Thursday, September 30, 2010

Collection of Evil Pieces - 3rd Online Piano Concert

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'm back and excited to have finished my third online concert. The theme for this concert is evil... which sounds kind of strange, but there are a lot of piano pieces that  either sound creepy or were written with something evil in mind. And what perfect (and slightly deliberate) timing that October commence tonight and St. Hallow's Eve is just around the corner! So go grab those gummy skeletons and Harry Potter vomit flavor jelly beans, and enjoy some great piano pieces. Here is the line up:

1. Suggestion Diabolique, Op.4 No.4 - Sergei Prokofiev
2. Scarbo from Gaspard de la Nuit - Maurice Ravel
3. Danse Macabre - Camille Saint-Saëns (Liszt-Horowitz Transcription)

Oh and just so everyone isn't wondering whether I was cognizant of the fact that the back of my collar was up for the first two pieces... I didn't realized it until after I was done recording so I'm just going to say that it's evil fashion. You can't stop me!

Just as a brief overview, if you would rather not here my babble in my commentary video. The first piece is creepy, fast, and really short. It's a great opener and yes, I'm trying to look at the camera all creepy at the beginning. It's an evil concert people! geez..... The second piece is strange, abstract, and I'm not sure people will like it. But it's one of those pieces that is all over the place and really fun to play. The last one piece is the one everybody loves! It's suppose to be about the dead gathering on Halloween night and waving they hands in da air, like they just don't care! I mean, who doesn't like a sexy skeleton shorty in apple bottom jeans. you know.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys this concert as much as I had fun preparing for it!!
Also, for those of you on Facebook seeing the note, you can go to this link to see the videos on my supa fly blog!


Fireside Commentary from Dennis McNulty

Suggestion Diabolique, Op.4 No.4 - Sergei Prokofiev

What a great and creepy piece! The first time I heard this, I was just sitting there thinking what a crazy but rad piece this is. Just so everyone doesn't think I'm a complete freak, I was trying to look at the camera all creepy in the beginning, but really I just look constipated or something... Anyway, the piece starts out creepy sounding, and soon goes crazy for another 2 minutes until it ends. You will hear dissident chords all over the place, but sprinkled within that mess, you'll hear 7-chords which gives the piece its playful mischievous quality. That's one thing I think is soooooo great about my man Sergei Prokofiev. He can take some crazy sounding things, and make a melodic pattern out of it. Must be something in the Borsch... Anyway, it's a short and fast piece so enjoy!!!!

Scarbo from Gaspard de la Nuit - Maurice Ravel

I'm not sure what to say about Scarbo other then its craziness! The piece is based from a poem written by Aloysius Bertrand and is the last piece from the Gaspard de la Nuit set. When I decided on a theme of evil, I knew that I had to include this piece because of its creepy sound and context to the actual poem. I will admit, that at first I learned this piece because of its reputation and to have something good to play for competitions. However, as I started learning it, I began seeing that it's a great piece, amusingly challenging, and something that I think helped me grow as a pianist. When I was learning the piece, I was telling my professor that Scarbo is CRAZY hard and his advice to me was:

"Just play all the notes!"

We just laughed because Scarbo has notes everywhere to the point where I'm not sure if the composer dropped his ink jar on the music or if he was having seizures while jotting down the notes. Either way, the difficulty makes it all the more fun to learn. And for Omaha people, you may know what I'm talking about if you remember the side of the Schmidt's music building before they painted over it. That's the second to the last page of Scarbo!

Honestly, I'm not sure if most people will like this one because it's very abstract sounding. I think Ravel is so good at turning concepts or words into music. Since the poem describes this little fiendish creature running around playing tricks on some guy, that's exactly what you'll hear in the music. Fast runs all over the place, dynamics all over the board... yet throughout it all, Ravel still makes gives it the romantic feeling with his chord progressions. I remember performing Scarbo once for a recital that was filled with students of all levels with their friends and families. I'm sure they are all use to hearing the Mozart stuff and Sonatinas because after I was done, there was this mass of people staring at me like "What did you just effin' play?!?!" as they shyly clapped their hands out of obligation. I mean... it's not for everyone.


Piano music isn't just Fur Elise and Chopsticks so I'm always happy to play more contemporary literature! So I hope everyone who is listening to this for the first time doesn't find it too strange!

Below is the English version of the poem:

Oh! how often have I heard and seen him, Scarbo, when at midnight the moon glitters in the sky like a silver shield on an azure banner strewn with golden bees.

How often have I heard his laughter buzz in the shadow of my alcove, and his fingernail grate on the silk of the curtains of my bed!

How often have I seen him alight on the floor, pirouette on a foot and roll through the room like the spindle fallen from the wand of a sorceress!

Do I think him vanished then? the dwarf grows between the moon and me like the belfry of a gothic cathedral, a golden bell shakes on his pointed cap!

But soon his body becomes blue, translucent like the wax of a candle, his face pales like the wax of a candle end - and suddenly he is extinguished.

Danse Macabre - Camille Saint-Saëns (Liszt-Horowitz Transcription)

And now for the grand finale!!! When I started making online concerts, this was actually the first one I wanted to record because I think it's such a cool piece!!! Danse Macabre was written for orchestra back in the 1870's by Camille Saint-Saëns. Unfortunately, Camille was too progressive for his time and this piece was ill-received because of its sounds of death and evil. Camille was good friends with Liszt who transcribed this piece of piano. Surprisingly, Liszt made it really simple and a little boring so I'm not a fan of his version. Almost 80 years later, this crazy good pianist by the name of Vladimir Horowitz re-wrote the piano version by making it sound more like the original orchestral version. So what happens when you try to replace an entire orchestra with one pianist?? CRAZINESS!! When I first started to learn the piece, I had an old recording of Horowitz playing it... I just sat there wondering if it was actually possible to play this thing!? Luckily, I fell in love with it which really helps with the learning process.

There is actually a poem 'Danse Macabre' which describes this dance of the dead. Basically Danse Macabre is a legend saying that every year during Halloween, Death (creepy guy that brings you to Hades) wakes up and starts to pay his fiddle to wake up the dead. The key point to the fiddle is that he tunes the E-string to an E-flat making what is called the Devil's Fifth chord. So on Halloween night the dead are partying like it's 1999 until dawn when they all scramble back to their graves to party it up again next year. This is an old legend so there is a lot of art depicting the Danse Macabre as well. Last year, I was traveling in Switzerland and during my visit to Laussane I came across a famous bridge there. As we were walking along the inside of the bridge, each section of the bridge had a large painting of different scenes of the Danse Macabre!!! I thought this was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen and seeing the paintings reminded of various parts of the piano piece.

I think this is a great addition to the evil theme and this is one of those pieces I think everyone will really enjoy!

Below is the English version of the poem: 
Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence, 
Striking a tomb with his heel, 
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune, 

Zig, zig, zag, on his violin. 
The winter wind blows, and the night is dark; 
Moans are heard in the linden trees. 
White skeletons pass through the gloom, 
Running and leaping in their shrouds. 

Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking, 
You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers. 
A lustful couple sits on the moss 
So as to taste long lost delights. 

Zig zig, zig, Death continues 
The unending scraping on his instrument. 
A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked. 
Her partner grasps her amorously. 
The lady, it's said, is a marchioness or baroness 
And her green gallant, a poor cartwright. 
Horror! Look how she gives herself to him, 
Like the rustic was a baron. 

Zig, zig, zig. What a saraband! 
They all hold hands and dance in circles. 

Zig, zig, zag. You can see in the crowd 
The king dancing among the peasants. 
But hist! All of a sudden, they leave the dance, 
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed. 
Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world! 
Long live death and equality!

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