Friday, October 26, 2012

IPO and Yuja Wang at Carnegie Hall

                On October 25th, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra gave a sold out concert at Carnegie Hall, performing under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta, a program of some of Judaism’s most spiritual works, demonstrating their undyingly righteous, cultural eminence.
Despite a small group of Anti-Israel protesters that had accumulated across the 57th Street entrance, rallied by
Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel through various press releases, spirits were high inside the hall as the orchestra opened with the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Hatikva.

The Benefit event, organized by the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will support the orchestra’s touring and educational programming, as well as the renovation of its home at Tel Aviv’s Heichal Ha’Tarbut, to be inaugurated in May of 2013.

The program of Arnold Schoenberg’s Kol Nidre and Noam Sheriff’s Mechaye Hametim (Revival of the Dead) had already gained broad recognition at the 2012 Salzburger Festspiele, especially with baritone Thomas Hampson’s leading presence, which had been described by New York Times’ James R.Oestreich, as: “virtually embodying an Old Testament Prophet.”Out of the two works, Kol Nidre is the better known one, yet Sheriff’s symphonic work(NY premiere), commissioned in  remembrance of the Holocaust and at the same time a tribute to Jewish culture and national pride proved to be a very organic structure. It incorporated and built upon many different musical motives.  Joining Hampson and the Collegiate Chorale were the Manhattan Girls Chorus and Israeli tenor Carl Hieger, all of whom performed in the Hebrew and Yiddish production, with the composer present.
The original program had been adjusted to include these pieces for the New York event due to their great acclaim in Salzburg and partially because the Collegiate Chorale, founded by Robert Shaw in 1941 and currently directed by James Bagwell, was already present.
In the midst of both Judaic spiritual works, the 25 year old Yuja Wang poured her stupendous virtuosity into Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor, op.25. Trumping her first Encore, Rossini-Ginsburg Figaros Aria with an even wilder, magnificently Horowitz- inspired Carmen; she had a gasping audience in her hands.   Dressed in red, the audience was able to marvel at her whirlwind arm-and finger movements, emanating from her lean and muscular back. As with the choreography of an Olympian swimmer her moves were small, controlled and superfast.
Though always charming, Zubin Mehta, who has guided the greatest of performers during his now more than 50 years as conductor (he is music director for life with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), seemed genuinely impressed with his phenomenally skilled, season’s star debutante.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pianist Klara Min - Intimate Mazurkas And More

Klara Min does not seem to get nervous easily. I learned this while sitting in on an interview / conversation with recording producer Leszek Wojcik for the release of her Chopin Mazurkas disk, which Delos will put out next spring. Wojcik had been guiding Min since 2011, when she made her very first recording of Korean composers for the Naxos label. Both disks were recorded at the same studio at the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


When comparing both recordings, which indeed find themselves at juxtaposed ends of the repertoire, Wojcik shares his surprise at how “Western” the previously recorded Korean compositions actually sound. “I was expecting a big pentatonic thing, some feelings of folk tunes. Instead there was rather an affinity to the Second Viennese School, Schoenberg and Webern… yet the Mazurkas could not be more contrasting to their rather academic, complex and almost Germanic structure …. here is a complete change of temperament,” he says and adds, speaking to Min,  ”You were very brave to tackle such an undertaking. The Mazurkas are such known pieces, dear to everyone’s heart and they are so often recorded, and yet they can be interpreted in so many different ways.”


Min made her own choices in her recording and seems confident about them. “I was immediately drawn to the Mazurkas,” she shares, “when I was still a child, reading through the entire volume. Only later I listened to many different recordings. The music sounds so simple, but it is the most complicated music to perform. Its rhythm has to come sort of naturally; it can’t be really studied too much”.  Each mazurka is so individual, idiosyncratic, each with its own polyphony and complex harmonies, yet you can’t practice endlessly- you somehow have to preserve the freshness and spontaneity for the deliverance of its true characteristics.”


Photo: Wojcik and Min
Wojcik, who has clearly enjoyed recording Min’s playing, agrees with her and adds: ”Yes, exactly, this is the key. They are highly abstract, even though of course they have the nationalist thematic and are based on the dance’s three main forms: the mazur, oberek and the kujawiak from Poland, from different geographic regions in Poland. They’re not inspired by folk music, as often thought, really. Despite some rhythmic resemblances and perhaps the repetitiveness of motives kept by Chopin, his Mazurkas are highly stylized – salon versions- with complex compositional elements. And you are absolutely right; their simplicity demands a certain natural gusto. And balance of playing straight forward and the use of rubato. And there are so many choices to make by the performer, according to his/her personal tastes.”

But Min does not seem to have hesitations here. “I enjoy the use of Rubato since it creates the elasticity in the music…” and then Wojcik chimes in, ”The mazurkas are certainly full of invitations to use Rubato.”

Min finds balance in “her” Mazurka’s version of Rubato, as I find her able to balance many things, having witnessed her in action, wearing many different hats – often at the same time.


For one, she is the founder of NYCA – New York Concert Artists which has given many performance opportunities to young artists since its inauguration in 2008.  In the city that never misses beat, music performances of the classical repertoire that Min has championed so far at NYCA are not hard to find. Yet she has managed to put out yet another series, successfully, in which she herself performs. To perform concertos with orchestra is what NYCA offers its pianist – soloists. In addition to orchestral performances NYCA presents their winner’s Carnegie Hall Debut Recital. The auditions are taking place in London, Paris, New York and Seoul.

“Indeed I sometimes feel like I am multiple personalities. In 2006 I organized many concerts in collaboration with Yamaha Artists Services, held at their showroom and at the Shepherd Church.  NYCA grew out of my experiences in 2008. It was a way to take it to the next level. I think of it as an artist’s collaboration – a la “Davidsbuendler” the artistic choices have to be made by the artists, not by corporations. Pianists are used to mostly working alone. There is a real need for building trust and relationships, in order to collaborate and help each other. I had a vision, to do just that on a more continual basis and once that goal crystallized, the ideas how to make that happen, developed”, says Min.


And because she is a risk taker and not shy when she needs to ask for support for her many challenges, she has succeeded in establishing a real following. “I always knock at the door of cultural foundations, consulates and individuals who appreciate the importance of art for society. As artists, we do clearly have an important role; we are the hope of society.” She explains. ”When it comes to fundraising, people like to reach out to the furthest corners on earth to help – I however want to do something in my city, my community, where I am.”


And I have seen her in action – she knows everyone and reaches out her hand – genuinely to help others to reach their goals in the world of music, a world she deeply loves and feels she has a lot to give to.


Growing up as a Korean in Japan and then moving back to South Korea in 1989, where she studied at the very competitive “Seoul Arts High School”, Min is familiar with adapting herself to new situations, different people and mentalities. “I had to learn to be sensitive and assimilate to a very different culture at an early age. The strong influence of my mother’s supportive role has always encouraged me in all endeavors. Unlike many young pianists who were pushed by their parents to succeed, nobody ever pushed me,” she remembers. Her parents’ recognition of her independence early on made her confident about taking on responsibilities on her own.

“Unlike many other Koreans, my parents did not control me and I had a lot of freedom growing up.” She especially describes her mother as a kindred spirit who, as a musician herself, knew how hard it is to become a performing artist. Her mother asked her, “Is this really what you want?” but has always encouraged her to follow her dream.


From Seoul she then came to New York City and continued her piano studies with Solomon Mikowsky at the Manhattan School of Music.

Her independence became an even more acute reality for Min, after a financial crisis at home forced her to rely on her own resourcefulness.

“I had just finished my bachelor’s and went back to Korea for a short while to save money and get back on my feet, financially, by performing and teaching. This enabled me to finish my master’s degree speedily, after I had enrolled with Sara Davis Buechner and Byron Janis,” continues Min. “I always like teachers who perform themselves. I was so inspired that I finished all my course work within a year and by the third semester was able to extensively concentrate on the lessons.” Min continued studying in Luebeck, with James Tocco, whom she adored both, for his teaching and personality.


In 2002 she had her Weill Recital at Carnegie Hall debut, giving a World Premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Piano Etudes, marking a time when she started broadening her repertoire to champion contemporary classical music.  She performed John Corigiliano’s music at that recital and then in 2008 she performed his Piano Concerto with NYCA, with the composer being present at the performance. Photo: Min with John Corigliano
Min recently commissioned and will soon be recording American composer Henry Martin’s character pieces based on songs by American songwriter Steven Foster.


Her first recording called “Ripples on Water” (released by Naxos), which featured works of five Korean contemporary composers, got her many fine reviews for her performance.  New York Concert Review wrote that Klara Min has: ”a lovely, nuanced tone, genuine expressiveness…excellent technique exuberance and vitality.”


Min will premiere a prelude, composed for her by Uzong Choe, the youngest one of the Korean composers collectively presented on the disc, at her upcoming recital at Alice Tully Hall, November 8th. The concert will also feature works by Schumann, Chopin, Messiaen and will of course include some of these cherished Mazurkas.




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pianist Yael Weiss – The Creative Link Between the Written Score and the Listener.

Yael Weiss possesses a rare commitment that compels her to recognize her responsibility as a performer in her daily existence. “Even if I am by myself, it is absolutely essential that I always try my best to be precise in uncovering the intention of the composer, to find the meaning behind the notes,” she says. “There is thinking about music happening at every moment during practicing and of course on stage, a never ending search for the truth in the music – the reason why a particular piece was conceived as is.”
In music, the exchange of the written score between the artist and the listener happens in real time, unlike in other arts. “It’s the realization through performance in that moment, that makes the performer such an integral part of the equation - the other part being the listener,” Weiss marvels. “A score, sitting in a library is not music yet; those black specs sitting on paper are not yet realized. They are just pointers to multiple layers that indicate the ideas about a specific sound, and beyond that, to a certain message that needs to be conveyed to the listener. So it is this realization of the actual notes into sound and the interpretation of the meaning behind those notes that I do every day when I am at the keyboard.”
As in real life, there should be a give and take in a musical experience. Weiss does not hesitate to put some of the responsibility for the success of a performance on the listener, an approach that should not be taken for granted, given the passive role audiences are generally accustomed to. Weiss, however, sees the interaction of performer and listener as a true dialogue: “I believe every performer will tell you that the performer’s music making grows and benefits from being on stage in front of people. The level of concentration, openness and attentiveness on the listener’s part affects the end result tremendously. It’s a shared experience, the realization of a joint purpose, the realization of the written score.”
When she teaches, Weiss finds that students often are concerned with their own nervousness on stage, and feel overly exposed to personal judgment and critique. She tries to remind them that their focus should be on positive energy and on communicating with the audience through the music, as opposed to worrying about what the audience thinks of them. The stage can be a very lonely place if the performer lets isolation overtake the thrilling sensation of connecting with his or her audience, which is nourished by the shared experience that is a musical performance.
In an attempt to create a more engaged and aware audience, Weiss has begun posting a series of podcasts on iTunes called Classical Minutes, providing many different informative musical agendas and addressing a wide range of music enthusiasts, professionals, and students. The topics are not instrument-specific, but rather their prime purpose is to inspire and motivate musicians on different levels, and give a personal outlook on performers’ lives: their struggles, daily practice concerns, thoughts from before, during, and after performances, and other everyday details from the performer’s world. Weiss says that, “because of the solitary nature of a big part of one’s life as a performer, the podcasts provide on a daily basis little bits and tips to move forward, when one is alone and getting stuck.” She says, “when I started to think about doing these podcasts, who they would appeal to and who I wanted to reach, I found myself thinking of a couple of my past students who were very receptive. Sometimes I imagine addressing them, in my mind, and sometimes I also think of conversations with my teachers Richard Goode or Leon Fleisher. At times I comment on specific questions that have come up from people sending emails about the podcasts.”
Some of Weiss’s daily-streamed podcasts entitled "CM61Giving and Receiving", “CM16 Truth or Beauty", CM57 Do You Have a "Rainy Day List"?" and "CM14 Are you feeling stuck? “, received a great deal of attention after they aired.
“Often, when you get ready for a big project and are totally consumed by it, it’s easy to lose perspective. People end up feeling overwhelmed. So what do you do if you are not improving, in terms of your physical comfort or interpretative insights? Here’s one of the simplest techniques, one that is much underrated: You take two days off from that particular piece and practice with a shift: Let’s say you’re studying a late Beethoven Sonata, you take another work of the composer of that same time period, which you have not previously worked on, another Sonata, a chamber work, a symphony. Without feeling any constraint from anything you may have been told about this music …but most of all without incorporating any rules you had set for yourself, you practice this work ‘without limitations.’ Returning to your main piece, you will have gained the original excitement of fresh discovery, something a performer must always bring to the stage.”
You can access the podcasts or subscribe to them through iTunes, or directly at this link: The Classical Minutes Daily Podcasts on iTunes. Classical Minutes also has its own new website: Weiss is an animated educator who has presented master classes for several leading international institutions. She has served on the faculties of Indiana University and UCSB.

A serious and intense performer, Weiss, who recently also once played a run-through in my living room before embarking on a concert tour, is in high demand as performer and mentor. With her strong musical presence, she is able to draw attention away from her personal stage persona and guide the listener into the realm of the music. Weiss has appeared on many international concert stages and music festivals, including the Marlboro, Ravinia, Banff, and Caramoor festivals. The competition- and award-winning pianist, who has been lauded by the New York Times for her “fine technique and musicianship in the service of an arresting array of music,” also champions chamber music alongside violinist Mark Kaplan and cellist Clancy Newman, with her trio that records on the Bridge label.
Weiss’s recent projects include the release of Robert Schumann: Piano Works, which presents infrequently recorded material with great insight, sparkling technique, and sensitive rendition, on the Koch label. At the moment, Weiss plans to delve into more Schumann – a composer who is close to her heart. She is fascinated by Schumann’s more obscure side, which comes out in some of his more difficult pieces – works that artists have often been reluctant to learn and program, even such champions of Schumann’s music as Clara Schumann or Brahms. Of the Ghost Variations for example, Clara would only publish the theme, not the variations. Schumann composed this work in his later stages, after he had already begun to be consumed by mental illness, as Weiss explains. She is only aware of one old LP recording of Ghost Variations by Austrian pianist Joerg Demus, which makes her recording of the piece the first on CD.
Weiss is also concentrating on a project that juxtaposes the 32 Beethoven Sonatas with contemporary works inspired by Beethoven. She says that her mission with this performance is, “bringing Beethoven into our time, providing a context for Beethoven and showing why he is as relevant and essential today as he was when he was writing more than 200 years ago.” On this topic, Weiss says, “While there are many wonderful musicians who specialize in new music, I always like to combine current scores with historic ones. The new works I play are usually by composers I have had the privilege of working with directly. I feel the relationship between the performer and contemporary composer is such an interesting cooperation, a relationship that of course is not possible with the old master composers. To look at the score with the composer present is a fascinating experience, providing more flexibility with the notes on the stage.”
Weiss takes great pleasure in collaborating with composers while she prepares to perform their works. She has had such experiences with composers Lera Auerbach and Paul Schonefeld, among others. Weiss recalls an incident where something on Lera’s notation was not playable, and she improvised another chord instead with a similar effect. Lera agreed that this was a fine idea, and instructed her to go ahead with the suggested solution. “There is a lot of back and forth,” Weiss explains, remembering a situation when she was rehearsing a piano concerto written for her by Joel Feigin. “On the day of its world premiere, the composer was attending the orchestral rehearsal and there was something off with the voicing of the piano trills. I suggested re-organizing some of the chords, and as I demonstrated, he made notations on a plain sheet of music paper and said: ‘Ok, this is how we are going to play it in tonight’s performance.’ It is through moments like this that one learns to understand the impact of the performer on the music, and how flexible a composer can be when trying to make a piece sound its very best. It is important to keep this in mind while listening to historic composers who went through the same struggles in their lifetimes. The score is a living organism. It is not written in stone.”
Armed with a thorough understanding of this message and an acute sensibility, Weiss’s powerful piano performances turn her listeners into her accomplices. As Weiss says, nothing is written in stone. Perhaps it is the recognition of this flexibility and uncertainty that brings us closer to the truth of what Schumann meant to share, even in his most tormented creations.
The artist's website is: please check for upcoming sceduled performances.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Alex Ross' epic Wagner pursuit

Photo: The New Yorker's music critic Alex Ross at the New Yorker Festival (SVA) (Oct.5-7 2012)
The New Yorker's maestro of the word is here presenting a brilliant Prelude (The Wagner Vortex) to his forthcoming book on Wagnerian ways and cultural influx.

It turns out he has already received wild admiration by those, who have tried and failed - to get access to the so far famously private Wagner- Family - Archives at Bayreuth where he is going to conduct further research, not necessarily focused on the political agenda! Looking forward to Ross' revelations to come!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Learning from the masters

Murray Perahia Photo: Felix Broede
Classes, given by the most admired masters in their field, are considered one of the most direct and effective way to inspire students – and fans alike. As a result of Yoheved Kaplinsky’s (chair of the piano faculty at Juilliard) initiative in this regard, this week the venerable pianist Murray Perahia took up a taped mini-residency. Ara Guzelimian (provost and dean) has shaped the series to consist of a lecture/presentation and three master classes, one of them open to public attendance. Other such residencies this season will include Richard Goode (public master class October 24th) and Leon Fleischer (public master class February 24, 2013) at Juilliard’s Paul Hall.

As I was approaching the newly constructed bridge that connects Juilliard to the larger Lincoln Center complex, I reflected upon Juilliard’s many efforts to reach out beyond its select community with such diverse programs as their social outreach performances, in addition to their own pre-college and evening division classes, and publication.

These master classes are a wonderful addition to their programs. Besides the opportunity to listen to the world-renowned performer up close and personal, the dream of every aspiring pianist of course is to unlock the secrets (are there any?) of each great performer. In these master classes, the artist can demonstrate what makes his performances so unique and successful by sharing his hands-on experiences and insightful explanations of why he endorses this implementation, and not another.

The question, for any artist, is not so much which approach may be arguably valued as the best one – there are many valid ones that are based on sheer endless variables found within the performer’s facility, technique and personality. As many discrepancies as there are in methodic pursuit of the ultimate musical result, what matters alone is that the performance is congruently convincing.

So how does then a masterful musician and generous human being, as Perahia most certainly is, convey his wisdom? What advice can he specifically give to the well-prepared musical students who play for him?

Interestingly enough, the advice that seemed to hold up as most genuine and as the fruit of his deepest love and serious labor were the universal remarks given to the meaning of music itself, coming straight from his heart. These turned out to be more relevant than an explanation of any particular detail: “Music Is narrative. If you don’t tell a story, it’s dry. The story is not necessarily to be taken literally – it sometimes tells you less then the notes themselves- even though in some cases there is nothing wrong with a thematic idea. Some people go into great detail of concrete association, what does the music depict?... I don’t think that helps that much, even though it is possible to evoke moods. I don’t think music is about action- it’s about emotions. Expression of emotions!”

Murray Perahia with Karl Schechter
Together with his former venerable teacher at the Mannes School of Music, Karl Schechter, Perahia discussed the approach of Schenkerian Theoretical Analysis, a staple at Juilliard’s curriculum, as a valid approach for exploring the music not just from the gut, but with a concept and tool in hand:” We don’t just play our own personality; the performer has an obligation to get to the bottom of the score. Schenker is one way of approaching the organic whole of a composition.”

Being about the bigger picture, this approach of analyzing the harmonic structures underlying the music:”facilitates the recognition of the propelling elements in music.” However, as Perahia admits himself, it’s known to be quite “intricate” and even though he learned about Schenker early on in his student years, he only immersed himself deeply into it when forced by his hand injury to off and on spend more time away from the piano.

While demonstrating generously at the piano during the master classes, which was heaven for his fans, he insisted:”Don’t do what I am doing- be free!” He also gave good, solid advice, as in: “Always think musically when you practice technically otherwise it becomes technical in performance- etude like. The musical expression always finds its way into the gesture; you need to express it at the piano.” He supports being open-minded: “…and here you may pedal through the rests”, he tells one of his master students.” Despite my teacher, who always said:”You can never pedal through the rests” – do pedal through, here!”

The Juilliard students and alumni had some enthusiastic reactions. One of them, Alexandra Joan, impressed me particularly in her wholehearted response to the program. A kindred spirit, the young pianist confided in me that events like this one made her stay in New York worthwhile. She said,” His teaching is incredibly inspiring. I loved the fact that he always asked the student first a question about the piece, as to inspire independent thought, almost in a father-like way…it is no coincidence that he is such a great interpreter, as he really goes so deep with his thoughts, trying to find meaningful connections within the music.”
Murray Perahia with inspired fan Alexandra Joan

As a performer who had studied at the Paris Conservatory before coming to New York to continue her studies at Juilliard, she is fascinated with such an inquisitive approach, but interestingly finds:”Schenker is not librarian-like dry; his writing is very romantic and idealistic. In fact he first published his book anonymously under the title:”New Musical Theories and Fantasies-by an Artist.” When I am starting a piece, I am looking for its DNA and Schenker helps to recognize the hidden structure within those notes. Even if you do it intuitively, knowing why makes it very different, accessible yet as a unique harmonic structure. It also elevates it into something – well, I know I am an idealist – but yes, divine.”

How wonderful to inspire such fervor! Ultimately that’s what learning from the masters is about: To transmit the insights gained through their own work and accomplishments and through that, as Perahia says, change our perspective: ”Schenker greatly informed my own work, it stimulated me and I wanted to share that with you; it will greatly change you – by being more aware. Analyzing a score with this approach will tell you something about its performance – its inherent tempo (apart from markings) and the presupposed direction the score takes; an understanding you would not necessarily gain without it. And because it’s less arbitrary, what it is you are supposed to be doing at the piano, you gain greater confidence.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vivian Fung - Dreamscapes

The audience, having taken their seats in a large, traditional room in the American Society’s Upper East Side townhouse, waits in great anticipation for Vivian Fung’s Dreamscapes release. Andrew Cyr, the resourceful Grammy-nominated conductor and artistic director of Metropolis Ensemble, gestures for the pianist to commence the evening’s program by plucking the strings of the grand piano.

Photo: Andrew Cyr in conversation with Tim Martyn
Two slit-drum players from his orchestra send mystic and strangely far sounding rhythmic beats into the room from their place at the back; bird-like chirping overlaps the sounds of the drums as musicians within the audience begin playing severalVietnamese bird whistles.
As Cyr directs the percussionists to steadily approach the stage area, the different voices start to unite.
Pianist Conor Hanick prepares the piano according to Fung’s notes with popsicle-sticks, hairpins and paperclips, reinventing a famed practice initially championed by pianist/composer John Cage.
Even the audience gets to participate, making music with wineglasses, enjoying the fun of incorporating an “object trouvée.” Canadian-born composer Vivian Fung stands by, intently observing the audience’s reaction to her aurally and spatially captivating music, noting that the audience, while very perceptive, also looks flabbergasted at times. So begins the evening’s introduction into the creative world of the composer.
Vivian Fung and Kristin Lee
Following the performance, all of the soloists, the conductor, some members of the orchestra, and the two-time Grammy Award winning producer and sound engineer Tim Martyn, share their thoughts on the process of making this CD.
Conor Hanick explains that Fung’s sound world is part of a unique genre, which brings a variety of original sound associations into contact with sounds inspired by Javanese and Balinese gamelan, and is produced with various means of instrumental adaption and in the piano’s case, an alteration of the piano’s timbre through the objects attached to its strings. Fung’s enthusiastic exploration of Indonesian gamelan has been a persistent stylistic element in the work of the young, Juilliard-trained composer, who was called “evocative” by the New York Times.
Fung’s latest CD was recently released by newly formed Naxos: Canadian Classics, which is the brainchild of Naxos’s Raymond Bisha. The disc includes three works ranging from Glimpses (2006), to the piano concerto Dreamscapes (2009). Divided into different vignettes, the Dreamscapes concerto, featuring Hanick, who is another impressive Juilliard alumn, expands on themes explored in Fung’s previous work; for example, the second vignette is based on “Kotekan” – the first movement of Glimpses. It is interesting to follow the depth and detail of Fung’s work through her different pieces, from her earliest featured composition Glimpses, to her very imaginative and organically condensed newer work.
The newest piece on the CD, introduced by virtuoso violinist Kristin Lee, is the Violin Concerto (2010/11). As Fung and Lee demonstrate, finding the perfect cadenza for the concerto was part of a fascinating process of working together as a team. “I really wanted to work with Kristin together on it,” Fung said, “and [I] did several drafts to come up with something that would fit her hand perfectly – not that she could not play anything!” Several versions of the cadenza were dismissed because they lacked fluidity, or presented too many extreme tonal distances, which produced undesirable dissonance, among other flaws. The final version, in G Sharp, contains many arpeggiated motions, which create a flow essential for Lee’s ample technique. The cadenza’s melodic voice-leading opportunities combine with many glissandi to mimic the motions of human song, which is a part of traditional gamelan performance, the derivation of Fung’s inspiration. Fung says that she based the concerto on Javanese gamelan, which is much more “sensuous and flowery” than Balinese gamelan. In addition to being inspired by gamelan music itself, Fung notes that she and Lee traveled to Bali together in 2010; the trip was a formative experience in their musical friendship, and yet another source of inspiration for the cadenza.
Fung feels a close connection to all those who contributed to the production of Dreamscapes, with whom she has maintained professional relationships as well as friendships. Fung chose her team wisely. The soloists on the Dreamscapes recording have virtuosic technique, and even more importantly, they possess a deep understanding of Fung’s concept. Andrew Cyr and Metropolis Ensemble’s mission statement stresses their desire to, “create innovative concert experiences dedicated to making classical music in its most contemporary form.“ Standing by that goal, the Metropolis Ensemble has been able to attract a substantial following, and commission and premiere works by a very interesting array of contemporary composers. Major support for Vivian Fung’s Dreamscapes was provided by Paul and Elisabeth DeRosa.
Photo: from left- Tim Martyn, Vivian Fung, Kristin Lee, Conor Hanick, Raymond Bisha.