Show 237: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 237 was taped in the Venetian Theater at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts on Sunday, June 26, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Sujari Britt, 10, cello,
I. Allegro Non Troppo from Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33
By: Camille Saint-Saëns

The SaintSaëns’ Concerto No.1 has a lot of energy! The very first note is one of the strongest notes of the whole piece, and it tells you right away that the piece is going to be really strong. I think that the concerto is very emotional and fiery!
When I first played the concerto I thought of how I feel when I get really angry with my older brother. Sometimes I get so angry that it seems like I can feel steam rising through my skin, but then when I think some more, I try to figure out why I am so angry, and sometimes I feel sad that I got so angry with him, or sad that my brother did something that made me feel so angry. The SaintSaëns piece seems to move in the same way. It starts out really angry, and then it gets kind of quiet and thoughtful, and even a little melancholy. When it ends, it seems that we have found peace, even though it is really energized at the end!
Once when I performed the first movement and coda, I think that I got into the character of the piece so well that I went to the stage without my rockstop and played such an angry first note that my cello shifted! That was a little scary, and I had to lean back and hold the cello between my knees!! It was kind of funny doing angry parts of the piece while controlling the cello that way.
The SaintSaëns Concerto is a really complex piece because it goes through so much emotion so quickly. Technically, it is a challenging piece because it involves so many different kinds of bowings, and really difficult fingerings. I think that the hardest parts to nail are the first note and the fingered octaves. The first note may be the most important note because it sets the tone of the piece: fiery and strong. It is really important that the first note is in tune and powerful. Fingered octaves are a challenge because you have to keep them in tune.
I really like the Saint Saens Concerto because it moves around so much. It quickly gets from one emotion to another, and it uses some of the deepest, darkest notes of the cello as well as some of the sweetest. This piece has a definite story to tell so it gives me a chance to get into character and really share with the audience!
Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the three days was playing at the Caramoor Center! I felt right at home when I was playing on the stage.
Music has the power to make my day, or if I’m playing outside to make other people’s day!

Eric Segerstrom, 17, marimba
III. Allegro Con Fuoco from Concerto for Marimba & String Orchestra
By: Eric Ewazen

Dr. Ewazen describes the third movement of his concerto as a “rip-roaring rondo with a dance -ike ritornello, alternating with passages which are alternately jazzy and heroic,” and I honestly cannot think of a better description. I can always picture Dr. Ewazen’s jolly demeanor throughout the concerto and I think his kind and bubbly personality is portrayed in the music very well. My favorite part is the transition into 4/4 “common time” in the middle of the movement. The rhythms and octaves have so much power and such a jazzy feel.

Perhaps the most unique thing about this piece is that my teacher wrote it! It was great to get feedback on my playing from the composer himself, as well as some very positive encouragement. It’s written so idiomatically for the instrument while still being a very challenging piece. Some of the most difficult sections to play are the rapid, sweeping passages that span the instrument. Keeping these runs even became a priority in preparing the piece.

Post Show Reflection: It’s hard to pick a favorite memory, as I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Meeting all of the staff and crewmembers the first day really set the mood for a weekend of rewarding fun. Getting to hear and meet so many other great performers was also a very welcome additional treat! The least nervous I had ever been on stage was at the final performance. And I’m not sure why, either, as it was probably the largest audience I will ever play for (factoring in the radio). But I genuinely had fun performing and speaking.

Music has the unique ability to make people feel things without telling them what to feel. I think because of this, it becomes such a rewarding experience for the performer and listener if they can open up to it. It can even be therapeutic for some.

Jacquelyn Nakamura, 17, flute
I. Flowing from Duo for Flute and Piano
By: Aaron Copland

Copland is one of the first famous American composers due to his unique use of folk music and jazz, giving his pieces an American tone. The concepts of the frontier and freedom are illustrated not only in his well known large orchestral ballet works, like Appalachian Spring or Billy the Kid, but also in his lesser known works such as Duo for Flute and Piano. I believe that this particular movement is a journey. Perhaps a certain individual leaves home, explores the world around him and then returns back.

This idea is expressed in the structure of the movement. In the beginning, the piece is extremely peaceful and calm, like the feeling we all have when we’re at home.  When I play this piece, I always picture the harbor I live near at nighttime: the boats are all tied up, the water has no waves and the air is still. As the piece progresses, it becomes more lively and energetic. The traveler is excited to experience what the world can offer. The tempo picks up, the meter changes more frequently, and the piano accompaniment becomes more busy and intricate. In the beginning, the articulation was more legato and slurred, yet the articulation of the middle section is short and staccato. Playing the middle section feels like a dance between the flute and piano because the melody switches back and forth constantly. Immediately following the climax, the flute and piano return back to the tranquility of the beginning. The melody is similar; however the notes Copland writes go farther up into the upper register of the flute. The traveler has changed, but maybe he now understands more about the world around him. The piece seems to end very calmly, yet Copland surprises with the two last E flats. In my mind they are tiny little giggles, happy afterthoughts or memories of an exciting journey.

A lot of modern flute repertoire is challenging to listen to, yet this entire piece is easy to listen to because it’s moving and emotional. The most important part of the piece and music in general is how to scoop out all the emotion that lies in between the bar lines because that is what draws listeners in. I believe one challenging part of the piece is to figure out when to breathe.  The piece has a lot of long phrases. Consequently, I have to find a way to incorporate the breath without disrupting the phrasing. Since sometime I am playing the music by myself (like in the beginning or towards the end), the breathing has to be properly placed because the flute is completely exposed.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was exploring the grounds of Caramoor right before the show. The area is like a secret garden, with many unique buildings, fountains and sculptures scattered around. Caramoor is one of the only places I have performed that was an outdoor venue, which made it even more exciting to play in. Being outdoors in the fresh air and walking around made me extremely relaxed before the show. My From the Top performance was probably one of the calmest performances I’ve ever had.

Music can change lives

Malik String Quartet (Ray Shows, coach)
IV. Finale (Vivace ma non troppo) from the String Quartet No.12 in F major, Op.96, “American”
By: Antonín Dvořák

Melissa Deal, 16, violin

One of the things I love most about this quartet is the fact that I can connect with the other members of my quartet so well when playing it. This piece relies SO much on communication and reading each other’s thoughts. It contains many countermelodies and synchronized rhythms, so it’s important to be very intuitive.

The general feeling of the piece is very exciting and constantly moving forward. There are a few places where it relaxes but for the most part it is meant to portray adventure and continuous movement. When we start the piece well, we get into a certain mode as a quartet that really motivates us to make the performance as exciting as possible. We can tell what the other players are going to do at certain spots, we move together, breathe together, and it results in a very satisfying performance.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memories were Christopher O’Riley’s giggle, that amazing feeling when we finished performing, and getting to know the New Yorkers(!), and having my brother and sister-in-law (From the Top alumni) there! The performance itself was exhilarating! The crew was so chill and amazing. I felt totally comfortable with every aspect of the show. It was the most enjoyable performance I’ve ever played =) Probably one of the most exhilarating and fantastic performances of my life!

Music can change lives. Music really inspires people, not only to play music but to really share what music feels like.

Matt Lammers, 17, violin

Post Show Reflection: My favorite moment from the three day experience was the building excitement of the pre-show sound check and run-through. The performance was almost like letting the audience takes a glimpse into the life of our quartet alongside our performance.

Music can communicate emotion and the deepest level beyond what language can do.

Mark Hatlestad, 18, viola

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memories would have to be playing in beautiful upstate New York, and walking in the gardens. The concert was a very low-stress environment, efficient without being contrived. It felt like a community rather than a show.

The power of music is to have people express their emotions and feel the emotions of others.

John Belk, 17, cello

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the three days was watching Christopher O’Riley and the FTT staff “rehearse.” The show was lots of fun, a low key atmosphere and a new experience playing for an outdoor festival.

Music can express things that words can’t

Kyung-A Lee, 15, piano
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 in A minor, S. 244
By: Franz Liszt

My most favorite part is the vivace, because it’s interesting and the melody is the same as the violin piece. When I play this, especially in the beginning, I think of Hungary (the country). When I imagine the music, I could play and make the sound better.

Just in this piece, I could play and show off a lot. I’ve played a lot of the Liszt, but this piece is much more interesting and exciting!

Post Show Reflection: One of my favorite moments was during the Arts Leadership orientation after the show – we wrote some words onto post-its about what we like and what inspires us, and it was a chance that we could all come closer together. For the performance, I especially enjoyed the interview – I did the interview before I performed, so it was really good and I enjoyed it.

Music is passion, and can bring us peace.