Listening Guide: Show 221

Show 221 Performers

This week’s From the Top broadcast (Show 221) was taped in Jordan Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday, October 24, 2010. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Francesca Bass, 15, violin
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20, No. 1 (Gypsy Airs)
By: Pablo de Sarasate

This is a really flashy piece, and it has a Hungarian flavor. There are numerous running passages, up-bow staccato, and beautiful melodic parts. So, it has a bit of everything that a violinist might want to show off. Since this piece is also known as “Gypsy Airs”, I find that I am able to imagine the ways of gypsies, which I can bring out in my interpretation.

This is probably one of the most virtuosic pieces I have played so far. I try to make playing it look easy; that puts the audience at ease and me at ease. I also want to look like I am having fun while playing this piece. Most of all, I want to get across the various moods in this piece. There is a moderate first section, a slow and beautiful part, and exciting fast part at the end. The hardest thing to nail in this piece is the first run, but I just have to tell myself that I can do it, which can be difficult.

Post Show Reflection: I could really feel the audience listening and everyone was so involved. I loved every second of my From the Top experience.

Kadar Qian, 13, piano
Aria and Variations 1 & 5
By: Johann Sebastian Bach

As the Goldberg Variations come to mind, I realize how connected Apple is to the structure of the piece. First, the Aria sings, acting like the big idea of Apple computer, which takes a simple theme of making insanely great products, and produces variations that “sync” with it- iPod, iPhone, and iMac. Each variation has it’s own mood, tone, and color, which represents the character of each product and its different reasons for being. To conclude, the Aria repeats itself, reminding us about how unexpected the future of Apple will be.

The Goldberg Variations is something very exceptional, for it includes much more counterpoint, polyphony, crossing of hands, and less dynamic indications than any piece I have ever played from later periods of history. Examples of counterpoint and polyphony include variations 3,9, and 10, canons and a fughetta, respectively. Crossing hands is also very difficult but unique on the piano, and one finds many examples of this in the Goldberg Variations. It is important to know that the Goldberg Variations was written for harpsichord that often had two manuals, which would have made crossing of hands easier to achieve. Lastly, dynamics were not possible for harpsichord, so there are no dynamic indications in the printed score, which allows more room for interpretation, something not seen in other pieces. From this knowledge, we see that the Goldberg Variations are a one of a kind work of art.

Muhan Zhang, 17, erhu
Sai Ma & Lady Lan Hua-Hua, Shanbei Folksong
By: Huang Haihuai

Sai Ma is a crowd-pleasing piece that I started very close to the beginning of my career as an Erhuist. I think one of the interesting points about this piece is that it runs so contrary to the stereotypical depiction of Chinese people; while some view Chinese culture as the “… scenery” of the Dynasty periods and others thinks of cheap Chinese food; Sai Ma runs contrary to that air. In its wild but grateful sound Sai MA earn its Chinese name “Racing Horse”. Lady Lan Hua-Hua is a piece that talks about the tragic story of a Chinese lady who, as a result of being unable to choose her own marriage commits suicide. It highlights the slow and more poignant sides of the Erhu, which is one of its highlights.

Sai Ma is a very unique piece in the emotion it tries to instill; wild galloping horses in a boundless plain. For me, showmanship and the correct aura are the things I go for primarily; the analogy I enjoy is, when you see a train coming at you, you don’t stop to think about the paint job or the interior decorating. Keeping the suspense and energy constantly driving is undoubtedly the hardest part of this piece.

Baldvin Oddsson, 16 trumpet
Nocturne from Concerto for Trumpet
By Henri Tomasi

Post Show Reflection: The second movement of the Tomasi has always been a part of me since I heard for the first time. It’s both slow and fast. My experience being on From the Top was wonderful – Jordan Hall was amazing and Christopher O’Riley is an amazing musician! I am very thankful for this opportunity.

PALS Children’s Chorus
Who is the East
By Eleanor Bragg
Singing this Piece
By Bruce Adolphe

Alysoun Kegel Response (conductor):
I love performing the Bruce Adolpe because I get to see all of the kids act in addition to singing. It’s fun to sing a piece about what we are doing. It’s funny to pit the sections against each other “Who Is the East” is wonderful because of the colorful chord clusters.

For both of the pieces it’s exciting because I know the composer. It’s inspiring and motivating to work on something that was created by someone you know. Both pieces are hard to tune- the Adolphe has some acrobatic laps and the Bragg is very exposed.

Eleanor Bragg, 13 voice
Who is the East
By Eleanor Bragg
Singing this Piece
By Bruce Adolphe

Post Show Reflection: Being on From the Top was exciting and fun because PALS wonderfully performed the piece I wrote for them and we also performed “Singing this Piece,” which is one of my favorite songs we have sung in PALS. I am really proud of the other kids in PALS for how well we sang both pieces, since both songs are very difficult in their own ways. I also had a lot of fun during the interviews, and I enjoyed getting to know the other performers on the show. I look forward to spreading my musical and From the Top experiences to my community and sharing memories with the other kids in PALS.

2 Responses

  1. On Sunday,14 Nov., I was listening to KXPR,88.9, Sacramento, CA (Capital Public Radio), and caught the last 2 minutes of your show-an encore piece, since the title & artists were not mentioned at the end-the program just ended. It was a horn quartet playing a wonderful contemporary piece, and I want very much to know the title & composer. Can you help me? Thank you.

    • Hi Caitlin,

      You were hearing The Bone Rangers from the Merit School of Music perform the third movement Veloce–Ignoblimente from the Sonata for Trombones by Simon Wills. You can listen to the show again here

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