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Prelude and Fugue in B-flat Minor, BWV 867 from The Well-Tempered
Clavier, Book I
Ballades, Op. 10
3. No. 1 in D minor
4. No. 2 in D major
Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 (1952)
5. I. Allegro marcato
6. II. Presto misterioso
7. III. Adagio molto appassionato
8. IV. Ruvido ed ostinato
9. Romeo Bids Juliet Farewell from Ten Pieces for Piano from Romeo
and Juliet, Op. 75
10. Quejas ó La Maja y el Ruiseñor (Laments or The Maiden
and The Nightingale) from Goyescas
Angelo della Picca (b. 1923)
11. Rondo Capriccioso
About This CD
Idea of Storia
"Storia, which means 'history' or 'story' in Italian, is an idea
that fascinates me and permeates the content and concepts of the recording",
says pianist Philip Amalong. In one sense, the music ranging from Bach
to the present time is the story of the piano. The pianistic tradition
is passed along and evolves through the various eras and styles of the
composers. Additionally, many of the pieces have "extra-musical"
stories or ideas associated with them.
The program of Storia ranges from the B-flat minor Prelude
and Fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier Book I of J.S.
Bach composed around 1725, to a piece composed for Philip Amalong two
years ago by Angelo della Picca, Rondo Capriccioso.
Other works include two of the Ballades, Op. 10
of Brahms, Sonata No. 1 by Alberto Ginastera,
Romeo Bids Juliet Farewell, from Ten
Pieces from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev, and The
Maiden and the Nightingale by Enrique Granados.
In performance, Mr. Amalong enjoys speaking to the audience about the
music and composers. "I was determined that this CD be more than
a collection of pieces, but that I share further some of my discoveries
about the works and the background for my interpretations." Thus
came about the idea for an Enhanced CD. When placed in your computer drive,
an interactive window opens with a menu that offers extended program notes
about the pieces and composers that can be read while listening, as well
as various web links and additional credits. The CD also plays normally
in any CD player. Mr. Amalong plans to expand upon the Enhanced CD aspect
in future productions.
Storia was masterfully produced by Damon
Sink. Nevin Essex, a brilliant
piano technician, prepared the pianos. The Bach, Ginastera, and Prokofiev
were recorded on a Steinway D at the University
of Dayton Sears Recital Hall. The other pieces were recorded on a
Baldwin at The Corbett Studio
of WGUC in Cincinnati.
The Pieces of Storia
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue in B-flat Minor, BWV 867 from "The
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I"
Completed in 1722, The Well-Tempered Clavier Book
I was the first half of Johann Sebastian Bach's great collection
of preludes and fugues for the keyboard. In 1744, he completed Book II
and together these forty-eight preludes and fugues twice venture through
every major and minor key, exploring a rich world of contrapuntal creativity,
harmonic adventure, and human expression.
The exploration of all the major and minor keys is fascinating, since
we know that the common keyboard tuning system used in Bach's circle was
not our modern day "equal temperament," but most likely a meantone
tuning. The meantone system, however, allowed only certain keys on the
instrument to be in tune, while others were remote and quite alien sounding.
The mystery is then, what did Bach mean by "Well Tempered Clavier"
and what did these pieces sound like in the 1720's? Most likely, Bach
was not referring to an actual tuning system known as "well temperament,"
but using the term descriptively. We find references in his obituary to
Bach's ability to tune a harpsichord such that "he achieved so correct
and pure a temperament that all the keys sounded pure and agreeable."
The Prelude reveals lush warm harmonies, made all the more so
by the chosen key of B-flat minor. This was not a key compatible with
the meantone tuning system and not a common key to use in Bach's time.
Does this richly textured piece not reveal that Bach must have tuned his
harpsichord in a way similar to our equal temperament? In the five-voice
Fugue that follows, lines cascade and interweave with similarly rich harmonic
implications to the Prelude. Together the two pieces are a set that rewards
repeated listening (and performing!) with new discoveries and meditative
The Well-Tempered Clavier has remained for centuries a source
of inspiration. It has been studied and analyzed in thousands of essays,
dissertations, books, and lectures. It has been performed on both harpsichord
and piano, and recorded dozens of times to reveal an interesting array
of interpretations. For the student, the professional, or the music enthusiast,
The Well-Tempered Clavier is a monument of musical craft and
"In fact, to my mind, Bach is unapproachable-he is unfathomable."
- Robert Schumann
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Ballades, Op. 10; No. 1 in D minor, No. 2 in D major
The 'Edward' Ballade, the first of the set of four
in Op. 10, is perhaps best known as Brahms' "programmatic" piece.
Composed in 1854, Brahms inscribed the manuscript 'after the old Scottish
ballad "Edward", in Herder's Stimmen der Volker.'
Much speculation has been made about why the young Brahms composed a work
with such a literal extra-musical element, an idea that he generally eschewed.
His friend and mentor Robert Schumann, in a tragic state of delirium,
had only months before attempted suicide and been placed in an asylum.
Brahms, we know from his letters, struggled greatly with this reality
and felt a great sense of responsibility toward Clara Schumann, who was
soon to become a widow. The young Brahms had found such support, inspiration
and guidance in the Schumann family. Yet we can imagine that he had a
sense that this family would never be whole again; that the warmth and
completeness he felt would give way to the loneliness that stirred through
much of the rest of his life.
It is a bleak composition, that takes its own ABA form yet has very distinct
references to the text; in fact it even serves as a direct melodic setting
of the German translation for the first two stanzas, and other elements
of the text pattern can be traced throughout. Most notable is the falling
fifth in the third and fourth measure, indicating the mother's imploring
"Edward, Edward?" This two-note motive permeates the piece as
a whole. The horrific revelation that the mother has instigated Edward's
patricide seems to be revealed after a long climax in the B section. The
ending returns to the opening melody, underscored by the sobbing two-note
motive. Edward acknowledges his lonely haunted life, and curses his mother.
In these early works, Brahms is already showing his mature compositional
style. His orchestral pianism, although much indebted to Schumann, shows
a developing personal musical voice, and subtleties such as his request
that the pedal hold through the falling fifth motives, show a desire to
create textures that challenge the sonorous capabilities of the piano.
The other three Ballades of Op. 10 have no known extra-musical connections,
however, they do each show a narrative musical form that gives them their
own musical "story." Number 2 in D major is a warm contrast
to the grim D minor Ballade, and it shares the ABA form of the first.
The A section is an endearing lullaby, and the B section very orchestral
in nature, with the piano exploring powerful wide-ranging sonorities and
Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 (1950)
work without form is a work deformed. Music is architecture in movement,
and the form must always be born with the music. It is not a different
thing; it is the same thing." -Alberto Ginastera
Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera
was the son of Catalonian and Italian immigrants. He began his musical
studies at an early age and entered the Williams Conservatory at age twelve.
He was a composer and teacher of great influence, and his piano compositions
continue to be enjoyed throughout the world.
Ginastera's piano compositions span the years from 1937 (Danzas Argentinas,
Op. 2) to 1982 (Sonata No. 3). His compositions can be grouped loosely
into three periods. The first period is characterized by literal use of
Argentine folk music; melodies enlivened with the Latin American dance
rhythms, the sounds of the "pampas" and music of lament. The
second period fuses Twentieth century compositional techniques with rhythms
and melodies of his native Argentine music. The third period, which might
be termed Neo-Expressionist in style, is objective and modern, with no
direct idiomatic representations. However, it is still infused with characteristics
found in the Argentine music-strong, relentless rhythms and mysterious
and meditative musical landscapes.
Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 belongs to the Ginastera's "middle" period,
in which he was casting his Argentine folk elements in a distinctly modern
pianistic style. It is Ginastera's best-known and most frequently performed
The first movement is concise and structured in traditional sonata form.
The rhythms and textures allude to the folk idiom. Melodically, the movement
is simple and direct, with clear delineation between the themes. In movement
two, Presto misterioso, Ginastera makes use of a twelve-tone series as
a motivic and formal element, alternating with dance-like sections of
the Argentine character. The Adagio molto Appasionato is both stark and
passionate, and perhaps the most "modern" sounding in the Sonata.
The final movement, Ruvido ed ostinato is based on an infectious rhythmic
ostinato which pervades the whole movement. The same rhythm is the basis
of Leonard Bernstein's "America" from West Side Story, and this
movement is a popular favorite with both pianists and audiences.
"In aesthetics, as in nature, there exists the law of contrasts:
day and night, the sun and the moon, black and white, allegro and adagio.
We must return to contrasts within music." - Alberto Ginastera
Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1937)
Romeo Bids Juliet Farewell from "Ten Pieces for Piano from Romeo
and Juliet, Op. 7"
Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75 is a piano suite
based on the music of Prokofiev's ballet, Romeo and Juliet. Not merely
a transcription or arrangement, Prokofiev wrote the suite to be a distinct
solo piano work. The history of the ballet and its various forms, revisions,
premieres is rather complex; the piano suite was completed in 1935, while
the first production of the ballet was not until 1938 in the Moravian
provincial capital of Brno.
In Romeo and Juliet, Prokofiev's palette of musical character
shines. Warring families, wry characters, poignant love, and bitter tragedy
are all reflected with great sensitivity in his musical language. Steely
textures meet sweet, aching melodies and pesty rhythms underlie witty
tunes. The beautiful piece, Romeo Bids Juliet Farewell, is a
narrative odyssey in which we can hear not only the story of the moment
unfolding, but also periods of wistful reflection and reliving of the
story. The ending is pure tragedy.
Having conceived the music as an orchestral ballet, it is not surprising
that Prokofiev's piano writing here is very orchestral in character-with
clearly delineated textures and melodies that dictate specific instrumental
voices. Of note is the final section, in which the pianist is challenged
to play a detached "pizzicato" in middle-voice chords, while
sustaining a legato line above and using the sostenuto pedal to make the
low cello/bass melody sustain cleanly and richly below.
Prokofiev was a formidable pianist and prolific composer, completing seven
symphonies, a large body of piano music, operas, songs, chamber music,
piano concerti, and film scores. He traveled throughout the world, living
for a while in the U.S. and Paris, but always returning to his native
Russia. His relationship with the Soviet authorities was tenuous; his
travels abroad were with official permission, and for the most part he
avoided charges of "formalism" until in 1948 his opera War
and Peace was condemned by the government. Prokofiev died in 1953
on March 5, the same day as Stalin.
Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Quejas ó La Maja y el Ruiseñor (Laments or The Maiden
and The Nightingale) from "Goyescas"
"I have a world of ideas. I am filled with
enthusiasm to work more and more." So spoke Enrique Granados shortly
after completing his marvelous piano suite "Goyescas," inspired
by his affinity for the paintings of Francisco Goya. The suite was later
adapted into an opera of the same name. Granados and his wife left their
six children in Spain while they ventured to the United States to attend
the premiere of the Goyescas opera at the Metropolitan Opera in New York,
and extended their stay so that Granados could perform for the president.
Upon their return, their ship was torpedoed in the English Channel by
a German submarine. Both Granados and his wife drowned.
Like Chopin, Granados composed almost exclusively for the piano. His passionate
and lyrical works have great musical depth and a distinctly Spanish romantic
character. "Quejas o la Maya y el Ruiseñor" is perhaps
Granados' best known work. Although not based on a specific painting of
Goya, this beautiful lyrical piece is nonetheless a musical portrait of
two of Goya's most common subjects-nature and the human form. The melody
is a Spanish folk tune, set in the lush harmonic texture characteristic
of much of Granados' music. The nightingale appears surprisingly at the
end, offering its comments to the woeful tale that has been told.
Angelo della Picca (b. 1923)
Rondo, based on the theme of the Easter Scene (7th) of Mascagni's Cavalleria
Rusticana, is called "capriccioso" because it never appears
as firstly stated, but always varied as do the intervening episodes.
It appealed to me as the possible theme for my Rondo when performing
Vaughan Williams' Hodie, A Christmas Cantata in which this theme is
suggested in the Epilogue." - Angelo A. della Picca
The remarkable life of Angelo della
Picca began in 1923 in Udine, Italy. Fr. della Picca was ordained a priest
in the Roman Catholic Church in 1945. His education includes three degrees
from the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome (DSMus., MSMus.,
BSMus.), ThM from Seminario Maggiore Udine, MA in Classical Languages
from Villanova University (USA), and PhD studies in Musicology from the
Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Fr. della Picca arrived in the
United States in 1956, where he has gained renown as a teacher, composer
and conductor. He is Professor Emeritus of Music and Theology at The College
of Mount St. Joseph where he has been in residence since 1965.
A beloved friend and teacher, many of his compositions have been written
for those who have been fortunate to know and work with him. His music
is rich in melody, and reflects his Italian heritage and passion for life.
His works include instrumental solo and chamber music, solo and choral
vocal works, and a chamber symphony and violin concerto. He is currently
working on an opera based on the life of Edith Stein.
Fr. della Picca was also instrumental in creating new liturgical music
for the Catholic Church beginning in the 1960's following Vatican II.
He composed for Cincinnati-based World Library Publications, and many
of his works are staples of the Catholic liturgical repertoire. So prolific
was his work in this area, he eventually began to write under various
pseudonyms to give name variety to his publisher's catalogue.
Rondo Capriccioso offers exciting challenges to the performer, notable
among these the extreme character changes that occur as the rhapsodic
piece unfolds. The four-note Cavalleria Rusticana motive weaves through
the various textures and intensities in the work. The piece is part of
a trilogy of piano rondos by Fr. della Picca, which includes Christmas
Rondo, and Easter Rondo, works based on plainchant melodies from the Gregorian