Show 240: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 240 was taped in Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday, October 2, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Llewellyn Sanchez‐Werner, 15, piano
IV. Fuga: Allegro con spirito from Sonata in E‐flat, Op. 26
By: Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, Op.26 is considered to be among the greatest works of piano literature in the 20th century. It was composed in 1949, a time of extraordinary exploration and innovation in the arts and, as such, was revolutionary and original. The piece was premiered by Horowitz.

The 4th movement, which is what I performed, is a modern version of a fugue, a form that has evolved tremendously over the centuries (Bach’s WTC, Beethoven’s Op.110, counterpoint in works of Schoenberg and Debussy, and others). It is not as strict as the works I mentioned above; instead, Barber takes the fugue to wild and new places.

The theme of the piece is jazzy and syncopated, adding many accents and ties to an already well‐shaped phrase. This theme develops throughout the work, modulating from key to key, and being heard in triumphant, passionate, beautiful, delicate, and bombastic ways, just to name a few. The listeners will recognize this theme sometimes, but Barber may also use contents of the theme to create new material.

How could I have a favorite part? Fine, from measure 1 to the end. A good performance of the movement evokes many feelings from its audience. I see it as a work of discovery. At the beginning, there is an urgent question — something that needs to be accomplished — and we go through many twists and turns in an attempt to reach our goal. Along the way, we begin to think of our situation from many other viewpoints, and after much exploration, the dramatic end brings a sense of closure.

It was difficult, at first, to successfully bring out the many different voices in Barber’s dialogue, especially when they interrupt each other. It is also extremely important to take care with the quick, dynamic contrasts in the piece, and the many incredible nuances that bring the movement to life. Even though there is so much beautiful and exciting material to showcase, the energy has to be constant during the piece, but not predictable. The breaths and accelerandos have to be in tune with the general direction of the piece.

The movement is complex, virtuosic, emotionally engaging, immensely tricky to work on, and is rich in subtle nuances that really make it an extraordinary work of art. (In other words, it is my favorite type of piece.)

Post Show Reflection: I enjoyed meeting fascinating and creative people who share my passion for the arts. The entire From the Top staff is dedicated and hard‐working, not to mention fun, so I was thrilled to work with them. I relish pressure and love to perform. While I enjoy tremendously the experience of being on stage, I cherish the chance to connect with the audience and with my radio listeners, and take them to places they haven’t been before. If they are inspired in any way by my work, then I feel I am fulfilling my dream.

Music transcends barriers and allows artists the opportunity to go beyond the concert stage and make an impact on a global scale. I encourage any and all to boldly engage in these vital and rewarding humanitarian ideals. Using music and advocacy to make a difference is my passion in life.

Boston Flute Academy Young Artist Quartet
(Judy Grant, Artistic Director)
Lyric Poem
By: George McKay

Elizabeth Sperry, 15 Flute

When I play this piece, I think about a person crying over a last loved one and their grief.

I love this piece because it requires so much communication between the players in our group for us to make it second like it’s together, both technically and emotionally.

Jinji Zhang, 17, flute

I think that Lyric Poem is such a beautiful and sensitive piece of music. I love how each flute part is equally as important, and how we really have to combine all 4 of our sounds in order to make this piece work. Whenever I play this piece, I see many different colors, mostly dark and deep purples and browns.

Although the piece is not technically challenging, it is definitely a challenge to achieve a beautifully blended ensemble sound. We all have to carefully listen and create music together which is a great thing.

Post Show Reflection: I loved the arts leadership conference – it was great because I got know both myself and my cast mates better. Performing in Jordan Hall was magical – I connected on another level with my ensemble members. I am so grateful to have shared such a powerful moment in time with such amazing people.

Music has the power to bring happiness, hope, and confidence to all.

Brendan Dooley, 17, flute

Lyric Poem is a wonderfully sensitive piece of music and if it is approached with the proper delicacy and attention to detail it is truly set apart from much of the flute ensemble repertoire. This is both what I like most and what I like least about it – the piece is deceptively difficult to play well, but also extremely rewarding when done right. Lyric Poem contains many lessons on ensemble playing.

A sense of blend and excellent intonation are both vital to the performance of this piece. Where other music gets its novelty through intricate parts, Lyric Poem depends on impeccable ensemble playing. This is refreshing as well as being singularly difficult for the performer.

Post Show Reflection: The arts leadership orientation was a favorite memory – it was an awesome culmination of the camaraderie we had been developing over the weekend. Performing on Jordan Hall stage was truly a singularly amazing experience. It was an amazing peak for all of our hard work and the hard work of the staff!

Music has the power to unite whole communities that would have otherwise been divided.

Emma Huelskamp, 17, flute

This piece is incredibly understated, yet emotional. The title Lyric Poem perfectly fits due to the flowing, formless style in which the composer wrote the piece. The dense harmonies create a sonic haze that envelopes the listener and draws them into a world of reverie.

The unity of sound that the four members of the ensemble must create is something rarely found in the flute repertoire. It has been a unique experience to work with my peers to achieve this type of sound.

Post Show Reflection: I loved the pizza party on Saturday night; I was so excited to be there and it made the whole experience real. I left even more excited about the show the next day! The performance was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced. There was literally electricity in the air; the people’s anticipation and my group’s joy and excitement were incredible.

Music has the power to heal, move, inspire, and to change history through the hearts it touches.

Ashley Robillard, 17, soprano 
“The Tulip Tree”
By: Ned Rorem
“Winter” from 6 Elizabethan Songs
By: Dominick Argento

The Tulip Tree by Ned Rorem was one of the first songs I was assigned my freshman year at Walnut Hill. It’s very special to me for that reason. My favorite part is when the boy begins to speak at “‘No, no,’ said he”. That whole section is very eerie and light. It reflects the attitude of that boy, and is so much fun to sing. My least favorite part of the piece, or at least the most difficult part for me, is the melody’s little chromatic parts. The song is very beautiful and is tiptoeing on the tonality line, and tiptoeing on that line is rather difficult, but very fun once you get the hang of it. Winter by Argento is one of the most exhilarating pieces I’ve had the pleasure to sing. I’m utterly obsessed with the Shakespearean text and the way Argento set it. Some of the lines sound iambic (“Then nightly sings that starting owl” and “And milk comes frozen home in pail”, etc.) and it was such a powerful piece. My favorite part of the whole piece is how it begins. Out of nowhere pops out this intense, powerful line that forces you to pay attention. It is incredibly grabbing, because it is almost a shock to hear! It literally comes from nowhere. Plus, it’s nice to have that sense of complete control in your openings. My least favorite part of the piece is how short it is! It certainly doesn’t feel short when you sing or are listening to it, but it is only a few pages long! It’s so powerful though, you barely even notice it’s short before it’s already gone.

The Tulip Tree and Winter are different from other songs that I have sung because, though they are both shorter pieces, they are so captivating. The Tulip Tree creates this eerie atmosphere right from the beginning, and then has an amazingly captivating story to follow. It is really haunting and sticks with you. You’re forced into the story. With Winter, it starts off as a piece that makes people want to listen. The beginning line erupts from nowhere, powerfully and brilliantly. It is a super powerful piece, and darker than the Rorem. The sheer power and force of the piece truly captivates me much the way the eerie atmosphere in Tulip Tree has me completely enamored with the piece.

Post Show Reflection: There was this one moment when we were all practicing and warming up in the green room; music was flowing all around the room in a moment of beautiful chaos. I was overwhelmed by all of the talent pouring out of that room and was completely honored and humbled to acknowledge that I was included in that room. All our hard work was beginning to pay off. Performing in Jordan Hall was amazing. I had performed there before for choir, but never had I never performed there was a soloist. The energy, support, and excitement that the audience was giving off was practically tangible. It was an amazing, inspiring performance that I will never forget.

Music can change the world, improve a community, engage the mind, and enliven your heart.

Jisoo Kim, 17, violin
IV. Allegretto poco mosso from Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano
By: César Franck

César Franck’s Violin Sonata has four movements, and I personally thought of this piece as a story of a human being’s life. The first movement represents delicate childhood, the second movement portrays the difficult, rebellious years of adolescence, the third movement paints the mature, subdued stage of an adult, and the final movement represents the last stage of life, which summarizes everything from the beginning to the end; almost like a grand finale, which I played for From the Top.

I immediately fell in love with the piece when I heard it performed by a fellow student at the Juilliard School many years ago. Franck’s Violin Sonata is particularly unique to me because it is a piece that my brother, Hyung-Do, and I enjoy performing together. Its beautiful melodic lines, the fierce passages, and the improvisatory, free structure appeals very well to my own musical taste.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory from the three days was definitely the actual performance/ interview with Christopher O’Riley. He was great rehearsing with me before the concert, and I liked how we both performed as a very effective duet. During the concert, I really felt the powerful connection between the performers and the audience. From the Top is an experience I know I will never forget. 

Music has the power to connect people of all ages. There is no limit, and music is so influential. It can truly change someone’s life.

Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra (BYSO) Cello Quartet 
(Steve Laven, coach)
A Barnraising
By: Steve Laven 

Leland Ko, 13, Cello

This piece was composed by Andrew Laven’s father, who told us that he composed this when he was out in the Tetons of Wyoming witnessing a construction project. This image helped us imagine what different parts of the piece represent – for example, the beginning starts out as animals scattering at the sound of construction, and sounds of an eagle soaring overhead can be evoked from the music later on. About halfway through, the piece turns into a jazzy hoedown (my favorite part).  I think (and I believe the rest of the quartet can back me up on this) that we’ve come a long way with this piece, ever since we learned it at the beginning of the year. We played it a few times in concert and even though we didn’t touch it the whole summer, it’s finally come together.

The biggest difference with this work compared to other quartets I’ve played is that it’s a cello quartet. Because of that, it is harder to hear the individual instruments. With four cellos, we create one homogeneous sound and really have to listen to who has the melody, which forces us to watch each other more closely. I view it as an exciting challenge that really helps me as a chamber musician, orchestral musician, and soloist.

Post Show Reflection: It was awesome connecting with all these wonderful people and knowing there are people out there who share your passion. The performance was not nerve wrecking at all (surprisingly). It was great interacting with the audience, which took a lot of pressure off us. I feel that this wasn’t a normal concert. It was freer in some ways.

Music can show emotions that we cannot express with words. 

Zlatomir Fung, 12, cello

I really love A Barnraising by Steven Laven! I think it is great because of its consistent groove and beautiful melodies. This piece describes the process of raising a barn at the beginning, it reminds me of small creatures running away as the big digging unfolds; finally the main melody of the piece unfolds to celebrate the process of erecting the barn.

This piece is such that each of us gets to play the melody; no one is really left out from the action. There are hard cello shifts and rhythm complexities. Compared to other pieces, this one has a lot more groove.

Post Show Reflection: A favorite memory I have from these three days was the pizza party, where I got to meet all the people who were going to be on the show. It was also really fun hearing the other people play their pieces because they are all also talented. When I was performing on the stage of Jordan Hall, it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. The thrill of being on that stage was remarkable. Playing chamber music is so fun and From the Top made it all better.

I think music is a very powerful force. It has the power to inspire people and convey emotions. It is a very great thing to be able to change people’s life through music.

Claire Raizen, 16, cello

A Barnraising is a piece by Steven Laven, arranged for cello quartet, that tells the story of a barn being built. It starts out with the sounds of animals running away from the construction workers, invoked by a challenging harmonic passage. As the piece progresses a rhythmic bass line kicks in, like the sound of a motor running. A Barnraising ends with an upbeat dancing feel as the people in the town celebrate the completion of the barn.

Playing this piece in a cello quartet is very challenging. I have to work hard to make sure my part is heard when it needs to be, because everything around me has the same color as my cello. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to have Steven Laven as our coach, and work with someone who is so intimately familiars with A Barnraising.

Post Show Reflection: My two favorite moments from the three days were meeting everyone at the pizza party and getting to hear everyone play their incredible pieces. The concert was so much fun! The atmosphere was relaxed and supportive. The crowd was enthusiastic and very encouraging.

Music has the power to do anything you want it to do.

Andrew Laven, 16, Cello 

I love A Barnraising, not only because my dad wrote it but for a lot other reasons. It makes me think of being in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, where my family has gone every summer. My favorite part is “rehearsal C” where a soaring melody (supposed to be an osprey) is played by the 1st  & 3rd cellos in octaves, and the 2nd & 4thcellos accompany the melody with vigorous eighth and sixteenth notes. Claire and I get to play the sixteenth notes, and once during a rehearsal on that part, I could feel my endpin gradually sliding back into my cello. Before long i was playing close to the ground!

Compared to others this, piece almost has a jazzy feeling to it. When we play it, it’s important to get across that new “non-classical” feeling. Also, it’s important to bring out the important voices. The hardest thing for me is my octave A’s when I start the new section, and the hardest thing for the group is to nail the dynamics.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was the moment we finished our piece and the audience leaped into applause for all the 11 kids who performed – it was amazing to know how much the audience appreciated our music. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when we all bowed for the crowd. It was an amazing experience to be on that stage performing my dad’s great piece with three other amazing cellists. We all had so much fun playing together and sharing our passion and enthusiasm with the audience.

Music has the power to inspire anyone to do something they love, and it also has the power to create many different emotions.