Music Web Page





Art - Philosophy

Favorite Tunes





Claude Debussy, Preludes book I

Danseuses de Delphes (Dancers of Delphi)
Le vent dans la plaine (The Wind on the Plain)
Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the Snow)
Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest (What the West Wind has seen)
La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair)
La danse de Puck (Puck's Dance)

Patrice Fouillaud Comme un parfum de Mures Sauvages

Giacinto Scelsi, Quattro Illustrazioni

Intermission ------------

Claude Debussy, Preludes book II

Brouillards (Mists)
"Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses" (Fairies are exquisite dancers)
Bruyères (Heather)
La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune (The Terrace of Moonlit Audiences)
Ondine (Undine)
Feux d'artifice (Fireworks)

Nicolò Castiglioni Preludio, Corale e Fuga

Davide Verotta, Surprise

Ludwig van Beethoven. Op 81a, Das Lebewohl


Claude Debussy: Preludes Book I-II (1912-14). Many composers have written preludes, starting from Bach (Well-Tempered Clavier, two sets of 24 preludes in every possible key of the well-tempered tuning system), Couperin (in L'art de Toucher le clavecin), and Rameau (Pièces de Clavecin). Chopin (who composes, with obvious reference to Bach, 24 preludes each in a different key) and Scriabin write preludes, and so does Debussy, and so will many other composers following him (for example Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Shostakovich). Debussy planned to compose 24 preludes, and this constraint perhaps explains the delay in the publication of the second book and the uneven quality of the pieces especially in that book. Four of the preludes from the first set, No.4, 2, 10, and 11, were premiered by Debussy on the 25th of May 1910 at the Societé Musicale Independent. To write about each of the Preludes would require too much space, and I simply describe some of their general features. The Preludes can be seen as part of a general process of innovation which hit the classical musical scene with a vengeance at the beginning of the 20th century, leading to the creation of a bewildering array of vocabularies as alternatives to, or coexisting with, the tonal vocabulary which had dominated western music for four centuries. What is most striking about the music of Debussy is that although it represents a radical departure from tradition, his music remains highly accessible. The musical material in the Preludes is varied and influences come from many different cultural and musical traditions: medieval, non-western, Spanish, and popular. Of particular relevance is the relationship with the music of Java and the gamelan, which appeared on the European scene in 1889 at the Paris Universal Exposition. A developed, powerful, and beautiful music that was completely outside the western idea of what music could and should be, it made a profound impression on Debussy , who in 1906 wrote. "Do you remember the Javanese music, able to express every shade of meaning, even unmentionable shades . . . which make our tonic and dominant seem like ghosts, for use by naughty little children?" The elements of the music of Java borrowed by Debussy are of course highly modified (Debussy does not compose for a Javanese gamelan orchestra!), but one can observe the use of similar scales (pentatonic, whole-tone), the use of brief motives which are often repeated without any, or with minimal, development, and the use of a repeated note that can be heard throughout an entire piece which is certainly reminiscent of the periodic gong stroke of the gamelan cycle.The universe of the Preludes is no longer tonal in the traditional sense. Tonal implications are most often unfulfilled, but one also can find clearly stated and simple progressions, laid out using traditional harmony. Finally, Debussy’s preludes have titles, which appear in parentheses at the end of each piece. Titles here are hints, hidden references, possibly memories of starting inspiration points which might have no relationship with the actual realization of the piece. A good example is “Voiles.” The French word can mean either “sails” or “veils,” and Debussy was quite clear in that he “criticized certain interpretations [of “Voiles”] … insisting that it was not a photograph of the beach or a postcard.” Titles are perhaps best explained with a reference to symbolism, as Mallarmé said about his poetry: "To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the pleasure of the [art] . . . to suggest, herein lies the dream". It was not Debussy's intention to have the complete series played as a whole; he commented: “They are not all good … and pianists do not always choose the best.” Tonight I play a selection from both books. I hope I came up with a good selection.

Giacinto Scelsi, Quattro Illustrazioni. (Four Illustrations) (1953). Born in Italy from an aristocratic family in 1905, the reclusive Italian composer was in contact with much of the intellighensia of his times (among others he was friend with Jean Cocteau and Virginia Wolf). Married twice, received at Buckingham Palace, travelled widely in north Africa, the middle east and India, and eventually settled in Rome. He was one of the first outside the Viennese circle to explore serialism (learned from a student of Shoenberg, Walter Klein), which he soon discarded, and studied the theories of Scriabin, as well as reading Steiner (of the theosophical society) ans his thery about the centrality of single notes in future music. He was influenced by Oriental thought and music and became preoccupied with exploring micro-intervals around single notes, (he built and used instruments for quarters and eights tones, as well as writing music for instrument mis-tuned by fraction of tones), and composed whole pieces for "single notes". He composed prolifically for large and smaller scale combinations of voices and orchestra, as well as for unaccompanied solo singers and instrumentalists and of course piano. A large number of his compositions are transcriptions of improvisations recorded on magnetic tape. The transcription were obtained with the aid of a number of "translatori" (transcribers) working with him. Four Illustrations depicts four incarnations of Vishnu. In the basic Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Hindu god Vishnu is the preserver and protector of creation. Vishnu is the embodiment of mercy and goodness, the self-existent, all-pervading power that preserves the universe and maintains the cosmic order Dharma. Most of the time, good and evil forces are evenly matched in the world. But at times, the balance is destroyed and evil demons get the upper hand. Often in response to a request by the other gods, Vishnu then incarnates in a human form to set the balance right again. 9 Vishnu incarnations are generally recognized as Vishnu avatars, even though some sources also see other important figures of the indian epics as incarnations of Vishnu. The Four Illustrations depict Shesha shayi Vishnu, Vishnu sitting on a large snake; Varaha, or the Boar incarnation of Vishnu, who killed the demon Hiranyaksha, recovered the stolen Veda's and released the Earth from the bottom of the ocean; Rama, the 7th incarnation of Vishnu, who killed the demon King Ravana, who had abducted Sita. Krishna, the 8th incarnation of lord Vishnu: the embodiment of love and divine joy, that destroys all pain and sin, and the protector of sacred utterances and cows. Krishna is a trickster and lover, an instigator of all forms of knowledge and born to establish the religion of love.

Patrice Fouillaud Comme un parfum de Mures Sauvages (1993). To be honest I know very little of Fouillaud. He was born in 1948 at Limoges, France, he studied in the conservatory at Limoges and then in Rome with Donatoni, and he is possibly directing the conservatory of Villeneuve de Roi. I found the score of Comme un parfum de Mures Sauvages in my annual pilgrimage to what is left of the Ricordi music store in Milano, I liked its look on paper and ... here we are listening to it.

Nicolò Castiglioni Preludio, Corale e Fuga (1994). Nicolò Castiglioni was born in Milan in 1932. He studied piano and composition at the Milan Conservatory, and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. From 1958 to 1965 he took part in the "New Music" seminars at Darmstadt that forged so much of the avant-gard in central-southern Europe. He spent the years from 1966 to 1970 in the United States, where he taught composition at the universities of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Washington (Seattle) and California (San Diego). Back in Italy he thought at the Conservatory of Milano for the rest of his life. The composer died in Milan on 7 September 1996. Castiglioni produced a large amount of compositions, stylistically starting for neoclassicism, going through twelve-tone composition, and in particular the serialist and structuralist estetics, that, in the1950s, were coming to dominate the classical music circles not only in Milano, but in most part of the western musical establishment. However soon, and quite prophetically, he moved toward freer systems of composition, producing a personal style that avoided dogmatic positions and did not refrain to use tonality. Considered a refined orchestrator with a predilection for bright and shining sonorities, he had a predilection for shorter forms, but also produced operas and symphonic works of longer duration. Preludio, Corale e Fuga is his take on the corresponding Baroque forms.

Davide Verotta, Surprise (2007) Surprise is a little splashy and noisy piece I composed very quickly. The reason for the title is because I did not have anything ready when the time to publish program notes came by. So I decided to put a Surprise in the program ... it is actually not the title of the piece that in final version will have the placeholder title: . (dot).
A different version called Praeludium might become part of my first attempt to a piano Sonata in three movements: Praeludium, Interfluxum, and Conclusium.

Ludwig van Beethoven,  Op 81a Das Lebewohl (1819). Ludwig van Beethoven is perhaphs the "greatest" composer, in the sense that his writing somehow never fails to reach what is most human and at the same time noble in us. In the musical idiom of the nineteen century he represents a bridge between the later romantic generations (Beethoven was only 22 when Franz Schubert was born and 29 to 31 when Felix Mendelssohn, Frederick Chopin, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt arrived in the world) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn. Born in Bonn, Beethoven flourished in Vienna, despite the fact that he was frequently at odds with its society. His manner was often less than courteous and his rages were notorious. Perhaps a measure of his character was shaped by his teacher in Bonn, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who wrote in his autobiography that he was, “no friend of ceremony and of etiquette,” and he “detested creeps and gossips.” Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas over a period of 27 years and they represent one of the treasures of classical music. They vary widely in form, number of movements, performance times, emotional range, and difficulty. During his lifetime, the Viennese public rarely heard the sonatas in concert; they were the domain of private and semi-private gatherings under the title house music. The only 'theme' sonata ever composed by Beethoven, Das Lebewohl deals with departure, absence, and rejoining. Who might be departing and coming back is left to biographical investigation or methaphore (a lover? a dog, that is a premonition of Lassie's saga? an occasion in life lost and recaptured?), but there are dedications in the original manuscript that indicate a primary source of inspiration ('The Farewell, Vienna May 4, 1809, on the departure of the reverend Archduke Rudolph', for the first movement, and 'The Arrival of His Imperial Highness the Reverend Archduke Rudolph, January 30, 1810', for the last movement). The first movement of the sonata uses as a germ a simple descending motive of three notes (the first notes we hear: G, F, E-flat), a musical setting of the word  le-be-wohl ('farewell') that is written over the notes in the manuscript. The movement starts with a short, slow introduction followed by a faster main section, which introduces a secondary, beautifully soaring, motive, and ends with repeated statements of the lebewohl motive.The second movement (The Absence), marked Adagio, is also built around the lebewohl motive, now further developed in a somber (minor) mode. The last movement (The Return), marked Vivacissimamente ('very fast') closes the sonata in one sweeping movement of happiness and wonder, only briefly interrupted by two more restrained short episodes.

Program notes by Davide Verotta



Site Designed by
Click on Images for Surprise Links