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Rare Extended-Piano Gems With A Bang – Lyric Say

NEC piano professor Steve Drury, together with many aficionados of grasp Ives and prepared-piano virtuosity, completed their celebration for the Charles Ives 150th Birthday with a live performance of hardly ever heard (however typically mentioned) prolonged approach piano items. On March 27th at Jordan Corridor, Drury and Hidemi Akaiwa opened with Drury’s association of Alvin Lucier’s Music for Piano with Magnetic Strings. This e-bow-heavy duet barely registered for the viewers, because it happened whereas everybody filed into the corridor; this determination was, after all, intentional, re-framing the hum of the corridor with resonating piano strings. This unorthodox alternative grew to become the theme of the night, with Ives being joined by coevals Henry Cowell, Carl Ruggles, and Lou Harrison, together with later composers Georg Friedrich Haas and David Fulmer.

The primary audience-focused efficiency got here within the type of Evocations, 4 Chants for Piano composed by Ruggles. Pianist Hold Zhong performed every of the chants tenderly and with nice respect for the way Jordan Corridor might do many of the resonating work, making every of those 4 actions tiny however expressive of their sound. It appeared to this reviewer, with out understanding as a lot about this work as others on this system, that every part was about one web page lengthy; mentioning this truth is necessary, as pairs of chants blended, shedding me (positively) within the music.

Ives’s The Celestial Railroad takes cues from the lengthy journey in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of the identical title, each in its programmatic aspect and, in a way, its personal musical journey, having been damaged up and recomposed a number of occasions into different well-known works corresponding to Symphony No. 4 and Sonata for Piano No. 2Concord, Massachusetts 1840-1860 II. Hawthorne. The work as initially composed isn’t as regularly carried out, regardless of forming the spine of a number of main works. Don’t point out this discrepancy to performer August Baik, whose interpretation thereof  shone brightly. Baik felt snug within the thorniest dissonance to essentially the most unusually positioned rag and “Battle Cry of Freedom!” citation, reflecting the bizarre and parodic journey of the particular celestial railroad by means of Destruction. Might he be a candidate to be taught the railroad’s well-known half-cousin within the second sonata? Time will inform, however this reviewer thinks so.

Suite for Piano by Harrison adopted, within the knowledgeable fingers of Yali Levy Schwartz. Harrison lined the total vary of expression ion the 5 actions, opting principally to stay to comparatively darker textures and sound worlds however often brightening up the palette (Interlude involves thoughts right here). Schwartz met the problem readily, notably within the Aria the place she revealed a full vary of tone colours

Set of 5 Take-Offs pitted Ives in opposition to a number of totally different parody topics, from Mendelssohn (“Song Without (Good) Words”) to New Years’ Resolutions (“Bad Resolutions and Good Wan”). Figuring out that every of those items encapsulates some musical joke, every of the take-offs needs to be approached with the expectation that they don’t seem to be critical in any respect. Such works must be infused with off-kilter humor and a way of the performer being in on the joke. Daniel Chen Wang, for all of his flawless execution of the notes for every motion (together with, every so often, the character, particularly in “The Seen and Unseen?”, might higher have expressed the as a substitute of merely letting the piano resonate as broadly as doable earlier than ‘The Unseen’ crept its method in. Extra humor and extra expectation of a musical punch line have been needed. Wang is on the proper path, nonetheless; in time he can land the humor.

The 4 Cowell items are greatest talked about in pairs, as they straddled the chasm of intermission and shared performers. The Tides of Maunaunaun and The Lilt of the Reel required Jessica Yuma to position her full forearm down onto the keys to play giant principally pandiatonic clusters between the higher and decrease registers for every work. Yuma performed with the sharpest depth within the aggressive Manaunaun whereas simply lightening up for the Reel that adopted; the dichotomy of characters ran from darkish and intense to gentle and cheerful.

Steven Drury at an earlier SICPP (Andrew Hurbut picture)

Pauline Pu, on the opposite aspect of the intermission cleft, strummed the strings of the piano in The Aeolian Harp., which inspired her to indicate how thoughtfully she might depress keys in sheer silence, as per the instrument namesake, solely sure triads and harmonies are allowed to resonate with the aeolian harp, locking off different strings to not create dissonance. Pu quietly depressed a number of keys to permit the called-for strings to echo cleanly regardless of a chromatic strum; it was nearly as if she by no means touched the keys. Pu then held the maintain pedal down for Pin-Chieh Chen to scrape the strings for the ever well-known inside-the-piano piece The Banshee. Satirically sufficient, the corridor dampened the sound of the screeching spirit by means of no fault of Chen. She scraped and strummed alongside the strings in such a fashion that it felt just like the piano was groaning, save for the occasional unintended fingernail clipping the aspect of a string and making it sound. If solely the lid have been on the piano, maybe that may have helped; granted, it might have made the piece not possible to carry out, nonetheless, given how Chen needed to lean in, so perhaps this dryness was the one compromise doable.

Then got here the second quarter tone piano. Kyuree Kim performed Haas’s Hommage à Steve Reich from Trois Hommages, a favourite of Drury. Kim remained utterly targeted your entire time, not letting herself get tricked or caught up within the teeth-gnashing quarter tone dissonance. As soon as settled in, nonetheless, small subgroupings akin to Reich’s conventional minimalist compositions emerged because the quarter tones and rhythmic passages interacted, imitating the minimalist large relatively properly with out being mistaken for him.

David Fulmer’s Solely in darkness is thy shadow clear, the latest work on supply, and a Tanglewood/Callithumpian Consort co-commission, confirmed a gestural and composite-chord aspect to any such microtonal composition. Duo-pianists Joseph Vasconi and Kexin Tian needed to synchronize with one another because of the relative lack of constant pulse. They did excellently at that, as we heard minimal tearing between the 2 components; they let the devices growl of their decrease registers till they shone within the higher. In contrast with the star of the night, Ives’s Three Quarter-Tone Items, the duet of Shu Wen Tay and Benjamin Rossen might function extra in rhythm, nonetheless needing to synchronize with one another however allowing some expressive chance. Particularly throughout the Allegro (a re-composition and reinterpretation of Ives’s earlier Ragtime Dances) the 2 successfully let the pianos work together. Ives composed the piece to display a extra melodic and fewer harmonically dense type of quarter-tone efficiency, with customary ascents and descents between the 2 keyboards. At this level Tay and Rossen made themselves one voice. We wish to have heard a grittier take at some factors, corresponding to within the fast, grace-note arpeggiations that ought to have been louder and deeper in  depth than the fragile and dainty run to the decision be aware we heard.

The live performance gave the impression to be over till a stage door opened and out got here NEC legend Ran Blake in his wheelchair. Drury then sat on the quarter-tone piano with Blake on the regular one as the home lights dimmed. The 2 then launched into an improvised journey for the subsequent 5 minutes, enveloped in darkness and never understanding the place the harmonies would lead subsequent. The 2 demonstrated immense expertise for modern improvisation, nonetheless, and this reviewer would hear them endlessly.

Sharting his ardour for the piano as an prolonged instrument, Drury set this 150th birthday of Charles Ives off with a bang.

Ian Wiese is Affiliate Professor of Ear Coaching at Berklee Faculty of Music and doctoral candidate in Composition at New England Conservatory of Music. He studied with the late John Heiss, Michael Gandolfi, and Kati Agocs.

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