Years ago, as a composition student, I was asked to write music to make use of the huge space in St Nicolas Church in Utrecht. Pressed for time, I adapted a piece for baroque recorders and baroque violin. Only at the premiere did I see the greater possibilities of space and movement.
Tag Archives: composition
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. Continue reading
Mozart’s “Little Night Music” was originally written for string ensemble, consisting of string quartet plus an optional bass. I played the quatre-mains version with my classmate Jeff Beaudry one summer at New College, Oxford for a talent contest. We won a bottle of champagne which we shared with the other team at our next bridge game.
In the spirit of themed piano concerts, I decided to do one for Halloween, after my previous one for Earth Day in April 2014. Because Halloween is so popular in the USA, rather than run away and hide from trick-or-treaters as I usually do, I thought I’d face the music and celebrate with an audience that may appreciate a journey down memory lane.
The word Halloween originates from “All Hallows’ Even” or “the eve of All Hallows’ Day.” All Hallows’ Day is simply another name for All Saints’ Day, the day the Catholics commemorate all the saints.
The first time I heard it on the piano, I thought it was a variation of Einaudi’s music.
When I heard it again, I realized it was something else.
After my piano class, a student from the next class started playing it on the piano just as I was leaving.
“What is it?”
“River flows in you,” she said.
She added, “It’s from Twilight.”
I don’t remember this piece. Who is it by?
The sticky melody caught my attention. It’s been a long time since I’ve been caught off-guard like this. How could I not know the composer or the title of the work? I have watched all 5 movies of the Twilight Saga and don’t recall this piece at all. The closest one was Carter Burwell’s Bella’s Lullaby, which does not sound like this.
Rather, the piece I heard on the piano was “River Flows in You” by Yiruma, the Korean pianist who has lived in the UK. The sheet music of his works are freely downloadable from his website. Compare the difference, below.
My next step? Check out Yiruma’s music and sightread them all. What is his music so sticky? Maybe that could be project for my students.
How do performers meet composers and commission works from them?
I met Allan Segall during the intermission of a concert in Amsterdam in spring of 2004. The encounter left such an impression on me that I wrote an entry in my online journal. A few months later, I invited him to my Steinway welcome party in Bussum. He introduced a simple but sticky solo piano piece that I played and recorded for the event. As with most if not all compositions, Intermezzo comes with a story. I would love to include it in my solo piano project but I would need the score in electronic form.
Allan was intrigued by our piano guitar duo. He said that he enjoyed writing for “neglected ensembles.” By that, he probably meant rare combinations. We invited him to the premiere of the first piano guitar duo written for us. Afterwards, he declared that he would write a duo piece for us.
Allan’s output was a work that required several years of practice to get it right. I’m still not entirely sure that we got it right. “When J.S. Bach, Igor Stravinsky, and the Who met” is a terrifically difficult but exciting piece. It’s like time travel, with Bach counterpoint, Stravinsky harmony, and echoes of Tommy the rock musical. I daresay it’s the first time that the guitar is louder than the piano. We premiered it in Cortona, Italy in 2006. The USA premiere was on Maui in 2007. We finally released the CD of that Maui concert earlier this year. You can hear a short sample on CDBABY.
Once allowed to flourish, creative people have no boundaries. Allan Segall has now expanded his powers of creation beyond music. He wrote the play “Detox the Dummy” which premiered in Estonia recently. I remember when he was working on it. Our friendship nearly suffered during the period he was going through “detox.”
Watch the TV video below for an interview (in English) with Allan Segall. Don’t let the unsubtitled Estonian language deter you from seeing clips of the play.
When I changed the generic title of the mp3 file to “Prelude in d” while preparing the last blog post, the file list automatically reordered alphabetically in itunes. Just above the newly renamed file was “Prelude for Anne.”
Listening to it brought back memories of my early days with Robert Bekkers, who wrote and played the guitar solo piece for me.
It was the first time anyone had composed a work dedicated to me. I am pretty sure of that. I was not only flattered but genuinely taken by it. I suppose it’s like receiving a love letter, a love poem, or a gift that is totally original and unique. Such is the gift of music — a composition written for a person and dedicated to that person.
Shortly after I met Robert in Amsterdam, I organized a small house concert in my home in London in April 2001 in which Robert played several solo pieces. I cannot remember for sure if he included this prelude as I did not mention it in my blog. Nor did I list it in the subsequent house concerts.
Somehow I do recall a premiere and several performances. But when and where?
Would this blog post jog his memory? Or inspire him to find the sheet music?