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soundbites

H. Pfitzner / Sie haben heut' Abend Gesellschaft, Op. 4/2 (Heine) 

The german composer Hans Erich Pfitzner was a contemporary of Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf, Gustav Mahler, Claude Debussy and Ferrucio Busoni. Born into a generation which stood on the cusp of the 20th century and was highly involved in the radical social, political and artistic upheavals of its time, Pfitzner was naturally influenced - not just in his compositions, but also his ideals and beliefs. 

This song cycle is one of his earliest works, written in a quasi Viennese-waltz style. I searched (and lost alot of hair in the attempt) a long while for that elusive right feeling to this emotion-charged song, before JPS said to me: play it like you're tipsy! well it worked. he is the best! 


B. Britten / Funeral Blues from Cabaret Songs (Auden)

The British composer Benjamin Britten set to music in the 1930s, a selection of four poems from the politically left-wing poet W.H. Auden. Amongst them was Funeral Blues, a poem made popular by the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Several factors are speculated to have contributed to Britten's powerful and very intense musical setting, including his personal preoccupation with funeral marches, the tension between the two world wars, and the shock of his mother's death. The entire cycle is titled Cabaret Songs, a reference to his good memories of the cabaret nightlife of Berlin in the 1930s.

 

 

 


R. Schumann / Muttertraum, Op. 40/2 (Chamisso) 

This seemingly sweet song has a nightmarish ending - i think this is what all mothers share, a universal fear of losing one´s child? 


Americ Goh / Night Songs 1: Thief in the Night (D.H. Lawrence) 

This song too, follows up on that wide spectrum of emotions the night envelops us in. It is like that nightmare which you wake up to with a start, dripping with cold sweat. It is a reflection (an honest one!) of the inner, primal fear and worries we might always have to live with - loss of one's inner peace, loss of loved ones, loss of life.

All these never fail to become larger than life in the shadows of the night, don't they? Well, you are not alone! 


W.F Bach / Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in E flat major, F.46

This concert is on the list (its a long one) of the most exciting concerts I've been a part of. I love playing the harpsichord (I have had an amazing teacher to top it off - Zvi Meniker!) but seldom do get the opportunity to perform something like this. It was a wonderful experience for me and something I cherish a lot. I will top this up with more interesting gossip regarding this work, once I dig up more time!

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, with all the bursts of energy, interspersed with that i-am-gonna-cry-feeling of timelessness.

W. Bolcom / George, from Cabaret Songs (Weinstein)

1. took on the name of "Georgia" as day morphed into night

2. was a mighty good Soprano

3. offered drinks on cue to all visitors

4. was murdered

5. motive: was a Transvestite

George's funeral took place at the Cocktail hour. We knew that he would have loved it.  


B.Britten / Calypso from Cabaret Songs (Auden) 

The word Calypso traces its roots to Greek mythology, where it referred to a nymph, and by definition meant ‘to conceal’, ‘to hide’, and ‘to cover’. Today, the word brings to mind the pulsating rhythms of the Calypso style of music, which in the early 20th century served as a vehicle of communication between the African slaves from Dominica and Martinique, and as a subtle form of expression against the social injustices brought about by their masters in Trinidad and Tobago – the French planter immigrants. True to its original meanings of deception, Calypso music is characterized by text subtly flavoured with wit and sarcasm. 

Centred upon the rush of adrenalin whilst rushing to meet a new love, this poem - also by Auden - was influenced by a ton of happenings, including the fateful meeting around the same time with Auden's future life partner, Chester Kallman.


Americ Goh / Night Songs 1: Twilight (D.H. Lawrence) 

Americ is a fellow Singaporean and studies currently in Graz.

Inspired by the poems of the british poet D.H. Lawrence, he wrote the cycle Night Songs 1. This particular song is made up of three different lines - the sung vocal part, the spoken vocal line, and the piano. It captures so well the fear and the inner struggle within us all, at the same time effectively communicating across the schizophrenia and that inner, multi-voiced conversation we all seem to have once in a while (or all the time!) in our heads. 

We had the opportunity to work with Americ on these songs and learnt so much! Lastly, these little gems are crazy challenges (the rewarding and fun kind!) but oh so worth the effort. Thank you for the music, Am!

 

 

 


G. Ligeti / Der Zauberlehrling + En Suspens

Ligeti holds a special place in my heart, after my piano teacher in Singapore, Ms Lena Ching, opened my tiny eyes to his magical world of music. I spent three years learning, re-learning, and embarrassing myself (because there is always the exciting risk of killing it during a performance) with his first piano etude, Desordre. However it all turned out to be really worth it. As with all of Ligeti's works!  

Ligeti explored a wide range of influences in his music - the fondness for jazz, especially that of Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, his discovery of African and Caribbean polyrhythms, admiration for Conlon Nancarrow and his player piano. 

In the first etude Der Zauberlehrling, patterns are constantly being varied, looped and repeated at high speeds, with the aim of creating an imaginary continuous sound. En Suspens always reminds me of what it is to be in the deafening stillness of the underwater world.