballade is woven out of four simple thematic ideas: the stormy surging chromatic pattern beneath the foreboding theme, which is based on an ascending B natural minor scale. Then, Liszt repeats the thematic ideas in B-flat minor, a semitone lower, before the statement of a march. Two lyrical interludes, one is the theme that contrast with the darkly ominous chromatic undertow to rising scales. This theme (mm.24-34) is glistening and dreamy which can be called a sunny “Allegro”. The other interludes (mm. 135-142) are plaintive and heartfelt. The last thematic idea is the first theme, together with the chromatic accompaniment, which appears in different guises and keys as the Ballade unfolds, with each appearance more urgent and turbulent than the other, until it crashes down in a stunning climax. The most magical transformation of this theme occurs after the climax, where it finally reaches its goal of B major. The theme is restated twice after this, with triumphant chords and sky-rocketing scales that unexpectedly lead to a reprise of the first lyrical idea, drawing this epic tale to a close with quiet, understated finality. This is an epic with public tragedies. The characteristic Lisztian sonorities including powerful broken octaves, sky-rocketing scales, and a passage with blocking chords and surging scales depicts skillful manipulation of thematic ideas, the fusion of drama and lyricism, the innovative approach to instrumental texture and formal architecture, and the centrality of pianistic virtuosity to the music's expressive vocabulary. Two Fairy Tales, Op.20 No.1 in B minor flat, Op.26 No.3 in F minor by Nikolai Medtner. Nikolai Karlovich Medtner was born in Moscow on January 5, 1880. Because of strong Russian culture influences on two generation of his family, Nikolai immerges himself in Russian tradition, even though he was of Danish and German descent. During his study at Moscow Conservatory, Medtner joined the piano class taught by Vasily Safonov, whose previous students had included Scriabin, and Josef Lhevinne. After playing a sonata for Rachmaninoff, Medtner began a lifelong friendship with Rachmaninoff, from whom Medtner received artistic promotion and financial generosity. Without question, the collection of thirty-three Fairy Tales (Skazki) gratifies both the pianist and audience. Representing a continuation of Romantic character pieces, concentrated poetic utterances, Fairy Tales has a similar place as Grieg's Lyric Pieces or Chopin's Mazurkas. Comparison was made with Novelettes of Schumann and Intermezzo of Brahms in terms of condensed form and polyphonic richness and rhythmic complexity. Here virtuosity serves a higher artistic purpose. Medtner's viewpoints on music are articulated in the book The Muse and the Fashion. The principles of following basic laws established by the great masters of the past in favor of tonality are shown in Fairy Tales. Form structure serves an essential role of Medtner's artistic thinking. His Fairy Tales could be categorized under the forms of ternary, sonata, and rondo. Op.20 No.1 in B-flat minor and Op.26 No.3 in F minor are both in ABA' form. In Op.26 No.3, A' section is played a semitone above the original F minor key, F- sharp minor to intensify the pathos of passage. In Op.20 No.1, some abbreviations of the themes in A section are made to avoid the reiteration of literal repetition. As he states the importance of rhythm in The Muse and the Fashion, rhythm is a very substantial element of the musical art. Use of complexity of rhythm including instance of cross-rhythm, polyrhythms, and syncopation reflects his points on rhythm. Vingt Regard Sur I'enfant-Jesus, XVIII. Regard de I'onction terrible by Olivier Messiaen. Olivier Messiaen, French composer, organist, and ornithologist, was one of the most important composers of the 20th century. His interest in religion, nature, and oriental philosophy made great contributions to his distinctive musical feature using of innovative utilization of color and rhythm, perception of relationship between time and music, and birdsongs. Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, composed in 1944 for his wife, Yvonne Loriod, is a collection of 20 compositions for solo piano. It is a work for meditation on the childhood of Jesus. Messiaen is inspired by the reflection of the colors of the stainedglass windows in Catholic churches. Movement 18, ""Regard de l'onction terrible"", is considered as an example of how Messiaen uses his ideas on form and symmetry in his compositions. The form for this movement is X–A–A–B–A–C–A–B–A–A–C–X. The composition begins with descending chromatic scales and tritone chords take place in the right hand. During the X section, elongation of duration of the notes alternately is exhibited on left and right hand. The main subject of the movement is then presented, reiterated, transposed, varied before the reprising of opening theme. Eight memories In Watercolor- II. Staccato Beans, VIII: Sunrain by Tan Dun Tan Dun, born in a village of Hunan province, is Chinese contemporary classical composer and conductor. He is well-known for his film music for such movies, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero. Using incorporation of audiovisual elements, unusual instruments, such as paper, water, and stone, as well as fascination on traditional Chinese theater and ritual performance make his music very distinctive. Studying with Chou Wen-Chung, who had studied under Edgard Varèse at Columbia University opened his eyes to many horizon. He completed his dissertation, Death and Fire: Dialogue with Paul Klee, in 1993. Inspired by a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, Death and Fire is a short symphony that engages with the paintings of Paul Klee. These eight memories in watercolor were written during the years after he left his home in Hunan to study at the conservatory in Beijing. Blending of Western classical and modern music with Chinese folk songs is the ideas how Tan Dun approaches this work. The strong rural accent conveys such nostalgia. It had been twenty years before the work drew public's attention. Pianist Lang Lang premiered the suite at the Kennedy Center in 2003 and at Carnegie Hall."