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ProfundityAn Ode to J.S. Bach (without actually playing J.S.

Bach)
Faculty Recital by Jeff Manchur
Edward E. MacTaggart Department of Music, Marietta College
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
7:30 PM
Alma McDonough Auditorium

Program:
Minuet in G

Christian Petzold (1677-1733)

Piano Fantasy Wenn ich einmal sol scheiden (2008)

Richard Danielpour (b. 1956)

Sonata in Ab, Op. 110 (1821)


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
I.
Moderato cantabile molto espressivo
II.
Allegro Molto
III.
Adagio ma non troppo: Arioso dolente Fuga (Allegro ma non troppo) Arioso Fuga

(Pause)

De Profundis (1992)

Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)

Program Notes
To my ears, there is little music that is more profound than any single piece in the entire oeuvre of
J.S. Bach (1685-1750). His music speaks, declaims, sighs and sings, and his handling of texture yields
endless depths of discovery. Even if not famous in his time, most of the great composers that follow
him studied his compositions and owe much to his work, even when stylistic diversity seems to cloud
that fact (consider Mozart). As a result, his music is directly or indirectly the basis of everything that
has been written from his lifetime until today. This is unequivocally true for pianists: no thorough
education on the instrument is complete without a study of several of his works, a litmus test for
clarity of texture and phrasing. As a performer, the technique to perform Bach well is quite literally in
everything that I do, so much that it occurred to me that in order to devote an entire recital to him, I
need not necessarily play anything by him, though why not choose works which explicitly reference
his style.
Beethoven is a prime examplestudying counterpoint as a composer and Bachs Well Tempered
Clavier as a keyboardist, his works incorporated more overt Bach references as he grew older. This
penultimate Sonata incorporates two fugues in the final movement, and each preceded by an arioso,

full of the lament and pathos found in a Baroque era operatic aria. The entire work is organically
conceived such that motives from the fugue and arioso constitute much of the material of the first
and second movements. These opening movements bare more resemblance to a traditional sonata;
the first is cast in sonata form, but more development happens in the recapitulation section than in
the largely sequential development section. The second movement is a Scherzo and Trio, based on
two bawdy folk songs. As a whole, this work is sublime, late Beethoven at his finest. Its always
important to remember that Beethoven was completely deaf when he wrote this.
A virtuoso showpiece, the Danielpour Piano Fantasy references a chorale from Bachs St. Matthew
Passion. Motives from it are recast using a wealth of 19th century virtuoso piano tropes, culminating
in a grand romantic fugue. Out of the shadows of the fugal climax, we finally hear the chorale itself,
phrase by phrase, cast in an aura of impressionistic sonority. This piece is profound in the sense that
it is a modern, sentimental take on the 19th century piano showpiece.
And finally, the Rzewski, truly the most profound piece on the program. There is a fugue in the
middle, and a harpsichord-esque toccata, but in my opinion the Bach reference has more to do with
the nature of the piece. This is a piece for speaking pianist; the performer narrates and plays;
selections from the letter that Oscar Wilde wrote his male lover from prison serves as text. Rzewski
freely rearranges the Wilde material, creating eight spoken sections, each preceded by a non-spoken
prelude (each of which features some vocalization, sung, or otherwise acted bit). The result is less a
call for equality in sexual orientation (although that is inescapable given the background), but more a
meditation on suffering in inescapable, given circumstances. Moving from haughty to despair and
ending in optimistic reform, the work closes with the realization: Now I try to say to myself, and
sometimes, when I am not torturing myself, do really say: what a beginning; what a wonderful
beginning. As much an actor as a pianist, the performer must transcend piano playing, just in the same
way that Bachs music transcends mere expression to something far more spiritual, or, profound.
jeff.manchur.com