Category Archives: Back-up category

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My Debussy Recordings

SATURDAY, May 22, 2021 – 3:39 AM

Arabesque No. One

I taught this to several people this year, so I thought I would record it, to show perhaps what could be done with it. It’s iconic. I find it very difficult to play iconic music because everyone knows it, and there are so many people who play it well.

Footsteps in the Snow

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WEDNESDAY, May 19, 2021 – 12:47 PM

Clair de Lune

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My Scarlatti Recordings

FRIDAY, May 21, 2021 – 9:11 AM

My Scarlatti Recordings

Scarlatti wrote 555 keyboard sonatas, all single movements, mostly in binary form, and some in early sonata form. Most were written  for the harpsichord or the earliest pianofortes. (There are four for organ, and a few for small instrumental group.)

A few years back I made it a project to listen to all of them. They range from relatively easy and very short to true virtuoso level.

Kirkpatrick produced an edition of the sonatas in 1953, and the numbering from this edition is now nearly always used.  Previously, the numbering commonly used was from the 1906 edition compiled by the Neapolitan pianist Alessandro Longo

“K” stands for Kirkpatrick. “L” stands for “Longo”.

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 Sonata K. 531 L.430 in E Major

This is one of my favorites. I did at least one very “out of the box thing” by changing the rhythm of a few measures from 6/8 to 3/4, which is a rather modern thing to do, but Scarlatti was a very “out of the box” composer. This is also usually played faster. In my view modern pianists put too much emphasis on speed and not enough on shape, accents, contrasts and creativity.

May 13, 2021

Sonata K.322, L.483 in A major

I first heard this in 1962. Today I decided to play it, and in my mind I was doing pretty much what I remembered. But over time I had evolved my own ideas, so the result is slower and has more variety. The notes are not hard. Doing something with it musically is the challenge.

May 11, 2021

Sonata K.431, L.83 in G major

This is the shortest sonata I’ve found yet, and it looks so easy that an average student could play it. I just found out that’s not true, but of course if it sounds great, it’s never easy. I’m trying to figure out why so many modern players perform this music with so little imagination. The nicest version I found was again by a guitar player. It’s just an A/B form, with each section repeated. But most people repeat it exactly the same way. Instead I added embellishments. I also took the LH up an octave for the A section before bringing it down the 2nd time.

 

My Bach Recordings

FRIDAY, May 21, 2021 – 12:10 AM

Note: CPE Bach is included on this page because he was Bach’s son.

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My Bach Recordings

Little Prelude in G Minor

I have taught this for many years, so recording it took almost no time. I call it the “Mission Impossible Prelude” because the bass notes always remind me of the theme.

One curious detail: The piece appears to be in C minor with three flats, but it ends in G minor. That’s extremely unusual in that time period, so it would appear that Bach had more in mind and was going to move to another piece in C minor, but no one knows what that would have been.

May 16, 2021

Bach Prelude No. One in C major from the Well Tempered Clavier, Book I

This is one of the most famous pieces of music ever written. It is heard at Christmas as “Ave Maria” by Gounod because the composer used the prelude as the chords for his song. But he used an extra chord that is in dispute. Most purists leave it out, the idea being that if Bach did not write it he would never allow and extra chord. Of course that is idiotic, because all composers play around with their music.

May 15, 2021

CPE Bach Solfeggio

This is also very famous, but it’s by Bach’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. I’ve taught this since my 20s, so I figured I could lay down a recording in a minute. It didn’t go that fast.

May 14, 2021

Bach Goldberg Variation No. 25

This was a monster to record because instead of repeating the A and B sections, as most do, I wanted those repeats to be different. So instead of exact repeats, I made the first repeats leaner, with less added notes (ornaments), then in the repeats I added more embellishments. I believe that’s what Bach probably did, because creative people do no like exact repeats, at least in piano music. That leaves us nothing new to hear the 2nd time.

Many of the variations in this set are very simple harmonically, but in this one Bach took chromaticism to the max. He stretched things so much that even today you will not hear anything more complex. The whole set is over an hour long, but this one variation is more than eight minutes long. Because of the complexity all you have to do is lose focus for one second and the whole thing is ruined. It is likely that no one who records the whole set does it without many, many recordings, picking only the best “takes”.

One other thing: The B section is so complicated that it has a development section, something that did not formally happen in music until much later. So Bach, as usual, was way ahead of his time. In fact, this music is so advanced that musicians born in the 21st century are still blown away by his music even though he died more than 270 years ago.

Harry Potter conducting, again…

FRIDAY, May 21, 2021 – 12:14 PM

(1768: Haydn: Symphony No. 49 (LA PASSIONE) in F minor)

Last year I was exploring all of Haydn’s symphonies, and I made this post in November. But since then “Harry Potter”, my nickname for Klaus Mäkelä, has recorded this symphony, and as usual the sound is magnificent. Note that he is only 25 years old but already the conductor of one of the best orchestras in the world. Note that Jacob Collier is only about six months older. There are young geniuses out there.

Klaus’s “Harry Potter” glasses are gone, so apparently he is updating his image with contacts.

Now, to what I wrote earlier:

WEDNESDAY, November 18, 2020 – 5:07 AM

Symphony No 49  (LA PASSIONE) in F minor, age 36

Instrumentation:

  • two oboes, bassoon
  • two horns
  • strings
  • continuo

Klaus Mäkelä

  • Purcell: March
  • I. Adagio, F minor
  • II. Allegro di molto, F minor
  • III. Menuet e Trio, F minor
  • IV. Presto, F minor

“La Passione”: is one of Haydn’s his most effective symphonies.  It’s all in F minor, and that’s highly unusual for Haydn. It was written  in 1768 during his “Sturm und Drang” period and is popularly known as La passione (The Passion). In this link Klaus starts out with a funeral march in the same key, by Purcell. It is a very interesting connection.

 

 

SATURDAY, May 15, 2021 – 10:08 AM My Recordings of Schumann

SATURDAY, May 15, 2021 – 10:08 AM

My Recordings of Schumann

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Kinderscenen
Scenes from Childhood

There are 13 “scenes”, and you can read about them HERE. I recorded them in the late 90s, but the sound is now primitive compared to the new digitals. So I rerecorded the whole thing over the last two days.

1. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen
Of Foreign Lands and Peoples G major

2. Curiose Geschichte
A Curious Story D major

3. Hasche-Mann
Blind Man’s Bluff B minor

4. Bittendes Kind
Pleading Child D major

5. Glückes genug
Happy Enough D major

6. Wichtige Begebenheit
Important Event A major

7. Träumerei
Dreaming F major

8. Am Kamin
At the Fireside[c] F major

9. Ritter vom Steckenpferd
Knight of the Hobbyhorse C major

10. Fast zu ernst
Almost Too Serious G♯ minor

11. Fürchtenmachen
Frightening E minor – G major

12. Kind im Einschlummern

13. Der Dichter spricht
The Poet Speaks G major

Unnamed

This Really had no name. Schumann wrote this as part of his “Album for the Young” but he never gave it a title. The 2nd part has two versions. Normally you never hard the 1st one, but I used it the first time and then used the later one for the repeat of the section

Things I’ve Written for Students but Also for Myself

WEDNESDAY, May 12, 2021 – 3:08 AM

Things I’ve Written for Students but Also for Myself

WEDNESDAY, May 12, 2021 – 3:07 AM

New Recording

Le Mystique

I wrote this about a year ago, but I fleshed it out a bit for a more advanced version. It is all about a double harmonic scale, where you start with a major scale and then flat 2 and 6. It’s a scale you won’t hear in traditional music until perhaps the time of Debussy or more modern composers.

MONDAY, May 10, 2021 – 2:06 AM

Memories

This is one of the shortest things I’ve written. I was in a very sad mood, thinking about people in my life who were really important to me. So it is bitter-sweet. I’d like to expand it someday, and I may. But for now, I’ll leave it just as it is, this tiny little moment in time.

May 8, 2021

Mellow

I wrote this with small intervals in mind, so it’s a teaching piece. But I also like the feel, so I tried to put some special ideas into it.

May 7, 2021

Bert and Arty Blues

I wrote this about 30 years for a friend and her husband. It’s just a silly little song, upbeat, with perhaps the feel of something from the 1930s. It’s supposed to have a sound from a very different age.

May 6, 2021

Dark Jazzy Minor

There is a particular atmosphere in certain scenes in movies. You might think of an older movie where people are in a nightclub. The mood is quiet, dark. As always I composed this without a title in mind, but I mostly used jazz minor for the theme. Jazz minor is just a major scale where the 3rd note is lowered to b3. But I also used a bridge that toggles between a diminished and augmented chord, which has a uniquely haunting sound.

May 5, 2021

Just a Lonely Night

Mostly written in pentatonic, I wrote this to illustrate a melody with somewhat jazzy sounding inversions of seven chords.

May 4, 2021

Lydian Soliloquy

I heard a nice electric guitar improv in Lydian and used part of it as a theme. The middle parts uses an octatonic scale.

Variations on a Spanish Theme

May 3, 2021

Many years ago I was going through a method book and found a series of variations that was sort of interesting, but sort of boring. I took the idea and added a whole bunch of more complicated ideas, all over a very famous chord structure that is very famous in Spanish music, most of all in guitar music. That progression is always Am, G, F and E, those chords. But I did not like the theme. Recently, I rewrote the theme to something I like a bit better.

May 2, 2021

Variation on a Theme of Chopin

The chord structure hints at a very famous Chopin E Minor Prelude as I illustrate an example of how to use a harmonic structure to improvise a rolling melody.

Apr. 30, 2021

Bass Line in C

This is something basic and rather simple that I wrote many years ago. I decided to add a modulation to another key, F major, then added a coda with extra modulations. Finally, I added octaves. It’s no longer easy to play, but it’s a lot more fun.

Apr. 29, 2021

Indian Dance

There was a little piece by Michael Aaron that my brother and I played called “Indian Dance”, and we both liked it. So I gave it to several of my young students, and they have all picked it as something they like to play.

Using this very simple idea I expanded it, made huge changes to the harmony and greatly changed it in many other ways, using only a bit of the original theme. This has way more notes and is much harder. I have not yet taught it.

Level B

WEDNESDAY, May 12, 2021 – 12:55 AM

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Level B

There is an A level, but I usually skip it except with really small children. It has only the RH. Level B uses both hands.

Snake Dance

This is the first piece I teach each student. But beginners don’t get this version. It comes later, so if you like this version, ask me for it. Instead of only one interval in the LH for the whole song I use different intervals and chords. Remember that what makes something interesting is not the melody but what we do with the melody

Spider Song

This is the second song I teach, but this version I call “Spider Blues” because I’ve added a bit of swing and a few nice jazz chords. Again, for this version you would have to ask me for it. It’s a bit more advanced.

Saints Go Marching In

This is the hardest piece in Level B. It has chords. However, this version has more chords and a more complicated rhythm.