“Children will be drawn to their recorder in a way that will give the word ‘practicing’ a new meaning.”
Archive for the ‘program’ Category
Some time ago, when I was looking for new contemporary material, I came across the Steinbock Toccata op.94/B by Fulvio Caldini, written in 2002. This piece, warmly recommended to me by my dear friend and mentor, Prof. Karel van Steenhoven from the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet, had immensely surprised me.
Cladini, born in 1959 in Arezzo, Italy, has started as a pianist and organist. He has written hundreds of pieces for many different settings, and as far as I know, about 60 of them are for different recorder ensemble settings. Though many are basically the same piece arranged in different settings, this is still a figure that puts him, in my opinion, in the list of important recorder composers of the 20th century.
This piece, the Steinbock Toccata op. 94/B, is a piece many would categorize as a “minimalistic” piece, using very few elements of expression to transmit it’s musical idea, and very often repeating rhythmical and melodical patterns over and over again. The beauty of a “minimalistic” piece lies consequently very much in its structure, being a main element of the “story telling” in this style of composing. In that aspect, the Steinbock Toccata is wonderfully composed – having a clear and interesting structure that really tells a story. And it goes as follows:
The piece opens with a 7 measure theme, repeating itself again and again. However, at some point between the repetitions, a foreign element is introduced. This element, starting as a short 2 measure element, grows longer and longer every time it appears, until it starts “eating up” the first theme. Meaning, the first theme starts loosing bars and becomes shorter and shorter while the foreign element gains bars and gradually turns into a second theme. This process comes to an end in bar 114 when the first theme loses it’s last bar and the second theme appears “victorious” in its full 12 measure version. However, at this point, when the second theme starts repeating itself, again, another foreign element is introduced between the repetitions. Like before, this element grows longer with every repetition while the main (second) theme grows shorter and shorter. In bar 253, this new element overthrows the second theme and claims the thrown as third main theme, 9 measures long. As it starts to repeat itself this time, like the main themes from before, it starts “eating” itself up, becoming shorter and shorter every time. Finally, in bar 297, after the third theme shrinks to a single bar, the first main theme appears again in its full version, followed by the 2 other main themes bringing this short piece to a happy end.
When I perform this piece, I really try to emphasize this structure as much as I can. I do everything in my power to differentiate between a main theme and a foreign element. I try to show the turning points, when an element turns from a secondary element to a main theme. And then, in the ending, I really like to show the point where the 3 themes come together one after the other as a moment of great joy. You can see a live performance I had with this piece in Germany in -
Being fast and rhythmical, and having such a clear and interesting structure, I believe this piece to be a great “ice-breaking” piece in a program, and even a very cool and effective anchor. I hope you enjoy it as I did!
This is a question I’ve been thinking about extensively over the years. I’ve heard many opinions and ideas about it, and personally tried many different formulas. Of course it could vary between different circumstances, and needless to say – nothing could substitute the effect of pieces prepared in the highest of qualities. However, I do feel that there is a few main principals that can make a program more effective to the listener, as well as more attractive.
First of all, choosing the repertoire.
From my experience, there are 2 main ways of building a program. The first and most common would be to focus on one topic and build the program around it. This could be one composer, a certain period of time (Italian early baroque, for instance), a certain place (for example, music written in Dresden) or any other topic you could think of. Some of the best ideas I’ve seen were topics that dealt with relations between 2 places, 2 composers, 2 places and so forth. The other way of building a program is to focus on variety, on different styles, different sound colors. This way tries to avoid a situation where your audience is somehow getting used to your sound. It will try to stay fresh in every single fragment of the program. In this way one would search for pieces from different styles, different composers, different places and different times. I’ve seen many musician even go outside the boundaries of western classical music in order to stay fresh and interesting. I think it’s great, though I’ve never really done it myself. I personally prefer focusing on the things I really know. Besides, there are tons of things to work with in our own western classical music country.
Both of these ways have advantages and disadvantages, as you can imagine (or else they probably wouldn’t both exist). The first one establishes a thread of thought that runs through the pieces of the program and connects them together. It very often sounds much better, making it much easier to market. I mean, how many classical CD’s do you know that don’t have a topic like – “Venetian music”, “Bach and Berio”, “Mozart woodwind concertos” ect. The problem is that these good sounding programs could sometimes be quite heavy (if not even boring in extreme cases). Classical musicians often forget that their audience includes in most cases mostly normal people who haven’t studied classical music like they did. The second way holds the potential to be more interesting, and keep the audience “on its toes”, if executed wisely. Of course, it is, from my experience, much harder to market.
I’m not sure how it is in the US, but in Europe, and mainly in Germany, it is quite common that the final exams of a MA degree includes 2 recitals – an “Abchlußrezital”- a whole free recital, and a “Repertoirenachweis”- a recital in which one must play many different styles in order to show he masters them all. I think this is very clever, making the MA student experience and handle both ways of building a program.
After we chose our pieces, we need to think about the program order.
Regarding this, I have developed my own way of thinking over the years. I don’t know if it is the best one, but I’m sure it can help even if you don’t agree with everything written here.
The first thing I do is to think about the first and last piece. These pieces, as I see them, have a crucial part in creating the general impression from a concert. The first piece gives the first impression. Sometimes it gives the general “tone” of the whole concert. That’s why I would choose a very impressive piece, or a piece that it’s impact suits me as a first impression for this program. The last piece is the one most people would “take home with”, the one that would put a point, question mark or exclamation mark to your program. I would choose here something not too heavy, not too long if it’s possible and very important – that would have a strong and effective ending. A nice example I can give for an ending pieces is the York Bowen sonatina op. 121 which has a funny and exciting last movement (you can see a live performance I had with it in Germany in – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClctxDZBUnc.
After we’ve established the beginning and end, we already know where we’re starting and where we’re going, and we can start giving the program a shape. Very heavy pieces would be placed rather sooner in the program and balanced with lighter ones near them. If one chooses to have a pause in the middle, my advice is to balance the 2 halves in terms of length and heaviness. If you can’t, it’s better to have the first half a bit longer and heavier than vice versa. Another option to having a break is taking a 1-2 minute pause between every piece. This can give time to rebuild the stage if needed and to gather one’s thoughts for the next piece.
A wonderful way to make a program more effective is simply to moderate a little bit. Moderation, though not always appropriate, is a wonderful way to give the audience interesting information about a piece, to share some thoughts and ideas about it and break the distance between the performer and the audience. If the situation is right, I would always prefer to say a few words, and believe me – people love it! They feel closer to you as a person, closer to the music they now know a little bit better and have a bit of information to clung on to as they are listening. It takes some practice, but moderating can sometimes really make a difference.
Good luck with your programing!