Show 225: Listening Guide

From the Top’s Show 225 was taped in the Lincoln Theater Napa Valley in Yountville, CA on Sunday January 23, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Mondo Trio
I. Allegro con brio from Piano Trio No.4 in B-flat major, Op.11
By: Ludwig van Beethoven
Matthew Chow, 14,violin

Overall this piece is energetic and almost comical. For example, the cello’s bouncing 8th note bass line reminds of a bassoonist, huffing and puffing in the Chinese Dance from The Nutcracker Suite. As a group, we always have to remind ourselves to smile more and be more energetic.

This is the first trio that my group performed. As mentioned before, we struggle most to show the energetic side of the piece. Also, we have to emphasize the sudden key changes, which give the piece its “jaggedness,” and were especially surprising back in Beethoven’s lifetime.

Post Show Reflection: This was such an amazing experienced I really encourage any young artists to apply. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. The staff and crew are so amazing and friendly, and you get to see Joanne and Christopher O’Riley in person!

Mondo Trio
I. Allegro con brio from Piano Trio No.4 in B-flat major, Op.11
By: Ludwig van Beethoven
Ila Shon, 13, cello

I love how this piece is so playful and is packed with surprise. My favorite parts are when the melody is “passed” around the trio, from the cello to the violin to the piano. I love the part when the piano and violin are exchanging melodies while the cello has “bouncy eighth notes. It is a lot of fun to play and requires energy.

Beethoven opus II is challenging for many reasons. For example, the piece has several abrupt mood and key changes. These sudden shifts in mood can occur over just a bar and it’s critical to be able to switch characters quickly. The trio has been working on how we can surprise the audience by creating tension before a dramatic shift or by simply exaggerating every mark in the music.

Post Show Reflection: I had a fantastic time performing on From the Top. It was an amazing experience to meet the other kids on the show and to meet everyone who works on From the Top. It was eye-opening to see all that goes into making a show. It was a fabulous experience!

Mondo Trio
I. Allegro con brio from Piano Trio No.4 in B-flat major, Op.11
By: Ludwig van Beethoven
Hanson Tam, 13, piano

This piece is playful and humorous. The music makes me imagine a playground where children are playing, joking, and running around. My favorite part of the music is at the end where Beethoven fakes an ending and keeps on writing another two lines of music. The coda is amusing and captures the audience’s attention.

The sudden mood changes and surprises are the most important to go for and get across in this piece. There are many instances where there is a quick switch from lyrical to playful, intense to calm, or loud to soft. I think the hardest things to nail in this piece are the key changes. One such spot is where F major immediately switches to Db Major at the development. These completely unexpected key changes are shocking to the audience and important to bring out.

Post Show Reflection:  It was an amazing experience performing on From the Top. I enjoyed every moment and loved working with Christopher O’Riley and the rest of the crew.

Marie Kelly, 12, piano,
No. 2, 4, and 6 from Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm
By: Bela Bartok

These Dances, to me, evoke the color green. Not grass-green; a thin, cold sea-green. Perhaps it is because of a little game I played once when I went with my family to an elegant restaurant. I decided to match each course to the composer I thought it “tasted” like. When the cucumber sorbet arrived (which was green and cold), I thought it went best with Bartok.

The Bartok Dances are unlike any piece I’ve ever played. It is very rhythmic and detailed. It’s not like Chopin, where you can pour an entire world of emotion into a single nocturne; or world of virtuosity into a ballade. The Bartok has dynamics and feeling, too; but they must be expressed in a meticulous, refined way. Sometimes, the little subtleties make all the difference.

Post Show Reflection: Working with Christopher O’Riley was an amazing experience. He’s so funny and genuine. Working with Johana and both Toms (Tom Voegli and Tom Vigneri) was also really fun. The FTT staff is so friendly and relaxed.  Performing on From the Top was very gratifying, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have appeared on the show.

Perry Choi, 17, clarinet
Adagio from Concerto in A major, K. 622
By: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

No piece conveys a balance among pain, beauty, and playfulness better  than Mozart’s Adagio for clarinet. When performing this masterpiece, I look  back on memorable experiences, feel how past emotions have impacted me,  appreciate these changes, and after playing the final notes, return to the  present. It’s as if the sun rises in the beginning of the piece to begin my  reminiscence and sets to signal my exit from this reconfigured setting. My  favorite section of this piece is undoubtedly the climax  of the second motif, during which the orchestra reiterates what the clarinet has  just stated. This section never fails to send shivers down my spine with its  unparalleled beauty. My least favorite parts are definitely both the  beginning and end of the piece: the scariest thing about this piece is  starting it, but once I get into it I never want it to end.

Musically, the key idea is phrasing; more specifically, the performer  needs to make long, overarching phrases that smoothly transition to  subsequent musical ideas. Technically, this is achieved through extreme control  of breath and air velocity and quick yet gentle finger transitions, two  skills that make this piece difficult to nail. The scariest moment for me is the very first couple of measures, but more specifically, the attack of the opening note. To nail this single note, which may not seem very important to most, is of utmost importance and ultimately satisfying if done correctly. All in all, this piece demands absolute concentration from the performer, and if this effort is given, the performance is truly magical.

Post Show Reflection: Performing this awe-inspiring piece on From the Top was an experience like no other. With such an inviting environment, it was impossible to not have an amazing time: the audience, staff, and performers all made the event truly unforgettable. Additionally, performing with Mr. O’Riley was such as honor, for his help really brought the piece to life. Nothing would satisfy me more than playing with him again in the future.

Alisa Jordheim, 24, soprano
“It Ceased to Hurt Me”, I Shall Not Murmur”, and “I Like to See It Lap the Miles” from The White Election, Part Three: Almost Peace
By: Gordon Getty

I have not had too much time to live with these three selected songs from Getty’s The White Election, but I was immediately drawn to them after listening. They sound and appear to be simple, but once studied and sung, they are quite complex with motive relationships, rich harmonies, and great attention given to the text. The first one, “It Ceased to Hurt Me,” is in recitative style with luminous, almost ambiguous, rolled chords that reflect the pensive, thoughtful, and troubled tone of Dickinson’s poem (so many of her poems evoke such a tone). The second, “I Shall Not Murmur,” is lyrical and contains the motive (an intervallic leap of a 6th) presented in “It Ceased to Hurt Me,” which reveals a relationship between the two songs. The last song, “I Like to See It Lap the Miles,” is quick and cheerful, beautifully depicting the youthful and joyful nature of Dickinson’s text. This trio of songs is poignant, lovely, and great fun- I’m so glad to have been introduced to them and to be singing them!

Emily Dickinson’s poems have been set to music countless times, but Getty clearly and deeply understands the texts he chose to set. The recitative style of “It Ceased to Hurt Me,” and the detailed tempo/dynamic descriptions he includes are informed and appropriate, and the same is true with the other songs. These songs are challenging in that they are vocally exposed, more difficult that they seem upon first hearing (akin to Dickinson’s poems upon first reading!), and Dickinson’s texts are always filled with nuance, deeper meaning than what appears on the surface, and inner struggle. Getty’s music is clearly married to Dickinson’s texts, which makes the singer’s life easier; however, both the musical language and the written language are sophisticated and detailed… which make the preparation process longer and more difficult. But, I believe that a good piece of music requires such a process and makes the performers and audience think, feel, and be moved

Nikita Haduang, 15, violin
III. Presto in moto perpetuo from Concerto Op. 14
By: Samuel Barber

This piece reminds me of a tempestuous river/brook. Since it is a moto perpetuo, all of the running notes are the different ways water dances and flows. The different colors, originating from the harmonies and intervals, and played darkly, excitedly, teasingly, etc., are all parts of the same river that change, making the river tempestuous and almost unpredictable.

This piece is the first modern piece I’ve ever formally worked on, so it was a new experience to work with “modern” harmonies. These harmonies are quite different from what I’m used to. It is also one of the most difficult pieces that I have ever tried to put together, ensemble-wise. The coordination between soloist and accompanist is tremendously difficult, so I had to work together a lot just to organize everything and make sure everything is perfectly coordinated.

Post Show Reflection: Working with Christopher O’Riley was an interesting experience. It was an introduction into the “adult” world, and I learned a lot about the differences between the two worlds: adult-public, and amateur-student.