Saturday, 6 March 2010

Three Pieces

I've got three pieces on the piano at the moment and whenever I walk past it, I can't resist sitting down and having a go at them. (Funnily enough, I found two of them one afternoon in the sheet music bin at the local Red Cross shop). They're strictly for personal pleasure and preferably, the other occupants of this house would probably say, in a sound-proofed room. I'd probably agree with them. With a bit of luck, I'll be able to play them properly one day, but there's more to it than that. I'm finding, at the moment, teaching the guitar all day, that I need a bit of musical "me time" when I can just play what I like for myself.

The first is the first of Francis Poulenc's Mouvements Perpétuels. I remember this piece being on the piano when I was young. It's something I always wanted to play with a degree of competence, but never got round to. Well, I'm getting round to it now. I'm discovering -well, remembering- it's a very easy piece to play badly. I've read someone describe it as being like a cycle ride round Paris, with church bells in the distance. I found this version on YouTube, with its picture of a young Poulenc:

The second is a piece by Peter Maxwell Davies - Farewell to Stromness. This was -and probably still is, for all I know- a bit of a hit on Classic FM. I like it because it reminds me of islands and the sea around Scotland. It was written as part of a cabaret -performed by the composer and Eleanor Bron- protesting against Margaret Thatcher's plans to mine uranium in the Orkney Islands (which were, thankfully, abandoned).

The third is the first of Arnold Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces (1911). Like the Poulenc, I've always liked these. They belong to the age of Munch's The Scream and the film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. It's an oddly compelling piece to play: baffling at first, I found that the more I got to know it, the more I wanted to go back to it. I often wonder why there aren't more very short pieces of music. Cynics listening to Schoenberg might say they wish he'd written more. This is a chap called Nicasio Gradaille playing the first two (the first piece ends at 1:10):


swiss said...

aside from them whole being made of thumbs thing when faced with sheet music i have a strange sense of sadness coupled with elation when i find all this stuff in the charity shop

fyi - poetry please are having some sort of bunting thing tomorrow

also, i thought you might find this
interesting. check out the other vids for something you might recognise.

Elisabeth said...

Lovely piano playing here Dominic, especially the Poulenc. I never cease to be amazed at such talent.

Will you or have you ever posted some of your own guitar playing? I think we'd enjoy that.

tony said...

Yes! I Heard The Bells! Have A Good Weekend Dominic.

swiss said...

here's a guitar version of the stromness thing

maxwell davies has done lots with orkney schools - a good bloke!

Lyn said...

What a blessing to be able to sit down and play! I should have listened to my Mom and practised!!

Niamh B said...

thanks for posting these, I feel very much culturally enriched... not to mention nice and mellowed

Dominic Rivron said...

swiss: Yes. A sense of sadness. Correctly or not, I always feel someone has probably died and had all their stuff cleared out - someone who, judging by their tastes, was probably a kindred spirit.

Thanks for the Bunting tip and the links - I enjoyed the film, and knew about the guitar arrangement of Stromness. (There is an ensemble version, too,I think, which I might check out with my pupils in mind).

Elisabeth: Lovely playing, yes - but NB, it's not me! I do post things I play now and again but I find recording stuff stressful and I need a "bit of space" to do it.
I did post The Big Bad Beast once!

tony: Yes - they're there, aren't they? Thanks, I will. I've just been down your way. My daughter is making a short film for the course she's doing and we went up to Ovenden Moor wind farm with a video camera.

Lyn: It's lots of practise - or the soundproof room :)

Niamh: Pleased you enjoyed them!

Get Off My Lawn! said...

I know exactly what you mean. But it is even easier for me to play things badly. I am currently working on guitar and am on a bit of a Neil Young kick. The Needle and the Damage Done is a challenge for me but I almost have it. I don't think I am ever going to tackle classical guitar. Or piano.
LIstening to Schoenberg reminds me I have nothing to contribute to the field... but in a pleasant way.

Sorlil said...

I'd love to be able to play the piano, not even had the guitar out for ages, I love the description of the first one being like a cycle around Paris with church bells!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear all three. We have the full Poulenc piano works on CD, which tends to get played on summer evenings when the kids are in bed. The Schoenberg was new to me so thanks for the intro. Oddly enough, my introduction to the Maxwell-Davies was via a guitar version on a sampler from the wonderful 'Wired' magazine.