Show 265: Listening Guide

performers with Jamie Allen

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 265 featuring the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) was taped at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, TX on Friday January 4, 2013. We asked our performers to tell us more about their experience on the show…

Aakash Patel, 19, violin
I. Allegro non troppo from Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61
By: Camille Saint-Saëns

Saint-Saëns was a French composer, and French composers are known for their ability to create different atmospheres with their talent for understanding different textures of various instruments. When I play this piece, I think of the different atmospheres that Saint-Saëns tried to create, and relate such atmospheres to my experiences with them. This has helped me gain a deeper insight into the beauty of Saint-Saëns third Violin Concerto.

This piece contains some of the most beautiful lyrical passages I have ever played. This piece combines ideas of love and passion with a unique fluidity. For me it is a great challenge to convey this specific aspect of this piece. Although connecting the different portions of this piece together can be quite difficult, it is also quite rewarding. When I am able to convey this idea successfully, I get butterflies in my stomach.

Post-Show Reflection: I was asked, just before my performance, what it was like to finally be on the show – my response was, “pinch me, I’m dreaming!” 15 hours and many pinches later, my response should have been, “PLEASE REFRAIN FROM PINCHING!” From The Top has gotten me over so many hard blocks in my musical life – you guys keep my drive alive. Actually performing on the show was an unforgettable experience.

Many people say that man has the ability to move mountains. I was practicing outside a grocery store one day, and closed my eyes and began to play Bach’s G minor Sonata. After I finished, I opened my eyes and saw that an audience had formed – they all began to clap. I didn’t have to move any mountains, music had done it for me.

Russell Houston, 18, cello
Schelomo
By: Ernest Bloch

Whenever I play the Schelomo, I try to imagine it as the life story of a great king. I think it’s a cool piece to sit and play and really feel like a king, and the orchestra and solo parts contribute to this feeling. Further, it’s really fun to play because the orchestra parts are just so fantastic. My favorite part is the last tutti, it sounds so grandiose and overwhelmingly beautiful. When I was a little kid I used to really like the movie The Ten Commandments, and that tutti reminded me of that movie the first time I heard it. From the first time I heard this piece, I was determined to work on it, and wouldn’t stop talking about how much I loved it.

What’s really cool about the Schelomo is that it isn’t like other concerti where technique is the most important part – the Schelomo is like a painting, in that each part contributes to this overall panorama. The most important thing to communicate is the character of Solomon – the piece is about him. It’s really hard to communicate that wisdom and maturity he has in his old age, especially since I’m only 18! This piece is really fun to perform because it’s just as much about the accompaniment as the solo!

Post-Show Reflection: I loved walking out on stage for the first time at the live show – it was so validating seeing how many people were out there! The performance was great! The hall feels great to perform in, and the size of the audience was more affirming than frightening.

I think music can change lives, from changing how you feel any time you listen to having a life full of music. Music is enriching for the soul and makes life better!

Chase Dobson, 16, composer/piano
II. Sporting of the Gods from Piano Trio No.1
By: Chase Dobson

This piece is full of energy. The driving rhythm is part of it, but there’s also an element of it that comes from Aakash Patel,Chase Dobson, Russell Houston rehearsing2the three members of the trio together, all adding to the drive, competing with one another, but competing collaboratively. It takes a lot of precision to get the fine details together, but once it’s in performance, then the rush you get from it is unparalleled.

This composition is very special to me, in that it was the first composition I performed with live musicians. In the summer of 2011, I began rehearsing this trio with my friends Phoenix Abbo and Jorge Giron Vives. We prepared this movement for a benefit concert Phoenix was hosting, and we received a standing ovation at the performance, making the first public reception of my work very positive.

Post-Show Reflection: One of my favorite memories was Christopher O’Riley and the maestro’s rehearsal of the Shostakovich without the orchestral accompaniment – they both just hummed along during the piano breaks. I know it’s very specific, but it was so cool. It felt very comfortable to perform on that stage – there were so many steps to the actual performance that helped make it very easy, and very fun!

Music has the power to change live, bridge civilizations, entertain – essentially anything!

Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra (in a side-by-side performance with the DSO)
“The Great Gate of Kiev” from Pictures at an Exhibition
By: Modest Mussorgsky (orch. by Maurice Ravel)

Tiffany Mourlam, 18, viola

I absolutely love the Pictures at an Exhibition, and the “Great Gate of Kiev” is one of my favorite movements. I love the great contrasts between sections of the piece and how incredible the ending sounds. It’s one of the DSO rehearsing (1)most magical pieces of music EVER. My favorite part is definitely the beginning, where the brass play the theme. It just feels so good to sit and listen to. I also enjoy the sections where the strings rest and the winds have a few bars to enjoy the music and transitions between sections of the piece. There’s nothing about this piece that I dislike!

The orchestration is incredible! Ravel was truly a master of orchestration, and I really like the way he chose to bring Mussorgsky’s ideas about the piece (as well as his own) into the music. It’s critical that the contrasts in this piece are pronounced because Ravel asks for so many different sounds and colors in Pictures at an Exhibition. The hardest thing was to achieve that difference in tone and color. I’ve loved this piece since I heard it as a child. Getting to play it is so fulfilling!

Post-Show Reflection: It was an incredible three days! I loved my backstage naps with Annie, and getting to introduce Mr. O’Riley and Tom (Voegli) to the extremely comfortable red chairs in the lounge. I also loved meeting my stand partner Valerie. The performance was incredible! The musicians were all so nice. At one point, I just looked around and couldn’t believe we were sitting with the DSO – one of my greatest childhood dreams come true!

Music has the power to connect people and change lives! I firmly believe that it has the power to promote peace and heal people.

Morgan Mitchell, 16, cello

Honestly the adrenaline rush I get from the Baba Yagá (the previous movement) is still with me, so the opening chords help me calm down and proceed. I absolutely love the dynamic contrasts because they keep me interested in what I am playing. My favorite memory of playing the piece was from this past summer in CREDIT JOHN SERVIES -Thomas Hong, conductor of DSOLitomyšl, because we were performing in a castle (a girl’s favorite place!) and I could feel everyone around me giving 100%.

This particular movement gives me the responsibility to convey and evoke emotion. It takes you out of your own brain and problems into a world of beauty and empowerment. The hardest things about the movement are sustaining the long notes with full pwer, and feeling as an ensemble. Compared to other pieces this one is not about virtuosity or showing off – it is about reflection.

Post-Show Reflection: Being on the Meyerson Hall stage sitting next to my teacher (who inspires me more than anyone) and feeling the realization of what I was doing was really powerful. The performance was the scariest, most special and humbling feeling ever. I love that stage, and everything it stands for in a musician’s life!

Music has the power to fill anything you do with passion by allowing you to give your all.

Annie Lehman, 18, harp

A sort of chordal texture starts the piece and quickly builds to (my favorite part) the big ending, which is so exhilarating to play and literally feel because you’re surrounded by the music when you are sitting in an orchestra.

Blending the sound with both the principle harpist and the rest of the orchestra is the most difficult part of learning this piece. Playing with a professional harpist adds a new dimension to playing in an orchestra, and provides a great learning experience.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite moments were performing on the stage, being interviews by Christopher O’Riley, and seeing the behind-the-scenes of the show backstage. The show itself was AMAZING! I thought I would be nervous but I felt so comfortable talking and performing, and actually had tons of fun!

Music has the power to change everything – it can help others by allowing them bring across ideas that can’t be said with words, and can give you a knowledge of other cultures.

Show 263: Listening Guide

Alex Zhou, 11, violin
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20
By: Pablo de Sarasate

My favorite part of the Zigeunerweisen is the fast, dancing section. I don’t really have a least favorite part of the piece. Christopher O'Riley and Alex ZhouWhen I play the first half/slow part of the piece, I try to think of homeless people dressed in bright red dresses begging for food. Then, in the fast section, I imagine them rising up from their weary positions and dancing and twirling to the sound of violins.

When I play this piece, I think the things I need to get across are the many runs and arpeggios in the beginning, and the harmonics, left-hand pizzicatos, and spicatto at the end.

Post-Show Reflection: Other than performing, I really enjoyed the pizza party and hanging out with the other performers. It was quite nerve-wracking to perform in front of a huge crowd, but it was also really fun and a great performance.

Music has the power to empower, inspire, and create change.

Annie Wu, 16, flute
III. Lively, with Bounce from Duo for Flute and Piano
By: Aaron Copland

The Copland Duo is one of Copland’s works that emulates his signature American style. He uses many different rhythms and moods overall, and creates a bubbly, upbeat last movement. Some parts are even quite jazzy, and reflect Copland’s great interest in that genre. In the last movement, he switches back and forth between an energetic tune and a slower, jazzy one Annie Wuthat reminds me of a drunken Cowboy. I especially love all the opportunities to explore articulations – some descending runs even sound like a hearty laugh to me – hahaha!

The Copland Duo is such a pleasure to play and perform because it truly is a piece of chamber music. There is a constant conversation between the flute and piano lines that makes every performance a new and exciting experience. The characters of this movement are also very distinctive and varying – I especially love exploring them and finding ways to connect everything together in just a few short minutes.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memory was definitely the performance – it was an amazing experience to play and then talk to Christopher O’Riley. The show was invigorating – there was such a huge and receptive audience.

Music has the power to bring out emotions in people and memories.

Alec Holcomb, 17, guitar
Prelude No.15 in D-flat Major, Raindrop
By: Frédéric Chopin (trans. József Eötvös)

There are very few pieces that fit well and sound decent on the guitar. Fortunately, this piece (which I heard my brother playing on the piano years ago and has since become one of my favorite pieces) does both. What’s interesting about this Alec Holcombpiece being played on the guitar as opposed to the piano is, as an intimate piece, the guitar has such a broad range of sounds and colors that can really tap into the mood(s) of the piece in a profound manner. The guitar, for the guitarist, is one of the most intimate instruments because the player can literally touch the notes, making this prelude all the more intimate. I like to think if Chopin, being as passionate about the guitar as he was, had decided to compose for guitar, he would have been hard-pressed to write a more fitting piece.

This piece was inspired by raindrops Chopin heard during a rainstorm (though he would not admit it). A few months ago in a competition, I could not have played this piece at a more appropriate time, as it was storming outside, and the raindrops were audible on the roof of the hall. I got a few comments on the irony of my music choice that day.

The range of dynamics on the piano, compared to the guitar, is much greater, especially on the forte end of the dynamic spectrum. The guitar, at its loudest, is still a relatively quiet instrument. One of the difficulties I had with this piece was creating the illusion of becoming ear-splittingly loud on the build of the B section (the storm-like section). To do this, I learned to manage my color and volume in a sort of process that accomplished this goal. One thing I introduced to this piece was setting piano as my normal volume, and when there was a need for more “oomph” I had plenty of room to crescendo, the immediately return to piano afterwards. I also learned to use the ponticello sound of the guitar to create a false crescendo, which gave me even more room to grow dynamically.

Phoebe Pan, 15, piano
“Soirée de Vienne” – Concert Paraphrase on Die Fledermaus by Strauss, Op. 56
By: Alfred Grünfeld

This particular piece is a very energetic and lively piece. It conveys a certain sense of lightheartedness, and being a waltz, it’s an easy piece to dance to. Whenever I play or hear it, I always think of a grand ballroom in Vienna and people waltzing Phoebe Panwith grins plastered on their faces.

The unique factor in this piece is that it’s a piano arrangement of an opera overture. Therefore, it’s slightly more difficult to convey the feeling of the piece. With an orchestra, you’ve got the power of the strings, the crystal clear woodwinds, and the rich sound of the brass section. So I somehow have to communicate all of that through one instrument: the piano.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved the competitive “quiz” after my performance ☺  I also really liked being backstage afterwards and talking to the other performers. The waiting part before my performance was a bit nerve-wracking, but as soon as I stepped on stage I was fine. It felt really good once I finished ☺

I believe that music has the power to change people’s lives and bring new opportunities to everyone.

The Angeles Trio
“Primaver Porteña” from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
By: Astor Piazzolla

Kristina Zlatareva, 19, violin

I consider Piazzolla’s music to be very passionate and moving. Primaver Portena reminds me of a conversation between The Angeles Triotwo Argentinian tango dancers – while playing it, I can imagine the intricate steps that are involved in a tango, and the precise and specific movements incorporated in the dance. My favorite part of this movement is the violin solo in the slower section, which responds to the cello solo just before. I see the violin solo as the female elegance and beauty in a tango.

It is crucial that the precise tempos and rhythms are kept clear. It is also important to not let go of emotions while playing, because it can take away from the precision of the sound, tempo, and clarity. It is crucial that the cello and violin blend together.

Post-Show Reflection: I loved talking on the show with Christopher O’Riley, and spending time with the other wonderful and talented fellow musicians on the show. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life: being able to share my passion for music with such a broad audience was definitely a dream come true.

Music has the power to change one’s mindset and view on the world in a positive way – it has the power to soother, cure and inspire.

JiSun Jung, 18, cello

I imagine the love between a woman and a man, like they are having a conversation with each other. The Angeles TrioThe cello solo is like a man trying to attract the woman, and after that the piece goes back to the same them as the beginning.

This piece is divided into four seasons – we are playing “Spring.” Since this is a tango, the rhythm of this piece is really charming, and the cello solo is especially attractive.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memories were hanging out with/getting to know the other performers, the actual show, and the pizza party! The show was a new, fresh experience for me – I felt comfortable for both the interview and during the performance.

Music is something that makes people look inside, and feel passionate about their own power.

JiaYing Dong, 18, piano

This piece is about a dance called the “tango.” The music feels like it can be about a love story between a man and a woman. My favorite part of the piece is at the beginning – it’s the main theme.

This was the first time I ever played a dance piece, having never played tango music before. You have to capture the feeling right at the beginning.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memories were the actual concert and directly after, at the reception. The show was AWESOME! I felt really good, and it was so different than other performances I’ve done.

Music can bring pleasure to people, and make the world a better and happier place!

The Angeles Trio

Show 256: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 256 was taped at the Palace Arts Center in Grapevine, Texas on Wednesday June 27, 2012 as part of the Military Child Education Coalition Conference. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

William Hume, 16, piano
Rhapsody in B minor, Op.79, No.1
By: Johannes Brahms

I have enjoyed learning and interpreting the Brahms Rhapsody Op. 79 No. 1.  As I researched this piece, I was able to understand the music more and identify with the piece on a deeper level. I think that sometimes the vastness of the music stimulates certain feelings in the performer and the listeners that may be unfamiliar, such as anguish or longing for something special. I could imagine Brahms and the love and emotional conflict that he felt towards Clara Schumann, which I think is represented in this piece. I played this for several performances and competitions and each time I discovered new aspects of the piece. But the primary goal is to make the music sound as beautiful as possible when I play it, in hopes that the audience will appreciate it as much as I do. I love the dissonant harmonics in the bass at the very end of the piece.  The last few measures have a surreal quality and it is very exciting for me.  It is a real test of musicianship and professionalism for me to put as much enthusiasm and focus into each performance- making it a new and exciting experience each time.

The Rhapsody is a great piece because it is very expansive.  It includes contrasting themes and conflicting, varying emotions and characteristics in the different sections. It has everything that the audience loves to hear.  It is emotional, aggressive, lyrical, fast, loud, soft, strong, and sorrowful. This stimulates the performer and listeners to explore all of their own personal feelings.  It uses almost the entire keyboard with some of the lowest notes.  It is important to listen through the ends of the sections and phrases to transition into new ideas effectively.  For example, you cannot just jump into the softer lyrical section in the middle of the piece without listening very carefully to the end of the preceding phrase.  One of the more challenging aspects in the piece is maintaining the energy and pushing through to the fortissimos even as the chords are getting aggressive and physically demanding. You must maintain the tempo and build the energy through the climaxes of the phrases.  I also feel that it is important to understand what is behind the music you are playing, and what the composer intended. I think that giving a brief overview about this to the audience is helpful. Audiences seem to appreciate information about the background of the music that they will be hearing, and I think that this seems to promote a connection between the audience and performer.

Post Show Reflection: This was a great experience!  The cast and crew of From the Top were so kind and ready to help at all times.  They were very well organized.  The From the Top family enhanced my experience and enjoyment of the show and I felt very comfortable playing and speaking, and I was ready to give a great performance.  I was also finally able to get my program from Christopher O’Riley’s concert autographed by him!  I had heard him perform in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in November of 2010.  It was also great to have a family photo taken with General and Mrs. Dempsey.  And the other performers, Dominic, Clarissa, and Devon, along with the members of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own”, were really wonderful.  It was great to meet people my age who share my passion for music.  It was a privilege to be a part of the first show featuring performers with military connections!

Music can unveil the initiative and action that is present in every human being. It is a timeless art that preserves the complex emotions of human beings for generations to come. 

Devon Naftzger, 18, viola
Praeludium and Allegro
By: Fritz Kreisler

My teacher suggested that I learn Praeludium and Allegro because it’s a fun, showy, and athletic piece that suits my personality well. It starts off boldly and stubbornly and then becomes playful and dramatic in the fast section. I love the last part because it has an epic ending that makes me want to hold the last note forever.

To me this piece is all about conveying contrast in character. The allegro molto section is very note-y and busy in the left hand, but it’s the articulation of the bow that gives this piece its spice. This piece has a lot of tough section all strung together so it’s important that I have the focus and stamina not to lose pizazz.

Post Show Reflection: I had so much fun dancing backstage to the military band’s Sousa march with the staff members and the other performers! It was such an honor to meet General Dempsey and perform for him sitting three feet away.There’s nothing like performing on stage with Christopher O’Riley and the From the Top “On the Air” sign behind you! Everyone was so supportive at From the Top, so it wasn’t scary to perform at all – it was really fun!

Music has the power to change people for the better. It builds relationships, emotes passion, and connects others.

Dominic Giardino, 18, clarinet
3 Pieces for Solo Clarinet
By: Igor Stravinsky

For me, this piece of music invokes a feeling of controlled chaos. When I first picked it up about a year ago, I remember feeling very confused and frustrated. This was a piece of music I couldn’t sing and I had such a hard time hearing it the way I wanted to. Because of this piece, though, I have learned to find melody where I once believed it did not exist. In fact, I have grown to believe that this is one of the most beautiful and exciting pieces in the repertoire. It brings about beauty with its tragic first movement, and then attracts the audience with its wild second and third movements; it’s an adventure.

I have learned more from the Stravinsky 3 Pieces than any other piece of music. It started as a piece that was so brutally painful to practice, and has grown to be one of my most favorite and publicly performed pieces. The fact that this is an unaccompanied piece has played a huge role in its facility as a part of my repertoire. As a musician it has forced me to be the entire piece of music. To this Day, I have not stopped looking for ways to further bring out the technical and musical motifs. Stravinsky so purposefully wrote, “It is most important to truly ‘perform’”.

Post-Show Reflections: My favorite memory from these past three days was talking with the “Pershing’s Own” Wind Quintet in the green room the night of the performance. The energy of the audience was spectacular – you  could really engage as a performer. On the other hand, I needed some time to get used to the “studio feel” of recording.

Music has the power to build relationships, and ultimately build community. It has the power of supplying unlimited opportunity.

Clarissa McLaren, 17, harp
Impromptu-Caprice, Op.9
By: Gabriel Pierné 

Impromptu Caprice reminds me of mini vanilla cakes covered in marzipan and chocolate, with a cream and jelly filling. I used those as a practice treat and motivator – they are delicious! My least favorite part of the piece is the page of bisbigliandos. It is a lot of control work and getting my fingers not to buzz against the strings.

This piece is special to me because I’ve always wanted to learn it. It was on the first CD of harp music I ever owned, and I immediately loved the moving melody and accompaniment, fancy glissandos, and overall showy-ness. The hardest bits are the powerful octaves and left-hand chords towards the end.

Post-Show Reflection: My favorite memories were partying and dancing backstage right after the performance, and meeting General Dempsey at the dress rehearsal the day before.  Performing wasn’t as terrifying as I imagined it to be, and the cast, crew, and musicians were fantastic! The opportunities to share my music and inspire others makes all of the practicing worth it.

Music can change people from the inside, and change society overall. It can inspire, create emotion, and give people a passion. 

Show 253: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 253 was taped at the Newmark Theatre in Portland, OR on Sunday May 6, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Simone Porter, violin, 15
III. Allegro Animato from Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op.45
By: Edvard Grieg

I had the great privilege to perform the 3rd and final movement from Grieg’s 3rd sonata in c minor for violin and piano with Christopher O’Riley on From The Top in May. This sonata is certainly a favorite of mine. The third movement alone incorporates passionate melodies, elements of Norwegian folk music, overarching long lines, and excellent dialogue between the violin and the piano! I think the 3rd movement very operatic; it alternates between Nordic themes that feature exchanges between the violin and piano, which I consider flirtatious conversation amongst my opera characters, and passionate melodies which I imagine to be arias, declarations of love. Grieg employs many syncopated rhythms throughout the 3rd movement, which makes the music agitated and anxious at times, but in the end, the music takes a sweeping turn into C Major, and ends in celebration.

This sonata is all about human communication: most obvious is the interaction between the violinist and pianist performing, but I think that the connection between the performers and audience is just as essential. While I was in Portland with From the Top, we talked alot about music’s power and influence. I brought up the idea that music is a universal language that doesn’t acknowledge any prejudice, and invites everybody to join the conversation. I hope that with this performance, I successfully invited and engaged the audience in a lively discourse.

Post Show Reflection: Rather than a specific experience, my favorite memory is the way friendships developed between the performers over 3 days. We entered (mostly) strangers and left with new friends who will keep in touch and meet up when our paths inevitably cross in the future. Performing for a live audience and imagining how that performance will reach so many more was so wonderful! I loved collaborating with the brilliant Christopher O’Riley, all the people at FTT, and being with the fantastic and supportive Portland audience!!

Music can establish connections and dissolve boundaries in a world that can be so divisive. Music is the universal language and we invite everyone to join the conversation; art doesn’t recognize any prejudice. From the Top encourages a discussion in which everyone is accepted and welcomed, regardless of race, gender, age, sexuality, opinions, etc. Musical education brings peace and hope and light to society; the educators and educated benefit from the experience.

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Show 252: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 252 was taped at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga, TN on Thursday, April 26, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Jerry Feng, piano, 17
Etude Op.10, No.12 in C minor, “Revolutionary”
By: Frederic Chopin

I just really think this is a great piece. I first began learning it four years ago and I seem to always bring it back from the dead for various performances. Personally, playing the etude evokes memories of my own “hardships.” I know my “problems” are not nearly as serious as the Russian occupation of Poland, but I think it was Chopin’s goal to elicit this kind of bitter and desperate feeling.

I feel like the most unique aspect about this piece is the incredible amount of raw emotion placed into the short 2 1/2 minutes. That being said, I believe the most inspirational (and hardest) part to accomplish is really making the audience feel and understand Chopin’s outrage and sadness.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was hanging in the dressing room before the performance. Performing on that stage was absolutely breathtaking, fantastically amazing, and unforgettable. But I really wish I got to spend more time with the other incredibly talented musicians there.

Music will bring people together.

John Burton, trumpet, 17
Fantasie in E-flat
By: Joseph Edouard Barat

This is such an interesting piece. It has an ominous fanfare that kicks off the piece and recurs throughout. Then it goes into a very lyrical melody that is voiced in different styles. For me, I don’t have a particular story in mind when I play this piece, but I do have certain moods I try to recreate as themes to come and go. It has dramatic, fluid, playful, and even jazz-influenced sections. The whole piece is very French. Overall, it is really neat to listen to!

This piece has a lot of character and it is really important to portray that. I am not worried about any technical sections, but being a brass player can easily prove otherwise! You never know how your chops will feel on a certain day! You could feel great one day and terrible the next. That is also another motivation to practice – nothing is ever perfect.

Post Show Reflection: It was fun hanging out with everyone in one of the dressing rooms before and during the show, and to play on the stage and see how “From the Top” does everything.

Music can bring happiness.

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Show 251: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 251 was taped in Hosmer Concert Hall at Crane School of Music-SUNY Potsdam on Saturday, April 21, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

John Lee, cello, 17
Dance of the Green Devil
By: Gaspar Cassado

I knew what a devil was, and I knew what a red devil was, but a green devil? Not so much. After scouring through pages about green devil tattoos, green devil designs and the boss in the MegaMan game series, I gave up my search
and decided that the green-ness described the devil’s playfulness and quirky nature. But I was not satisfied, so I headed back to Google and finally hit the jackpot: the devil wears green, just as hunter wear camouflage, to hide among men and capture their souls. Indeed, Cassado captures this wily nature of the green devil: quick, tricky, and hard to find on Google.

For me, the most difficult task was also the most enjoyable one: delivering a portrayal of the green devil. From the tip-toeing of the bow to the blood-boiling runs to the shockingly celestial glissandos, the piece itself provides a framework of the devil. However, the artist has the job of coloring that framework green and filling the piece with the emotion of the devil itself.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was definitely the interview with Chris on stage – I’ve never felt so refreshed and excited to speak to an audience. The performance was a wonderful experience for me, both as a musician and a person. Being onstage was so exciting and I would do almost anything to relive that moment.

I believe that music has the ability to reach into the hearts and minds of people as human and create another world in which we can flourish and there.

Avery Gagliano, piano, 10
“The Cat and the Mouse”
By: Aaron Copland

I think Aaron Copland’s “The Cat and the Mouse” is very energetic, fun, and exciting. When I play this piece, I tell the story of “The Cat and the Mouse” and picture in my mind an exaggerated cartoon. The music makes me think about the cartoon Tom and Jerry: I see images of cats pouncing, mice skittering, and everybody going around and around. The story behind this piece of music is about a cat and a mouse that always fight: from dawn to dusk they bicker until one day, the cat retires for the day and lounges around admiring himself, feeling all confident and superior. All of a sudden, the mouse takes advantage of the moment thinking that he might be able to get a snack or do something exciting. Then, the cat follows and begins to chase the mouse again. In the end, the cat and the mouse move on to live new lives in separate places, but there is still a little bit of their energy and excitement left in the old house they used to live in, which is represented by a little tinkering in the last few notes.

Since the music of “The Cat and the Mouse” is so wild and creative, I can experiment a lot with it. It is full of false harmonies (meaning harmonies that don’t really sound harmonic), and many other interesting things you can observe in the music. For example, there is sometimes a moment when everything begins to speed up and then all of a sudden, it slows down again and hushes up. Things like this make me love “The Cat and the Mouse” and I think it is a great piece to play.

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Show 248: Listening Guide

This week’s From the Top’s broadcast (Show 248) was taped at Weber State University’s Austad Auditorium in Ogden, Utah on Thursday, March 8, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Nick Tisherman, oboe, 17
I. Allegro from Sonata in F major, KV 370
By: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I like to think very happy, joyful, bubbly thoughts when I play this piece. I always keep in mind that Mozart wrote the oboe quartet as a show-off piece for a friend, so I think that it needs to be flashy as well. My favorite part is a section in which the music sounds like two voices arguing. I’ve played this for an audience of children at the Blythedale Children’s Hospital near where I live. I think the piece really lifted their spirits. When I played the Mozart for Frank Rosemein at CIM, he said my interpretation needed more “sparkle”, and should be more “effervescent.” On the flight home from Cleveland I ordered a Sprite and decided that my complimentary beverage represented the character I should shoot for.

This piece is really cool because in the third movement, the oboe rebels and goes into a 4/4 feel while the strings stay in 6/8. It creates a really cool effect. I feel that I most get across my personality when I play the oboe quartet. It is such an exciting piece, and it has so much character in it. I finally unlocked the hardest part of playing Mozart after I stopped thinking of the quartet as a super-light, bubbly showpiece, and pretended I was singing an aria instead. Once I gave the piece this mentality, all the lines and melodies fell into place and Mozart in general felt easier to play.

Post Show Reflections: I enjoyed bonding with my fellow performers and especially liked talking with audience members and hearing their reactions. The performance was completely exhilarating. The audience was warm and receptive, and playing with Chris O’Riley was amazing. I felt like a star, and I signed my first autograph!

Music connects in a way that no other medium, art form, or any sort of rhetorical device can. It speaks to everyone. It can evoke emotion in anyone. We can use music to touch life and reach out to make a change that we could not make without music.

Midnight Duo 
III. Finale (Allegro vivacissimo) from Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35
By: Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky 

Aubree Oliverson, violin, 13

The 3rd movement is my favorite. It starts off with a BANG and it makes me smile! After the beginning fast part, it slows down a little and the music reminds me of Russian men dancing. My favorite part of the movement is the ending because it’s super exciting! =)

I know that Tchaikovsky went through some really difficult times in his life and I think that helped him put a whole lot of meaning into this beautiful concerto. The deep meaning is one thing that sets it apart from other violin works – this piece gets me every time I hear it.

Post Show Reflections: My favorite memory was the pizza party! Because there were really good cookies! The performance was soooo fun! I wanted to do it again! I wasn’t nervous at all.

I believe music can change people for the better. Music can change the way people think about the world. Continue reading

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