Prelude & Variation

PRELUDE & VARIATION is a programme of nine sets of short pieces; the first half explores the rich tonalities of 20th century music, while the second half (“Variation”) explores the changes in the variation form.

  1. Ravel - Prelude Stephen Chen 1:50
  2. Bartok - Evening in the Country Stephen Chen 2:48
  3. Copland - Four Piano Blues, no. 1 Stephen Chen 2:55
  4. Ives - The Alcotts, Concord Sonata Stephen Chen 6:02
  5. Starer - Bright Orange, Sketches in Color Stephen Chen 0:33
  6. Starer - Shades of Blue, Sketches in Color Stephen Chen 0:45
  7. Shostakovich - Prelude, Prelude & Fugue no.4 Stephen Chen 2:45
  8. Shostakovich - Fugue, Prelude & Fugue no.4 Stephen Chen 5:10
  9. Duro - Rainy Day Stephen Chen 1:20
  10. Hauer, Nachklanstudien op. 16 Stephen Chen 1:04
  11. Cowell - Tides of Manaunaun Stephen Chen 2:17
  12. Ravel - Le Jardin Feerique Stephen Chen 2:40
  13. Cage - In the Name of the Holocaust Part 1 Stephen Chen 3:58
  14. Cage - In the Name of the Holocaust Part 2 Stephen Chen 2:04
  15. Crumb - Primeval Sounds (Genesis: Makrokosmos) Stephen Chen 6:41
  16. Mozart - Sonata in A Major Mvt I Stephen Chen 3:56
  17. Bach - Goldberg Variations, selections Stephen Chen 5:55
  18. Mompou - Variations on a theme by Chopin Stephen Chen 7:26
  19. Ravel - Menuet Sur Le Nom D'Haydn Stephen Chen 2:27

I.

Ravel, Prelude
Bartok, Evening in the Country (Ten Easy Pieces)
Copland, Four Piano Blues, no. 1 & 3

Ravel, Bartok, and Copland wrote music that reflected the culture of their home countries. Copland’s later works did not rely on jazz textures as his earlier works did, though many are infused with rhythms suggesting jazz. The 1949 Four Piano Blues, uses ‘blues’ to suggest an informal music of American sound, his equivalent of intermezzi or impromptus.
II.

Mompou, Impresiones Intimas, (selections – Quatro Quejas 1 & 3, La Barca, Secreto)
Ives, The Alcotts (‘Concord’ Sonata)

Mompou’s quiet and introspective Catalonian-infused music as exemplified by his first piano suite, Impresiones Intimas (Intimate Impressions), contrasts with Ive’s brash experimentalism. The third movement of Ive’s ‘Concord’ Sonata, The Alcotts, has frequent stops and starts, changes from one idea to another, and has great contrasts in dynamics and texture. Ives was not interested in ‘pure’ music but in piecing together bits and pieces of musical ideas that are varied and changed, yet The Alcotts has a logical development that is almost Classical in form.
III.

Starer, Bright Orange (Sketches in Color)
Starer, Shades of Blue (Sketches in Color)
Shostakovich, Prelude and Fugue op. 87 no. 4

J.S. Bach was unsurpassed in his mastery of the fugue; only Shostakovich has ever come close with his homage to J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier in his own set of 24 Preludes and Fugues op. 87. Starer’s sparse writing in his set of piano miniatures, Sketches in Color, provide the complement to Shostakovich’s stark Prelude and Fugue no. 4 which builds in intensity, culminating in a dramatic double fugue.
IV.

Duro, Rainy Day (Finger Jogging Boogie)
Hauer, Nachklanstudien op. 16 no. 4
Hauer, Nachklanstudien op. 16 no. 1

Short, very short pieces in fact. Duro’s piece is simple and lyrical, while Hauer experiments with overtones from undampened strings. Nachklanstudien translates loosely as ‘resonances’.
V.

Debussy, La Cathedrale Engloutie (Preludes, Book 1)
Cowell, Tides of Manaunaun (Three Irish Legends)
Ravel, Le Jardin Feerique (Ma Mere l’Oye – solo piano transcription)

The three pieces in this set are linked by their nature-related mythical themes as well as their composers, who are considered the masters and pioneers in exploiting the moods and tone colors of the piano.Debussy’s La Cathedrale Engloutie is an impressionistic rendering of a sunken cathedral that rises from the depths of a shimmering lake once every hundred years for an hour before disappearing again.

The theme of water from La Cathedrale becomes the link to Cowell’s Tides of Manaunaun where the use of tone clusters evokes the tides the Irish god Manaunaun used to move particles and matter before Creation that later gods used to build suns and worlds.

Ravel’s Le Jardin Feerique continues the theme of creation by expressing the wonder of rebirth as Beauty and the Beast (now the Prince) walk through the enchanted garden after his transformation whereupon the dead garden comes magically to life.
VI.

Cage, In the Name of the Holocaust (part I, part II)
Crumb, Primeval Sounds (Genesis I) from Makrokosmos I

In the Name of the Holocaust is an example of Cage’s extensive work with the prepared piano. As a result of space restrictions at a small theatre in Seattle, Cage developed the prepared piano as a replacement for a percussion orchestra by placing various household objects between the strings of a baby grand piano. In addition, this piece requires the performer to play directly on the strings themselves.

Makrokosmos, composed by Crumb three decades later, is a set of 12 pieces inspired by the Zodiac and mythical themes that further extend the tonal colors of the piano. This piece requires the performer to create overtones by touching the piano strings as well as drop a chain onto the bass strings during a glissandi.
VII.

Mozart, Sonata in A major KV 331, 1st movement

The first movement of a classical Sonata is usually in the sonata-allegro form. Mozart turns that convention around by writing a charming set of theme and variations for the first movement of his Sonata in A major; which is the perfect complement to the final movement inof the Sonata, the oft-played Rondo Alla Turca.
VIII.

Bach, Goldberg Variations, selections(var. XVIII, III, VII, IX, XV, XIII, XXX)

J.S. Bach’s great set of 30 variations – an intricately constructed passacaglia with every third variation written as a canon.
IX.

Mompou, Variations on a theme by Chopin, selections (var. III, IV, VIII, X)
Ravel, Menuet Sur Le Nom D’Haydn

Consisting of twelve variations and an epilogue based on Chopin’s Prelude No. 7, Mompou’s work draws on themes and forms used by that earlier ‘poet of the piano’ and imbues it with his own brand of harmonic dissonances (and consonances)

Ravel takes Haydn’s name and transforms it into a musical motif that is interwoven into the Minuet under different guises. The notes that comprise the motif are b(H)-a(A)-d(Y)-d(D)-g(N).

21 April 2002 | 4:00 PM
“Music & Arts” series @ Holy Triniy Lutheran

28 April 2002 | 4:00 PM
Bethany Lutheran (abridged)
Stephen Chen, Piano