Master's Recital: Debussy, Bach, and Shostakovich

For those of you in Bloomington, I will be accompanying for a cellist's master's recital here at the Jacobs School of Music. The program features a sonata by Debussy so unbelievably colorful and vivid, your synesthesia will go haywire; some of the clearest, most soul-refreshing chamber music by Bach; and everyone's favorite, Shostakovich's colossal cello concerto no. 1, which, in classical music terms, is known as a bodice-ripper.

To bring you this, we've put in countless hours of arduous, painstaking practice, endured invective, censorship, and misunderstanding from the most trenchant of critics, and gone through long nights of rehearsal punctuated by hours of bickering and quarreling, torn sheet music and thrown metronomes - but always followed by tearful reconciliation. Has it been worth it? Heck yes. But then again, I'll let you all be the judge of that.

When: 7:00pm, Friday, November 8th
Where: Recital Hall, ground floor of Merrill Hall (1201 E 10th St)
Who: Andy Jahn, Piano; Sonja Kraus, Cello

===== Program =====

Debussy: Sonata for Cello and Piano
I. Prologue: Sostenuto e molto risoluto
II. Sérénade
III. Finale: Animé: Léger et nerveux

Bach: Gamba Sonata No. 1 in G Major for Cello and Piano
I. Adagio non troppo
II. Allegro, ma non tanto
III. Andante quasi Lento
IV. Allegro moderato

Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 107
I. Allegretto
II. Moderato
III. Cadenza
IV. Allegro con moto

Tonight's Entertainment

For those of you in the Bloomington area, I'll be accompanying for a senior cello recital at the Jacobs School of Music Recital Hall. The program includes, among other pieces, the Strauss Cello Sonata. This piece is rarely recorded or performed, due to some tricky passagework for both instruments and a notoriously difficult piano part (see, for example, the stormy middle section in the following video starting at about 3:10). But, I also happen to be kind of stupid, so I play stuff like this regardless. No fear, baby!

Where: Recital Hall, Jacobs School of Music
When: Saturday, March 23rd, 10:00pm


J. S. Bach: Suite No. 5 for Unaccompanied Cello in C Minor, BMV 1101

Gaspar Cassado: Suite for Solo Cello

Richard Strauss: Sonata for Cello and Piano in F Major, Op. 6

     I. Allegro con brio
     II. Andante ma non troppo
     III. Allegro vivo

Recital Pics

Here are a few pictures that were taken from the recital on Monday:

Taking a bow. We spent a few weeks choreographing this.

Starting things off; Mendelssohn, I think.

The rest of these are from the Grieg. Note that there is no page turner, even though my score runs for forty-five pages; by the end of the night my page-turning muscles would be bathed in lactic acid.

I know what you're thinking: What was the greater risk in your life; Playing without a page-turner, or taking a leak in the locker room shower your senior year? Difficult to say, my friends. Difficult to say.

Cello Recital: Mendelssohn, Bach, & Grieg

For any of those reading this who live in the Bloomington area, tomorrow I will be accompanying for a cello recital which includes, among other pieces, the Grieg cello sonata in A Minor, Op. 36. This one is a beast, and by far the largest and most demanding cello piece I have yet accompanied (although the Strauss and Mendelssohn cello sonatas are close contenders); but it's also epic in scope, features both displays of dazzling virtuosity and moments of heartstopping intimacy, and has a finale guaranteed to bring down the house. In short, it has all of the qualities I idolize about classical music; which, I hope, will awaken some powerful longing for the beautiful and the sublime within even the most naive listener.

Time: 7:00pm, Monday, February 25th
Location: Ford Hall (2nd Floor of the Simon Music Center, near the corner of 3rd & Jordan)


Mendelssohn: Lied Ohne Worte, Op. 109

Bach: Cello Suite #4 in E-Flat Major, BMV 1010

Grieg: Cello Sonata in A Minor, Op. 36
   I. Allegro Agitato - Presto - Prestissimo
   II. Andante Molto Tranquilo
   III. Allegro Molto e Marcato

Cello Unchained: Public Recital

Tomorrow at Boxcar Books in Bloomington, there will be a public studio recital featuring cellists from the Jacobs School of Music. The pieces range from virtuosic showpieces (such as the Popper etudes) to lyrical songs without words, and I will be accompanying several of them. So if you're in the area, feel free to stop by!

Boxcar Books Recital  

When: Monday, November 26th, at 7:00pm
Where: Boxcar Books, 408 E 6th St (right next to Runcible Spoon)
Who: The entire cello studio of Emilio Colón
Link to Facebook invite


Lately on this blog there has been a slowdown in productivity; I apologize. Three-fifths is due to negligence, neglect, and the active avoidance of posting, while the other two-fifths has been sheer laziness. As with everyone, there seems to come a time where there intersects the demands of work, extracurriculars, and catching up on Starcraft 2 replays; and the goal is to take care of those duties and then resume the previous levels of productivity, while taking care not to let the current pace become the new norm.

However, I want to be upfront and say that it is accompanying which has demanded most of my attention these past few weeks. At first I thought I would only be assisting one student this semester; but apparently word got out that I would play almost anything, and at a reasonable price (if I like the piece well enough, usually for free), and I now count three names in my daily planner.

Not that I complain; I consider accompanying to be one of the most pleasant, agreeable, and ennobling activities that I have the privilege to share with others. Notwithstanding the scheduling conflicts and sprints across campus to make it from a scanning session to an afternoon lesson, it can be great fun; and frequently have I felt both the prolonged rush of adrenaline after a session of Shostakovich and the slow, satisfying burning in my bones long after playing through one of Haydn's sublime adagios; more than once has there been a hectic day at work where I manage to slip out for a quick connection with Mendelssohn, and for the rest of the afternoon I walk on clouds.

What follows are a few of the pieces I am currently working on, along with some annotations for the curious pianist:

Grieg: Cello Sonata in A Minor, op. 36

When I got the call asking for an accompanist for the Grieg sonata, at first I was reluctant; the piano part seemed difficult to put together, and I wasn't sure I would be able to get it up to the tempo written in the score. However, I should have known better - pianists who write the accompanying scores know how to make you sound good without too much difficulty. After a few sightreadings and some encouragement from my fullblooded Norwegian grandparents, I knew that I had to play it.

Of note is the last couple dozen bars of the first movement, where you are required to slam out elevenths while playing prestissimo, immediately followed by arpeggios flying through all the registers, which makes you feel like a total boss. Coupled with a quotation from the opening bars of Grieg's famous piano concerto, the badassness of this piece is therefore raised to 100,000. Highly recommended.

Hair music

Strauss: Cello Sonata in F, op. 6

Whereas Grieg was professional pianist, Strauss was not; and although I love this piece very much, and although I regard Strauss as a musical genius, the piano part is irritatingly tricky, complex, and in some places can be downright treacherous. Consider the fugue in the first movement during the development; I have had this piece in my repertoire for almost two years now, and I still have no idea what the hell kind of fingering to use. Due to passages like these my score contains several reductions, ad hoc ritardandi, and entire clusters of notes crossed out and obliterated; yet it still remains a difficult piece to pull off. And then there are the other two movements, which I don't even want to think about.

Regarding the pace of the first movement, I have listened to several recordings where for some reason during certain sections the tempo goes off the rails. I recommend sticking close to the original 168 beats per minute (as in the following Hamelin and Rolland recording), as the overture introduction sounds grander and more dramatic, and the militaristic second theme sounds more solid and self-assured, as opposed to frantic. Also keep in mind that during the coda you need to have a lot left in the tank to power through the stretto into the piu mosso, and still get faster after that. Don't be a victim.

Schumann: Adagio and Allegro for Cello and Piano, op. 70

Schumann is a rare bird, a bit gamy and not to everyone's taste. For me, at least, it took several years to warm up to his enigmatic style, and there are still times where I find his music a little too lush. However, the more I listen to his compositions - and especially his later work - the more intrigued and enthralled I become.

The Adagio and Allegro - originally written for horn and piano, and originally titled Romance and Allegro - is a charming piece, juxtaposing a dreamy, ethereal Adagio against the victorious, conquering Allegro. Florestan and Eusebius, the imaginary and opposing characters of Schumann's personality, are at play here, especially within the contrasting subsections of the Allegro; both performers would do well to try and elicit both characters.

Mendelssohn: Lied ohne Worte, op. 109

Every once in a while an instrumentalist will take mercy on you and select a piece that is well within your ability. As with Mendelssohn's famous Songs without Words for piano solo, the Lied ohne Worte for cello and piano is a brief character piece containing several of the elements of the Songs; a delicate melodic line floating over a simple accompaniment, but concealing deeper emotions which erupt to the surface during the agitato middle section. Very fun to play, and an excellent introduction to chamber music for the aspiring pianist.

Any damn way, that's what I've been up to in my free time. I have some SPM videos coming down the pike, as well as an overview of the AFNI uber_subject scripts, so stay tuned.

Prokofiev: Etude and Piano Concerto

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Mention the name of Prokofiev to any musician, and instantly a mental curtain goes up: They hear music of caprice, vigor, and daring; original almost to the point of eccentricity; Russian in the fullest sense of the word.

"I abhor imitation," Prokofiev once wrote, "and I abhor the familiar." Certainly, Prokofiev is a difficult man to pin down; some categorize his music as neo-classical, others as sui generis. By pushing the limits of public taste, he invited both admiration and scathing criticism; however, nearly sixty years after his death, his seat among the pantheon of musical gods remains secure.

The following two selections provide a glimpse into Prokofiev's world. Doubtless, they represent only an incomplete part of him. Both his etudes, op. 2, and his piano concerto no. 1, op. 10, were composed at the beginning of his career; they are worlds removed from the dark, sarcastic, acidic hatred of his final piano sonatas or his colossal, finger-breaking Sinfonia Concertante. (Truly, both Shostakovich and Prokofiev, their souls hardened and warped within the crucible of Stalinist Russia, are two of the greatest gifts to be produced by that unhappy era.)

However, these pieces are a good point of entry into Prokofiev's beautiful imagination. The etudes and piano concerto are energetic, bombastic, unabashedly virtuosic pieces Prokofiev used as vehicles to coruscate onto the musical scene as a singular composer-pianist. And while Prokofiev used the piano to incredible effect, mind that it represents only a fraction of his music output - an oeurve which comprised operas, symphonies, ballets, and a superb cello sonata. The inquisitive listener will be drawn to seek out these gems.

For now, enjoy the dark sonorities and virtuosic daring of his etude in D minor, a picture of the brashness and audacity of a young man beginning to realize his powers; enjoy the roller-coaster ride of the piano concerto finale, a movement traversing an astonishing range of gorgeous, transcendental, sometimes bizarre emotions, climaxing with endless cascades of octaves over the glorious swells of the orchestra.

Youtube Music Channel

One of my hobbies is playing piano, and recently I bought the equipment to record sound from my electric piano. I own a Yamaha CLP-320 series, which has been an excellent piano and has held up remarkably well for the past three years.

The first recording uploaded from this piano is a nocturne by Chopin in B-flat minor,  opus 9, #1. I have had it in my repertoire for quite a while now, and it still remains my favorite nocturne out of all of them. I plan to upload more recordings with some regularity (e.g., every week or two), so be sure to check out the channel often to see what's new. Subscribing (or even just "liking") is a great way to help me out.

One feature of my videos is annotations which highlight certain interesting parts of the piece, such as important key modulations, any historical background that might be significant, and so on. I also think it looks cool when Chopin spits facts about his music. My goal is for it to be edifying rather than distracting; time will tell whether the public likes it or not.

Anyway, here's a link to the video. Enjoy!

[Edit 07.08.2012]: I removed the annotations, because I eventually found them distracting. Any notes will be placed in the "Description" box, as soon as I convince the recording companies that this indeed my own original work, and not a copy.