Sunday, May 29, 2011

Video: Falla--Danza ritual del fuego

Manuel de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance from the ballet El amor brujo, arranged for solo piano by the composer. (I also added a few parts to the arrangement based on the original orchestral score).

Over the years I've learned quite a bit of Spanish (and Spanish-flavored) music by big composers (Albéniz, Granados, Ginastera) and lesser-known composers (Halffter, Soler, Nin-Culmell). This bias is no doubt inherited in part from my old teacher, Douglas Voice. But I never learned anything by Manuel de Falla, who was one of Douglas' favorites (I think). That's what inspired me to find and learn something by Falla for last year's ConcArt recital.

A couple of things to note in the video. First, I tried a new camera angle: "wide bass", and it doesn't quite work. It's shooting into the light, so the subject (me!) is too dark. I did what I could in editing, but it's still visually kind of ugly. I think I'll try again, though, with an accent light coming from the bass side of the piano. The problem is, I like to keep the exact same lighting for all camera angles so it looks like they were shot simultaneously. Some experimentation will certainly be needed. The composition of the angle is poor, too. The manual focus on my camera is flexible for still shots, but not very convenient for video. It's much easier (and I get better results) using autofocus. But it means I need to keep the subject in the autofocus sweetspot.

The second thing to note is the return of video cats. Kashmir made his acting debut in my Mozart video and was quite a hit among YouTube commenters. Here he makes two appearances. Shiner also makes a very brief appearance. I tried to delay the scene change to give him more camera time, but I just couldn't get it to work.

Ritual Fire Dance is an exciting, dynamic piece. But as usual, I find it hard to capture that in the video/recording.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Video: Handel--Air and Variations (The Harmonious Blacksmith)

Two years ago I wrote:
Claude Debussy's Arabesque I might be the "oldest" piece I play, in the sense that I've played it longer than the others.
But I think George Frideric Handel's Air and Variations (The Harmonious Blacksmith) is even "older". I probably learned it a year earlier than the Debussy, which makes it thirty years since I first learned it.

The piece, written around 1720, is in what's called the English Division style: the theme is stated in (mainly) quarter notes, or one note per beat. Then there's a variation where the right hand plays two notes per beat, a variation with the left hand playing two notes per beat, then a variation with three notes per beat in the right hand, then three notes per beat in the left hand. Finally, the fifth variation has four notes per beat in both hands. This gives the impression that the piece keeps speeding up: twice as fast, three times as fast and finally four times as fast.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Video: Nin-Culmell--Muiñeira (Galicia)

Here's another piece I discovered on YouTube. I'm pretty sure it was served up as a "Suggestion" video to one of my own. Given the spotty information accompanying the video, it took a little hunting to find the music. The piece is Muiñeira (Galicia) by twentieth century German/Cuban/Spanish/American composer Joaquín Nin-Culmell. It's number 24 from Tonadas, a suite of 48 pieces in four volumes.

Nin-Culmell was born in Germany, the son of Cuban-Spanish parents and brother of famous author Anaïs Nin (whose full name was Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell). He was also a student of the great Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

A muiñeira is a Spanish song typically played by a Galician gaita, which is a kind of Spanish bagpipe. The piece does sound bagpipey to me, especially the grace notes in the middle section. The lack of individual note attacks on bagpipes prevents you from playing the same note twice, so if you want to repeat a note you use a grace note to articulate it. This is exactly how Nin-Culmell uses grace notes in the middle section.

As far as I can tell, this piece was also what I call a "YouTube Bullseye"—a piece that has exactly one video on YouTube. Of course, now that I've recorded it, it's no longer a bullseye.