Show 241: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 241 was taped in East Building Auditorium at the national Gallery of Art, Washington, DC on Sunday, October 16, 2011. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Jehshua Karunakaran, violin, age 17
Danse Espagnole from “La Vide Breve”
By: Manuel de Falla

Danse Espagnole is taken from Falla’s  2-act opera: La Vida Breve, or “The Short Life”.  It is a dramatic tragedy involving a Gypsy girl, Salud, who falls in love with another man, Paco, who is already engaged to another woman.  When the Gypsy discovers this, she confronts Paco, who, in front of many people, denies knowing her.  Brokenhearted, Salud drops dead at his feet.  How much more drama is needed?!

There are 2 interludes in this opera: Interlude, and Danse Espagnole.  Fritz Kreisler recognized the potential of the Danse as a violin virtuoso piece and transcribed it for violin.  As with most Spanish music, the Danse is packed with melodrama, panache, flair, and flashes of color.  When I first started learning this piece, my teacher recommended that I watch several Flamenco dances to get a sense of what this kind of Spanish dance represents.  As I perform this piece, I think of two Flamenco dancers interacting with each other.  Keeping the Flamenco image/movie playing in my head helps me express the vibrant Spanish character of Danse Espagnole.

This piece is more stylistically challenging than technically demanding. To ensure that this piece is performed effectively, it’s important to consider all the colorful rhythms, twists, and turns that make this piece so Spanish.

Post Show Reflection:  Performing on this show was more exciting than what I had anticipated.  I think we had a really great selection of performers for this show, and I really enjoyed the teamwork.  Also, playing at the National Gallery of Art was special, and I really appreciate all the planning that was put into the production of this show.   The Arts Leadership Workshops were also very insightful.  Thumbs up to the From The Top staff!!

Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Noah Lee, cello, age 11
Hungarian Rhapsody, Op. 68
By: David Popper

The Hungarian Rhapsody has many colors. It is a very emotional piece. When I begin the piece, a blast of emotions hit me. I either become sad or angry or happy, and so forth. Once I capture the feeling, I think of a moment in my life and express it in my music by playing what’s in my heart. In this piece there are many dynamic and tempo changes that make it fun to play! Hungarian Rhapsody is Gypsy music. My favorite part is the fast part because I can picture the Gypsies singing and dancing and having a good time. I don’t have a least favorite part.

There are many technical spots in this piece that I worked on, but musically it came naturally to me. When I play this piece, I want the audience to be entertained.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memories are the “Swag” performers, the FTT Staff, the CIA SUV (the FTT mini van that shuttled us to and from the hotel), and my new friends. The performance itself was so bright and intense

Music can inspire and promote change.

The Clevand Piano Trio (Annie Fullard, Coach)
Primavera Porteña from “The 4 Seasons of Buenos Aires
By: Astor Piazzolla

Haruno Sato, violin, age 16

I really enjoy playing this piece, because I can do whatever I want with it. Obviously not entirely, but if you listen to different recordings, people have very different ways of playing it, and I just like to have some fun with it. My way of having fun is playing around with slides and glissandos. Also, our coach was joking around and told us to imagine ourselves playing at a bar. I kept that image actually, just chillin and playing some sexy Piazzolla at a bar.

For me, this is the first piece that I’ve played that isn’t a straight classical piece. It’s hard to keep a relaxed chill feeling while playing it, since usually I’m sitting upright in a chair with a metronome, steadily hacking at the Tchaikovsky concerto. It’s a completely different feel, and you really just have to have fun playing this piece. And quite honestly, I think it’s hard to do for a lot of young classical musicians.

Post Show Reflection: I really enjoyed the “CIA SUV” rides with Tom Vignieri and the performers, the first day with all the performers where we started the whole “swag” thing, and playing at the NGA. The concert was really fun because you could actually feel the excited audience, and it was so casual; it felt good.

Music has the power to bring people together. It connects people from all parts of the world.

Hannah Moses, cello, age 16

The Piazzolla is really just a lot of fun to play. Haruno and I first heard the piece last year when we actually performed it as part of a large group ensemble, and we sort of fell in love with it and wanted to play it on our concert with Arianna. It’s a fantastic, fun tango and we all just love having fun with it together. It brings out the fun, sometimes crazy, sides in all three of us, and I love it (shout-out to our fun, crazy, wonderful chamber music coach Annie Fullard!).

It’s a special piece to me because we played it on a benefit concert Haruno and I organized in June. I hope when we play it that it makes our audience feel like dancing as much as it makes us feel like dancing.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite moments were hanging out with Tom Vigneri and the rest of the kids from the “CIA SUV”, and also performing with my friends at the soiree and the taping. The taping was a blast. I loved every second of being on stage. Everyone was so supportive and fun and the energy was fantastic.

Music can change the world.

Arianna Körting, piano, age 17

This particular trio piece is one of my favorites because it brings out the sassy/spicy side of our group. We have a lot of fun playing the piece together, even when it is written in a minor key! When I play this piece, I can picture beautifully dressed dancers dancing the tango. That is why we decided to wear red dresses!

This is actually the first time I have ever played a tango. The unique thing about this piece is that we are able to make it our own. There are so many different interpretations of the music and we have the ability to transform this piece into a dance party everyone can enjoy!

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memories were getting to know all of these wonderful musicians and playing for such a lively audience on Sunday! I also loved the soiree on Friday. It was great to mingle with the audience afterwards and to share our passions for music. The experience was plain FUN! The vibe was very exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed entertaining the audience! I was not nervous at all; I was much more excited to perform!

Music has the power to make a difference in society because it can take the audience members away from their daily stresses and into a world where sense of time and space are transformed, even if only for a brief moment. People of different cultures are able to communicate through the feelings expressed.

Dong Won Lee, piano, age 17
Prelude No. 8, “Un reflet dans le vent”
By: Olivier Messiaen

Messiaen’s “Un reflet dans le vent” reminds me of two things: Mongolia and Thomas Wilfred’s “lumia compositions”. Although the piece is very French and subdued, it is extremely sweeping (it’s a reflection in the wind, after all). The up and down melody makes me wish that I could hear the Gobi Desert howling at night! Next, I think of Wilfred‘s “lumia compositions” (Op. 161, 1965-66), which he uses constantly transforming beams of light in a wooden cabinet. Connect the Prelude and the “lumia compositions” together, and you experience the cosmos.

I have never played any minimalist pieces. I’m not saying that Messiaen is a minimalist, but he is certainly very repetitive. The Prelude No. 8 is a challenge because I need to enjoy the repetition to make it sound special. Especially important to emphasize are the moments when Messiaen tricks you into thinking that you are entering a completely new strain, when actually he leads you right back to where you started.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was the school visit with the kids at the Center City Public Charter School, the Chester Dale Collection at the National Art Gallery, the word “Swag!,” and the two Tom’s (Voegli and Vignieri). The performance was really relaxing because everything felt so casual. The spirit of music really came alive. The other performers inspired me to connect with the audience-something that I had forgotten.

Music can make you feel, make you jealous (in a good way), and make you forget reality.

Stephen Banks, saxophone, age 18
II. Chanson Pour Ma Mie and V. Lou Cabridan from Tableaux de Provence
By: Paule Maurice

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memories were interacting with the other musicians backstage before the taping, and seeing other musicians play genuinely. The performance was much different than I expected; it was very comfortable.

Music can change one’s state of mind, and give people a means of expression.