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Reconsidering the Classics
My four years at bard have been a journey of discovery and growth. Upon arrival, I had virtually zero exposure to modern music (i.e. classical from the 20th century on). Since then though, I have studied numerous modern piece for piano and various chamber ensembles, and I have become deeply passionate about composition. In my future pursuits, it is my ambition to find a niche for myself in the world of modern music as both composer and pianist.
In the first of two concerts I chose to present Olivier Messiaen’s milestone chamber work, “Quatuor pour la fin du temps,” or “Quartet for the End of Time.” Since the pianistic demands of the piece are not exactly the most rigorous, the learning experience was largely one of leadership. Prior to this experience, I had never been the leader of a group, but this time it all up to me––I sent the emails to get everyone in the same place at the same time, and when we sat down to play, I made the rehearsal calls. I came into it feeling a bit green, but by the end of the journey I had acquired the confidence to lead a group and make quick rehearsal decisions. Working on Quartet for the End of Time was a great experience, and now I have another 20th century masterpiece to add to my repertoire!
And whatever the first concert lacked in pianistic virtuosity, my second concert will (i hope) make up for with a surplus. This concert centers around another 20th century masterpiece––the epic Ghost Variations, a 35 minute solo piano composition written in 1991 by Bard’s very own George Tsontakis. But here’s the thing: at the end of the first movement of this piece, after ten odd minutes of modernist mayhem, out pops a conspicuous quotation from a Mozart Concerto. The Mozart theme then goes through a theme and variations, morphing by degrees until it has been fluidly blended with the modernist language of the piece. Now, as a listener, this conspicuous use of a Mozart theme in a modern piece has a very striking effect, and so when I began to consider more seriously the possibility of building a program around the Ghost Variations, there was only one solution––I had to play the Mozart concerto too! There was only one catch: the Mozart is originally written for full orchestra and piano. Since I lack the resources to amass an ensemble of that size on my own, I decided to personally do reduction of the Mozart score to make it playable by a more modest ensemble of ten. This concert is designed to highlight my pianistic and musical abilities while providing an emotionally and intellectually stimulating concert experience for listeners of all levels.
Between the two concerts, I will have technically completed my degree in music, but to stop there would be unsatisfactory for one glaring reason––neither of the concerts thus far have included any of my own work! That is why I will be dedicating the next year to composition. I have a number of projects planned including several chamber pieces for friends’ 2014 graduation recitals, as well as an orchestra piece to be played on the 2014 commencement concert.
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McKee, Maxwell, "Reconsidering the Classics" (2013). Senior Projects Spring 2013. 333.
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