Spencer Myer - Notes


Sonata in G Major, Hob. XVI:40 Haydn

From his earliest clavichord divertimentos to his last set of 3 piano works created in London, Haydn wrote more than 60 solo keyboard sonatas. The Sonata in G Major, Hob. XVI:40 was one of the three such compositions that he had created in 1784. These three sonatas (Hob.XVI:40-42), written when Haydn's fame - and the associated demand for his music - was spreading like wildfire across Europe, were created for the talented home pianist rather than the concert virtuoso. Each comprises two movements. The G major Sonata first Allegro Innocente movement alternates strains of major and minor keys, with the opening motive returning several times in varied form. The following Presto is a whirlwind rondo with some brilliant passagework at the close.

Piano Variations (1930) Copland

Perhaps this most characteristic of Copland's modernist works aptly reflects his particular austerity of means in a context of angular melodies, irregular rhythms, and pungent harmonies. The germinal material of the Variations is a four-note motive (E - C - D sharp - C sharp). Its compact collection of intervals gives rise to the tangy harmonies that so strongly characterize the work. The theme and 20 variations flow into one other without interruption; however, the traditional roles of the theme and its first variation are reversed, the initial statement of the theme making a strident and dramatic entrance, but the first variation presenting a simpler, more subdued version. Variations one through 11 treat the theme in a generally straightforward, rough and dissonant manner. Variations 12 through 18 are more rhythmically active and of a little lighter tone, at times taking on a scherzo character. Variations 19 and 20 provide the impetus for a buildup into a tremendous coda.

Jeux d’Eau Sonatine Ravel

In his autobiographical sketch, Ravel described Jeux d’Eau in the following words: ‘This piece is inspired by the sound of water, and the musical sounds produced by fountains, waterfalls and streams; it is based on two themes, in the manner of the first movement of a sonata, although it does not stick to the classical tonal scheme’. In it, water is represented by sensuous arpeggio “waves” of ninth and eleventh chords, as well as seconds.
Two years after Jeux d’Eau, Ravel returned to a more traditional form: the sonata, which seemed to have come to a dead end during the second half of the nineteenth century. His Sonatine is a finely wrought piece, its three movements evocative of the most refined objets d’art of the 18th century. Ravel limits himself mainly to the middle octaves of the piano, and imbues the work with crystalline fluidity, through light coloring and texture.

Five Préludes from Opus 32 Rachmaninoff

Preludes Op. 32 contains 13 solo piano preludes, composed in 1910. In No. 3, chord and octave technique figures heavily in that brilliant March. No. 5 is a gentle and lyrical Nocturne, and a soaring melody above an arpeggio accompaniment. After a short cadenza, a change to a minor key, and a rousing climax, the prelude ends quietly. No. 8 features typical rhythmic drive and sweeping figurations. No. 12, similar In texture to number 5, is far more intense and driven. and infused with Rachmaninoff's characteristic melancholy. No.13 is a pastiche quoting several other preludes of this set. Nevertheless, it is a magnificent and effective conclusion.

Four Rags Bolcom

In the late '60s, there arose a renewed interest in the music of the greatest ragtime composer, Scott Joplin, spurring several American composers to write their own rags. Born in Seattle, William Bolcom had studied at Mills College and the Paris Conservatoire with Darius Milhaud and was introduced to Joplin's music in 1967. Since then he has been a tireless advocate for the music both as a composer and a performer, and has written over 20 rags. The origin of The Brooklyn Dodge, a very light and pleasant piece, remains slightly mysterious. The Poltergeist explores practically every "frozen" appoggiatura and substitution in the harmonic book, and is part of Bolcom's so-called "Ghost Rags", along with the Graceful Ghost Rag, written in memory of his father, and which has become his single most famous of these works. The rag fantasia The Serpent's Kiss, is part a set of four rags called "The Garden of Eden", and precedes one final piece, which conjures the amusing image of Adam and Eve calmly "cakewalking" their way out of Paradise, after the Fall.