Monday, 4 February 2013

I wouldn't change a note...

This probably sounds harsh, but it's not very often that I find myself able to say about a piece of music, 'I wouldn't change a note of that'.

I've recently come to realise the reason for this is that there are particular compositional elements in music which are significant for me - particular harmonies, chord progressions, and rhythms: however, in most 'well-balanced' compositions, these elements will not be used extensively, since unless the music is minimalist, excessive use of one particular element would be against the rules of 'correct' composing. (This is why I'm interested in minimalism: it gives me 'permission' to write an entire piece consisting solely of just a few musical elements.)

My favorite composers all have one thing in common: a large proportion of their output contains sections (the key word here is 'sections') that make use of these compositional elements which I've identified as being special to me. However, it is extremely unusual for an entire work or movement of work to make exclusive use of these elements, and the sections that do are usually very brief - anything from a page or two to only a few bars long!

The point of this post is to share some of those rare pieces that are perfect to me, so perfect I wouldn't change anything about them. This list is very incomplete; I may add to it over time, but for now it's restricted to music that a) I can find on youtube and b) is "classical".

Ravel: Daphnis & Chloe - Lever du jour (arranged for 2 pianos)
This is an unusual Youtube discovery. I love the original version of Daphnis & Chloe, but I have always prefered piano texture to orchestral texture, and just by chance I came across this incredible arrangement for two pianos of my favorite movement, Lever du jour. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever heard; the pianists and arranger are geniuses.

Steve Reich: Electric counterpoint - 3rd movement
Music for 18 musicians
Six marimbas
Music for large ensemble
As one of my favorite composers of all time, Steve Reich is right up there with Ravel, and a big inspiration to me. His music always amazes me because he uses musical elements I consider perfect, and uses them exclusively. The 3rd movement of Electric Counterpoint is a particularly good example since it consists of two of my all-time favorite chord progressions. It's kind of creepy, actually, because it's like Reich and I share an identical aesthetic understanding.

Messiaen - Regard de l'Esprit de joie
I first heard this piece from the Vingt Regards played by Konrad Olszewski during the 2012 Sydney International Piano Competition, and it rendered me speechless. I still have no words to describe it, although 'utter perfection' comes close.
It's extremely unfortunate that the recording of Konrad's performance in SIPCA is no longer on the web, since I haven't yet been able to find an interpretation of this piece which I like as much as his. Pierre-Laurent Aimard will have to do...

Ginastera: Piano Sonata No. 1 - 4th movement
I discovered this extraordinary piece completely by accident when browsing Youtube one day. The first time I heard it, I just sat there gaping from beginning to end. While the whole sonata is a masterpiece, and I particularly love bits of the first movement, this movement is the only one about which I can say 'I wouldn't change a note'.

Leo Ornstein: Piano Sonata No. 8 - movement 2c
How can I even begin to describe how perfect this is? Just listen, and hopefully you will get it too. (Ornstein is brilliant, by the way.)

Rachmaninov: Etude-tableau Op. 39 no. 8
Since Rachmaninov is one of my favorite composers, it's fitting that something by him should make it into this list. I tried to learn this etude a while ago, but had to stop when I started to get RSI! One day...

Bach: D minor concerto - 3rd movement
To even suggest that one might want to change something about a piece of Bach seems preposterous to me, but I love this movement of this particular concerto so much that I thought it deserved a mention. I've learnt the first 2 movements and am half-dreading, half-looking forward to learning the final one, as it's the most atrociously difficult movement to play, but also my favorite.

Rautavaara: Piano concerto no 1 - 1st movement

No comments:

Post a Comment