Show 214: Listening Guide

The week’s From the Top broadcast was taped at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa, on February 24, 2010.  We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Thomas Burrill, 14, piano
Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, I. Grave – Doppio movimento by Frederic Chopin

The 1st movement I’m performing is often viewed as a virtuoso piece, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s leading to a funeral march, so the pianist has to preserve a dark dramatic resonance throughout the movement. The hardest part in this piece is to not exaggerate the rubato, yet keep moving forward while shaping the music.  There are sections of this music that produce a sense of longing for departed lives, yet one must move forward in the piece, as though one is fleeing inevitable death. As I play, I imagine as though I’m in a carriage hastily trying to escape death, though I realize that death is inescapable.

Jeremiah Siochi, 17, composer
Thoughts of a Wistful Heart for Harp and Violoncello by Jeremiah Siochi

The piece was specifically written for Katherine and Andrew. I took full advantage of the opportunity to work with my harpist sister – “work-shopping” sections of music and receiving valuable feedback on playability,

Katherine Siochi and Andrew Altmaier

technique, notation, etc. I actively considered my compositional choices, and attempted to open my music to more unity, contrast, and variety.  Tranquil harp chords tinged with melancholy begin the work, after which the cello picks up a lyrical yet brooding countersubject, progression from tranquility, to brooding uncertainty, to disjoined lyricism is reflected on the large-scale – a wistful longing becomes more brooding and builds to a frustrated, furious climax, where the strong emotion must break the lyrical “thoughts” into disjointed pieces. It is a journey of the heart that is passionately experienced, one that indulges in an unfulfilled past despite wisdom to move toward the future.

Meekyoung Lee, 18, flute
Allegro aperto from Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 314 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Meekyoung Lee

There are so many different interpretations and stylistic opinions about this piece, so there is always room for new ideas and new ways to improve, and I think that’s what makes this piece stand out. I never get bored with it because there is always something new I could do. There is an aspect of optimistic, energetic happiness as well as a more shy, timid aspect in this piece. When I perform this piece, it’s happiness, a kind of royal feel to the piece that makes me feel happy. There is no need for me to “emote,” the overall simplicity bring out the joy both to the audience and myself.

Allan Steele, 16, cello
IV. Allegro from Sonata for Violoncello & Piano in D minor, Op. 40 by Dmitri Shostakovich

I’ve always loved Shostakovich. There’s something about the mix of head-banging heavy metal classical and ironically chirpy demented clown music that’s really amazing in a kind of nasty-funny way. The raw emotion and then the sarcastic humor; what’s not to love? My teacher told me that when Rostropovich performed this, he made up a story about a guy going to the bar; it corresponds to the sections in the movement so well that even if it’s a bit silly, that’s what I think of. In the beginning the guy is sneaking out, he gets to the bar, gets in a drunken fight, and eventually sneaks back home.

Jake Mezera, 14, trombone (The Bone Rangers)
III. Veloce – Ignoblimente from Sonata for Trombones by Simon Wills

This piece is a sprint from start to finish – it can never slow down and requires a lot of energy to keep it exciting. This piece is also very difficult for high school students to play. The first trombone part is very high and is a challenge for endurance. I think the hardest thing for me to nail is the trill on a high note at the end.

Joe Krantz, 18, trombone (The Bone Rangers)
III. Veloce – Ignoblimente from Sonata for Trombones by Simon Wills

Sonata for trombones is an extremely exciting piece that requires the trombone to take on many different characters. It is crucial for us to convey the different personalities that exist within the piece. This is one of the most technically difficult pieces I have had to perform with a chamber ensemble.

The Bone Rangers (Jake Mezera, Joe Krantz, Douglas Meng, and Tanner Jackson)

Douglas Meng, 16, trombone (The Bone Rangers)
III. Veloce – Ignoblimente from Sonata for Trombones by Simon Wills

When I play this piece I think of a chase going on. In different parts of the piece it is as if this person goes to a different place to hide but ends up being chased again. I really like to play this piece because it is interesting.

Tanner Jackson, 14, trombone (The Bone Rangers)
III. Veloce – Ignoblimente from Sonata for Trombones by Simon Wills

The image that I feel is invoked by this piece is a sort of mischievous feel in the first section of the piece. The second section has a drunken feel to it, and at one point Mr. Riordan said that this sounded like a drunk solider telling a twisted war story, and as the melodic line is passed, another soldier interrupts with their own twist on it. The third section has a “rising tension, released tension, and repeat” pattern, which leads in to the fourth section, which is a recapitulation of the first section. The section of this piece I like the most is the second section, because it seems the most picturesque and diverse part.