IMG_1214.jpg

We welcome Dr. Gaqi for his exclusive performance at UNC Campus Commons on October 9th at 7:30pm!

About the Artist:

Equally at home in solo and collaborative music, internationally acclaimed pianist Gjergji Gaqi maintains an active performing career throughout North America and Europe. Together with his brother and accomplished pianist, Piro Gaqi, through the Gaqi Piano Duo, they have brought the varied, folk-inspired piano duo repertoire of Europe and North America to audiences of both continents.

 

He studied piano and chamber music under Prof. Dario de Rosa and Prof. Alberto Miodini at the International School of Chamber Music "Trio di Trieste" in Duino (Italy), while completing the bilingual International Baccalaureate diploma. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Music major and Economics minor from Colby College, where he also won the concerto competition, studying piano with Dr. Cheryl Tschanz and composition with Dr. Jonathan Hallstrom.

 

As a Walgreen scholarship recipient, he pursued his graduate studies under Prof. Christopher Harding and Prof. John Ellis at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, while also assuming the role of Graduate Student Instructor in Piano. Dr. Gaqi is currently Professor of Piano at Tyler Junior College, having previously taught at Siena Heights University, College of the Mainland and Brazosport College. He has served in many capacities with the East Texas Music Teachers Association, including previously as the association’s president and currently as chair of the Helen Elbert Chamber Music Festival. In addition to being a sought-after adjudicator of festivals and competitions, Dr. Gaqi is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Settenote Online Piano International Competition.

RECITAL PROGRAM

 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 90

I. Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck

II. Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorgetragen

 

Eleven Bagatelles, Op. 119

Allegretto

Andante con moto

À l'Allemande

Andante cantabile

Risoluto

Andante – Allegretto

Allegro, ma non troppo

Moderato cantabile

Vivace moderato

Allegramente

Andante, ma non troppo

 

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

The Blues, from Lenox Avenue

 

Bells

I. The Phantom Chapel

II. Fairy Knoll

 

INTERMISSION

 

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

24 Negro Melodies, Op. 59

X. Deep River

 

Margaret Bonds (1913–1972)

Spiritual Suite

            III. Troubled Water

Florence B. Price (1887–1953)

Sketches in Sepia

 

Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)

Desperate Measures (Paganini Variations), Op. 48

Fazil Say (b. 1970)

Alla Turca Jazz

 

PROGRAM NOTES

by Hanguang Wang

 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 90

 

Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 90 was completed in August 1814, when Beethoven had not written anything for the piano for about five years. It seems to have more affinity with the last group of masterpieces composed between 1816 and 1822 than with the earlier works in the cycle, exhibiting some of the tendencies and characteristics of Beethoven's late sonatas. Just as the two movements in Op. 111 contrast minor and major, Op. 90 balances the first movement in minor and the second movement in major. Hans von Bülow, the German pianist and conductor of the Romantic era, remarked that the two movements should be played respectively as though “spoken” and “sung”; not only that, but there was a story behind the sonata that emphasized this differentiation even further.

The sonata was dedicated to the Count Moritz Lichnowsky, a long-time friend of Beethoven and the younger brother of Beethoven’s patron Prince Karl von Lichnowsky, who wanted to marry with a stage actress. However, the difference in social status prevented their marriage for a long time, and after a period of twists and tribulations, Lishinovsky finally married her. Therefore, in the letter to Count, Beethoven wrote that the first movement was “a struggle between the head and the heart”, while the second depicted “a conversation with the beloved.”

 

Eleven Bagatelles, Op. 119

 

The Harvard Dictionary of Music contains the entry, “Bagatelle—a short piece by Beethoven whose Bagatelles Opus. 33, 119 and 126 mark the beginning of the extensive literature of the nineteenth century character pieces. Masters contributed to the vast field of character pieces beginning with Beethoven who opened this repertory with his Bagatelles.” Beethoven’s Bagatelles are short, lyrical, delicate and often whimsical miniatures that he viewed as occasional works. He composed 26 bagatelles in total, of which Für Elise in A minor is the best known of all. The first six bagatelles of Op. 119 existed as sketches and were probably written during the last decade of eighteenth century, bearing the composer’s inscription “Kleinigkeiten”, meaning “little trifles.” The last five pieces emerged in 1821 were originally written to be included in Friedrich Starke's Wiener pianoforte Schule. As Starke observed, “the connoisseur will soon realize that not only is the individual genius of the famous master brilliantly displayed in each piece, but that what Beethoven with characteristic modesty calls trifles are in fact full of instruction for the performer and demand the most complete penetration into the spirit of the composition.”

 

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

The Blues, from Lenox Avenue

 

William Grant Still was an American composer and conductor, born in May 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi. Still’s career was comprised of many “firsts”, often referred to as the "Dean of Afro-American Composers." He was the first African American composer to have a symphony played by a major symphony orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by one of the leading opera companies, and the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra. Due to his close association and collaboration with prominent African American literary and cultural figures, Still was also considered to have been part of the Harlem Renaissance.

His music shows the influence of African American folk music, jazz, commercial music, and the avant-garde. In his artistic maturity, he synthesized these disparate elements into an individual style, characterized by one or more of the following: bitonality, pentatonic melodies, modal mixtures, impressionism, extensive use of motives, and song-like melodies.

Still Composed Lenox Avenue in 1935, excerpting “The Blues” for Verna Arvey to perform on recitals. He revised Lenox Avenue in 1937 in order to fill a commission by the Columbia Broadcasting System on the first American Composers’ Commission. It is a series of ten orchestral episodes and a finale, built on scenes the composer had witnessed in Harlem, for orchestra, chorus and radio announcer, the narration was written by Verna Arvey. She began to work with Still in 1934 as his secretary and musical assistant, as she was a capable pianist. They married in early 1939. The Blues from Lenox Avenue was originally performed as part of a set of dances excerpted from the Still-Arvey ballet. This is gut-deep music, impelled by the hard-hitting rhythms and rolling-bass of New York’s Harlem in the 1920s. It is perhaps Still’s most memorable interpretation of the African idiom.

Bells

I. The Phantom Chapel

II. Fairy Knoll

 

Bells is a set of character pieces. Still stated that he was inspired to “write some music descriptive of the sounds of different bells…primarily to appeal to children.” He began work on the set in December 1943 and completed it during January 1944. Still was able to capture the sound of tolling bells quite effectively in the two pieces of this set, with the overtones caused by his chord structures reproducing the tone quality of bells. He used the bell-like sounds as the backdrop for the two movements depicting the fanciful world of children’s stories. According to Still, in the first movement, The Phantom Chapel, depicts “the tolling of ghostly bells was interspersed with the chanting of unseen priests, until the illusory chapel dissolved in a swirling mist.” The second piece, Fairy Knoll portrays a scene in which the “dancing of woodland fairies was accompanied by the light tinkling of tiny bells.”

 

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

24 Negro Melodies, Op. 59

X. Deep River

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in Holborn, England, in August 1875 and started learning the violin at an early age. At the age of fifteen, Coleridge-Taylor began his professional music studies at the Royal College of Music, and it was here that he switched from violin performance to composition. Coleridge-Taylor established himself as one of the most popular composers of his day and as the first Black musician, as much of his music sought to integrate African traditions with Western classical music.

Coleridge-Taylor’s Op. 59 consists of 24 Negro Melodies arranged for the piano freely adapted in the form of a theme and variations. In the preface to Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, he writes: “

 

What Brahms has done for the Hungarian folk music, Dvořák for the Bohemian, and Grieg for the Norwegian, I have tried to do for these Negro Melodies. The plan adopted has been almost without exception that of the Tema con Variazoni. The actual melody has in every case been inserted at the head of each piece as a motto. The music which follows is nothing more nor less than a series of variations built on the said motto. Therefore my share in the matter can be clearly traced, and must not be confounded with any idea of ‘improving’ the original material any more than Brahms’ Variations on the Haydn Theme ‘improved’ that.”

 

Prefacing each of the Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, Coleridge-Taylor’s has placed the original theme and text. Among them, he considered Deep River to be “the most beautiful and touching melody of the whole series.” Here are the original song lyrics that inspired the composer:

Deep river, my home is over Jordan;

Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into campground.

Oh don’t you want to go to that gospel feast,

that Promised Land where all is peace?

Deep river, Lord, I want to cross over into campground.

 

Margaret Bonds (1913–1972)

Spiritual Suite

            III. Troubled Water

 

Margaret Bonds was an African American woman composer, pianist, teacher, and activist whose career spanned from the Harlem Renaissance through the civil rights movement. In 1933, she became the first African American pianist to solo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The following year, Bonds again soloed on Florence Price’s Concerto in F Minor with the Women’s Symphony Orchestra, of which Price was her mentor and teacher.

The Spiritual Suite has three movements, written for herself to play as an empowering musical means of expressing racial pride. Each movement of the Spiritual Suite is based on a traditional African spiritual and combines the traditionally Black musical idioms of blues, jazz, and gospel with the classical styles of Romanticism and Impressionism.

The third movement, Troubled Water, is based on the spiritual “Wade in the Water”. Howard Thurman, a spiritual advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., wrote on the meaning of the spiritual: “Within the context of the ‘troubled’ waters of life there are healing waters, because God is in the midst of the turmoil…. [T]here is at the heart of life a Heart. When such an insight is possessed by the human spirit and possesses the human spirit, a vast and awe-inspiring tranquility irradiates the life. This is the message of the spiritual. Do not shrink from moving confidently out into choppy seas. Wade in the water, because God is troubling the water.”

 

Florence B. Price (1887–1953)

Sketches in Sepia

 

Florence Beatrice Price was a African American composer, pedagogue, and educator, who combined elements of African music with the European classical tradition. She was also the first African American female composer to have a large-scale composition performed by a major symphony orchestra in the U.S. She composed hundreds of surprisingly rich and wide-ranging works. Despite all the limitations and obstacles imposed by her race and gender, her musical imagination would not stand still.

Sketches in Sepia was composed in September 1947. Outwardly, the work might seem routine: it has only sixty-four bars and organized in a clear ternary form, with the outer sections firmly rooted in A-flat major and the central section beginning and ending in F minor. However, its musical content, emotional and stylistic range are not limited to the routine. What you will hear is a piece that compresses intense and wide-ranging emotional and stylistic journeys into compact, tautly organized structures.

 

Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)

Desperate Measures (Paganini Variations), Op. 48

 

Robert Muczynski was born in Chicago of Polish and Slovak immigrant background.  He embraced the neo-classical aesthetic, championed by an earlier generation of European masters like Stravinsky and Les Six, and worked in traditional and American styles with rhythmic influences from jazz. Musicologist Walter Simmons sums up Muczynski’s musical style in this way, “One might identify its underlying stylistic currents with reference to the phraseology of Bartók, the harmonic language and overall rhetoric found in the piano works of Barber, a fondness for 5 and 7-beat meters reminiscent of Bernstein, and a piquant sprinkling of ‘blue-notes’ within its melodic structures.”

Composed in 1994, Desperate Measures is a set of twelve variations on the theme from Niccolò Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 in A minor. The Twenty-Four Caprices were known for Paganini’s serious pursuit of violin playing and technical ability, which are both exemplified in the extraordinary technical demands and musical sophistication. The last Caprice of Op. 1 is among his best known of compositions and is notable for the number of variations it has inspired. Apart from Paganini himself, it has served as the basis for many other works, including Liszt’s Grandes études de Paganini, Brahms’ Variations on the Theme by Paganini, Op. 35, Book I& II, and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 43. Muczynski follows in this tradition, constructing his Desperate Measures on the Paganini theme as a showcase of his individual compositional language and skill.

 

Fazil Say (b. 1970)

Alla Turca Jazz

 

Fazil Say was born in 1970 in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. He is one of the most significant contemporary Turkish composers, and an awarded classical and jazz pianist. Say received his musical training as a pianist and composer at the Ankara State Conservatory and continued his studies at the Robert Schumann Institute and the Berlin Conservatory. Say states that his compositional style is characterized by “a rhapsodic, fantasia-like basic structure; a variable rhythm, often dance-like, though formed through syncopation; a continuous, vital driving pulse; and a wealth of melodic ideas that may often be traced back to themes from the folk music of Turkey and its neighbours.”

Alla Turca is a term describing the music used by Turkish military bands. The character of these bands is very much defined by instrumentation including piccolos and Turkish percussion instruments such as cymbals, triangles and drums. In 1784, Mozart followed this style and named his final movement of the Sonata in A major K. 331 as Rondo Alla Turca with distinct features of the Turkish musical style. Several centuries later, Say, as a native Turkish composer, gave Mozart’s well-known melody a fresh treatment. In his transcription, jazz elements such as ragtime accompaniment and improvisatory right-hand melody are placed between the original contexts.