Introducing new piano solos

Anne Ku catalogues new piano solo works by living composers on Concertblog

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As a sightreader, I am always looking for new challenges, that is, to play new music I have not seen before.  Before I entered the world of composers, I would search for published music of dead composers.

In my musical journey, I discover that the new music (of living composers) is just as interesting if not more. These days, if I come across music of a composer I like, whether it’s ensemble music or piano guitar duo, I’d ask if he or she had written anything for piano solo or piano duet. Similarly — vice versa.

Below is a catalogue of the piano solo works I have reviewed and introduced on Concertblog. I will continue to add to this list, arranged alphabetically by the composer’s last name.


Waltz by John Carollo

Anne Ku met composer John Carollo in Cortona, Italy in 2006 and in Honolulu in 2011. Carollo’s Waltz written in 1986 evokes Satie and Debussy. Listen to a recording from the Netherlands.

John Carollo, composer, and Anne Ku, blogger, Honolulu, 3 April 2011
John Carollo, composer, and Anne Ku, blogger, Honolulu, 3 April 2011

On Sunday 3rd April 2011, while sightreading 81 short piano pieces entitled “80th Birthday Jingles” by the Honolulu-based composer John Carollo, I came across an old work of his from 1986. John, whom I first met in Cortona, Italy in July 2006, walked out of his kitchen and came towards me.

“I haven’t heard that in awhile.” He seemed caught off guard. Later, I learned that he had forgotten about this piece.

It was tonal music from his pre-serial days.

“Play it again,” he mused.

John had written this Satie-like waltz for his friend Bill whose surprise birthday party I had attended two nights earlier in a million dollar home in Hanepepe Loop. On Sunday in a penthouse in central Honolulu, we were just eating the leftovers from that executive chef-catered dinner when my playing of his Waltz evoked even earlier memories of his journey as a composer.

I liked it so much that I took it to Utrecht, Netherlands and recorded it on my grand piano on 4th August 2011.

Waltz by John Carollo, interpreted by Anne Ku (mp3)

Waltz by John Carollo
Waltz by John Carollo

Just yesterday afternoon I found the three of John’s CDs: the award-winning Ampersand, Starry Night for String Orchestra, and Transcendence in the Age of War. Now that I have time in Maui, I will listen to his works, although I have already heard one performed in my house on 1st July 2011. Pianist Nathanael May played his Prelude as the last piece of a set of five by the composers Antheil, Chopin, Gershwin, and Debussy as the opening to a house concert. (Programme 2-page PDF) It was well chosen before John Cage’s dream-like “In a Landscape.”

Immediately after I left Honolulu, John began composing a 9-movement work for my piano guitar duo. While we have not yet had time to rehearse the piece, I have already requested John to extend the second movement which is so addictive!

Born in Torino, Italy, John Carollo was brought to the U.S. by his adoptive parents.  John took piano lessons and began composing his first piano works while at San Diego State University where he graduated with a Masters Degree in Psychology.  Shortly thereafter, John moved to Honolulu, began a full-time mental health career for the State of Hawaii and started private composition lessons with Dr. Robert Wehrman. So great was his passion for composing that he quit his day job to compose full-time. Since then his works have been performed in Italy, Netherlands, and elsewhere. Website: http://www.johncarollocomposer.com

Remembering the Body of Your Dreams Concert on 1st July 2011

Anne Ku remembers the 1st July 2011 concert of Nathanael May the way she planned it and invites the guests to comment.

Rather than writing a review of the two back-to-back concerts on the first weekend of July 2011 at the Monument House, I would like to invite the guests to LEAVE A REPLY below with their comments. Already I’d like to thank Susan Raddatz for her photos and blog reviews.

What led me to organise solo concerts for two different artists on two consecutive evenings with two different caterers, plus fundraising activities, masterclass, panel discussion, and an opening act? Never at the Monument House, had we undertaken such variety besides the live music. Could it be a desire to reciprocate and replicate all that we learned on our 24-concert coast-to-coast tour of the USA since October 2010? Or simply a desire to share with audiences in the Netherlands?

There was the option to have the two American pianists to share a programme, each giving half a concert, and simply repeat it the next evening. Being a culture vulture, I wanted all of one artist, not twice of two halves. I mistakenly assumed that others could afford the time to indulge in two separate concerts on two consecutive evenings at the beginning of the summer holiday season.

There was no grand plan in organising these concerts. It was rather ad hoc and piecemeal, largely due to the fact that I was on the other side of the world when the planning began. In January 2011, I spoke to Nathanael May about his travel plans for Europe. For the first time since 2005 when he first launched his music festival in Italy, Utrecht was on his way.

Knowing how busy and popular organic wine tasting was, I booked Eveline Scheren immediately. Nathanael told me about Texas-based pianist Brendan Kinsella, who was a guest faculty at the same festival. I reserved 1st and 2nd July 2011 on my calendar. When I returned to the Netherlands on 28th May 2011, I started looking at the details of what Nathanael and Brendan were going to play. The one piece that stood out above others was Dutch composer Jacob ter Veldhuis‘ “Body Of Your Dreams,” which I had first seen performed by Thomas Rosenkranz in Cortona, Italy in 2006.

By mid-June, with less than 3 weeks before the concerts, I considered adding a pre-concert dinner. Where would I get a chef? On Sunday 12th June 2011, just before my outdoor yoga event in the back garden, I attended a house concert of Carol Ruiz Gandia who mentioned that her friend had catered for more than 30 people not long ago. This was just what I needed to attract more people to come. Chef Alberto prepared an authentic Andalucian meal for 20 people on 1st July 2011.

Chef Alberto prepares a traditional meal from Andalucia, Spain. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Chef Alberto prepares a traditional meal from Andalucia, Spain. Photo: Susan Raddatz

As I wanted to try some of the fundraising techniques I learned in the USA, I decided to include a Raffle Draw, Silent Auction, and CD sales. Not everything translated culturally I soon discovered. Local merchants, unlike those in the USA, were not used to being asked to donate items for auction or raffle. I managed to get my fitness club on the other side of the canal, BodySports, to donate several summer passes (unlimited group lessons for 2 consecutive weeks) and Ton van den Ijssel, the bicycle shop behind our home, to donate several 100% T-shirts. The closest word in Dutch to “raffle” was “lotterij” or “lottery,” and the concept was strange in the context of a classical concert. Silent auction was even more foreign. Nonetheless, we did manage to encourage several risk-taking guests to put their bids for a barbecue dinner with us, guitar lesson, sightreading workshop, our 3-CDs produced in Maui, a set of speakers and amplifier, and Paul Richards “Fables, Forms, and Fears” CD (with Nathanael May’s Strung Out Trio).

Raffle table at the Monument House Utrecht. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Raffle table at the Monument House Utrecht. Photo: Susan Raddatz

Thankfully wine tasting was popular, and organic wine even more intriguing. By asking Ms Scheren to provide the wines, we hosts freed ourselves to attend to the artists and the guests. In the past when we purchased the wines ourselves and allowed the guests to pour their own, we risked certain guests drinking too much, staying too late, and causing problems with other guests. Verdict: wines should be served and not self-served.

Organic wine tasting from Biowijnclub.nl   Photo: Susan Raddatz
Organic wine tasting from Biowijnclub.nl Photo: Susan Raddatz

Quite late in the planning, I suddenly remembered that we had offered master class and workshop at two previous house concerts. Would anyone be interested in participating? The Dutch are fond of master classes, but the inclusion in the publicity was too late. Tom Rose, who recently launched his own blog for learning to play the piano as an adult, was the lucky recipient of the coaching of both pianists on 1st July 2011 from 5 to 6 pm. He played Haydn:  Sonata in F Hob XVI No. 23 1st and 2nd Movements and Martinu: Etude in F.  Last piece in Book 3 of Etudes and Polkas.

Masterclass: Tom Rose with Nathanael May and Brendan Kinsella. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Masterclass: Tom Rose with Nathanael May (left) and Brendan Kinsella. Photo: Susan Raddatz

The changing weather in the Netherlands was kind on 1st July 2011. We were able to hold the Andalucian dinner outdoors in the back garden. The highlight of Chef Alberto’s menu was the Pisto Cordobes acompanado con pan en aceite de la tierra: vegetables cooked for hours with tender loving care, resulting in irresistible mouth-watering heavenly goodness.

Traditional Andalucian dinner by Chef Alberto. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Traditional Andalucian dinner by Chef Alberto. Photo: Susan Raddatz

In the back of my mind, I wanted to hold a panel discussion, much like the one I facilitated at the house concert in San Francisco last November after a pre-concert dinner and sightreading workshop. Given the budget cuts in the arts and the negative impact of global recession, I was very much interested in the survival of classically trained musicians. Clearly our conservatory education had not prepared us for this. Could we learn from successful musical entrepreneurs? I invited Amsterdam-based mezzo soprano Carla Regina to talk about her foundation Voice Actually and pianist Nathanael May to talk about the contemporary music festival he founded in Italy. Both musicians went beyond the usual career path of performance to establish new vehicles that served others.

Panel discussion by Carla Regina and Nathanael May. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Panel discussion by Carla Regina and Nathanael May. Photo: Susan Raddatz

5 pm Master class

6 pm Doors open for pre-concert dinner

7 pm – 7:45 pm Panel discussion

8:15 pm Opening Act: Robert Bekkers, guitar

  • Andante Religioso from El CATHEDRAL, Preludio A. Barrios Mangore
  • Allegro from BWV 998 Prelude J.S. Bach
  • CAPPRICHO DIABOLICO M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco

8:40 pm Concert: Nathanael May, piano

Five Preludes
by George Antheil (1900-1959)
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
John Carollo (b.1954)

In a Landscape (1948) by John Cage (1912-1992)

Any Resemblance is Purely Coincidental (1980) “for piano and tape” by Charles Dodge (b. 1942)

Intermission

Intermission. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Intermission. Photo: Susan Raddatz

Preludio (2011) by Ada Gentile (b. 1947)

Rain Tree Sketch II (1992) by Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)

The Body of Your Dreams (2004) for piano and boombox” by Jacob Ter Veldhuis (b. 1951)

Nathanael May selects the first raffle prize. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Nathanael May selects the first raffle prize. Photo: Susan Raddatz


Hooked on music – extended play of John Carollo

To get performers to want your music before they even get together to play it — that is the true calling of a composer.

Since my last blog post of 24th April —  after a great day of giving the Easter Sunday lunch concert, I stopped writing. Why? I had a car accident that very evening.

I had wanted to write about the choral concert of 30th April and the silent auction, the 42 new multi-hand piano duets I had received from 30 composers, my visit to George Kahumoku’s farm in Maui, and more…. and my upcoming travels to meet musicians in San Francisco, Denver, New York, and beyond. I will have to catch up during my 2 weeks of traveling.

Meanwhile, something can’t wait.

Tonight I received an mp3 of part 2 of a new piano guitar duo piece by the Honolulu-based composer John Carollo, who has also submitted a multi-hand duet to the sightreading piano soiree in San Francisco 15th May 2011. It is absolutely addictive to listen to, and I’m sure, even more addictive to play it.

When I first received it a few weeks ago, I complained that it was too short. Carollo made it a bit longer. I complained again. Minimalist music deserves an extended play. I actually confessed, “I hate to say it —- but I dig this music.”

It will be another 2 weeks before I get together with Robert Bekkers to try the 5-movement piano guitar duo. I can only imagine how the guitar part sounds as I play the piano part.

Click here to listen to the mp3

To get performers hooked on your music before they even get together to play it — that is some accomplishment!