Saturday, November 28, 2009

Video: Soler--Sonata No.84

Ok, I'll admit it: I have a strong bias toward Romantic composers. But I've made an effort to diversify a little by bringing more Baroque and Classical pieces into the mix. This piece is a keyboard sonata by late Baroque Spanish composer Padre Antonio Soler.

Soler was a monk, musician and composer, of course. But he was also an inventor, mathematician and author.

I hear Sonata No.84 as "light and playful", though the recent trend for this piece seems to be "as fast as humanly possible".

Now. With respect to the video... I've been fiddling with this for several days. Both Vimeo and YouTube seem to be converting the file to a Flash video with some nasty audio artifacts. But I've decided I'm going to have to live with it. If you're hearing distortion, you can download the .wmv file from the Vimeo page. It should be clean.

Soler: Sonata No.84 from Ken Barker on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Video: Rachmaninoff--Prelude Op.23 No.5

Somebody asked me last year if I played any Russian music, and I realized that I had never studied any of the great Russian composers. So I started listening to a bunch and decided on this Prelude by Rachmaninoff. It's shortish, popular and fun to play: exactly what I'm looking for in new pieces to learn.

This performance is from the ConcART recital, which I decided to video tape this year. I was happy with the performance, mainly because I didn't trainwreck. Sure there are clams aplenty, but I thought it came off pretty well anyway.

The audio, on the other hand, is horrendous. It's taken from the camera's on-board mic, which is bad enough. But the camera also has a built-in compressor which can't be turned off. So when you hear the high-pitched whine/buzz, that's the compressor trying to make the soft parts as loud as the loud parts. Ugh. You'll just have to take my word for it that I had some nice soft passages in there.

As usual, you can watch in full HD at the vimeo page.

Rachmaninoff: Prelude Op.23 No.5 from Ken Barker on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ConcART II Review

I'm happy to report that this year's art show/recital was a success. The demographics were similar to last year: 50 people came in time for the recital and another dozen or so showed up later in the afternoon. Johanne sold 12 paintings to friends, neighbors, and even to other artists and a couple of guests of guests that we didn't know.

Welcoming our guests

I played a program of six pieces. I put quite a bit of thought into selection and sequencing of pieces, and I think it paid off. Several people commented on how interesting and varied the program was. And like last year, they really appreciated the little stories I gave to introduce each piece.

Playing the piano

I was disappointed not to have photographic proof of applause from last year. So this year I made sure to document it. Everyone seemed happy to accommodate, even through my low battery scare.

Proof of applause

Here's what it looked like from my angle.

From the "stage"

And even with about sixty people milling throughout the afternoon, we still way over-bought on food and drink. I guess that's why it's important to buy stuff you like: you're going to be finishing it for the next two months.

Looking at art

Once again, I'd like to thank several people for making ConcART II run smoothly:
  • Gary for tuning the piano and working on the hammers two weeks before the recital, and then coming back to put on a hard tuning two days before the show
  • Libby and Annabel for handling art sales
  • Laura for protecting the doors during the recital and for kenneling Maple dog for the day
  • Debie for monitoring the refreshment stations
All-in-all I'd have to say that this year's event was even better than last year's. Now to get to work on next year's party. What should I play?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Granados: Laments or The Maiden and the Nightingale

Yesterday my father underwent (successful) coronary artery bypass graft surgery. In preparation for the tedium of convalescence, he bought himself an MP3 player. Among the 50 albums he loaded, he included the Piano 101 recordings. But he noted that some of the pieces that I made videos for aren't available as audio recordings. So I went back to the original audio files for those videos and encoded .wma files for downloading. Listening to them without the visual distraction of video, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the recording. And they capture the tone of my piano nicely. So I decided to post some of them here.

I've mentioned before that Enrique Granados' Goyescas suite is pretty much the pinnacle of piano music for me. The fourth piece in the suite is Quejas ó la Maja y el Ruiseñor (Laments or the Maiden and the Nightingale). And if you were wondering why people learn to play the piano, Maiden is a pretty good answer.

It's been a little under a year since I recorded this and I find the performance a little dry and plodding. But is it good enough to post to a blog with three readers? Most probably!

Quejas ó la Maja y el Ruiseñor (Enrique Granados)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember Johanne and I had a combination art show/piano recital last fall. We enjoyed it so much we decided to try to have one once a year. Well, the time has come! ConcART II will take place Sunday, November 15, 2009.

Johanne will be showing the pastel paintings and oil studies she's done this year, as well as a few older paintings that won awards in 2009.

To kick off the show, I'll give another recital of classical piano music. I wanted to mix things up a little this year. Last year's recital was very heavy on Romantic and Spanish music. I think this new program is more varied, and maybe a little more accessible.
  1. Twelve Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman" (Wolfgang A. Mozart)
  2. Etude Op.10 No.3 (Frederic Chopin)
  3. Sonata No.84 (Antonio Soler)
  4. Arabesque I (Claude Debussy)
  5. Danza de la Pastora (Ernesto Halffter)
  6. Prelude Op.23 No.5 (Sergei Rachmaninoff)
If you can make it to Austin November 15, let me know and I'll send you the Evite.