The Great Composers Appreciation Society has been listening to music on the theme of “Less Is More” this month (4/15-5/14/15). The main selections for the month, chosen with typical perspicacity by our helmsman, Brian Long, include:
Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.45 in F-sharp minor, Hob.I:45 (“Farewell”) (1772) (More information here.)
Claude Debussy: Syrinx (1913) (See below for more information.)
Luciano Berio: Sequenzas 3 (for voice, 1965) and 5 (for trombone, 1966) (See below for more information.)
Along the way, members have posted dozens of additional pieces, and the month, which ends the 15th, isn’t over yet. Here are screen shots of the list-in-formation of “additional pieces” (click on each screen shot to enlarge it):
And here’s a little “quiz” of sorts:
- What would you add to the “Less Is More” lists of selections?
- What pieces on the lists of selections do you already know and/or like?
For a Spotify playlist of the GCAS main “Less Is More” selections, click here. (For the Telemann, I was only able to locate the Largo on Spotify.)
Georg Philipp Telemann, Trio in b minor for violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord, TWV 42:h6 (18th C.) (with particular thanks to GCAS member Bert Carter for offering us so many lovely pieces from this era)
For general information about Telemann and his chamber music, click here.
Claude Debussy, Syrinx (1913) (Emmanuel Pahud, flute)
Syrinx “is the first really significant piece for solo flute after the Sonata in A min composed by C. P. E. Bach exactly 150 years before (1763), and it is the first solo composition for the modern Böhm flute, perfected in 1847.” [citation]
Zoltán Kodály, Cello Sonata No. 1, op. 8 (1915) (Jakob Koranyi, cello)
Composed in 1915, its creator prophesied for his Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello, Op.8 that “in 25 years no cellist will be accepted who has not played it.” By 1956, the sonata had become obligatory for the Casals Competition in Mexico City. The innovative compositional technique demands unorthodox skills from the cellists and also extends the tonal range and sonic effects of the instrument. As Starker commented: “Kodály uses the cello from top to bottom. All the fingers are busy. Three fingers are playing the melodic ideas while the others are plucking chords. The use of the thumb is also highly inventive. Ponticello is a new technique on the cello.” Yet the beauty of Starker’s interpretation is that the listener will not be drawn to the technicalities. Instead one is carried on a musical journey to the heart of historical Hungary. [citation]
Sergei Prokofiev, Piano Sonata No. 6, op. 82 (1939-40) (Yuja Wang, piano)
The Piano Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 82 by Sergei Prokofiev is the first of his three ‘War Sonatas”. They are the pinnacle of his music for piano; and given his lifelong ties to the instrument, they could rightly be considered the high point of his entire output. Following a sixteen-year absence from the genre, and in the midst of a long, confusing waltz with the Soviet regime, Prokofiev’s return to serious composition for the piano was a return to his sources, an attempt to solidify his recent triumphs (Alexander Nevsky, Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Wolf) and a sign of his returning confidence. [citation]
Luciano Berio, Sequenza III (1965) (Laura Catrani)
More information on Sequenza III may be found here.
Luciano Berio, Sequenza V (1966) (Johannes Ettlinger, trombone)
Berio wrote of this piece:
Behind Sequenza V lurks the memory of Grock (Adriano Wettach), the last great clown. Grock was my neighbour in Oneglia. He lived in a strange and complicated villa up the hill, surrounded by a kind of Oriental garden with small pagodas, streams, bridges and willow trees. Many times, with my schoolmates, I climbed a high iron fence to steal oranges and tangerines from his garden. During my childhood, the closeness, the excessive familiarity with his name and the indifference of the adults around me, prevented me from realizing his genius. It was only later, when I was perhaps eleven, that I saw him perform on the stage of the Teatro Cavour in Porto Maurizio, and understood him. Once during the evening, while performing, he stopped suddenly and, staring at the audience with a disarming look, asked: “warum?” (“why?”). Like everyone else, I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry and I wanted to do both. After that experience, I stole no more oranges from his garden.
Sequenza V, written in 1966 for Stuart Dempster, is a tribute to Grock and his metaphysical why, which is the generating cell of the piece.
More information on the clown Grock may be found here.
Credits: The quotations may be found at the links indicated in the text, with thanks to Brian Long and other GCAS members for so many of the links collected here. I took the photographs, of Innisfree Garden May 9, 2015, a few days after the garden opened for the season. At this time of year, the garden itself offers many wonderful examples of “Less Is More.”