Have you ever become so obsessed with a tune that the only remedy is to play it on your instrument? When I watched the following clip, I knew I had heard the music before — in London, but not for guitars.
I tried “Shazamming” it but the Shazam on my iPhone didn’t recognize the music.
Next, I posted it on Facebook to see if any of my musician friends and classical music aficionados would race to come to my rescue. “What is the name of this piece and who wrote it?”
In less than five minutes, I got a response from CvD. He wrote, “Palladio by Karl Jenkins, originally for string orchestra.”
He would know. He lives in London. He plays the piano and bassoon. Once upon a time, some thirteen summers ago, we played music in the garden on a lovely day like today.
Knighted by the Queen of England in 2015, Welsh composer Sir Karl Jenkins has written a number of what-I-call “sticky music.” The first movement of Palladio is one such piece.
So I set about looking for the sheet music. It has been arranged for string quartet, made popular by winners of “British’s Got Talent” — Escala.
I found a few fan arrangements for piano. Clearly the music is very popular. Unfortunately, the ones I found were not challenging enough and thus not satisfying to play, or too messy to read. Frustrated, I decided to arrange a version for myself.
Click on the sample image below to get the 4-page PDF (added 27th Feb 2017).
In the process, I discovered that the composition is formulaic. Like many pieces, once you figure out the formula, you can adapt your own accompaniments and improvisations. The left-hand, for instance, can take on different accompaniment for the bass. In bars 11-13, the left hand takes on a broken-octave sequence. This can sound boring after awhile.
An alternative would be to use single notes or block octaves, depending on the skill level.
As I tell my students, the bass is very important for it’s the foundation, holding up the rest of the ensemble. In this music itself, the double bass and cello function as the bass. As such, there are many possible arrangements for the left-hand on the piano.
The right-hand of the piano would play what the two violins and viola would play. As Palladio was originally scored for string orchestra, the divisions in the instrumental groups make it more problematic for the single right-hand to encompass on the piano. Take the section from bar 43 onwards, for instance.
It would be awkward to have the right hand play the antiphonal banter between the two violins. If this were to be divided between right and left hands, we would lose the bass. Obviously, we need a third hand!
After struggling with different possibilities, I decided to add an ossia staff and let the pianist decide. Skip the ossia or skip the bass. Of course, the left hand can also play a broken octave sequence as shown below.
While arranging this for solo piano for my own indulgence, I started imagining how it would sound in a piano ensemble. Would one person play just the bass or would I offer what pianists really like to do —- that is, play the bass line with the left hand and the melody with the right? I could arrange it for different levels, the way I’ve done for Eine Kleine Nacht Musik.
For musicians who want to improve reading the bass clef, it might not be a bad idea to have a piano arrangement of the cello and double bass!
Below is a version for solo guitar, posted on FB by my friend Suzy who is eager to hear my piano guitar duo play it. Maybe I will arrange it for piano and guitar, if I don’t get pulled into other “sticky music” — !!!