Show 239: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 239 was taped in on the Music Pier in Ocean City, New Jersey on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Amy Semes, 16, Violin
I. Allegro Moderato from Violin Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op 14
By: Henryk Wienawski

This piece is very technically intimidating. Although there are a few moments of calmness, the majority of the piece is angry and mad.

This piece is in the key of F-Sharp minor which is very unique. Not many composers write in that key. It’s relative major, A-major, is much more popular and used a lot more often. This key makes the technical passages in this piece so much harder.

Post Show Reflection: Being able to hear all the other fabulous performers was inspiring. After the show, we all ate an apple funnel cake, and we did know what was in that thing. =) Performing on the stage was an amazing experience. The Ocean City Pops was amazing and the entire FTT staff was so much fun.

I believe music has the power to make people really happy. I often play at nursing homes and I see people really enlivened when I play for them.

Jacob Hernandez, 18, trumpet
I. Allegro from Concerto for 2 Trumpets in C, RV537
with William Scheible – Trumpet & Ocean City Pops Artistic Director/Conductor
By: Antonio Vivaldi

The Vivaldi Concerto for Two Trumpets is definitely fun to play. If I had to describe it in one word I would describe it as “royal”, especially the 3-quarter note opening arpeggio. It is very stately at times and easy to listen to.

I have played concertos but never before have I played a duet concerto. That is what makes this piece different than anything else I’ve ever played. It will be cool to finally perform a duet with Mr. Schieble in public after playing so many of them during lessons with no audiences.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memories were performing w/the OC Pops, and chilling with the performers while playing cards. The performance was awesome and amazing! I loved the crowd. It was definitely one of my most memorable performing experiences.

Music has the power to change, motivate, and inspire.

Polaris Quartet with Christopher O’Riley, piano
(Alan Rafferty, Coach)
I. Allegro, ma non tanto from Piano Quintet in A major, Op.81
By: Antonín Dvořák

Jenny Lee, 17, violin

When I listen to this piece, or when I play it, I think of it as a movie. Although there are very many melodic parts, you can also encounter very intense and dramatic parts of the piece. I imagine a woman telling someone about her love life.

This piece is very lyrical. To get on out the melody to the audience, I feel that communicating the music is the most important thing to do. It’s also the hardest thing about this piece. This piece is very unique because everyone has an equally important part.

Post Show Reflection: A memorable moment for me was when My fellow quartet member Josh kidnapped me on the boardwalk and forced me to dance with him while a parade was going on! Horrifying, but super funny. =) From the Top has to be one of the most comforting performances I have ever played in. The audience members were so nice and I felt like I was myself up on stage.

Music has the power to start a new life. It can make you be passionate about anything. It’s powerful.

Billy Fang, 18, violin

Our quartet previously had the honor of performing this piece with an exceptional graduate student pianist from the Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and whenever I hear this piece I remember his incredible ability to make the piano sing. My favorite part is the end of the movement; the climax is so epic and is always really fun to play.

Unlike some other chamber music pieces, each part in the Dvořák quintet is very active. It is very easy to get emotionally involved in this movement, so we always need to keep an eye (or an ear) on the balance.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the three days was when Josh (forcibly) made Jenny dance with him on the boardwalk. It was absolutely exhilarating to perform with my quartet once again, this time in front of a large, supportive crowd.

Music has the power to bring people together and to discover more about ourselves and about others.

Demi Fang, 15, viola

This piece is so unifying. After a brief, sweet cello solo, all 5 players suddenly break out into an urgent passage of rich harmony with a soaring violin part. I love how the movement ends as richly as it begins, with an added sense of glory. And of course, in between are more mellow themes involving conversations between certain members. The movement could stand alone as a piece itself, it’s so fulfilling and versatile.

This movement in particular is very different than the other movements in the quintet, in that it doesn’t have one overall characteristic/quality/mood to it. This movement is a manifestation of many emotions, sometimes desperate, sometimes sweet, and sometimes bitter. It’s important that these many different moods can carry through the audience when performed.

Post Show Reflection: A memorable experience was walking around on the boardwalk. The performance was much more relaxing and fun than expected. Knowing we had great audio backup allowed us to sit back and enjoy ourselves.

Music can change an audience for the better. It can inspire in so many ways, and bring them so many different emotions.         

Josh Halpern, 17,cello

We learned the Dvorak Quintet for our collaboration with musicians from the Mozarteum in Salzburg, so we didn’t actually get to practice it with our pianist (Johannes Wilhelm) until the day before we performed it for the first time. It was a GREAT collaboration – he’s a fabulous pianist and really fun to work with. So, every time we play the piece I think of Salzburg and our trip there to perform. While I play, I try not to let my mind wander to the long, hilly beautiful walk Johannes took us on through Salzburg on the last day of our visit. The other movement of this piece tends to have just one idea but this movement that we’re playing, the first movement, has all kinds of ideas and colors and textures so that difficult part is bringing all that out.

Believe it or not, the Dvorak Quintet is the only complete work that the Polaris Quartet has performed. We were only together as an ensemble for about nine months, and our other repertoire that we’ve performed includes movements of some exciting chamber works but not an entire piece. It’s nice to play an entire piece… each movement give us perspective on the other movements, and we’re able to get the full picture.

Kevin Sun, 18, piano,
I. Overture from Overture in the French Style, BWV 831
By: Johann Sebastian Bach

The overture is a highly structured piece, with two slow alla breve sections framing faster scurrying passages. Yet within the structure, there is startling freedom, particularly in the beginning and ending’s melodies and harmonies. This is, after all, Bach’s attempt at the French style, and as the rhythms become dotted and the melodies ornate, his music evokes images of Louis XIV, the Sun King of France. We see the king quite clearly, as he walks stately in the Palace of Versailles.

Bach’s efforts to emulate the French style have created a piece atypical of his compositional style in his use of lavish ornaments and rhythmic constancy. This uniqueness is hard to present. As a performer, I must be vigilant in considering the subtleties that form the “French style” while never forgetting the piece’s general form and direction. It is a challenge like patting your head and rubbing your tummy; it’s difficult to coordinate.

Post Show Reflection: Performing on From The Top was a fantastic experience! My fellow performers were all so talented and musically mature that they inspired me to work even harder to improve. Perhaps my most favorite memory was meeting the audience members after the show. I loved shaking hands and chatting with music lovers, piano teachers, and other piano students. Some of them commented on and critiqued my playing. Others simply talked about music in general. I loved it all, and I think that atmosphere of a mutual love for Classical music was a beautiful way to end my From The Top experience.

I think music is multifaceted. It can be a collection of sounds, an emotional outlet, an artistic medium, or a matter of academia. That music can take on all of these forms is what makes it so powerful, and I’m so glad to have music so deeply interwoven into my life. I want to keep listening to, expressing, and studying music for as long as I live.

Austin Huntington, 17, cello
I. Andante – Allegro vivace from Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102
By Ludwig Van Beethoven

This Beethoven sonata is different than the rest, and that is one of the reasons why I am so fond of it. It is divided up into two relatively short movements that, when performed together, makes the sonata a total of 15-20 minutes in length. The first movement (what I played on the show) is the more proud, serious, and operatic movement. It starts off with a singing “canyon” shape (starts on C descends then ascends like canyon). There is a brief introduction that leads into the main part of the sonata; I think of this section as the most opera-like.

The beginning could be compared to a simpler aria, whereas the main sections are a typical dramatic and singing dialogue between the piano and cello that reminds we of opera (I try to imagine singing like Domingo here). I would say this operatic element is the hardest to nail, since there are so many things that could go wrong, and when they do the performance sounds merely average. Also, the beginning is an incredibly awkward start.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was our first rehearsals of the Beethoven Sonata with Mr. O’Riley. It was amazing playing with him for the first time and hearing his guidance. I actually learned a lot about the piece that I had never thought of before. The performance was really fun, especially going from talking to performing. It was more stressful to talk, since it was not what I am used to. So when it was time to perform, I was allowed to express myself.

Music can change lives