Show 233: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 233 was taped in The Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, April 26, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Matthew Liversedge, 16, cello
II. Am Springbrunnen (At the Fountain) from 4 Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op.20
By: Karl Davidoff

Am Springbrunnen makes me think of a light-hearted race between two squirrels; listen to the sputtering of the cello before they take off.  The animals bounce off trees and chase each other’s tails until they break out upon a stream or a brook.  Maybe in the absent-mindedness of squirrels the race is temporarily forgotten; either way, the lazy off-beats from the piano are relaxing and provide a stark contrast with the sixteenth notes before.  Almost as if the squirrels bump into each other once more, the cellist suddenly finds himself back in the race, although this second one is more urgent.  It seems as though here the squirrels have climbed to more dangerous heights, and although in peril, their tiny feet still find holds on the thin branches.  Back to more comfortable elevations, the stream resurfaces in a necessary relapse from the fast action.  However, as suddenly as before, the two squirrels jump back into a sprint, rolling through denser foliage, then jumping higher and higher until we completely lose sight of them.

Am Springbrunnem, or “At the Fountain,” was written by the Russian composer Karl Davidoff. He was a cello virtuoso; Tchaikovsky called him the “czar of cellists.” I’ll bet he took pleasure in writing such an unusual piece for his instrument; although fun to perform, Am Springbrunnen has its share of bewildering passages.  Chromatic suspension scales, low register octaves, and lots of high register thumb position all help to give the piece its memorable moments.  The fastest cellists get it all done in less than four minutes; others take their time.  Either way, it’s an encore favorite for performer and audience alike.

Post Show Reflection: Performing on From the Top was an incredible experience.  I was inspired by the level of talent and humility in the other performers and honored to work with such a skilled accompanist.  It was an unforgettable evening.

Music connects people of different backgrounds and serves as an outlet for expression and communication.

Katherine Kapelsohn, 15, harp
By: Isaac Albeniz

Asturias is a piece of Spanish origin. There are several parts to it. In the first part, I envision a young boy in a rickety old bus being driven quickly through a rainstorm in an area like New Mexico or Arizona. As his small face is pressed tightly against the foggy glass, lightning bolts illuminate the surrounding desert and mountainous countryside. This occurs during the climatic part of the piece, with fortissimo arpeggiated chords. The bus travels out of the storm and reaches a stop. At this stop, the young boy gets off. He sees a feeble old man sitting on a bench and approaches him. As the young boy sits down the young down with the old man, he takes out his traveling companion – an old road-weary guitar. The old man cannot see the guitar because he is blind, but he is emotionally moved as the young boy begins to play a slow, traditional melody. As the last notes of harmony fade away, the young boy is interrupted by the loud, boisterous horn announcing the departure of the bus. The young boy boards the bust and it slowly rumbles away from the feeble old man. Driving back into the storm, the young boy watches the countryside illuminate with each passing lightning bolt, but his mind is still on the lonely old man. As the rumbling of the engine drolls on, the young boy falls asleep. Although they have been separated, in his dreams, the young boy imagines that he is back with the old man playing his melody forever.

This piece, originally written for guitar, makes use of a very special effect called pres de la table. Pres de la table is more commonly known as plucking the strings near the soundboard to create a guitar-like effect. This piece also has a couple of really tricky technical things about it. The first one is the fact that a large majority of the notes in the piece are repeated quickly, which can cause an unwanted buzzing effect. The second thing that is hard about this piece is the large octave jumps to reach the arpeggiated chords in the first and last parts of the piece.

Post-Show Reflection: my favorite memories from the three days were getting a kiss from Michael Feinstein, hanging out with the SUPER nice staff, meeting friends that I will have for a lifetime, and watching Eva and Heeyeon almost push each other into the pool at the hotel. Performing on that stage was so thrilling and exhilarating. Also, everyone made this experience so exciting, yet relaxing, and it was just fun and a great experience overall. The staff was amazing! Love you!

Music has the power to move and connect with people in ways that nothing else can. It sends people to tears, smiles, and can heal like nothing else.

Quartet Toujours
III. Allegro non troppo from String Quartet No. 3 In F major
By: Dmitri Shostakovich
Heeyon Chung, 18, violin

We often describe this piece as an opera or ballet which depicts a war. There are movements when it is very intense, but at times it almost seems like a tribal shout or dance. We envision an opera that shows a tribal dance when playing. My favorite part would be the ending and my least favorite would be the ridiculously fast passage, which every first violinist fakes in the entire world. After we play this piece our hairs go from composed to wild, and we have the need to go to a tribal dance.

Many often see this piece as loud and even more loud but we want to portray the different characters within it. The piece should not be played down, but placed up. Rhythm and reaction to one another is very important in this piece. Articulation of each note is vital as well.

Post-Show Reflection: my favorite memory was going on stage with Michael Feinstein, showing eye contact with the members of my quartet and Katie, and being with Christopher O’Riley and Michael Feinstein while playing “Love Walk in “. To be on the stage is indescribable. The moment I step on to when I step off feels like an unexplainable experience. The heights, the silence, the audience all merge into a beautiful picturesque. Michael Feinstein’s voice is amazing. Performing is the most incredible experience anyone could ever have.

Music can give a gift to people who are listening.

Quartet Toujours
Kaho Sugawara, 17, violin

I love this Shosty! It’s so energetic and super awesome! There are so many cool harmonies and counter melodies, and all four of us have a blast playing it. Basically when we started to put this piece together, it sounded like a ruckus. Making this piece sound mature but still with intensity and energy was the most challenging part. I especially love the ending where the piece suddenly goes major. It’s so unexpected but it brings the “Finale chords” kind of feel.

I think any quartet can sight-read this piece well. But it is so hard to actually put it together. It’s so tempting to just play the piece loud and fast, but there are the history of the piece, specific dynamic markings, and so many other sophistications to consider. I think that although this piece is so energetic and fun to play, it is important to bring out the message that Shostakovich put in the piece about fascism and war.

Post-Show Reflection: my favorite memory was sitting out in the audience and watching the whole recording process. Last year (when we performed on Show #216), we didn’t get to see the whole show but this year we did! Performing in that hall was really fun! Just watching the audience and feeling the resonance was such an awesome experience! The talking was kind of… nerve wrecking…But the performing was so FUN!

Music has the power to change lives. I don’t know what I would do without music! Music can also make connections with other people, and it can also be used to cure sickness and emotional pain. MUSIC RULES!

Quartet Toujours
Eva Kennedy, 16, viola

This Shostakovich is incredible! It’s so fun to play, it’s amazing to just jam, especially at the end. The whole quartet is dedicated to “the victims of fascism and war,” though it’s unclear whether Shostakovich added those of his own free will or under government pressure. This movement represents the actual war. I really like how the same sort of theme keeps coming back throughout the movement, but it just keep getting more intense and by the end – AHHH it’s amazing! We’re always sweaty and out of breath when we finish.

One thing that’s really cool about this piece is that it features each part really well. The 1st violin has all the crazy high stuff and a huge scale up to the climax. The cello has a really neat solo accompanied by ricochets in the other 3 voices. The 2nd violin has a solo where Kaho does a slide that makes us all freak out. And the viola solo in this piece is the rockingest thing EVER.

Post-Show Reflection: We love (From the Top) so much! It’s so cool doing the dress rehearsal and seeing how the radio show is taped and the “on the air” sign and the lighting and the theme song and everything! The pizza party with everyone was really fun – the friendly environment and getting to know everyone. I love everyone! And when finished Love Walked In, Michael Feinstein kissed us on the cheeks! It was amazing walking into the theater! Seeing it for the first time was breathtaking; it’s the most beautiful (and biggest) space we’ve ever played in – it felt so legit and amazing. Walking out for the performance was amazing, with the stage and the audience and the lights and the mics and everything – this is what it feels like to be a professional quartet performing on a stage.

Music can do EVERYTHING: changes lives, saves live, enhance lives, express things words and even actions can’t forge deep connections between people.

Quartet Toujours
Ruthie Cordray, 18, cello

This piece makes me think of war. We always say the opening chords remind us of bombs, and the antagonistic duets of a fist fight. There’s a deep, intense current of violence throughout the entire piece.

Somewhat counter intuitively, the piece is at its best and most enjoyable for performers and audience alike when it’s controlled. Chaos and frenzy detract from its overall effect. When we stay steady, and keep it in our command, I get a strange, electrifying sense of power. It’s exhilarating.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite moments were hanging all with the staff, meeting Michael Feinstein, the Arts leadership workshop – especially the individual Arts Leadership path planning activity. Performing on that stage was unbelievable and unforgettable, empowering, magical

Music can change, enhance, and save lives!

Thomas English,17, basson
I. Allegro Moderato from Concerto in F major
By: Johann Hummel

Hummel always invokes sort of a quirky ride in the countryside with all of its large intervals in the sixteenth note passages and its flowing melody. It reminds me of a wagon ride in which the sun is shining, but then it switches to rain and gets more gloomy, then you arrive at your destination and are just excited to get off that crazy wagon!

This piece has some very difficult interval jumps in the sixteenth notes that are some of the harder licks I have played on bassoon. It is especially famous for its octave jumps in the sixteenths of the end of the first movement. Besides all these notes the hardest part is making it sound effortless just like that quirky, flowing wagon ride in the country.

Post-Show Reflection: my favorite moments were talking with the awesome staff and spending time with the other performers in the leadership conference. Performing on that stage was somewhat intimidating; however, when I got to playing the music and talking to the staff and performers, it was a blast.

Music has the power to shape human emotion, inspire, and change lives.

Michael Feinstein Ensemble