Show 267: Listening Guides
Chelsea Kim, 17, violin
Romance in F minor, Op.11 – by Antonín Dvořák
This is one of the most beautiful pieces that I’ve played. Mr. Weilerstein (my teacher) teaches me to think of a color when playing a specific scale/passage, and this piece shows me gradients and mixtures of colors that I could not even think existed. Unlike playing alone, when I imagine the orchestra’s pizzing and blooming harmony as accompaniment, I feel like I’m in a magical, enchanted place with this piece. Every time I play this piece is always like a new and different story, but most of them are dream-like, fantasy, mystical stories.
Mr. Weilerstein first suggested for me to play this piece as a practice to find my own personal voice and sound. That was the hardest and most unique aspect of this piece – I learned and attempted to carry out Dvorak’s voice and meaning of this piece as translated through my own voice. I had a lot of fun with it, and hope that the audience can hear my process.
Post-Show Reflection: One can say that Winter Storm Nemo was an impediment to our concert, but I rather think that it brought additional character and memory that became more special to my overall From the Top experience. Although it was not the sold out, 900-member audience concert at Jordan Hall, recording at the WGBH studio provided a more private and comfortable ambience. The little studio compared to the spacious hall also allowed for each one of us to interact with every one, and to really become close to each performer and staff. Performing at WGBH was a very familiar experience for me since I had recorded there previously for my college audition tapes. However, I was on the edge of my toes through my whole performance by the fact that my violin playing, unlike my audition tapes which I can decide to share with the public or not, was to be aired on the National Public Radio.
What Music Means to Me: Music is an essential part of a human being. There are theories that music is the origin of speech, and I believe that is true. I witnessed the power of music to communicate and heal autistic children who cannot speak, like my brother. I’ve also witnessed in the past how music can bring together and connect people of different nationalities through my experience of playing in orchestra on tour in Bratislava and Vienna. Despite the hardships and sudden scheduling we all had to face because of the snowstorm, we were all able to convene and share warmth through music at From the Top. All of the performers ranged in nationality, age, experience, etc., and yet I felt no different from them, and we all connected through the music we all played for each other. This is something only music is able to do. If we use it in the right moment for the right purposes, I believe some of the greatest achievements can be made.
Tatum Robertson, 17, soprano
“The Lordly Hudson” – by Ned Rorem
When I sing “The Lordly Hudson,” I think about my hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana. I think about my hometown because I feel this piece is an expression of hometown glory. The passenger that is speaking repeatedly emphasize that there is no river like the Hudson in any part of the world, and this is a parallel to me believing that there is no place like New Orleans in this world.
This piece is unique in that it doesn’t talk about passionate love for a lover like a lot of my pieces do. Therefore, this piece makes it somewhat easier for me to draw a parallel to since I have a place that I feel is like no other – it is a character that feels closer to me.
Tengku Irfan, 14, pianist/composer
Hungarian Rhapsody No.11 in A minor, S.244 – by Franz Liszt
I imagine that I am dancing when playing this piece! It feels like a gypsy dance. It is very contrasting, because of a slow dance and a fast dance. The thing that is unique about this piece is the fact that there is so much in just 5 minutes. The important thing to do is to contrast between the slow dance and the fast dance. That is the hardest to nail because one has to be expressive and the other must be light.
Post-Show Reflection: I really enjoyed the first time being interviewed and performing on radio, and being on From the Top! Also, it was great making new friends, and then there was the unforgettable snowstorm! It was so great to play a fantastic Hamburg Steinway in the amazing acoustics of the WGBH studio. It was very interesting to see what goes on in the making of a radio program and also how everyone works in the control room. Also, it is cool to see the phrase ‘On The Air’ light up in red!
What Music Means to Me: Music is a universal language that can break barriers and bring people together.
Ju Hyun Lee, 17, cello
Romanian Folk Dances – by Béla Bartók
The music evokes a different scene and character for each dance. The first dance presents a proud, declarative tune with a glimpse of a hidden, singing softer side. The second dance reminds me of an interesting pair of characters, either dancing or singing a duet. One is a playful soprano, while the other is a matching bass. The third dance is a nighttime scene: it’s dark and quiet, a fire flickers as an instrument plays a gypsy-like song. The fourth is reflective, melancholy, as if it’s an older character who is thinking of a past story. The fifth begins with a bright ring of sound, and the piano and cello have a lot of energy and fun that reaches the audience by the end.
There are so many different moods and characters in the folk dance that I have to create. I have to consider how to relate them to the audience, meaning I have to think about even the presentation for the music. It’s a lot of fun!
The Back Bay Trio
IV. Finale: Allegro giocoso from Piano Trio No.2 in C major, Op.87 – by Johannes Brahms
Kate Arndt, 15, violin
We have a pretty funny story that we relate to this piece when we’re playing it. We imagine a surprise party as an explanation for the mysterious element in the movement. The anticipation builds throughout the piece. There are a couple of places where we imagine the people thinking that the special guest has arrived, only to be left wondering. The end is when the party starts :)
This piece is pretty unusual. When we first started it, we didn’t really understand it. After working with it for a while, we’ve gained a sense of what the piece is about. I think the hardest thing about it is the level of detail. Brahms will mark certain effects in the music that make us wonder. Sometimes it’s hard to achieve exactly what we want and what Brahms would have wanted.
Zlatomir Fung, 13, cello
In all honesty, the last movement of the Brahms C Major Trio strikes me as being very quirky. It is definitely a beautiful and exciting piece, but some of the harmonies are quite strange in comparison to other music composed by Brahms. Despite all this, it is a blast to play and perform. When I play through the movement, there always seems to be this underlying energy, something boiling underneath. The piece builds up until the end where Brahms lets loose and expresses all the joy that has been held in. In the middle of the piece, there is a moment where all the instruments are playing very softly: my compatriots and I love to image small rodents scurrying frantically on the ground at that moment.
One of the relatively difficult aspects of this particular piece is simply figuring out what to do with it. At first, it just seems sort of weird, but after a deeper inspection, it is possible to find profound meaning in the music. Then, the struggle of the execution comes. Many of the textures in the music are difficult to create, particularly in the soft sections. Another tricky aspect of the piece is finding powerful contrast between the passionate, strong moments and the reserved, quiet moments. However, even in the softest moments, it is crucial to maintain a certain amount of tension and energy in the sound in order to preserve the excitement that is always present throughout the movement.
Post-Show Reflection: Since this show of From the Top occurred during the Great Blizzard of 2013, the weekend went a little differently than I had expected. The Back Bay trio stayed at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston, so we rehearsed and hung out over the course of three days; I found it particularly enjoyable to spend time with my comrades because we got to bond and know one another better. I loved working with the staff at From the Top (they are so wonderful!) and meeting the other musicians on the show. It was really a thrill to be surrounded by such dedicated and talented people.
I enjoyed playing in the Fraser Studio at WGBH! Of course it was a little different than a normal taping performance, but it was nevertheless thrilling. It was fun to be on the stage with my trio, especially considering that the hall is very intimate and has wonderful acoustics.
What Music Means to Me: Music has the power to transcend political, religious, and racial boundaries between peoples and appeal to the deepest parts of the human emotional spectrum.
I love this piece! I think it’s my favorite movement of the quartet – of course, technically it’s rather awkward for piano and therefore challenging, but I feel as though Brahms writes for the music, not for the player, which I really love about his works. They just sound so well-coordinated, so right, and this is no exception. Actually, Kate, Zlati and I enjoy making up little stories about the music. For example, in the development section, we imagine little animals scurrying around preparing for a surprise party.
Every measure of the piece has to have some sort of intensity in the mood, so it’s key to have good focus when playing it. Also it’s very abrupt in it’s dynamic transitions, so it’s easy to play contrasting sections only half-heartedly. One important thing Kate, Zlati and I constantly work on is playing everything to its full extent, even if it means blasting a joyous fortissimo that seems awkward or really cherishing the few more intimate moments.
Post-Show Reflection: Kate, Zlati, and I (the members of the trio) eating out at 5 Napkin Burger and having super heated debates on basically everything over decadent chunky milkshakes. It was the first time I’d ever performed at the WBGH Fraser Performance Studio, so it was pretty fun! The room was really nice and cozy. The piano was a little dull, though – it threw me off a little bit in some parts, but I was able to adjust fairly quickly. All in all, good times!
What Music Means to Me: Over the years, I’ve seen music do so many things: bring people closer together, comfort someone going through a hard time, build character, give people a purpose in life. But if I were to sum all of it up in one sentence, I’d say that music has the power to make anyone and everyone happy in some way. It certainly has for me.