It is required for IU East music students to perform a recital on their instrument in their last year. As a member of the Honors Program, I wanted to make my recital a learning experience and engage the audience by presenting them with valuable information on the music before playing it. Below are the videos from this performance.
To perform a work of music well it is important to understand the mind behind it. I took some time to research these great composers and the pieces of theirs that I would play. As I learned, my admiration for these composers grew, which vastly enhanced my performance.
Johann Sebastian Bach: Two-Part Invention in G Minor BVW 782 Two-Part Invention in F Major BVW 779
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and master of the Baroque era. Bach wrote the Two-Part Inventions at a mid-point in his musical career while serving as director of music for Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Cothen, Germany, around the year 1717. Prince Leopold and his court had adopted Calvinistic religious views, so church services required little musical attention. Calvinists believed in simplicity in worship and found the use of instruments to be a distraction from God. Nonetheless, his musical curiosity did not wane for Prince Leopold was keenly interested in instrumental music for use outside the church, and Bach was to constantly be at work writing it. As director of music Bach did not only compose for the Prince, but taught students, as well. The Inventions were written as study pieces with the special purpose of strengthening one’s skill at the keyboard and inspiring an inclination for composition. They belong to a larger group of twenty-four Inventions that explore all major and minor keys. They consist of a three-part form, more specifically a version of the ternary, ABA, form. They are both an excellent example of counterpoint, a musical technique in which two independent melodies work together to create a satisfying whole. The Two-Part Invention in G Minor is characterized by a sixteenth note melody. Here, Bach plays with contrasting contours, where one melody ascends while the other descends. The Two-Part Invention in F Major uses a canonical technique throughout, where the melody is presented in one hand and immediately repeated by the other hand.
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in C Minor No. 8, Op. 13 “Pathetique” I. Grave–Allegro di molto e con brio
Beethoven wrote the “Grande Sonate Pathétique,” as it came to be known, in 1798 when he was 27 years old. The publisher, who thought it described the tragic and impassioned character of the piece, gave it this title and the piece garnered much success. It is known that during this time Beethoven had already begun to lose his hearing and the turmoil brought about by that is apparent in this work. Apart from the emotional aspects, Beethoven pushes himself to be inventive by moving to unusual key areas and disheveling structure. The piece is in sonata-allegro form, which is an expansion of the ternary form and standard practice of the time. Yet, Beethoven purposefully disarranges the traditional form with the inclusion of the slow introduction and interrupting grave sections that recur. This enhances the constant struggle between tragedy and triumph, which is an overarching theme of the piece.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Prelude in B Minor No. 10, Op. 32
Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who was heavily influenced by the Romantic lyricism of his predecessor, Tchaikovsky. Russian composers of the late 1800s were very nationalistic and implemented their pride for country in their music. However, Tchaikovsky desired authenticity over patriotism and it is with this ideology that Rachmaninoff connected to the older composer. As the musical innovations of the early 1900s began to take root, Rachmaninoff remained in the Romantic traditions of the past, preferring emotionalism over modernism. In 1909, Rachmaninoff gave a successful tour of the United States, in which he premiered his Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 and secured his name as a talented pianist and composer. In 1910, he returned to the simplicity of solo piano music and finished his set of 24 preludes in all major and minor keys with the Preludes, Op. 32. Not often did Rachmaninoff write pieces with ties to other art mediums, but a painting called The Homecoming by Arnold Böcklin inspired the Prelude in B Minor. The piece explores dark sonorities with its entrancing, bell-like tones and lofty, lilting melody.
Claude Debussy: Suite Pour Le Piano
Claude Debussy was a French composer and is one of the most famous names in music of the 20th century. During the 19th century, the Germans, from Beethoven to Richard Wagner, dominated musical development. As a response, French composers like Debussy and Maurice Ravel were trying to revive the music and forms of French composers from the past. Debussy’s Suite: Pour le Piano was named after the dance suites of the Renaissance and Baroque eras and is his way of paying homage to the French musical minds that emerged before him. It was completed in 1901 and is in three movements. The first movement is entitled “Prelude” and acts as an introduction. The second movement, which actually dates from 1894, is entitled “Sarabande,” a slow dance form in 3/4 time. The third movement is entitled “Toccata.” A toccata is a virtuoso piece that is characterized by rapid passages and ceaseless motion. The Suite highlights many qualities that uniquely characterize his music: The dreamy whole tone scale, lush chords that hang motionless in the air like shapeless clouds, and the incessant motion that keeps the music alive. Debussy’s innovations to traditional form and structure opened the door to many musical transformations that were to come.
Tyler Johnson: UMKC Piece (2015)
This piece was written as a practice in composition and as a preparation for a composition workshop in 2015 at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, hence the name UMKC Piece. Its structure is much like that of Bach’s Two-Part Inventions but its harmonic framework is based on the octatonic scale, a device favored by 20th century composers. It is a short, lighthearted work and is characterized by a jagged melody that is first introduced normally, then immediately inverted. In the middle section, the melody is presented twice as slow. Finally, it returns again in its original form during the last moments of the piece.
This piece was written in the fall of 2015 as a requirement for the school semester. It draws its name from the dictionary definition of “parasite.” The piece explores the notion of parasitical forces that slowly drain one’s energy and affect how one functions. While the work does not follow a seamless structure, it is bookended by the initial opening statement and certain themes reoccur throughout.