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Archive for March, 2010

Schubert – Impromptu No.1 in C Minor (played by Jandó)

March 12, 2010 2 comments

During my gap year I had a girlfriend who was (and still is) extremely talented at just about anything she gets her hands on. Musically, not only a harpist and a singer but also a pianist, she rattled off this impromptu by Schubert one day when I was at her house.

I was gobsmacked. Firstly what a piece. Secondly, my egotistical side couldn’t handle the thought that she could play such a challenging piece. It might not sound very difficult, but the fingering and musicianship required to bring out the melody at some points are so tough. Plus it is 9 minutes long. I wanted to be better than her at the piano – it was what I was going to study at uni for goodness sake! She was off to study Modern Languages and she still plays ridiculously difficult piano pieces.

So I spent my first year at uni practicing it, taking it to my wacky piano teacher (in this video you can actually see the music to this piece. Just noticed…) who would help me get it up to scratch. I realised I’m just not as good as her. She probably learnt it in a week whereas it took me about 6 months.

…But I did it! I played it well enough to get a 1st in the exam and I was overjoyed. I rung her up to tell her that I could play it, but by this point our level of contact had become pretty much non- existent due to reasons that were completely my fault, and she essentially wasn’t bothered. Not that she knows how hard I spent practicing the piece and why I learnt it. Maybe she’d have been more interested if I told her.

This piece is so self-contained. So final. An epic piece which has extremely happy and extremely dark bits. A film I can compare it to is Love Exposure – a 4 and a half hour epic which goes through every genre. Meticulously done, everyone has to see it.

It’s the climax onto an Ab major chord at 5:05/06 which I love (but not played very well on this recording – it should sing out a lot more). All of Schubert’s passion poured into that chord which is repeated at 5:15/16. The build-up is amazing with the left hand repeating some fierce chords from 4:58. I also love the key and dynamic change from 5:24- 5:30; a big contrast to the previous heavy section.

Andrew Bird – Oh No

March 10, 2010 2 comments

Introduced to me by band member Tim, music is a must during our ritual bouts of Scrabble.

The game wasn’t memorable as I lost. In fact I’ve only beaten him twice in our competitive word-exchanging history, so this isn’t worth commenting on, but the beauty of Andrew Bird‘s Noble Beast album has more to tell.

Consistent in delicate performance and musicianship, and without the cringe, this album makes me tingle. Bird has a very reassuring voice, a voice which for me gives the impression that any musical arrogance is at a minimum and instead he lives to tell wonderful stories and play wonderful music.

It was a tough call to choose between his songs Oh No and Effigy, so I’ll talk about them both. Especially as what it is I like about them is actually the same thing:

It is the preceding orchestral introductions, containing these lush, pensive-like harmonies which then suddenly contrast with the second introduction (both tracks have two introductions) which is what I love. In Oh No, whistling begins at 00:19 secs which makes me feel like I’m being hugged by a reassuring stranger in a park. Fitting, as the former introduction sounds like a visual of a park – children playing, the sun beaming, you see?

And In Effigy, a righteously melancholic guitar line is heard at 00:48 secs. I remember first hearing it on the speakers and I just couldn’t concentrate during our game; I had to listen to it more and find out where it was going. Before this, which begins the track is a wonderful string section which alongside the guitar melody, has a tinge of medieval pastiche to it. Like the introduction to ‘Oh No’, it’s a swirling, looping melody which really can go anywhere, which is why I like how he has chosen in both songs to create a significant timbral contrast. Excitingly understated songwriting.

Oh No

Effigy