Monday, May 10, 2010

May 10 - Come Closer, Closer

Another page (3) of The Creation: IV. orchestrated and ditto composed for Vespers: VIII. Nisi Dominus (5) before the first day of student teaching for the Theoreticians, with Kevin Gumina presenting a dictation on the Russian folk song

Korobeiniki (Peddlers, words by Nicolai Nekrasov)

Oh, my crate is so full,

I've got chintz and brocade.
Take pity, oh sweety,
Of this lad's shoulder

I will, I will go out into the tall rye,
I will wait there till the night comes,
Once I see the dark-eyed lass,
I will showcase all my goods.

I paid no small price myself,
So don't bargain or be stingy,
Bring your scarlet lips to me,
Sit closer to this fine lad.

The foggy night has already come,
The daring lad is awaiting,
Hark, it's her! The desired one has come,
The merchant is selling his goods.

Katya is haggling with care,
She is afraid to pay too much,
A lad is kissing his lass,
Asking her to raise the price.

Only the deep night knows,
What they agreed upon.
Straighten up now, oh tall rye,
And keep their secret scrupulously!

Oh, my crate is so light,
The strap is no longer cutting into my shoulders!
And all my lass took
Was one turquoise ring.

-- coincidentally the second time this music has been presented during a semester, due to its usage as the theme song for the video game

Tetris, by

Alexey Pajitnov.

Next, Mike Morris is up for board harmony on Ludwig van Beethoven's

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor "Quasi una fantasia", op. 27, No. 2,


Popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata (Mondscheinsonate in German), the work was completed in 1801.

It is rumored to be dedicated to Beethoven's pupil, 17-year-old Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, with whom Beethoven was, or had been, in love.

The name "Moonlight" Sonata derives from an 1832 description of the first movement by music critic Ludwig Rellstab, who compared it to moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne.

Beethoven included the phrase "Quasi una fantasia" (Italian: Almost a fantasy) in the title partly because the sonata does not follow the traditional movement arrangement of fast-slow-[fast]-fast. Instead, the Moonlight sonata possesses an end-weighted trajectory; with the rapid music held off until the third movement. To be sure, the deviation from traditional sonata form is intentional. In his analysis of the Moonlight sonata, German critic Paul Bekker states that “The opening sonata-allegro movement gave the work a definite character from the beginning... which succeeding movements could supplement but not change. Beethoven rebelled against this determinative quality in the first movement. He wanted a prelude, an introduction, not a proposition.”

The sonata has three movements:

I. Adagio sostenuto

II. Allegretto

III. Presto agitato

The first movement, in C♯ minor is written in an approximate truncated sonata form. The movement opens with an octave in the left hand and a triplet figuration in the right. A melody that Hector Berlioz called a "lamentation," mostly by the right hand, is played against an accompanying ostinato triplet rhythm, simultaneously played by the right hand. The movement is played pianissimo to mezzo forte.

The movement has made a powerful impression on many listeners; for instance, Berlioz said of it that it "is one of those poems that human language does not know how to qualify."

The work was very popular in Beethoven's day, to the point of exasperating the composer, who remarked to Carl Czerny, "Surely I've written better things."

The second movement is a relatively conventional scherzo and trio, a moment of relative calm written in D-flat major, the enharmonic equivalent of C♯ major, the parallel major of C♯ minor. This replaces 7 sharps (C♯ major) with 5 flats (D♭ major), granting less confusion when reading the music. Franz Liszt described the second movement as "a flower between two chasms."

The stormy final movement (C♯ minor), in sonata form, is the weightiest of the three, reflecting an experiment of Beethoven's (also carried out in the companion sonata, Opus 27, No. 1 and later on in Opus 101) placement of the most important movement of the sonata last. The writing has many fast arpeggios and strongly accented notes, and an effective performance demands lively and skillful playing.

Of the final movement, Charles Rosen has written "it is the most unbridled in its representation of emotion. Even today, two hundred years later, its ferocity is astonishing."

It is thought that the C-sharp minor sonata, particularly the third movement, was the inspiration for Frédéric Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu, which manifests the key relationships of the sonata's three movements.

Beethoven's heavy use of sforzando notes, together with just a few strategically located fortissimo passages, creates the sense of a very powerful sound in spite of the predominance of piano markings throughout. Within this turbulent sonata-allegro, there are two main themes, with a variety of variation techniques utilized.

At the opening of the work, Beethoven included a written direction that the sustain pedal should be depressed for the entire duration of the first movement. The Italian reads: "Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino" ("One must play this whole piece [meaning "movement"] very delicately and without dampers."). The modern piano has a much longer sustain time than the instruments of Beethoven's day.

One option for dealing with this problem is to perform the work on a restored or replicated piano of the kind Beethoven knew. Proponents of historically informed performance using such pianos have found it feasible to perform the work respecting Beethoven's original direction.
For performance on the modern piano, most performers today try to achieve an effect similar to what Beethoven asked for by using pedal changes only where necessary to avoid excessive dissonance. For instance, the Ricordi edition of the score posted at the external link given below does include pedal marks throughout the first movement. These are the work of a 20th-century editor, meant to facilitate performance on a modern instrument. Half pedaling -- a technique involving a partial depression of the damper pedal -- is also often used to simulate the shorter sustain of the early nineteenth century pedal. Charles Rosen suggests both half-pedaling and releasing the pedal a fraction of a second late.

Banowetz offers a further suggestion: to pedal cleanly while allowing sympathetic vibration of the low bass strings to provide the desired "blur." This is accomplished before beginning the movement by silently depressing the piano's lowest bass notes and then holding these dampers up with the sostenuto pedal for the duration of the movement.


Return to write up May 9's San Francisco Symphony Chamber Concert at, to be published on the 15th by Commuter Times and as part of the July 2010 issue of 21st-Century Music ( Also do the press release for Composers Chamber Orchestra.


Mark Alburger, Music Director

May 10, 2010

SFCCO (707) 474-7273



SAN FRANCISCO, May 10, 2010 -- Listen carefully. The slightest sound may be of the greatest import. That wolf howling in the distance, just at the edge of consciousness, may change your life. For the better. At least, we sure hope so, as San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra presents Silence of the Wolves -- an evening celebration of sounds great and small, at Old First Church on June 11, 2010, in music of John Beeman, Cindy Collins, Loren Jones, Darius Milhaud, Lisa Scola Prosek, Martha Stoddard, and Davide Verotta.

Verotta's An Enticement of Silence and Jones's Wolf Wood manifest the head and tail of the concert in musics gentle and disturbing -- sentiments also mirrored in Beeman's Bernsteinianly-appelated Fancy Free. Scola Prosek provides the requisite bark and bite in three selections from the opera Ten Days (Dieci Giorni, after The Decameron of Boccaccio) with songs tragic, romantic, and comic. Rounding out the pack are the colorful Collins Synesthesia (directed by Mark Alburger) and the wolf-whistle Cowgirl Rondo of Stoddard (conducted by the composer), with a special howl-out going for the revival of Les Six / Mills College associate Milhaud's Chamber Symphonies Nos. 1-3, led by John Kendall Bailey.



Tickets for the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra's "Silence of the Wolves" -- on Friday, June 11, 8:00 p.m., at 1725 Sacramento Street (@ Van Ness), San Francisco, are $17 general, $14 students and seniors. Tickets are available through the Old First Church Box Office at (415) 474-1608 and at the door. For more information, please call Old First Church Box Office, or the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra (707) 474-7273, or visit the organizations' respective websites at and Tickets are also available at Other links to the show may be found at, and


Friday, June 11, at 8:00 p.m.
Old First Church
1725 Sacramento Street at Van Ness
San Francisco, CA
(415) 474-1608

San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra,


John Beeman - Fancy Free
Cindy Collins - Synesthesia
Loren Jones - Wolf Wood
Darius Milhaud - Chamber Symphonies Nos. 1-3
Lisa Scola Prosek - Three Songs from 10 Days
Martha Stoddard - Cowgirl Rondo
Davide Verotta - An Enticement of Silence

Tickets: $17 general, $14 students and seniors, available through the Old First Church Box Office at (415) 474-1608, at the door, and at

More information at and