Track two from Ryan Francis's complete piano music performed by Vicky Chow
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
On this specially curated week of Hammered! we spotlight a new album of piano music by New York-based composer Ryan Anthony Francis. The record features Bang On A Can pianist Vicky Chow, who, with Francis, joins Hammered! throughout the week with insights on this exquisite new body of piano music.
◦ Tune in at the top of the 11 AM/PM hour Monday through Thursday for single works from the album with introductions to each piece by Francis. On Friday we'll offer a full audition of the album en total.
◦ The remainder of each day is filled with works specifically chosen by Francis that complement each of his piano pieces. Read Francis's daily programatic walk-through below, along with more detailed notes on his own music.
◦ We'll also feature additional performances at the end of each program by pianistic powerhouse Vicky Chow of brand new piano works by Andy Akiho, Evan Ziporyn, Eliot Britton and Daniel Wohl.
Tuesday: Consolations (2004)
Consolations came about from a variety of influences but mostly from big romantic repertoire. I wanted to write something akin to a Chopin Scherzo or Ballade—in other words, a piece that traverses a large emotional landscape, that feels like an arduous journey, but is actually quite compact (8-10 minutes). I ended up with something a little longer than the Ballades and Scherzi, but managed I think to keep the piece largely within the affect of those masterpieces. I’ve always admired Thomas Adès’s Traced Overhead because I feel that he brilliantly accomplished something similar in that piece.
I have also always been drawn to Franz Liszt's set of miniatures he ambiguously titled Consolations, not so much for the actual music, but for the meaning in the titles. What did he mean, exactly? There might be a clear scholarly reasoning behind the titles, but I’ve never been particularly interested in finding out what—that would ruin the mystery for me.
Consolations also has a lot to do with Die Nebensonnen, from Franz Schubert’s Wintereisse. As the penultimate song in the massive cycle, it narrates the protagonist’s vision of false suns, known in modern times as “sun dogs," which is a phenomenon where the sun’s image is refracted through snow in the atmosphere during a bad blizzard, causing two ghost suns to flank the real one. If you were living when Wilhelm Müller wrote his poem, seeing something like false suns was considered a terrible vision. Death would be near. I used the first stanza of Müller's poem an epigram in the score.
I saw three suns appear in the sky
I stared at them long and fixedly
And they too, stood staring.
It's with this image that the piece begins.