The Festival for Creative Pianists
Mesa State College
Moss Performing Arts Center Recital Hall
Grand Junction, CO
Friday, March 21, 2008
Part 1: John Salmon
Professor of Piano, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.Is It Bach? Brubeck? Or Bubba*? (see notes on pp. 2-3)
*Explanatory Note: bubba = a thumping but genial Southerner, in this case, your pianist, born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas.
Part 2: Anthony Olson
Associate Professor of Piano, Northwest Missouri State University
Got Gottschalk?Piano Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk (see notes on pp. 4-6)
(1829-1869)Bamboula, danse des nègres, Op. 2 (1849)
by John Salmon University of North Carolina – Greensboro
This editorial is from The College Music Society March 2002 Newsletter (Electronic Version) and is reprinted with kind permission of CMS
Scholars of sonata form will pardon my paraphrase of Fontenelle's eighteenth–century query, "Sonata, what do you want of me?," reformulated here for present–day performers as "Ürtext, what do you want of me?"
We live in an age that values the Ürtext, and that is a good thing. While I cannot speak for other instrumentalists (oboists, trumpeters, guitarists, and all those that make up the study of performance at the college level), I know that pianists are very concerned with the editions from which they learn or teach masterworks. Gone are the days when piano teachers assign a Beethoven sonata without discussion of the recommended edition(s).
Never mind, for a moment, that the precise function and format of an Ürtext edition differ from publisher to publisher. Some editions include extensive annotation and information on sources; others offer virtually no added commentary – let alone that two Ürtext editions of the same piece are likely to differ, sometimes substantially. Reading of texts to determine a composer's intentions, to make interpretative decisions, and to express what is written and connoted, isn't for the faint of heart or for those who fear exploring murky areas.
Yet I perceive, at least among piano teachers, a certain overvaluing of the Ürtext, as if "textual fidelity" were an absolute, and tampering with the text were a sacrilege. In my view, the Ürtext is nothing more than a fertile bed from which all kinds of textual manipulations and free fantasy can sprout. Imagination and the id must be at the heart of any truly compelling performance (bolstered, to be sure, by left–brained activity, such as comparing texts and studying style). This includes the possibility of changing notes, if the situation warrants, or actually improvising.
Long before the National Association of Schools of Music decided that our music students needed to have some exposure to the practice of improvising music, most musicians of every culture have improvised. In the Western canon, it is worth recalling that many great composers were also great improvisers, including J. S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt.
Every now and then, a student shows me a critique from some well–meaning judge who noted in the student's performance an omission of a "standard ornament" in a Bach invention. Alas, we live in an age of literalism! Far more perverse, in my estimation, is to perform Bach's inventions (and suites and toccatas) always with the same ornamentation. Assuming Bach had time to perform his works more than once, it is conceivable that he would have changed them at every performance. Evidence thereof exists in the 1723 variant of his C Major Invention, where Bach replaced triplets with sixteenth notes (see Alfred Publishing Co. Edition of the complete Two–Part Inventions).
Or what about Mozart, who sometimes barely had time to write down the notes before a first performance -- particularly of the piano concertos, expecting to fill in at the moment certain Eingang (lead-in) and Durchgang (passing tone) passages, not to mention complete cadenzas?
Even Beethoven, who made his mark in Vienna first as an improviser, was a notable "adder of notes" to his own compositions, as Czerny relates in his "Anecdotes and Notes About Beethoven." This makes Czerny's later admonition highly ironic that "the player must by no means allow himself to alter the composition, nor to make any addition or abbreviation." Perhaps Czerny was still smarting from that 1816 letter he received from Beethoven, chiding the young Czerny for having changed Beethoven's written score. Surely Beethoven wasn't pooh-poohing the whole idea of tampering with the text, only Czerny's unimaginative brutish efforts.
And Chopin's notorious habit of allowing varying versions of his works to be published probably reflects his own improvisational disposition. He was forever changing his mind about fioritura ("flowering") flourishes. I see no reason not to experiment with my own versions of, say, the various repeated episodes of Chopin's B Major Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 3. If Chopin experimented with his own works, why shouldn't I?
"Ah, but that would require erudition, taste, and a knowledge of keyboard harmony," you may retort collectively. Hmm. Fancy that! Imagine seeing that dominant chord in third inversion in bar 34 of Bach's E Major Sinfonia and knowing that you can add, among many other possibilities, a descending and ascending scale in the soprano voice, a little lead-in, connecting to bar 35. What a triumph of stylistic and theoretical awareness: a celebration of imagination!
There are several philosophical subtexts to these suggestions -- for one, that the "work of art," at least in the realm of musical composition, is not the score but the performed piece, perhaps differing at times from the printed page. Notice too that this argument gives hierarchical primacy to the performer over the composer, or at least equal partnership, in making the music come to life. In this regard, I imagine that the relationship of composer to performer is much more akin to the relationship of playwright to director-actor. Every actor who has ever performed a role knows that absolute "textual fidelity" is a myth, that phrases and words can be changed to make a more powerful presentation. To the question "How has Tennessee Williams survived all those permutations of his original script?" must be answered "Only with those vital actors and their 'permutations' who take risks and bring the play to life with spontaneity and conviction!"
A work of art isn't some immutable Platonic ideal. The music isn't on the page. It is in the air, filtered through the performer's imagination. Don't tell me not to enter the compositional world of Scarlatti, Ravel, and even present-day composer Lowell Liebermann -- all of whom wrote music of improvisational character. I once asked composer Kenneth Frazelle if he minded if I (or other pianists) were to change his score. He replied, "If it makes the piece better" -- a challenging answer, to be sure. But why shouldn't performers know as much about the pieces they play as the composers who wrote them? That immersion, including the freedom to change notes, redefines our relation to the Ürtext, even as it injects the interpreter's art with a new vitality.
These notes summarize Dr. Anthony Olson's upcoming article in The Piano Journal entitled "From Parisian Dandy to Musical Carpetbagger: The Life of an American Icon."
Louis Moreau Gottschalk was perhaps the most truly "American" of all musician in the nineteenth century. Born in New Orleans, on May 8, 1829, he led a high-paced and fascinating life until his death in Brazil on December 18, 1869.
Moreau, as he was called by his family, showed an aptitude for music by the age of three. His father pushed him to excel and he was given music lessons from several local musicians. By the time he was seven, he had enough skill to play for mass at the cathedral where the family worshiped.
In the mid-nineteenth century, New Orleans was perhaps the best place in America to develop as a young musician. Public support for the performing arts was immense and concert-going permeated all levels of nineteenth century New Orleans society. Rich and poor alike flocked to the opera, the concert hall and the theatre. This was an experience unlike anywhere else in America; New Orleans was a city in which 25,000 whites and 15,000 free people of color mingled freely at concerts and the theatre. A city with a population of 40,000 supported four professional opera companies numerous orchestras and many other musical organizations. Growing up in this atmosphere, Moreau Gottschalk developed quickly.
In 1841, his father sent him to Paris for more intense training at the famous Paris Conservatory. Upon his arrival, the head of the conservatory's piano department, Pierre Zimmerman, sent him away without even an audition. "America," Zimmerman said, "is only a land of steam engines." Gottschalk ended up studying privately outside the conservatory.
One of the most important aspects of Gottschalk's education in Paris was the cultural scene. Paris was the center of the pianistic world in the nineteenth century. The German poet Heinrich Heine wrote "the piano virtuosos come to Paris every year like swarms of locusts." Gottschalk quickly learned that not all great players enjoyed success as a touring virtuoso; one had to have the right personality and disposition. Many great players of the time failed as traveling performers. Johann Hummel, for example, was considered a wizard at the keyboard but Gottschalk heard him play and was disappointed to see "a fat man with a bourgeois face and an awkward gait, wearing a long landlord's coat, with a black skullcap that he never took off even in his concerts." Gottschalk learned these lessons well and applied them in his career.
Gottschalk's highly acclaimed debut recital took place in April of 1845 in the Salle Pleyel, one of the most famous of the Parisian salons. The program included Chopin's E minor piano concerto and fantasies by Liszt and Thalberg. Chopin was in attendance and praised Gottschalk's playing after the performance. Gottschalk immediately capitalized on his success and toured throughout France and Switzerland with spectacular success. Reviews ranked him a better performer than Liszt and Thalberg, the two most highly acclaimed European pianists of the time.
One of the pieces that Gottschalk played during his first season of performances was Bamboula. This work is one of four original pieces that became known as the "Louisiana Quartet." Critics were captivated by the poignant melodies and syncopated rhythms that permeate the works; they hailed Gottschalk as the first eloquent and authentic musical spokesman of the New World. Bamboula was inspired by a song from the West Indies that Gottschalk had learned from his grandmother and her slave, both of whom were from St. Domingue. This piece was the first of many in which he transformed West Indian dance tunes into classical compositions.
While touring in Europe, Gottschalk drew inspiration from traditional European music, especially dance rhythms. The Tournament Galop is based on a European ballroom dance called the galop. A Galop is a fast dance in 2/4 time and was one of the most popular ballroom dance forms of the early 19th century. Both the name and the dance steps themselves are derived from the galloping gait of horses.
Many European composers wrote galops. Schubert wrote two galops; Viennese composers such as Johann Strauss senior, and Johann Strauss junior wrote a large number of galops. Galops were also used in operas in the nineteenth century. The most famous example is Rossini's overture to the opera William Tell. Examples of the galop as a piano showpiece can be seen in Liszt's Grand galop chromatique and in this piece by Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
Souvenir de Porto Rico
Gottschalk returned to American in 1853, but after touring the United States for just three years, he had had enough. In 1856, he sailed to the Bahamas and settled in to devote himself to composing. He spent the next five years in Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Cuba writing numerous dance-inspired pieces, a few operas and articles for the American and French press.
The Souvenir de Porto Rico is among the works written during this time. The piece is one of Gottschalk's most charming and uniquely "Caribbean" compositions. It uses Porto Rican rhythmic motives and quotes a Porto Rican Christmas song.
When the American Civil War broke out, Gottschalk, a staunch Unionist, suddenly found himself in pro-secessionist Cuba. He quickly searched out a profitable contract to tour in the US again and was soon in New York playing for American audiences. He immediately launched into a brutal performing schedule. He spent the next three years touring the northern states, appearing in about 1,100 recitals and traveling over 95,000 miles by rail.
One of the works that he frequently programmed was The Union. Dedicated to General McClellan of the union army, this piece is perhaps the most truly "American" piece of music ever written for the piano. It foreshadows a musical trademark that is associated with Charles Ives in its use of musical quotations. In addition to imitating the sounds of war with musical depictions of canon blasts, battle sounds, drum rolls and bugle calls, The Union fantasy quotes the presidential march and a couple other American tunes that you will likely recognize.
A few final thoughts about Gottshcalk's music
Although looked down on by some today as being trite and empty, Gottschalk's music was an expression of the time in which it was written. A very practical musician who earned his living as a performer, he catered to the tastes of the time in order to meet the needs of the audiences for which he performed. He was by no means an 'advanced' composer, even in terms of his own day, but his sensitivity to local color enabled him to foreshadow American musical developments that would not take place until the very end of the nineteenth century. The syncopated rhythms and jagged melodic lines of many of his pieces boldly prophesy the coming of ragtime and jazz – styles of American music that would not develop until several decades after Gottschalk's death.
As John Doyle wrote, "Gottschalk was the first American musician to use the folk idiom and rhythm of this hemisphere in serious composition. Had other composers followed his lead, an American school might have resulted much earlier. Instead, Americans of Gottschalk's time were dominated by European musical traditions, and they continued to flock to Germany, returning only with pale imitations of Brahms and Wagner."
Recommended resources on Gottschalk
Starr, S. Frederick. Bamboula!: the Life and Times of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. This book is an amazing resource for studying the life of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Not only is this book highly scholarly, it is also very delightful to read.
Gottschalk, Louis Moreau. Piano Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973. An excellent addition to any personal library of scores. The pieces in this collection range from intermediate-level "salon entertainments" to advanced "pyrotechnical workouts."
Works cited or consulted
Bernard, Kenneth A. Lincoln and the Music of the Civil War, by Kenneth A. Bernard. Caldwell: Caxton Printers, 1966.
Brockett, Clyde W. "Gottschalk in Madrid: A Tale of Ten Pianos," The Musical Quarterly 75/3 (Autumn 1991): pp. 279-315.
Crawford, Richard. America's Musical Life: a History. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.
Doyle, John Godfrey. The Piano Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Thesis. New York University, 1974.
Gottschalk, Louis Moreau. Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra. New York: Boosey and Hawkes, 1964.
–––. Piano Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973.
–––. The Piano Works of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, in five volumes. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times, 1969.
Hensel, Octavia. Life and Letters of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1870.
Howard, John Tasker. "Louis Moreau Gottschalk, as Portrayed by Himself," The Musical Quarterly 18/1 (Jan 1932): pp. 120-133.
Korf, William E. "Gottschalk's One-act Opera Scene, Escenas Campestres," Current Musicology 26 (1978): p. 62
Lindstrom, Carl E. "The American Quality in the Music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk," The Musical Quarterly 31/3 (Jul 1945): pp 356-366.
Loggins, Vernon. Where the Word Ends: the Life of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1958.
Lowens, Irving. Music and Musicians in Early America. New York: W. W. Norton, 1964.
Macy, L., ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online, http:www.grovemusic.com. Articles on Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Franz Liszt, Sigismond Thalberg, Stephen Foster, Nicolò Paganini, Brazil, Spain, Cuba, United States of America, Galop, Flamenco and Bolero.
Offergeld, Robert. The centennial catalogue of the published and unpublished compositions of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. New York: Stereo Review, 1970.
Ritter, Frédéric Louis. Music in America. New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1890.
Schechter, John M., ed. Music in Latin American Culture: Regional Traditions. New York: Schirmer Books, 1999.
Smith, Paul Ely. "Gottschalk's 'The Banjo,' op. 15, and the Banjo in the Nineteenth Century," Current Musicology 50 (Spring 1991): pp 47-60.
Starr, S. Frederick. Bamboula!: the Life and Times of Louis Moreau Gottschalk. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Thaxter, Celia. "Creole Slave Songs," The Century Magazine 31/6 (Apr 1886): pp. 807-828.
Thompson, Donald. "Gottschalk in the Virgin Islands," Anuario Interamericano de Investigacion Musical 6 (1970): pp. 95-104.
Upton, George P. Musical Memories: my recollections of celebrities of the half century, 1850-1900. Chicago, A. C. McClurg & Co., 1908.
Biographies of the Festival Judges
John Salmon holds B.M. and B.A. (philosophy) degrees from Texas Christian University, the "Solistendiplom" from the Freiburg Hochschule für Musik, the M.M. degree from the Juilliard School, and the D.M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. His awards include a fellowship from The Beethoven Foundation (known nowadays as the American Pianists Association), the Premio Jaén, the Loren Eiseley Memorial Award from the University of Maryland Piano Competition, and the Gina Bachauer Memorial Award from the Juilliard School. Salmon has performed in solo and orchestral appearances in the United States, Central America, and Europe. He has recorded for Radio Suisse Romande, RAI Italian Radio, Spanish National Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, WFMT Radio in Chicago, and C-Span and PBS television. Salmon is also active as a jazz pianist, performs regularly with the jazz quintet Spectrum, and has released CD's of the music of Dave Brubeck. He is founder and former director of the annual "Focus on Piano Literature" symposium at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Anthony Olson's career has taken him throughout the United States, Great Britain and China, with performances broadcast on America's National Public Radio, KSCI Television (Los Angeles, California), KVCR Television (California) and Nanjing Television Broadcasting (China). Dr. Olson frequently serves as a guest professor and lecturer. He has taught at Imperial College in London, England (fall of 2005), and Teikyo University in Maastricht, Holland (summer of 2008). He has presented lectures and recitals on a variety of musical topics at national and international conferences for the European Piano Teachers' Association (EPTA), the Music Teachers' National Association (MTNA) and the College Music Society (CMS). An active author, Dr. Olson has written articles for Clavier, Classical Singer Magazine and the Choral Journal. He studied piano at the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, and the University of North Dakota. His teachers have included Daniel Pollack, Greg Allen and Arthur Houle.
Monte Atkinson has been Director of Choral Activities at Mesa State College since 1985. He oversees choral music education, teaches piano, and conducts the Mesa State Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and the Western Colorado Chorale. Choirs under his direction have performed with the Denver Chamber Orchestra, Mexico National Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, annually with the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, and the Mesa State Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted the Mesa State Chamber Choir in performance throughout the United States and Canada, Europe and Great Britain. Last February, Dr. Atkinson made his first appearance as guest conductor at Carnegie Hall; the program included the Mesa State College Chamber Choir and the Western Colorado Chorale. An accomplished pianist, he holds a Bachelors degree in choral music, piano and strings from Utah State University. His Masters in Choral Conducting and D.M.A. in Choral Music were earned at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Atkinson was the 1999 recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Award.
This festival is part of a growing movement whose battle–cry is, in John Salmon's words, "to loosen the strictures of perfectionism and literalism that have gradually eviscerated the interpreter's art in this age of 'note-perfect' recordings and competitions, and to reemphasize the beautiful, the imaginative."
We are grateful for the contributions by the following individuals, without whom this festival would not be possible
Paul C. Collins, M.D.
Azam and Arthur Houle
Bijan and Jenny Houle
John and Linda Stedman
Susan Torgrude, M.S. (Environmental Researcher/Planner, BOELTER DESIGN GROUP, Inc.)
Thanks also to Mesa State College, the Grand Junction Music Teachers Association, & to J. B. Hart Music for their sponsorship.
Thanks also to our volunteers
Finally, a hearty thanks goes to Frank & Jayne Steuart for their hospitality in hosting our out-of-town judges.
|Festival participants: Please don't forget to sign in before and after this program (also for tomorrow night's Winner's Recital/Awards Ceremony).|
Upcoming• Winners' Recital tomorrow evening, Sat., March 22, 7:30 P.M., MPAC Recital Hall ($8/$5/$3)
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