With great expectations since I first received the score in early spring, I looked forward to the second performance of Robert Beaser‘s Chaconne. It’s a new work that I had studied and played in a large guitar orchestra for its premiere in April 2018. This time, Robert Bekkers, the conductor of our Boston Guitar Orchestra, played it with eight other musicians. Knowing that the nine guitarists rehearsed nearly every day of the Boston Guitar Festival confirmed my earlier belief that it was not an easy piece at all.
Premiering a new work is always a nerve-wracking experience, especially in front of the composer and an unknown public. I’m not sure who has the greater pressure, the composer or the performer, or in this case, the conductor.
On Sunday 18th March 2018, the Boston Festival Guitar Orchestra, made up of several regional guitar ensembles, including Boston Guitar Orchestra, gave the world premiere of Robert Beaser‘s Chaconne, a piece commissioned by the Boston Classical Guitar Society for the New England Guitar Ensemble Festival (NEGEF).
When I listened to New York-based composer/pianist Daniel Abrams’ CD “Opera for Piano” earlier in the spring, I was immediately touched by his “Chaconne on Dido’s Lament.” I had to stop the CD and write to him for a copy of the score. Over the telephone Daniel Abrams asked, “Why does this lament have such an effect on you?”
One item on my backlog list is to introduce new music of living composers by recording them before our piano guitar duo concerts. These are also the pieces I am studying before actual performance.
When I listened to New York-based composer/pianist Daniel Abrams’ CD “Opera for Piano” earlier in the spring, I was immediately touched by his “Chaconne on Dido’s Lament.” I had to stop the CD and write to him for a copy of the score.
Dido’s Lament, from Henry Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas” had struck a chord in me when my analysis teacher played the descending bass line as a famous example. Since then, I had lived in awe of the story of Dido and Aeneas and the lament that preceded the end of Queen Dido. I had even “borrowed” or “quoted” the descending line in my own chamber opera “Culture Shock!” You could say I am besotted with Dido’s Lament.
Over the telephone Daniel Abrams asked, “Why does this lament have such an effect on you?”
Is it duty over love? Do what’s expected of you rather than what you want? After all, I had been brought up to learn what is expected of me and had even written a poem entitled “Want.” For that reason, I feel the tragedy of life.
Or could it be simply the beauty of such a descending bass line?
I met Daniel Abrams and his wife Sonia this past April in Utrecht, between the two week-long trips to Seville and Madrid. Lamenting that I had no time to attend his master classes at Utrecht Conservatory or attend his concert with his former student Alan Weiss, I invited them to dinner (cooked by our friends Emily and Paulus) after a day of rehearsals. At parting, Daniel gave me his “Opera for Piano” CD.
Below is a first take of the first few pages of his 11 variations in “Chaconne on Dido’s Lament.” I will have to visit that restored 1880 Bechstein grand piano in Warmond again, when I’ve figured out the page turns.