Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Many happy returns

An unusually interesting combination of composer birthdays today: Rachmaninov, Busoni, and Bergsma. ("How does he know this?" See this post.)

Sergei Rachmaninov is a composer I've tried not to enjoy for years. I was convinced he was a post-romantic hack, all sloppy emotion and piano pyrotechnics with no substance. On Sunday, however, I went to a performance of the orchestral Symphonic Dances, and I gave up. The music was too good, and trying not to enjoy it was too much work. This does not mean that I'm quite willing to forgive him for inflicting the op. 2 C-sharp minor Prelude upon the world, but progress is progress.

Ferruccio Busoni is just really interesting. His Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music anticipates compositional trends like microtones and electronic music. His actual music, while not quite as exciting as this would suggest, is quite forward-looking, bordering on atonality in places. I treasure his delightfully overblown Bach transcriptions for solo piano; occasionally I will take out his arrangement of the organ Toccata, Adagio and Fugue and try to play it. Once you stop laughing at the sheer audacity, his transcriptions are a musical world all of their own. One of the compositions I most want to hear performed is the Busoni piano concerto, which supposedly introduces a male chorus in the last movement. Any composer that would think of an idea like that is worth getting to know.

Who's William Bergsma? A forgotten American composer, that's who. I've heard one Bergsma work in my lifetime - the Chameleon Variations. It's very nice.

Since I last posted, I performed one of the scariest organ recitals programmes ever - the Allegro of Widor's Fifth Symphony, Bach's c- Trio sonata, Durufle's Prelude and Fugue sur le nom d'ALAIN, and Sowerby's Pageant. I am NEVER playing a programme like that again - there was nowhere in the entire programme where I could take a rest, just pages and pages of difficult music full of potential pitfalls. It went quite well, though, considering the circumstances.

As you were.

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