Program Notes from 2009

My senior recital was last night!  Let me tell you, it feels GREAT to have that accomplishment behind me!  

Here’s the program notes:

Prelude & Fugue in C minor, from Book II WTC (BWV 871)………J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 “Tempest”………..Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
     Largo – Allegro

                   – pause – 

“Lament” for Piano…………………………………………………….Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1939-present)

Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23………………………………….Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)


Ballade — Chopin’s four Ballades are considered to be among the finest of his works for piano.  Inspired by the literary form, they are intended to be musical narratives.  The Ballade No.1, first published in 1835, was dedicated to one of Chopin’s pupils, the Baron de Stockhausen.  A favorite of pianists everywhere, this dramatic ballade features two lyrical themes which alternate throughout the piece.  According to Schumann, Chopin is said to have stated that he considered this ballade to be among his favorite works.  Chopin will forever be remembered for his substantial contributions to the piano literature.  

Lament — Born in 1939 in Miami, Florida, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Florida State University.  After being a member of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York as a violinist from 1965-1972, she devoted herself fully to composition and was admitted to Juilliard School of Music, where she became the first woman to receive a Doctorate in Musical Arts in composition in 1975.  Many of her compositions, such as the Sonata in Three Movements (1974-5), were written for her husband, Joseph Zwilich — also a violinist.  After her husband’s death in 1979, Zwilich became more concerned with communicating more directly with the performer and listener through her music, causing her compositional style to change from having jagged melodies, atonal harmonies, and structural complexities, into having a simpler, more accessible vocabulary — almost neo-classical or neo-romantic.  Her Symphony no. 1 (1982) was a huge success and earned her the Pultizer Prize in music in 1983, making her the first woman to receive that honor.  According to Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, she is “one of America’s most frequently played and most genuinely popular living composers.”  Zwilich currently works as a professor at the Florida State University School of Music.  The piece being performed tonight, Lament, was written in 1999 in memory of Judith Arron.

Piano Sonata No.17 — This piano sonata is one of Beethoven’s most well-known sonatas.    It was written from 1801-02, during a point in Beethoven’s compositional career when he was beginning to push the boundaries of Classical forms and expand the harmonic language.  Although commonly known as “The Tempest”, this sonata did not get its name from Beethoven himself.  Although one of his pupils, Anton Schindler, claimed in his biography of Beethoven that the sonata was inspired in part by the Shakespearian play “The Tempest”, scholars today are dubious of the presence of any such connection.  In any case, the name “The Tempest” may very well still be an appropriate description for the tumultuous emotions present in this piece.  

Prelude & Fugue — Written in 1722 and 1742, Johann Sebastian Bach’s two books of preludes and fugues were written to recognize the genius of the then-new system of tuning the piano, called “well-tempered” tuning, which allows musicians to play pieces in any key they choose.  In recognition of this achievement, Bach composed a book of 24 sets of preludes and fugues — each pair written in a different chromatic major and minor key.  Twenty years later, Bach returned to the idea and composed another book of preludes and fugues in a similar manner.  Even today, the 48 Preludes and Fugues of Books I and II, known as The Well-Tempered Clavier, are recognized both for their historical importance and compositional genius.  

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