Masters of Improv

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

This week, Terrance McKnight travels into a world of musical fantasy and improvisation. We hear music by Chopin and Liszt, two piano virtuosos and improvisers, and a touch of stride, courtesy of pianist James P. Johnson.

Despite obvious differences, both classical music and Jazz have common roots in improv. Many classical and romantic composers were also famed improvisers including Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt. The latter was a traveling virtuoso who would wow audiences with his impromptu improvisations during concerts. In the Rienzi Fantasy we're taken on a ride through Wagner's opera as seen through the eyes of Liszt. Wagner's well known melodies are transformed when Liszt adds his signature virtuosity and flair for improvisation.
Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu ventures through a whirlwind of washing pitches that flow into a more lyrical, dreamlike section before revisiting the opening. Chopin combines a traditional form with a more rhapsodic, improvisatory style, just as James P. Johnson does with his Jazzamine Concerto. Johnson weaves between both classical and jazz styles, uniting his passion for stride playing, with a desire to write in a more classical form.                                           
Other examples heard today include music and by Marcus Roberts, Anat Fort, and much more.


An die Musik,  D. 547
Franz Schubert
Dame Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; Geoffrey Parsons, piano

Prayer for Peace

Marcus Roberts
Marcus Roberts, piano


Evan Ziporyn
Evan Ziporyn, bass clarinet

Rienzi Fantasy
Richard Wagner/Franz Liszt
Endre Hegedus, piano


Anat Fort
Anat Fort, piano
Anat Fort

Chansons de Bilitis

Claude Debussy
Renee Fleming, soprano; Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano

Jazzamine Concerto

James P. Johnson
James P. Johnson, piano
Smithsonian Folkways

Fantasie-impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. 66
Frederic Chopin
Andrea Lucchesini, piano


Andre Previn
Elizabeth Mann, flute; Andre Previn, piano


Alexander Scriabin
Steven Isserlis, cello; Thomas Ades, pianist

Echo of Halos

Steven Burke
Unknown Ensemble
Private Collection

Diverso Il Tempo
Jacob Ter Veldhuis (Jacob TV)
Rene Berman, cello; Kees Wieringa, piano

Differences (for cello and piano)
David Ying, cello; Elinor Freer, piano

Philip Glass
La Pieta
Angele Dubeau, violin

Comments [1]

Rob from Indianapolis

What an extraordinary show,
providing an
extraordinary opportunity
every week,
every week!
to trip the
light fandango
through the imagination
of Terrance
as if music itself
has a universal source,
and we are invited
to a front row seat
to see the show,
glimpse how
the vibrarions of Chopin
and Jelly Roll
kiss all for
'the benefit of Mr. Kite!'


May. 21 2011 09:42 AM

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