Jacob Greenberg

Saturday, June 16, 2007

planetary repetition

Olivier Messiaen's Harawi for soprano and piano, subtitled Song of Love and Death, is part of the composer's trilogy of works inspired by the Tristan legend. Messiaen's take on the legend, though, is decidedly more international than Wagner's--Harawi draws on Peruvian words and imagery, and the second of the pieces in the trilogy, the mammoth Turangalila Symphony for piano, ondes martenot and orchestra, takes its title from two Sanskrit words (meaning love song and hymn) and uses Hindu and Greek rhythms (as does Harawi ).

Tony Arnold and I have been wanting to do the piece for years now, and it seems like now is the time, finally--our first performance will be in Chicago in September, as part of ICEFest Chicago. It's definitely the biggest piece by Messiaen that I've done, even including the completely set of early Preludes, Visions de l'Amen for two pianos, and the two books of the song cycle Poemes pour Mi, which I last did with Tony a few years ago. Harawi is true vocal chamber music, but there are many opportunities for me to show off, too. We rehearse the piece for the first time in Buffalo next month.

"Repetition Planetaire" is the movement I'm learning now, and it kind of closes the first part of the piece. It's a tough one...

Monday, June 04, 2007

summer in the city

I'm very excited about the first of the Music at Close Range concerts, which is being planned for mid-August. Some stuff I've played before, and there are some new things too: I'm hard at work on the Stravinsky neoclassical Serenade in A, new to me, which was music for a recent dance by Mark Morris.

ICE was busy with the Bang on a Can marathon this past weekend, and it was a real experience--our first concert for a huge audience on a rock-concert scale. The indie rock band Yo La Tengo "opened" for us, which we thought was quite a coup. David Lang's piece Men, which ICE played to close the marathon concert, is a forty-minute score written in very broad strokes. It's for an eleven-person ensemble with solo trombone, and the two pianists trade roles, alternately playing long chords in the bass and a tremolo single note in the treble. Cory Smythe, my ICE piano comrade, played the other part.