Post-concert recordings

Nearly a month after the concert, people are still raving about it. The CD recording brought back fond memories of that evening of standing room only on Maui.

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A CD arrived in the post about 4 weeks after the concert. Listening to it brought back memories of that action-packed, full-house evening. The guests started arriving more than an hour before the concert. Half-an hour before it began, the hall was full. Minutes before the concert, I saw the “reserved for pianists only” seats taken by two ladies who read the cards but ignored the request.

It was every concert producer’s dream: standing room only.

Perhaps it was the rigor of concert promotion effort or the success of previous year’s piano concert or both, the outcome was impressive. Nearly a month later, my hairdresser mentioned that she heard about this concert though she was not able to attend herself. One of her customers raved about it.

I was warned that seats would be taken early for the 7:30 pm concert at Maui Music Conservatory, on the second floor of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Mall in Kahului, the capital of Maui County. “Piano Synergy” was the name of this concert, which, for us 6 pianists, actually began 4 months earlier with Sunday afternoon group rehearsals.

On Saturday 14th July at 7:30 pm, Ebb & Flow Arts, the non-profit arts organization on Maui, presented that one-hour concert (without intermission) of original works for many pianos, including the premiere of a new piece it commissioned for this occasion.

The composer Thomas Osborne was not only present for this premiere but also played one of the parts: Piano 1. Aptly titled “Canyons,” it began with Piano 4, nearly always in forte or fortissimo and definitely always the loudest of all 4 pianos. Piano 3 echoed Piano 4 but slightly softer. I played Piano 2, even softer. Piano 1 was nearly always pianissimo. This method of imitation in terraced dynamics continues until an augmentation, a spacing out of the repeated passages. Listen below.

Canyons as performed by Beatrice Scorby, Robert Pollock, Anne Ku, and Thomas Osborne (mp3)

The last work to be performed that evening of the celebration of French independence on Bastille Day was none other than Darius Milhaud’s 4-piano work “Paris.” Wearing my dry-cleaned black silk dress purchased in Paris in summer of 2009, I stood up to introduce this 6-movement work. It was, without doubt, one that required the most study of all works selected for this concert.

“And now, for the piece d’ resistance, Paris, which is the raison d’etre for tonight!” There were French-speakers in the audience who were glad to help my pronunciation. Before each movement, I introduced that part of Paris and what to listen for. After Montmartre came L’isle St Louis. On a foggy day, you can hear the church bells of Notre Dame and nearby churches. Sometimes you can hear they are out of tune!

L’isle St Louis from Paris by Darius Milhaud (mp3)

Longchamp refers to the race courses. The composer chose a fugue to represent that. A fugue literally means a chase. You can hear it getting faster and more intense.

Longchamp from Paris by Darius Milhaud (mp3)

The recordings were made by John Messersmith for Ebb & Flow Arts.

Paris by Darius Milhaud

Paris by Darius Milhaud with text by Joe Goldiamond — a piano work to be performed on 4 pianos in Maui on 14th July 2012.

The Paris of French composer Darius Milhaud in 1948 is captured in his 4 piano music for 4 pianists. I asked my friend Joe Goldiamond, who has lived in Paris, to write about each of the areas which title the movements of this work. He has always spoken fondly of Paris, a romantic city I was fortunate enough to visit as a 21-year-old backpacker through Europe, on holiday as a graduate student, day trip for a job interview, blind date, conferences & meetings, winter rendezvous with friend from Houston, and the last occasion in Summer 2009. I can’t wait to share his descriptions with the audience on Maui on Saturday 14th July 2012. [The bracketed comments are mine, after our 8th July rehearsal.]

Montmartre

Montmartre sits on a hillside in the northernmost part of the city and has a 2,000 year-old history as an independent village known for its windmills and vineyards.  Annexed by Paris in the late 19th century, it quickly became home for artists, poets and revolutionaries who were attracted by its tolerant atmosphere, its buoyant nightlife, and by the beauty of its winding, narrow cobblestone streets, often with steep inclines, that may lead suddenly to small squares and fountains and gardens. [You can hear the scales, which I think depict the steps and paths.]

L’ Isle St. Louis      

The Isle St. Louis is a natural island in the River Seine right in the heart of Paris.  Yet, it feels far away and on Sunday mornings, when the island is shrouded in mist that rolls in from the river and the only sound you hear is that of a church bell, you might easily imagine yourself in rural France, 400 years ago.  It was the home of the Polish composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin.  The quays, which embrace the entire island, are legendary as lovers’ promenades. [You can hear the tenuto notes representing the bells of the Notre Dame.]

Montparnasse

Montparnasse became the heart of Paris’s artistic and intellectual life after the first decade of the 20th century.  Located deep on the Left Bank, the area is a broad plain gathered around the boulevard Montparnasse, which today, as much as yesterday, blends bookstores and nightlife, cafés and crepe restaurants.  The stroller will still find legendary cafés, such as Le Dome and La Rotonde, where painters, sculptors, writers and philosophers from across the globe gathered to mold thoughts and debate ideas. [This piece is full of conversations, ideas, and thoughts criss-crossing each other. The biggest movement by far.]

Les Bateaux-Mouches

The Bateaux-Mouches are long, slender boats that have carried visitors on tours through the heart of Paris since the end of the 19th century.  The visitor experiences a leisurely adventure and gentle breeze as his boat glides past Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum and the Tuileries Gardens and under historic bridges.  He may also sense what the waters of the Seine have always meant to Paris, as its main artery, and some would say, its soul. [In 12/8 time, you feel the sway of the boat on the water, nice and relaxed!]

Longchamp

The Longchamp Racecourse is located along the banks of the Seine in a wooded area in western Paris.  From the time of Napoleon III and across La Belle Epoque into the early 20th century, it was the kind of place that you went to in a top hat, if you were a man, and carrying a parasol, if you were not.  Even the thoroughbred horses had an understated elegance, along with power, in the masterly paintings of Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. [This is a fugue, which means chase. You can literally hear the parts can’t wait to imitate each other, more like chasing each other!]

La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower is the tallest structure in France, the most visited monument in the world, and the universal symbol of Paris.  If the islands in the River Seine are the city’s heart, and the river its soul, then the Eiffel Tower is the city’s intelligence.  Constructed of iron lattice, like Parisian balconies, it was considered an impossible feat until it was done.  It was completed in 1889, in time for the World’s Fair, which was held to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution, an event we commemorate this evening. [As the last movement, this is grand and triumphant, rising high like the tower itself! Lots of octaves!]

Piano synergy: music for many hands on many pianos

As preparation for her next concert of many hands on many pianos on 14th July 2012 in Maui, Anne Ku discovers other interpretations on the Internet.

In preparation for my next concert in mid-July on Maui, I decided to check out performances of the selected works on the Internet. The interpretations are much faster, crisper, and cleaner. It’s really hard to play fast, crisp, and clean —– that is, with many pianists on many different pianos.

Darius Milhaud’s Paris: Suite for 4 pianos spans different arrondissemont of Paris. I try to remember the Paris I know but I only remember Montmartre, L’ile Saint-Louis, and the Eiffel Tower from the 6 movements. I could not find a video clip of this fantastic work against the different scenes of Paris though the 2 on Youtube are sufficiently interesting. This piece is by far the most demanding of our entire 1.5 hour program.

Next, I looked for Gerald Busby’s Four! a statement for 4 pianos. Instead, I found Plucked — 15 hands on one piano. It’s a most remarkable and funny piece. If you have time to watch it, do enjoy the performance art.

Another 4 piano 8 hand piece is Wallace DePue’s 16 Pawns. It’s a short and fast one page work. No videos on the Internet. No background description. Perhaps we can get our own recording at the concert.

We will be playing two multi-hand pieces by Robert Pollock, founder and artistic director of Ebb & Flow Arts, the non-profit organization that is putting together this concert of Sunday 14th July 2012. The titles reveal just how many pianists and pianos. Five for Four. Three for Six. Answer: Five pianists on 4 pianos. Three pianos for Six hands.

I finally get to play a work of Morton Feldman, a composer I have heard much about but never studied. His “Piece for 4 Pianos” is interesting in that all pianists have the same score. It’s up to each pianist to decide when to play each note. Everything is soft. The result? a kind of rippling, echoey effect. Watch the meditative result below.

John Cage’s “Music for Piano” is another aleatory piece (one which the composer instructs the performer to decide on duration or other aspects of the composition). We each chose two consecutive pages from the album. It’s prepared piano at its best, though it would take about 30 minutes to prepare. We each have a bag of black rubber and white felt objects to insert between the strings of the piano for those notes we need to mute. The result? Texture that we’d otherwise not hear. Again, we decide when and how long to play each note. Last time we had agreed on the piece to last 7 minutes, but some of us were too fast and others too slow. It does take some practice to get 4 pianists to end at the same time.

Below is one interpretation of John Cage’s “Music for Piano”

Sadly there is not enough music for many pianos. Ebb & Flow Arts commissioned composer Thomas Osborne to write one for us. The mp3 version of his “Canyons” for four pianos is very powerful. I will try playing it today.

Luckily there is plenty of fun pieces for two pianos and even two pianists on one piano. As 14th July is Bastille Day, we decided to choose works of French composers. Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite; Faure’s Dolly Suite; and Debussy’s Petite Suite.

I am so glad to be able to participate this time. Last year my multi-hands on one piano work “Three on One” was performed in the Battle of the Pianists concert in Maui while I was in Utrecht. Ironically, rehearsing these multi-hand, multi-piano works with other pianists just makes me miss sightreading chamber music with string and wind players even more!

Free concert – no reservation required. Get there early — last year was standing room only!

PIANO SYNERGY FREE CONCERT

Sunday 14 July 2012

7:30 pm

Maui Music Conservatory
Queen Ka’ahumanu Mall (upstairs) 
Kahului, Maui, Hawaii

Pianists (alphabetical order): Lotus Dancer, Anne Ku, Peiling Lin, Ruth Murata, Robert Pollock, Beatrice Scorby

Ebb and Flow Arts North South East West Festival of New Music
Ebb and Flow Arts North South East West Festival of New Music