Show 254: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 254 was taped in the Brown Theater at Wortham Center in Houston, Texas on Saturday May 12, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Houston Youth Symphony
Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72 from Fidelio
By: Ludwig van Beethoven

Meghan Faw

This piece reminds me that there is always hope. The music and the story of the opera are dark and mysterious, and sometimes appear to be hopeless. However, no matter how dark it gets, it always ends triumphantly.

Leonore Overture No.3 offers a very wide range of emotions. Beethoven’s harmonies allow it to go from light and happy to dark and almost cynical. For an overture, this piece is quite substantial not only in length but in depth.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved just hanging out with these amazing people. I am so in awe of all their talents – but then we got to just kick back and have fun and I saw what incredible people they are. Taking our bows, I felt like a celebrity! The performance was so much fun! From the Top made it as least stressful as possible. I felt really empowered on that stage.

I believe music has the power to transform people’s souls, as it has mine.

Gabriel Maffuz

Oh my gosh I absolutely love the Leonore Overture! It really has such an electric atmosphere! But it’s really hard as well. Since I like channeling characters within a piece, I feel like a hero once it’s over (especially after I hit every note on pages of endless black dots!)

Particularly, the Presto in the String section paints a picture: in my head, I see the first violins as bunnies, frolicking happily through a meadow! Then when the rest of the strings join in and it’s like 200 more joined in for the fun; then all the animals have a party and everyone’s invited!

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite part of the last three days was getting to know each performer better. These people are awesome! Normally, we elevate talented people onto a non-human velvet pillow of “oh-my-gosh” they are so good they can’t be real people, but From the Top really showed me how with music is a common denominator – we are all one! Performing on From the Top was an unforgettable experience! Most of all it was a blast working with such an energetic team and such incredible talent. My favorite aspect of the performance was the dose connection we made with the audience before the first down beat. The laughs were great too!

Music has the power to unite and transform people of all ages, cultures, backgrounds, and ultimately connect communities and generations. I think that music is the purest form of expression because it can reach everyone and anyone!

Jordan Brokken, 

Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No.3 is an absolutely magnificent piece of music. The introduction is particularly interesting because it symbolizes Fidelio, the main character, trapped in a dungeon. It is interesting to imagine this scene happening while playing it. Beethoven uses subtle imagery like this throughout the overture. My favorite part is the presto sections at the end (much to Meghan and Gabriel’s chagrin). This glorious section where the strings have red-hot technique is one of the most thrilling sections in the overture and in all classical music.

Leonore Overture No. 3 came from an opera named Fidelio written by Beethoven. He was such a perfectionist over this particular overture, it took him three tries to get it the way he absolutely wanted it. But by that point it was much too long to be played during the opera. So Beethoven wrote a fourth overture: the Fidelio Overture.

Post-Show Reflection: A favorite memory of mine was getting coffee with Meghan, Shelby, and Aaron after we performed. We were able to relax and unwind and just talk about the performance, our lives, etc. The concert was fantastic – the performance felt like it wasn’t about getting nervous, but truly just performing for fun.

Music can do anything, and I truly believe that. The power of musicians is their ability to inspire that which is found at the root of all desire. Desire is what pushes people to accomplish things and these accomplishments have power. Music = inspire = desire = accomplishments = power.

Charles Seo, cello, 16
By: Pablo de Sarasate

I think this is the hardest piece for me. I think about a lot of things while playing the piece. The one thing that really pops up in my head is that whenever I watch Korean dramas, they always have a tragic scene during which the first couple measures of this piece is played in the background! I always have to control myself and not laugh. My favorite part (and least favorite part) is the fast passages at the end of the piece. Why? Because it is simply exciting and lively after playing a bunch of /a~/a~ (makes facial expressions), but at the same time it is so challenging to play.

This piece is so challenging because of the fact that it was originally written for violin, but has since been transcribed for cello. This piece also has “sad” and “happy” parts. I think that’s the most important thing – to show the two contrasting emotions of the piece. The hardest thing to nail is, of course, all the technique and the 32nd notes while still achieving the phrasing and musicality. This piece, especially the ending, has a lot of left-hand pizzicato that are intense. Overall this piece has a completely different, gypsy style.

Post Show Reflection: Ironically, I was extremely nervous the day before the concert. However, at the concert, I actually had so much fun; that’s my favorite memory. Although I couldn’t really see the audience, I knew that there were lots and lots of people there, all cheering for me. For a moment I felt how professional musician would feel. After remembering that people had actually paid to watch us play, I was no longer nervous and was comfortable playing on stage – it was a great experience to be able to interact with them too.

I believe Music is an acronym of:
Music is the
Solution to
Interact and
Communicate with the audience

Music has the power to make people cry, laugh, and even smile. Trust looking at the piece I played, Zigeunerweisen, the part in the beginning is depressing and passionate, but the ending is energetic and can make people happy and smile.

Shelby Nugent, horn, 18
I. Massig bewegt from Sonata in F Major
By: Paul Hindemith

I like to think of this piece as having two distinct characters. The first character is hot steel. This “hot steel’ character has an underlying anger. Not an explosive anger, it’s more of a deep sustained anger; very fiery. The next character is “cool steel. This character exhibits stoic resilience; very even and sustained, and calm with no human emotion. I actually feel cold when I hear this piece. It is by no means a “happy” piece. Written in 1939, right before the breakout of WWII, Hindemith really embodied the troubled German population in this piece.

As a horn player I get to play a lot of huge romantic pieces. Sweeping ooey-gooey solos in orchestra and I get to wear my heart on my sleeve a lot. Working on the Hindemith is not only technically demanding, but it requires me to dig into a whole other set of emotions. I have to be cold and stoic. I have to almost mask my emotion. I want to make the audience feel cold. I want them to clearly see the two different characters as they pop in an out. And also, I want them to see the incredibly difficult piano part as an equal with the horn throughout sonata.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was hanging out backstage with the other performers. It’s so nice to see that such talented people are so nice, diverse, and fun people to be around.It was an experience unlike any I’d ever had. It was still the energy of a live performance (which it was that night) but I still knew in the back of my mind that even more people would be listening in the fall.

I believe music has the power to make people happy. It seems simple, but not many things in the world make people happy. Music is an expressive form of communication that reminds people of the beauty in the world.

Aaron Bigeleisen, baritone, 17
“Kriegers Ahnung” from “Schwanengesang”: D. 957
By: Franz Schubert

When I perform this piece, I think of the forlorn solider returning from another battle, with only long-task love in his heart to keep him alive. My favorite part of the piece is the end of the fender section leading up to a very military sounding declaration. My least favorite part is spitting out “herre das der frost dich nicht verlassit” as fast as I possibly can. My grandfather was a solider in WWII. So I think of him and his difficulty during WWI.

I try to get a rose the shifting moods and the increasing desperation and hopelessness that become more and more prominent. The jumping high notes during and after the quickest section of the piece are quite difficult to do well. It is probably the most challenging and diverse piece in my repertoire.

Post Show Reflections: My favorite memories were going out for coffee with Jordan, Meghan and Shelby and then going to my cousin’s prom with Shelby! It was a wonderful opportunity to relax and connect with people more similar to me.The performance was like a dream; I can hardly remember performing, just feeling the music and sharing it with the audience. I only remembered that the audience was so large after I was finished.

Music can do anything. It can build a community, express love share and create bonds; music can save the world.

Esther Liao, piano, 15
“La Campanella” from Grandes etudes de Paganini, S. 141, No. 3 in G- sharp minor
By: Franz Liszt

I remember listening to La Campanella when I was little and my mom telling me about the little bells that formed the essence of the piece. It was so fascinating to hear how the bandying opening D-sharps sounded like the bells that the piece was named for. When I was ten, my mom bought me a Liszt Etude book so that I could play one of the concert etudes. However, while I was flipping through it one day, I was surprised to see notes that seemed just like the La Campanella theme. I eagerly stuck a post-it note on that page (the only remaining post-it in that book) and promised myself that one day I would learn it. Even though I was supposed to be practicing other pieces, I would manage to sneak a peek at the music and just imagine the little bells ringing. During Thanksgiving break that same year, I was finally granted permission to begin playing La Campanella. While learning it, I found it to be like one of those really challenging jigsaw puzzles that seem impossible to solve at first but get easier each time as pieces begin to fit together.

At the time, it was extremely difficult for me to reach the octaves, not to say making the wide jumps scattered across the piece. My favorite part was the super-speed chromatic scales since they were one of the few things that I could play up to tempo and accurately in the entire piece. Even so, La Campanella has been one of the very few pieces that has never left my memory after learning it. La Campanella is like a roller-coaster ride, starting with a comfortable ease before accelerating dynamically and ending with a grand finale. Every time I play this piece, I try to bring the audience to the same level of exhilaration as I do from La Campanella.

Post-Show Reflection: It was really enjoyable and neat to hang out with all the other performers backstage. Being able to work with the From the Top staff was a very eye-opening experience to see how involved everyone was in making sure that the show was the best it could be. Setting up, recording the performances, cleaning up, all in three days was just unbelievable! During the show, making the audience laugh was almost as rewarding as hearing them applaud because I had the satisfaction of knowing that at least someone in the audience was interested in what I had to say. Aside from being a part of this phenomenal show, participating in the leadership conference that followed was a great time to connect and discuss musical outreach with other very talented musicians because I was able to understand the importance of music at a whole new level.

Music definitely has the power to touch and change lives. It is such a relaxing and sweet entertainment that can bring people from low ends to a much better life.