Show 236: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 236 was taped in the Shalin Liu Performance Center on Saturday June 4, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Sarina Zhang, 15, cello
I. Zapateado
By: Pablo de Sarasate

When I play this piece, I can imagine being in the center of an energetic Spanish/Latin festival. Everywhere there is color, flowing dresses, hats, laughter, and dancing. The zapateado is a kind of dance of Mexican Indian origin that is characterized by lively rhythm. There’s also some element of tap dancing involved as well; ‘zapato” is Spanish for shoe. Just like you may suspect, this is another one of Sarasate’s virtuosic works. It’s full of harmonics, double stops, and left hand pizzicato. My favorite parts of the piece are when the luscious Spanish melody comes out for just a split second; it’s just like a Carmen giving a sly wink to a crowd.

First of all, the piece is a virtuosic work, so that’s part of the piece you need to nail. It’s not that you need the technic to be perfect; it’s more that if you get that element of risk, fun, vivacity, and style out to the audience (which is done by nailing those runs), you’ve done your job. That’s what the piece is all about! This piece has such a “just-do-it” kind of feeling, which is hard to come by in the more standard pieces for cello.

Gavin George, 8, piano
V. The Little Shepherd and I. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum from Children’s Corner Suite
By: Claude Debussy

I think The Little Shepherd is a very beautiful and expressive piece. There’s one part in it where I imagine a wolf trying to get one of the sweet lambs. After a short chase, there’s a lovely section where the shepherd rescues the lamb.  When I play The Little Shepherd, it really needs to be played with all my heart so all the feelings shine through. It actually gives me warm feelings when I’m playing it sometimes.

Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum is much more energetic and exciting.  It’s so much fun to play.  I imagine the ending as a grand finale of 4th of July fireworks!

Post-Show Reflection: I loved this whole weekend; of course, performing was the best!  I also thought that the pizza party was great because I had a lot of fun getting to know each of the talented musicians and staff members.  It was so exciting and amazing performing at the gorgeous Shalin Lui Performance Center. When I was brought backstage I was feeling both nervous and really excited to perform and be recorded live. Once I began my piece, the music just flowed from my fingers and I felt relaxed.  When I finished I glanced out at the sparkling ocean, heard the crowd applaud, and thought how lucky I was.

I believe music has the power to make people enjoy their life.

Formation Quartet (Jonathan Cohler, Coach)
Hikaru Yonezaki, 15, Violin
I. Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato from String Quartet in G minor, Op.27
By: Edvard Grieg

I love this piece! I think of it as reflection on the loss of his child, and I think that is what creates the varieties of emotions in the movement. The piece starts with bold, rich cords but quickly changes into a fast duet with the first violin and viola. TO me, it seems like this passage shows Grieg’s grief and how his mind is in a state of confusion and turmoil over the tragic loss. My favorite parties the section following the previously mentioned area ( where the intensity builds up). This section sounds like a lullaby to his child, or his nostalgic memories. This piece is so gorgeous and moving!

In this piece, we see a combination of a rich, luxurious sound with a touch of an angelic, loving voice. Because it is not just a matter of the colume or how, I think character is the most difficult, yet most important thing to get across. Every composer had a message that he wanted to tell the audience, so as storytellers, we have to show the message in our music.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory with From the Top was when we did the activity yesterday in which the performers got together and completed the “Music can…” sentence. I thought the activity was wonderful because through that experience, I was able to learn other performers’ perspective on the power of music. We shared a mutual theme of music serving as a very powerful communication system, and though the other performers came from all across the country, it was a great way of connecting ourselves.

The performance on stage was a remarkable experience. There are so many factors… First of all, the stage itself was beautiful, and I loved the acoustics. The hall sounded absolutely wonderful. Another factor does not have to do with the stage, but the audience. The audience was so in to the music, and even if they did not play music themselves, I could tell that they were very interested in it.

I believe that music has the power to connect everyone. Music is something that one needs passion to do, and that passion can be shared by everyone, no matter what age, race, gender, ethnicity, social class, or disabilities. It connects people on the other side of the world to people on this side of the world. I believe music has the power to communicate to people, to tell a story. I believe that music is a language that can be understood by all of the world and that it is something that everyone can enjoy and love together.

Ruby Mercure, 17, Violin
I. Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato from String Quartet in G minor, Op.27
By: Edvard Grieg

Our Quartet thought of this piece as showing something epic from the movie 300 ( which only Tom & Victor have actually seen). We envision a lot of battle scenes- perhaps over some beautiful young maiden or princess. I adore the beginning of this piece – it cries: “Look at us, we are here, the great Grieg Quartet has begun!”

A difficulty in terms of ensemble is how much this piece exposes a group’s chamber music skill. Most notably, if we finish our notes exactly together. I feel that many groups, of course, focus on starting all notes precisely together, but finishing them together requires effort and awareness from all.

Thomas Wong, 16, Violin
I. Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato from String Quartet in G minor, Op.27
By: Edvard Grieg

Our Quartet came up with a story to go along with the piece while competing at Fischoff. We imagined this entire quartet as medieval/ barbaric, the movie “300” type battle between two men to get the “fair maiden”. The Allegro molto-agitato sections depict the two men chasing after each other and their epic battle to win over the girl. Whenever a slow passage similar to the one at B pops up, where the viola and violin share the solo, it shows the maiden singing and showing off her beauty, making her even more desirable. Finally, the two men kill off each other towards the end. When the violins and viola have the ponticello, the cello solo appears out of the midst and charms the audience with its gorgeousness. Finally, the piece ends with a morbid reminder at the end with everyone dead. Regardless of our made- up story, I always think about nature while playing this piece, which was the intended message from the composer. Beautiful European country sides with fields and mountains in the distance come to mind in particular.

This piece definitely presents unique challenges because of the shifts from the intense fast sections, to the slower beautiful sections in the matter of a couple of measures. One of the hardest things to nail in this particular piece is capturing all the emotions. Also, the mood of each section requires incredible amounts of detail and focus from all the members of the quartet. This piece differs from other pieces I have played mainly because of its style and difficulty of ensemble and dedication to the music rather than technical ability.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the three days was to meet all of the other musicians. They were all very interesting to meet and talk to. It was also amazing that they were from all around the country. Performing on that stage with From the Top was an amazing experience. The most amazing part of playing on the stage was the ocean view in the background. The ocean view was so beautiful and made the experience extra special.

I believe that music has the ability to change people because of its beauty. I personally have been changed forever by the music of Mahler specifically. This entire year the YPO (Youth Philharmonic Orchestra) has been working on Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and it has been a life changing experience.   

Victor Huls, 17, Cello
I. Un poco andante – Allegro molto ed agitato from String Quartet in G minor, Op.27
By: Edvard Grieg

It’s just awesome. My group played this piece for a large group of 9-13 years old while we were at Fischoff. After we played, I asked them how they liked it – the entire room sounded with “ooh’s” and “awesome!” They enjoyed it is as much as the Green Day song we played at the end, if not more. It’s pretty cool that a great piece like that is so exciting and approachable for young kids who don’t know much about classical music. The opening is so epic and then the foggy chase right after is utterly exciting.

The mood changes! Within the first page it goes from epic, resolute sadness to scary. Fast energy, escalating to massive masculine energy, and then a calm and luring melody, but still with thoughts of angst interjected. This is truly fascinating to portray. At the same time it’s very pedantic due to all the repetition. Also, the structures, melodies, and harmonies are very simple and tonal, but it’s so interesting despite the  I-V-I’s.

Post-Show Reflection: The performance and live interaction of the interviews, in addition to meeting many new musicians. Performing on that stage was fantastic! The fact that the back of the Hall was glass looking out over an incredible bay was inspiring. It was an excellent sensation to perform a string quartet with the ocean and sky behind us while facing an audience and simultaneously broadcasting our sounds on the radio..

Music has the power to inspire. When music really captures someone’s attention, it allows them to rise up to new levels of appreciation and thought.

Ryan Norville, 17, flute
I. Fantaisie brillante on Bizet’s Carmen
By: Francios Borne

I believe this is a piece to let the performer show off. My favorite part is the ending because it just doesn’t stop and it pulls you in by the neck until it’s absolutely done. My least favorite part is the theme that is meant for brass, as it sounds ineffective on a flute. This music is about Carmen. One time I performed this from memory and started the brass theme a half step lower.

This piece is special because it’s the first piece I played with variations, and I have been successful in many competitions with it. It is the first piece I played with orchestra from memory. The most important thing to get across is the attitude of Carmen and to sound virtuosic. The hardest thing to nail is variation 3. This is one of the longest variations, and probably the most fun.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was hearing the violinist play. I have never heard that piece before and I love it. She played so well and with so much intensity. I was able to speak to her backstage before the show and I realized how alike we are and it was very inspiring. Playing on that stage has become my best memory of making music. I felt so calm, with a great pianist and great energy from the audience. I remember playing very fast notes that seemed to go by very slowly, and thought about how happy music has made me.

I believe music has the power to take you anywhere and change your life.

Stephanie Zyzak, 17, violin
Tarantella from Nocturne and Tarantella, Op.28
By: Karol Szymanoski

Because of the definition of tarantella, the image that does come to me while I am playing is a group of people dancing randomly. My favorite part of the piece is the ending. This is one of those endings that makes a powerful statement.

When I play this piece, if I can get the audience to feel the excitement to the point where they are sitting on the edge of their seats, then I’ve succeeded. The hardest thing to nail in this piece is a passage in the middle where my fingers’ muscles know exactly where to go but my brain doesn’t. If I stop and think about the notes, I actually will mess up!