Studying the Etude

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Taking a page out of the great Nicholas Hodges' recent programatic playbook, this week on Hammered! we re-contextualize a handful of classic etudes by throwing in fistfuls of freshly composed ones, some so difficult only a machine can play them!

Part of the sadistic fun programming this week was imagining an actual human playing all this music in one, hour-long sitting (in fact, some of this week's music is so challenging that it had to be adapted for player piano! See: Gyorgy Ligeti and more experimental studies by Igor Stravinsky and Conlon Nancarrow).

Monday's show, for instance, would have been brutal. The first half pits new etudes by the inventive Ezequiel Viñao with demonically difficult etudes by Franz Liszt and Alexander Scriabin. The second half are four spectacular and crushingly difficult etudes by Pascal Dusapin.

Each of the Viñaos deals with a specific technical issue ("trills", "repeated notes", and "polyrhythms" for instance), and on the show are paired up with Liszts and Scriabins of similar consideration. One pairing not to miss is the "endurance" etudes, a sensational study by Viñao alongside one of the most technically ravishing, inhumanly executed performances ever heard, anywhere, ever, by The Great Gyorgy Cziffra of (an etude of sorts) Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 6.

The performance is also perversely satisfying to watch, filled by Cziffra with virtuosic additions, embellishments, and flourishes. 

Later in the week we'll have new etudes by Mischa Zupko, Kyle Gann, George Benjamin, Lona Kozik, Haskell Small, and Ryan Francis, in addition to classics by Claude Debussy, Frederic Chopin, Sergei Prokofiev and more.