Friday, 30 March 2012

Opening of Workshop "Music, Mind, Invention"

At the evening before the workshop "Music, Mind, Invention" began (held at The College of New Jersey in Ewing), a concert was given in the Center for the Arts, where pianist Joanna Chao performed music by mostly contemporary composers. Here is the program she played:

Joshua Fineberg: "Tremors" (1997)
J.S.Bach: Aria to Goldberg Variations
Fred Lerdahl (2004, 2009): "Three Diatonic Studies", with the movements "Chasing Goldberg", "Cyclic Descent", and "Scalar Rhythms"
Robert Young McMahan: From the "Six Miniatures for Piano" (2011-12) the first two: "Andante" and "Crisp, Strident". This was a world premiere.
Joshua Fineberg: "Veils" (2001)

A very appropriate opening of the workshop, followed by a reception with the opportunity to chat with the participants.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Ravel's "Ma mère l'oye" (Mother Goose) recorded by VPO

Maurice Ravel's orchestral suite "Ma mère l'oye" (Mother Goose) is based on children's stories. It was first written as a piece for piano, but Ravel later created an orchestral version. There is a long orchestral version which was intended as a ballet music, and there is a shorter suite in 5 movements. I have dedicated the past month to work on the latter 5-movement suite and have created a rendition with the Garritan Personal Orchestra samples. Work on this suite was not easy: although the instrumentation is set much lighter than for example a Gustav Mahler symphony, there are several technical difficulties in it: the strings have many parts with fast notes, 1/32 and 1/64. Overall, the instruments need to be played very light-hearted, to keep that airy feel of the music. There are several wind solo instruments which need to be played "with emotion". There is lots of flagolet in the strings, and some of the instruments appear to exceed their natural range (or is this just sloppiness of the editors at Durand, who did not properly assign the right instruments?).

The recordings of all five movements of this suite are now complete, and I have bundled this suite with another suite by Maurice Ravel: "Le Tombeau de Couperin" into the album "Maurice Ravel - Vol.One". My recording of the Le Tombeau suite had already been completed in November 2011, but its 20 minutes duration was too short for a full album.

Since a few days this album has become available on the commercial music outlets. This time Spotify was first, followed by iTunes a few days later. I am now waiting for the album to appear on Amazon.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Happy 137th birthday, Monsieur Joseph-Maurice Ravel!

It is not really a big anniversary - 137 years is kind of an odd number. But there is always a good reason to take the opportunity to celebrate the music of Maurice Ravel. Many people know his "Bolero", which has become a kind of musical icon even in popular culture. Also his orchestration of Modest Mussorgksy's "Pictures at an Exhibition" is well known. But he wrote many other works, which are popular among classic music enthusiasts, but are not so well known in the general public.

I have liked his music since the late 1970s and have learned about many of his other compositions. His special style of instrumentation and orchestration is very recognizable. So it was for me a special challenge to recreate this "sound color" with my synthesizer/sampler instruments. In 1998-1999 I was able to create a rendition of all four movements from his orchestral suite "Le Tombeau de Couperin". Using the Garritan Personal Orchestra 4 samples I then re-recorded this suite a few months ago - the four movements are accessible here on my website. Also in 1998 I recorded the "Pavane for a Dead Princess", and I recently revised that rendition with the Garritan Personal Orchestra 4 as well.

Since quite a while I wanted to record the suite "Ma mère l'oye" (Mother Goose), which is about children's stories. It has a peculiar fine and delicate quality, and one has to be careful not to overpower it. The instrumentation appears quite sparse, but with an array of unusual instruments. The technical abilities required from the instrumentalists in the orchestra appear quite high: several instruments have solo lines which require very precise and expressive playing. The strings have fast 1/32 and several flagolet notes. These challenges are also hard to master with my computer/sampler setup, as the sound must have this special "light and airy" quality. I had planned to complete the whole suite by this birthday on 7.March, but this proved to be too ambitious: so far I only have the first three movements of this suite recorded. I hope to complete this suite in the next few weeks.

A playlist with all my 8 current recording "tracks" of Ravel's music is here on my new site at Indaba.

Another music by Ravel is still waiting for me: the technically very challenging homage to Vienna waltzes: "La Valse".

Let us celebrate the composer of such wonderful music, and let us ignore the scandalous situation related to the royalties of his music.