Texas new music-ensemble revised
Texas New Music Ensemble
On Saturday, November 07, 2015 at 7:30 pm, the Texas New Music Ensemble presented their autumn 2015 concert at Fort Bend Music Studio. The program dubbed ‘Autumn Piano Concert’ featured five solo piano pieces performed by Makiko Hirata. They included: The Birth of Shiva (1999) by Dan Welcher; American Sketches (2000) Movements I-VI by Jefferson Todd Frazier; Phantasy and Toccata (1985) by David Ashley White; Patterns Preludes, Book I (2005) Movement I-VI by Karim Al-Zand, and Circles (2012) by Chad Robinson. There was an intermission after the third piece where refreshments were served before the concert proceeded. The whole concert was a success; however, the three compositions that impressed me were Patterns Preludes, Circles and The Birth of Shiva, in that order.
The pianist of the event was Makiko Hirata. She studied music at Manhattan School of Music and New York University. She has featured as a soloist with various orchestras such as the Pecs Hungarian Symphony. She is also a songwriter and a music lecturer.
The Birth of Shiva was the first performance of the evening. It is part of a piano concerto titled ‘Shiva’s Drum’, composed by Dan Welcher. One might describe it as a portion of a larger work that the pianist can carry to different audiences of the Shiva, an Indian deity, without having to a whole orchestra. However, his piano has to bring clearly out the texture of the orchestra as well as play the solo part with virtuosity. The Hindu religion depicts Shiva both as a destroyer and benefactor CITATION abo15 l 2057 (about religion). This 12-minute piece only portrays him as a creator. The melody is simple but varied and colorful.
The piece began loudly with the string, woodwinds and percussion instruments all playing in unison. Makiko Hirata then came in a few seconds later with the piano part as the other instruments gradually reduced loudness and tempo. The loudness at the opening of the piece could be likened to thunder and lightning to symbolize the birth of god Shiva and the instant creation of the universe. As the piece progressed, the dynamic nature of the melody was brought out vividly. At some point, the melody was fast, loud and with an intense texture to represent the chaos in the universe. At another point, the melody became slow, soft and serene to represent his meditative and creative side. The piece ended softly to bring out his final triumph. The story of Shiva was well told by this impressive musical piece played by a well established contemporary pianist.
After the third piece Phantasy and Toccata was performed, there was a fifteen-minute intermission where refreshments were served. Patterns Preludes, Movement I-VI by Karim Al-Zand, was the fourth piece of the evening. Patterns allow the composer to use a single idea to express a thought that is narrowly focused. This style is well suited to preludes. Karim Al-Zand wrote four books with 24 preludes for piano. His music has been described as having a strong and a lovely start. The patterns played in the concert were from the first book. As the pianist played through the piece, the six preludes were easily distinguished from each other. The first one was moderate and smooth similar to the famous Prelude in C major by Bach CITATION alz15 l 2057 (alzand.com). One hand played a pattern repeatedly with the other hand superimposing on it. The melody played was slightly high pitched. The piece picked up tempo to play a repeated note as quickly as possible in the second prelude. It slowed down in the third prelude bringing out a delicately thrumming effect similar to Chopin’s epitome of chromaticism in Op. 28/4. The melody became restless and agitated in the fourth prelude. The fifth prelude was lyrically slow. Karim said that he composed this prelude as a retirement gift to his music teacher who inspired him to study music and preludes. The prelude has been likened to Debussy regarding its mood and phrasing. In the sixth prelude one hand played low pitched notes twice and intensely. The other hand then came in to play a repetitive pattern in a fast tempo. The first movement of this pattern ended in a vibrant melody that was quick and full of life.
Circles were the last piece of the concert. This piece was composed by Chad Robinson in 2012 with its premiere in London in 2013. It has been performed in Houston and Texas as well. Makiko Hirata performed the piece at Intimate Space Series concerts. Chad Robinson has won several music composition prizes such as the CMU Orchestral Composition Competition CITATION Eat14 l 2057 (Eatock).
The piece began with a moderately fast melody played repeatedly. The melody was repeatedly played in circles as the name suggests. It gained tempo as the piece progressed then slowed down gradually with a temporary pause. The melody in the middle of the piece was slow, soft and distinctly played creating a quiet and serene mood. It then progressively became loud and increased in tempo. Two overlapping patterns were then played in quick and slightly intense tempo. As the piece progressed, there was an alternating pattern of play between two distinct melodies. One was slow and soft while the other was fast and loud. The piece ended with a gradually slow melody.
The whole concert was very impressive and made me learn the different styles of the piano concerto. I was able to experience firsthand movements such as the quick opening movement such as the opening of The Birth of Shiva followed by a free expressive melody and the faster tempo. The Patterns Preludes made me realize how simple patterns can be used to create a melody with high lyrical quality. The dynamic tempos employed were a lesson that speed can be used to create different moods in the same piece. I was particularly amazed by how Karim Al-Zand was able to employ the different styles by Bach and Chopin to compose such a free-flowing piece. It should the influence that classical musicians had on contemporary composers, and that it was possible to blend the different styles of music to create an excellent piece. The last piece Circles made me realize how melodic patterns can be repeatedly used to create an effect. The way the patterns were repeated to create circling effects was just amazing. The success of this concert also lay in the preparedness of the performer Makiko Hirata. Her experience and elegance were clearly evident as she moved from one piece to the next. Her performance made me feel part of the music she played.
BIBLIOGRAPHY about religion. Lord Shiva. 2015. 15 November 2015.
alzand.com. Karim Al-Zand: Composer. 2015. 15 November 2015.
Eatock, Colin. Ensemble turns spotlight on Texas composers. 18 August 2014. 15 November 2015 <http://www.houstonchronicle.com/entertainment/arts-theater/article/Ensemble-turns-spotlight-on-Texas-composers-5696468.php>.
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