For better or for worse one thing that many of us have had during COVID-19 is more free time. While I have been blessed that many of my students have continued lessons online, I have also had time to expand my creative output. This piece is ideal for anyone who plays piano at the intermediate level and loves passionate music from the Romantic era.
The Ballade as a genre originated from literature; epic long poems with many lines and verses. Frederick Chopin was the first to create a musical genre with this title. My Ballade is a much shorter than his long and challenging version. It’s more similar in scope to those of Brahms and Grieg.
With snow flakes dancing in the air the 2019 Christmas Recital at Harcourt United Church in Guelph kicked off with a bang. The furious Cavalry Gallop by Dimitry Kabalevsky launched out of the gate and got things rolling. It turned out to be a recital of many firsts, with four players of varying ages performing for their very first time. The budding performers played the nursery rhythm favourites Old MacDonald and Are You Sleeping?, as well as a Gavotte by Handel and Christopher Norton’s After the Battle.
This year has been a rich one for me on my journey as a budding composer of piano music. I wrote many smaller works at the beginning of the year and finished a sonata in the summer. In the fall my free time has been occupied by writing in another genre, the nocturne. First pioneered by John Field and further popularized by Chopin, the nocturne is a piece for solo piano meant to be played at night. Like much of Chopin’s music it features a steady left hand with a right hand that often moves in an improvisatory way. The right hand is meant to mimic the silky smooth melody of a vocal work such as an aria. Nocturnes are normally peaceful but can become tempestuous and virtuosic at times such as in parts of Chopin’s Nocturne in C Minor op. 48 no. 1.
On Sunday, June 9 at Harcourt United Church, students took part in the 2019 Spring Recital. Once again audience members were treated to a variety of styles and talents. The recital kicked off with CPE Bach’s blisteringly fast Solfeggio followed by a piano arrangement of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
My experiments in the realm of harmony continue. Currently I’m about half way through the RCM 10 Harmony book at we’ve just finished the passage on V9s and 13s. To me these chords immediately make me recall Chopin, as if they were his musical fingerprint. I thought I’d take another stab at composing something simple. My tendency is often to begin with simple intentions but end up with a piece 10 pages long and hard for anyone to play. This time I restricted myself to 16 measures. I thought I’d try to write another minuet, this time in the minor mode but by the time I tried it out at the keyboard I realized it was much more like a waltz. I almost achieved my first goal as it ended up being 21 measures. It turned out a tad more difficult than I wanted it to be but oh well. I’d say it’s more like grade 3 or probably 4 RCM. Still, I’m happy with the result. It reminds me a bit of Chopin combined with some Danny Elfman. What does it remind you of?
Introducing a new and haunting piece for piano. Frozen Tears has been compared to the music of Chopin mixed with Danny Elfman, the composer of soundtracks to movies including Edward Scissorhands and Corpse Bride. I can’t help but mention there is a bit of my favourite composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff, in there too.