Show 227: Listening Guide

This week’s From the Top broadcast was taped in the Opelika Center for the Performing Arts in Opelika, AL on Tuesday February 8, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Samuel Casseday, 17, Double bass
I. Allegro Moderato from Concerto No.2 in B minor
By: Giovanni Bottesini

When performing this piece I think about playing as in tune, as articulately, and with the most dynamic contrast as humanly possible, I remember few to no specific thoughts because everything goes by so fast, and if I allow my mind to wander my performance may be compromised. My favorite part is the cadenza because I can do anything I want and there is nothing anyone can do about it. I have no least favorite part. The piece of music just reminds me of all of my past performances and of all my friends and family that have been there for me helping me along with my musical career.

This piece is different from other pieces I have performed because it shows the entire range of the bass in a quick tempo. The hardest thing to “nail” in this piece is the run at the end. You can’t just pick up the bass and play that up to tempo. Luckily, the rest of the movement is a pretty good warm-up for this section. This is my second favorite thing that I have performed next to Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata. The most important thing to get across is that a bass can play fast with both a large range and great dynamic contrast.

Post Show Reflection: Playing the show was great. Everyone was so casual and easy going. The audience received us really well.

Evan Ritter, 14, piano
Suggestion Diabolique
By: Sergei Prokofiev

The first thing I can remember thinking about this piece was, “it sounds like Halloween”. It’s quiet and creepy, but when it decides to jump out at you, it jumps out with a bang. I visualize a little creature sneaking around behind you, just waiting for a chance to jump out from behind the corner.

This piece is much different than many other pieces. I’ve played. It’s probably the first true modern/20th century music I’ve played. When I first played it for my grandma, she said “Evan, please play something else… that piece makes my teeth itch!”

Post Show Reflection: From the Top was a really fun experience. I came into it really scared, but when I met everyone that first night and got a chance to talk with everybody, it eased my fears. The audience in Opelika was really warm and appreciative; they made me feel right at home… great southern hospitality.

Sara Aratake, 17, clarinet
Introduction et Rondo
By: Charles-Mrie Widor

When I play this piece I like to imagine French landscapes and pastel colors. Whenever there are runs and trills in the music it is almost like the sunlight is reflecting off of water. My favorite part of the piece is when a clear theme of the entire piece is finally played during the middle of the piece. Before this theme the music builds up to it. The second time I performed this piece was with my cousin, who is good at piano. When I played it with him I really felt like it was easy to communicate while we played.

Other pieces that I have played are usually pieces where the clarinet has the main part and the piano is the accompaniment. This piece, by Widor, is a piece for both clarinet and piano. It almost feels like the clarinet and piano are having a conversation. Sometimes they get along and other times they seem to be fighting, just like human relationships. This piece has a lot of tricky spots because it was written for the final clarinet exam to graduate from the Paris conservatoire.

Post Show Reflection: Since this piece is a collaboration between piano and clarinet, I enjoyed playing it with Mr.O’Riley. Although I was nervous at first, the performers on the show and the staff were all supportive and it made this entire experience amazing. Also, being able to greet and listen to the audience’s experiences with music has added to my motivation for continuing to play the clarinet.

Jiyeon Kim, 18, guitar
Caprice No. 24
By: Niccolo Paganini

Since it’s a violin piece, should I perform this piece trying to sound like a violin? I think guitar can express (show) as much as the violin can (like virtuosic, technical stuff). This piece is such a virtuosic piece; maybe I’m focusing too much on hands and technique rather than sounding like music. How can I make the audience like my interpretation? It’s so difficult to play this piece well. I want to try risky things on this piece on a concert.

It’s a violin piece. There are two ways to play this piece: as a violin style or as a guitar-style. For me I think it it’s important to what the composer would like the performers to perform. I can play very soft, warm, beautiful, and steady a lot like what I would do on the guitar; but I want to play like a violinist! Mad, astonishing, speech-less, duel-like, virtuosic, rough risky, and experimental. It’s really difficult to even play like violinist. But I would like to take the risk! It’s such a virtuosic piece!

Post Show Reflection: When I was actually on the stage I just enjoyed myself rather than how I should play this piece! I had so much fun, and it was great not to be nervous or care so much about the piece. It wasn’t the “perfect” performance, but I think it was my most enjoyed performance ever!! I loved being on stage!

Eric Tsai, 13, Violin
III. Rondo Allegro from Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Major, Op. 12, No. 1
By: Ludwig van Beethoven

The young Beethoven was twenty-eight years old when he wrote this sonata. Being in the process of transforming the music world, Beethoven brought his youthful energy and radical styles to Vienna. The vigorous Beethoven must have caused raised eyebrows and perhaps even outrage, when he introduced many new devices and musical expressions, such as the great expansion of dynamic range, the surprising and sudden appearances of fortes and pianos, and the use of accents emphasizing notes in unusual places. These can all be heard in the third movement of his first violin sonata. This movement is happy and humorous, filled with excitement.

This piece is special for me because it is chamber music, not a solo piece. Therefore the piano part is at least equal to the violin part. Mr. O’Riley and I interact with each other and have musical conversations much more than if I was playing solo piece. I try to remember not to play the sonata like I’m the soloist with piano accompaniment, as in playing a concerto or a showpiece. One challenge (but also fun) is to make the ensemble clean, even though we had limited rehearsal time.