Friday, June 29, 2018

My Bach Prelude Project is Finished!

After eight years of working on and off, I finally finished my Prelude Project. The Prelude to the Fourth Suite in E flat major, the final installment in my series of six string quartet settings of the Preludes from the Bach Cello Suites, can be found on this page of the IMSLP.

You can also download a PDF of the score and parts for the E flat Prelude here, and listen to a computer-generated recording here.

Here are links to catalog entries for all of the Preludes:

#1, BWV 1007 in G major
#2, BWV 1008 in D minor
#3, BWV 1009 in C major
#4, BWV 1010 in E flat major
#5, BWV 1011 in C minor
#6, BWV 1012 in D major

You can find the combined set (scores and parts for all the preludes) here.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

What Sibelius Drank

There's a lot to learn about Jean Sibelius! You can enter his world (and liquor cabinet) through this link.

Monday, June 25, 2018

My Transcription of the Bach Fifth Cello Suite is FINISHED!

You can find the score and parts of the transcription here, and listen to a computer-generated recording here, and in a day or two it will be on this page of the IMSLP.

For reference, here's a facsimile of the first page of a manuscript in the hand of Anna Magdalena Bach. You can find out more about the piece and see the whole manuscript here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Transcribing the Prelude of the Fifth Cello Suite for String Quartet

Making a setting of the prelude of the first Bach cello suite was easy. Making a quartet setting of the prelude for the third suite was not easy, but it was exciting, and the adventure and discovery propelled me forward and gave me energy. Making a quartet setting of the sixth suite was daunting and difficult, but it was ultimately rewarding.

Now I sit in the middle of the one-voice fugue of the fifth suite, and feel like I'm scaling the highest part of a mountain (using ropes). The deeply expressive prelude part of the prelude and fugue that begins the piece is finished (that would be the lower part of the mountain, filled with wild animals and lots of vines). I could only do a few measures of it at a sitting, but I sat often and long, and I took breaks.

I'm 60 measures into the Fugue (there are somewhere around 200 more, at least, to go). It's dangerous territory. I had a look at how Schumann accompanied it, and he safely reinforced the harmony during the eighth notes and avoided adding counterpoint. I'm not doing that.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Conducting Myself

I rely on conductors all the time, and I appreciate what playing with a good one can accomplish. But, even though I have "studied" conducting (I took one conducting course in graduate school), I have never had occasion to use my "skills." Perhaps I should say that I have actively avoided situations when conducting was involved, particularly when it involves conducting music that I have written. I much prefer to be in the orchestra or in the audience.

Our usual conductor wasn't around for last night's Summer Strings rehearsal, and all efforts to bamboozle other people into conducting failed, so it fell upon me to conduct. I knew the scores really well, since I had made the arrangements we were playing. I had fun marking them with colored pencils and figuring out ways to rehearse problem spots.

There was really nothing to fear, except for my fear of total inadequacy because of a complete lack of technique.

But I was among friends. I took stuff apart to show how the dialogues and textures worked, and soon everybody (including me) started to relax and have fun. And people started paying attention to the stuff happening in the music outside of their part, and things started to sound truly beautiful. It was a great rehearsal, and I felt exhilarated. I'm still exhilarated.

I used to wonder why anyone would want to be a conductor. Now I understand why. It's a chance to use gesture to shape musical lines and allow (somehow) people to connect with one another musically. Ultimately it is a way to break down (as long as the music lasts) the barriers that exist between people, and allow them to express themselves totally while depending upon and fortifying their ensemble-mates.

Love is fragile, and expressing it in ways other than through music for me is risky. It seems that the only expressions of extra-musical love that don't involve risk involve being with an intimate partner in a trusting environment, expressing love to a family member or close friend, or expressing love to a baby, where you sound like a blithering idiot, but don't care.

Fortunately everyone comes to Summer Strings because they love music. And there was a lot of love last night, even if I totally lack the technique and drive to ever consider being a "real" conductor.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Bach Prelude Project

There's very little that is as rewarding for me as spending time with Bach. I tend to devote a lot of time in the summer months (for whatever reason) to making arrangements, and I'm spending this summer making string quartet arrangements of the preludes to the Bach Cello Suites. Several years ago I arranged the G major Prelude, BWV 1007, and a few days ago I finished an arrangement of the C major Prelude, BWV 1009. I just finished a first draft of the D major Prelude, BWV 1012, which is great fun to work on.

I'm putting them into the IMSLP as individual movements, but I'm planning to group them together as a set, which I will make available through my Thematic Catalog blog.

UPDATE: The project is finished! You can get all the links here.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Exquisite Schumann

I have the honor of sitting in a viola section with Jebat Kee, and playing in the orchestra when he conducts during rehearsals (he doubles as the assistant conductor). But it wasn't until this morning that I found his page on YouTube and listened to this beautiful performance of Schumann's Adagio and Allegro, Opus 70, from this past December. I'm sharing it here so you can enjoy it too.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Remote as a verb: a newly-minted alternative definition

re·mote \ ri-ˈmōt \
v. to express heartfelt sentiment through media about people one knows only through media.

[You read it here first!]

Thursday, June 07, 2018

A Most Musical Illinois County

The recent news about Lauren Zhang, who began her musical life in our town of Charleston, Illinois in Coles County, and remained here for four years before moving with her family to Birmingham, England, got me thinking about some of the excellent pianists who grew up in our remote-yet-fertile neck of the musical woods.


Lauren also played violin, and she participated in our Summer Strings program. Here she is playing some Scarlatti:

Before Lauren came to town every music lover in the area got to enjoy hearing Derek Maninfior, who grew up in the neighboring town of Mattoon, Illinois (8 miles away).

He's playing Beethoven here:

Before Derek, there was Kara Huber, who comes from Oakland, Illinois, a very small town a little north of Charleston.

She's playing some Mozart here:

I first got to hear Lauren play piano when she was about six. Her musical personality was already intact. I first heard Kara when she was about eight, and it was a total thrill to hear her. Derek I first heard when he was about 14, and like Lauren and Kara, he already had an intact musical personality.

They say that this part of the country has the best soil anywhere. And it grows musicians exceptionally well. Particularly pianists.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Just because it's June

May was full of promises, but she didn't keep 'em quick enough for some . . .

I was somehow unable to embed this, but you can click right here.

The FANTASTIC choreography is by Rod Alexander, who does not yet have a Wikipedia page. Nora Ephron's parents wrote the screenplay (her father was one of the producers), and the amazing costumes (with fantastic petticoats) were designed by Charles Le Maire.

Richard Rogers wrote the music, and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics, but look at who was on the orchestration staff: Robert Russell Bennett (who was the team's usual orchestrator), Earle Hagen, Gus Levene, Nelson Riddle, Herbert W. Spencer, and John Williams.