I’m happy to announce a performance of a recent piece of mine. This is a piece for cello and piano, called A te; it’s an unpredictable and (if I say so myself) rather sly set of variations on “A te o cara,” a tenor aria from Bellini’s opera “I Puritani.” These performances are happening on a series called Second Helpings, produced by the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. Here’s the data:
April 1, 2 PM: ChelseaArt Museum, 556 West 22nd Street, in New York
April 2, 2 PM: Dia Beacon. This is a museum in Beacon, NY, where the Dia Foundation shows its art collection. For directions, go to their website.
This performance is one of several ways in which I’m slowly reemerging as a composer. I hope to announce a couple of more events soon. This piece — originally written for cellist Adiel Shmit, to whom I’m grateful — plays games. As a musician who heard it said after its premiere a few months ago, “You never know what’s coming next.” The Bellini tune comes at the end, and emerges like a light out of darkness, tying together everything that came before. Suddenly you realize where the things you’ve been hearing came from.
The variations run all over the stylistic map. The first one takes off from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Others are little tributes to bebop (with the cello and piano both taking solos). Still others are quietly drunken little rhapsodies. There’s also a nod to minimalism, and, in many places, more dissonance than I usually write. I’m learning to bring all the non-classical music I love into classical pieces (odd that it didn’t come naturally to me before, given how strongly I’ve publicly said that such things should happen). This piece maybe reflects the feeling I often have about music in our time, that the variety of it is just staggering, but also (with no disrespect meant to any musical style) a bit like litter — there’s so much of it around that, apart from following your nose and just listening to whatever you love, it’s hard to know what to do to it all.
Because the theme comes at the end, I had two problems in writing the piece. The first was how to start (since usually a set of variations starts stalwartly with the theme). I decided to use the orchestral introduction to the aria, just as you hear it in the opera. So the piece becomes a Bellini sandwich — Bellini at the beginning and end, me in the middle.
The other problem was how to get to the end — how to brake all the crazy momentum, how to make a transition from short, gnomic, wildly varied variations into the peaceful D major of the theme. My answer was to break the variations into fragments, as if the music slowly collapsed into rubble. And from that rubble the theme emerges.
That’s a lot of writing about a fairly short piece! Also on the program is music, by a lovely quirk of fate, written by people I’ve known for a long time, and really like: Chet Biscardi, Martha Mooke, and JoanTower (who’s the artistic director of the series).
If any readers come to these performances, please come up and say hello!
Feel free to peruse the http://www.gregsandow.com/music/a_te.pdf score of A te, and http://www.gregsandow.com/music/a_te_demo.m3u listen to a synthesizer version of the music.