Show 224: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 224 was taped in Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA on Friday December 03, 2010. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Rachel Rodgers, 15, flute
Carnival of Venice
By Giulio Briccialdi

First of all, this piece is incredibly fun to play! It’s such an energetic and lively piece of music, yet there are parts of it that are beautiful and expressive. As a flutist, it’s a very technically demanding piece – there’s a LOT to play and not a lot of time to breathe! My favorite part of the piece is the section where it sounds like two flutes are playing. When I saw Sir James Galway play it, I was AMAZED at that section, and ever since, I’ve worked really hard to master that part! (But, still working on getting it up to Sir James’ level!) Since I play this piece every night, at around the time my little sister goes to bed, she can sing every note by heart (not bad for a drummer!)
This piece has many different variations, which provides a great amount of contrast. It’s a very playful piece – such a great piece to perform live because it has many moods that each flutist can shape according to their own personality. I happen to be a pretty happy-go-lucky person and the more playful parts of the piece fit my personality. When I play this piece, I want the audience to feel just as good as I do when I play it. The hardest thing to nail in this piece is the coda – it’s at the end of the piece and is super fast, with not a single place to take a breath! After finishing the piece, listeners usually have to things to say: First, “Wow!” Second, “Are you okay?” It’s pretty funny.

Post Show Reflection: Being on “From the Top” was an incredible experience. It was so great playing in front of a live audience, while at the same time being recorded for a live radio show! It was a great feeling being up on stage and performing my favorite piece for flute. I will never forget this experience. Thank you to everyone who made this possible!

Alice Burla, 14, piano,
Prelude and Fugue No.2 in A minor, Op.87
By: Dmitri Shostakovich
Concert Etude No.1, Prelude
By: Nikolai Kapustin

Kapustin: This piece is really fun to play because it has unusual rhythmical patterns and unique jazzy harmonies. There are some really magical parts of it that I just adore. This piece is very unique because it’s in between classical and jazz. It’s very difficult because both hands are independent.

Shostakovich: When play this Prelude and Fugue, I can picture characters arguing and fighting because of their different personalities. I also see a lot of different images that help me interpret those pieces. This piece is probably the most unusual but awesome piece. The prelude is really fast and has a wide range of different colors. The fugue is wild and not only did Shostakovich develop the main theme, he also showed the counterpoint in many different ways.

Ben Solomonow, 15, cello
Variations on a Paganini Theme
By Gregor Piatigorsky

Each variation is based on a different musician, so when I play this piece, I imagine the different artists as I play their variation. My favorite thing about this piece is that each variation is completely different from the one before it. If one variation is very slow and melodic, then the next one will be fast and very technical. All of the variations show the abilities of the cello.  It is hard to play this piece with an orchestra because you can’t be too free. You must play in time otherwise it is hard for the orchestra to follow you. I watch many YouTube videos, so when I play this piece, I can see all of the artists playing and I tried to learn something about their personalities and their style. I also think about the stories behind each variation. My favorite one is about Raya Garbousova, one of the variations. She had very short fingers, so the whole variation is written in half steps, and about Bolonini who was an incredible and crazy cellist, so the whole variation is just left hand pizzicato. I think a funny time when I played this piece was when I was doing outreach concerts for children in elementary schools. When I was playing this piece, all of the kids were jumping in their seats, dancing, and conducting to the music the whole time. It made me happy to see that many people enjoy this music and it means something to them. When I played this piece for Lynn Harrell, he told me it would be nice to let Mrs. Piatigorsky know that I played it. On the other hand I don’t know if she would like to know about it because she doesn’t want anyone to play it thinking it may offend some of his musician friends.

I think the most important thing to go for in this piece is to try to actually play each variation in the style of the artists it is portraying because the audience needs to understand the style of each artist in order to know why the variation was written the way it was and why it is played the way it is. The hardest thing about this piece is that almost all of the variations jump up and down the fingerboard very fast. This piece is completely different from all of the other pieces I have played. This is more of a showpiece and the crowd really likes it. The variety in this piece is something you would never see in any other pieces.

Post Show Reflection: Everyone that was part of the show, including the audience, was so nice, which made this experience so much better. It was fun meeting everyone and working with them, and hopefully I will have another chance to come on the show again.

Thomas Pfefer, 11, guitar
“Julia Florida”
By: Agustín Barrios Mangoré

Barrios composed “Julia Florida” for Julia Martinez, who was one of his students and the niece of his good friend Francisco Salazar. This piece is a barcarole, a type of song sung by Venetian gondoliers. So when I play it, I imagine Julia floating through the canals of Venice in gondola. The feel of meter 6/8 suggests the gentle motion of gondola. I’m the gondolier and I sing about how Julia has grown into a nice and talented young lady.

I’ve always enjoyed playing pieces that were fast and flashy… and I still do… but, what I love about playing “Julia Florida” is how much I can do with the piece musically. It is a lyrical and beautiful piece that allows me to express the emotions I feel when I play it: peacefulness, enthusiasm, joy and sometimes even nostalgia. Besides a few technical challenges, the hardest part is to perform the piece with the right timing and rubato. I have to keep the gondola going even if I would rather linger, enjoying this moment.

Post Show Reflection: Being on From the Top was an amazing experience. The staff were wonderful, so nice and friendly, and made the entire experience even more enjoyable. It was a huge honor to be part of the show. I met very inspiring young performers with the same passion for music. Being on the show with Christopher O’Riley and sharing my music with the public in a big concert hall was just incredible!!

The American Boychoir
Naden Kreitz, 13, Second Soprano
“Agnus Dei” from Messe Basse
By: Gabriel Fauré
“Music Down in My Soul”, traditional
Arr. Moses Hogan

Agnus Dei” is part of a Mass by Gabriel Fauré. The text of “Agnus Dei” says: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” The phrasing is intricate and the color of the piece is unlike anything else we do. It is such a peaceful and beautiful work.

“Music Down in My Soul” is a very upbeat piece. Each time we perform it, I imagine myself singing in a church for a huge audience (which we usually are!) My least favorite part is the start of the piece, which begins incredibly slowly. My favorite part is when we get to begin clapping, and as the piece builds I get this burst of adrenaline. Once we finish, we almost always receive a thunderous applause, which is the best part of all.

The American Boychoir
Curtis Newman, 11, Soprano
“Agnus Dei” from Messe Basse
By Gabriel Fauré
“Music Down in My Soul”, traditional
Arr. Moses Hogan

I really love the piece “Music Down in My Soul”. Whenever we perform it, I envision being part of a large gospel choir. My favorite part is when we build up towards the end and we get higher and higher until our sound explodes! It’s a really cool part and I think you’ll like it too! Once at the end of the piece, some people in the audience started screaming, which was really, really funny.

I think the most important thing to get across in “Music Down in My Soul” is that everyone has music in their body, which fills you with virtues that make you overjoyed and make you want to sing! This piece has a lot more happiness and joy than a lot of our other pieces we do, such as “Agnus Dei”, which is calmer, and almost somber.