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Program Notes for Concert 10/11/2013
Program Notes by Jan Jezioro
Megan Beugger was inspired to compose Liaison after meeting the
dancer Melanie Aceto, on the suggestion of her teacher, UB professor of composition Dr. David Felder. The day after their initial meeting, an image of Aceto "pulling piano bows with
her body was stuck in my mind and was completely alluring to me", says the composer. "This is my first work with a dancer, but my works are often interested in the physical component
of producing sound, so using a dancer as a musician was a very innate progression for me. Melanie had a large role in the choreography. She would record a lot of improvisations of her
on the contraption and many times a bit or even a small chunk would end up in the piece in some way. Other times, I would come with a pre-composed chunk, in which a lot of it didn't
work either physically with the contraption or artistically. She would work through them with me and show me endless other possibilities that I never would have thought of, being
mostly limited to what physical moves I could do as a non-dancer". Tom Tucker and Gary Casarella worked for over nine months, designing the mechanism that allows the dancer to 'play'
the piano, a design that was further refined during the later stages of the composition/rehearsal process. "The success of the piece was due to all the people that were committed to
it", says Beugger. "Not often as a composer do you really get to be a part of large team, where everyone wants to see the piece happen as much as you do".
Berkman has been involved in collecting and preserving ethnic music rolls for decades, but the Oskar Merikanto settings of Five Finnish Folksongs are on the only piano roll of Finnish
music that he has yet discovered. He says "these short, sweet, little-known pieces are clear and simple examples of what a pianola can do, and that while the roll does contain a few
'enhancements' that would not be humanly possible to play, yet the pieces retain their essentially romantic cast".
Debussy's Reflets dans l'eau was featured on Berkman's
recent recital at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and he says that he likes to play this well-known piece "because it defies most people's expectations, evanescence not
being a quality usually associated with the player piano".
While Friedrich Grützmacher may be familiar to students of the cello for some of his Chopin settings and his etudes,
his music, including the Notturno, Op. 32, No. 1 remains largely unknown to classical music audiences. "The piano part of this piece was one of several accompaniment rolls recorded
expressly for Bart Wirtz", says Berkman, "a concert cellist who headed the cello department at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and briefly conducted the Virginia Symphony -- a
post now held by JoAnn Falletta".
Moshe Shulman composed In Defence in two media forms: in the form of musical piece for 3 violas, either live or prerecorded, and a dancer, and
as an 8mm film. "While the film lasts 3:25 minutes, the musical piece is about 7:15 minutes", says Shulman. "The dancer has to wear a partial fencing gear, an idea that already exists
in the film. The music is mostly atmospheric with one main melodic theme. The theme is a quote from Miroslav Skorik's theme for Paradjanov's film "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors"
(1965). This is the world premier and I thank to "A Musical Feast" and the dancer - Melanie Aceto".
"The Piano Rag Music roll was from the large group of piano rolls that
Stravinsky produced for Pleyel in Paris", says Berkman, "and it is something of a hen's tooth, as I waited 16 years for a collector in Mexico to part with his copy. The piece is a
favorite of pianist Claudia Hoca, and I dedicate my performance to her".
Bashraf, from a mythically-rare roll produced by Lebanese-American Alexander Maloof, is a sort of
prelude in Arabic music", says Berkman, "but this piece is really more of what was known in the Teens and Twenties as an "Oriental Fox-trot" when the term "Orient"
referred to the Middle East. Most Oriental fox-trots were written by Tin Pan Alley composers with no background in Arabic music, but the charm of Maloof's piece is its authentic
Perlstein's poignant Good Night To The Bride And Groom is a klezmer piece of a type once played at the conclusion of wedding celebrations among Eastern European
Jews, when the musicians would escort the bride and groom to their home and bid them good night.
Nancarrow wrote his Study No. 3b, from his Boogie Woogie Suite before he moved
to Mexico City in the late 1940s to begin what was to be his life's work on his "Studies for Player Piano".
Maurice Ravel recorded his well known Valses nobles et
sentimental for a piano roll that "has plenty of problems", says Berkman, "but I like the piece and enjoy the challenge of making the performance musical despite its problems", and he
has continued to explore its potential since performing it at his National Gallery recital this past spring.