February 14, 2019

Piano Fun on the Internet

As a change of pace, here are some fun piano-related activities for families to do on the Internet:

Watch and listen to this brief history of the piano at https://youtu.be/63snnLQqBLQ
Watch how a piano is made at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAInt7hIZlU

Try these piano inspired music activities including crafts, motor activities and play: https://www.andnextcomesl.com/2016/02/piano-inspired-music-activities-for-kids.html
These piano games help get kids excited about piano lessons: https://fireinsidemusic.com/kid-piano-games/
Play these online games to learn how to read piano notes: https://takelessons.com/blog/learning-piano-notes

A piano can be an expensive investment, so here are some factors to consider when buying one: http://www.ptg.org/document//36/
The piano teacher makes a real difference in helping you to learn how to play. Here are tips of the Piano Teachers Federation on choosing the right teacher: http://pianoteachersfederation.org/Choosing_the_Right_Teacher
A piano needs care just like any other musical instrument. Here are tasks you can do at home to keep your piano in good condition: https://www.yamaha.com/en/musical_instrument_guide/piano/maintenance/

Think of all the steps in involved in piano performance: making and selling and fixing pianos; writing and publishing piano compositions; learning and teaching how to play the piano; performing for competitions and at a workplace; recording and producing piano performances; incorporating piano music in education and health. Any of these careers could be the (piano) key to success.

January 30, 2019

Ravel’s Take on Madagascar

At her November 2018 concert, Tomoko performed Ravel’s "Chansons madecasses" with flautist Tod Brody, cellist Eric Gaenslen, and soprano Miwako Isano. 

This composition, written in 1925-1926, marked a turning point in Ravel’s career, when he focused more on melody and linear ensembles. The music is very impressionistic with its evocative sensuality. Ravel had a long-term interest in ethnic music. However, the work veered away from his usual Spanish inspiration. Apparently, Malagasy traditional music was known in France at that time. 

The text is based on the 18th century Creole poet Evariste-Desire de Parny, whom Ravel was reading when he was commissioned to write a chamber work. The poems cry for liberation from Madagascar’s colonialism and slavery. 

The first song, “Nahandove,” recounts a native woman’s section. The voice interprets the story as the other instruments provide an evocative landscape.

The second song, “Aoua!!”, shrieks about dangerous white men. The title’s rendition in minor thirds, the piano’s percussive role, the undulating flute, and the ensemble’s bitonality together paint a sharp warning picture. 

The third song, “Il est doux de se coucher,” begins with a melancholy flute, evoking the end of the day (the song is translated as “it is sweet to lie down”). The voice then takes center stage, seems to drift off, and then bristly ends – to the realities of day.

Altogether, Ravel’s experimental music embodies the text in a dramatic and erotic way. Today’s listeners feel the quartet’s pull in a very immediate way.

January 19, 2019

Dueting with Mozart

Mozart is one of Tomoko’s favorite composers, so it is no surprise that she started her November 18th concert with his Sonata for Violin and Piano in B-flat Major, K 378 (317d), playing duet with violinist Robin Hansen.

This sonata was written in Salzburg in 1779 after returning from a disappointing tour. It is one of the six sonatas dedicated to Josepha Barbara Auernhammer, one of his piano students. This sonata demonstrates Mozart’s transition into his late style in which the instruments have an intimate dialogue, at the same that they are more large scale. The left hand also gained more expressive patterns and thick chord textures that alternate with the violin part. 

The movements follow a fast-slow-fast pattern. Allegro moderato begins with a melting lyrical theme, and the violin has an offbeat accompaniment. The second theme belongs to the violin, and then the remaining themes reflect duality: in mood -- alternating pathos and cheer – and instrument. Mozart also modulates the upward development in the subsequent slower sensuous movement, and then motions downward and recapitulates the original theme in the lively allegro refrain.

Tomoko’s and Robin’s performance demonstrated the rich partnership of the two instruments.