Show 216: Listening Guide

This week’s From the Top show was taped at the Fisher Theater at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday, May 18, 2010. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Photo Credit: John Servies

Caroline Weeks, 18, viola
I. Impetuoso; poco agitato from Sonata for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke

The Rebecca Clarke Sonata for Viola is a real tour de force piece for the instrument. To me, being a woman violist, it is a special gift to perform this piece knowing it was written by a woman composer.  Clarke writes many cadenza-like passages [that are] “ad lib” therefore giving the artist much freedom and room for interpretation…When I hear this piece, I think of spring and wild flowers emerging from the earth.

Bryanne Presley, age 18, oboe
I. Rondo Pastorale (Allegro moderato) from Concerto in A minor for Oboe and Strings by Ralph Vaughan Williams

When I play the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto, I visualize life of a prairie that includes animals in their natural habitat. I like how free I feel when playing this piece because most of the sections require a lot of stretching of the time, rather than using a steady beat.  The style of the Vaughan Williams demands an extreme level of musical expression, much more than traditional Baroque or Classical oboe pieces require. I have grown significantly as a musician by working on this piece.

Kong Qi, age 16, piano
I. Danse Russe from Three Movements from Petrushka by Igor Stravinsky

Kong Qi

The piece has many different characters, different sound color, and if you listen to it very carefully, you can hear some special Russian instrument’s sound which the composer wants the performer to play like the special instrument. This piece is very hard to play [but] I don’t care how hard it is, I just try to enjoy it, enjoy the rhythm (which is very special), enjoy to switch different people. So when you listen to it, I hope you can also enjoy the dancing, the colorful sound, it will be very interesting.

Keitaro Harada, 10th Anniversary Alumni Performer, saxophone
Adios Nonino by Astor Piazzolla

The opening cadenza to me is a conversation. Almost like a father showing a melody and the son imitates but adds his touch. Then the father embellishes more. Andante section is shear emotion. Allegro section is a dance (Tango) with his father. The last scream of high notes creates an image of the father leaving and the son chasing. This is the piece which inspired me to start music; to pick up the saxophone. I’m very attached to this composition.

Heeyeon Chung, age 17, violin (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

It invokes this grand yet personal piece with numerous conversations between friends.  My favorite part is the ending right before the three chords. I hear all eight of us breathe together and all we’ve worked for seems worthwhile. The most important thing I want my audience to get out of the piece is how the different conversations and supporting conversation combine to create a piece that is unified.

Kaho Sugawara, age 16, violin (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

The last movement of the Mendelssohn is a very exciting, energetic, and musical piece. Whenever I listen to or play this piece, it always makes me smile, laugh, and head-bang to the music. There has to be a lot of meticulous work behind it, or all the notes will sound slurred and not articulate.

Claire Watkins, age 17, violin (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

I’ve always considered this piece to be “party music.” I especially like the part where the 2nd and 3rd violins get to rock out on our unison eighth notes. Sometimes it’s hard to blend all of our sounds, but we get to move as one group, and that reflects our relationship as friends.

Eva Kennedy, age 15, violin (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

This piece has a lot of great harmonies and climaxes. The whole thing is really happy and fun – not ever really somber or angry for long, but not underdeveloped either.  My favorite part about this piece is the level of communication between all the voices. There are so many great moments to communicate, support, blend, play out EVERYTHING!

Octet Abbraccio. Photo Credit: John Servies

Meredith Kufchak, age 16, viola, Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist, (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

I think the Mendelssohn Octet is probably the most fun chamber music you can play. I also like the parts we all have in unison, because we all look at each other and smile. It’s like playing in a quartet, only twice as much awesome.  It’s sometimes difficult to get that excitement across to the audience without it sounding frantic and rushed.

Rachel Kufchak, age 18, viola, Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist, (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

This piece describes our personality very well – sometimes we’re playing together, sometimes we’re fighting for attention, sometimes we’re teasing, and sometimes we’re just plain old having fun. Right from the beginning of the piece it just keeps building and building right up to the end that everybody was somehow, somewhere in the back of their heads or in the bottom of their hearts, expecting.

Perri “Ruthie” Cordray, age 17, cello (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

It’s very remarkable how 8 distinct voices can weave in and out of each other with such grandiosity and yet such delicacy as well. We play it after all concerts and gatherings of any kind, usually by memory and about 5x faster than it should be played so by the final movement means euphoria, forgetfulness, an electric sort of high.

Kyle Price, age 17, cello (Octet Abbraccio)
IV. Presto from the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 220 by Felix Mendelssohn

The piece represents us growing up from kids sight-reading the octet at our first chamber music party to studying the piece at CMC and now performing it on national radio. Everywhere we have been as a group it seems like the octet travels with us. I know that no matter how many times we play the piece, the excitement will still be there, every time.

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