Walter Bitner

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The Italian Concerto

 

In 1735, when Sebastian was 50 years old, he published his second volume of keyboard works, Clavier-Übung II (“Keyboard Practice II”). It contains two pieces for double-manual harpsichord: Concerto nach Italienischen Gusto (Concerto in the Italian taste, now known at the Italian Concerto, BWV 971), and Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art (Overture in the French Style, or simply the French Overture, BWV 831).

That Sebastian chose to pair these two works in the same publication paid homage to the old tradition (by his time) for composers to seek a harmonious way (or perhaps take sides) between the perceived opposition of French and Italian musical styles – an argument that had been carried on in European musical circles for centuries. This discussion is a part of Sebastian’s œuvre too, and was influenced by the work of his contemporary François Couperin (1668-1733) and his “les Goûts réunis” or “reunited tastes”, which was published in 1724. Although Sebastian and Couperin never met, they corresponded with each other. The subjects of their letters has long been a tantalizing mystery to Bach scholars, as the letters were subsequently used as lids for jam pots and thus destroyed. Since Couperin had died two years before Clavier-Übung II was published, it is possible that in his own way, Sebastian also intended the volume as an homage to Couperin himself – or as a rebuttal or commentary on the various merits of each style .

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16th Annual Mozart Birthday Concerts

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ~ posthumous portrait by Barbara Krafft, 1819 (click images to enlarge)

This month, Roger Wiesmeyer’s Mozart in Nashville will present concert celebrations to honor the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 261st birthday. This annual tradition features an ensemble of local musicians – including members of the Nashville Symphony, free-lance professionals, and amateurs – who perform two benefit concerts for a local charity featuring music by Amadeus, who was born on January 27, 1756.

The 2018 concerts will take place:

Friday, January 19, noon, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Road, Nashville.

Monday, January 22, 7 pm, at Edgehill United Methodist Church, 1502 Edgehill Avenue, Nashville.

This year’s concerts feature:

Evening Mood (Abendempfindung, K. 523)
The Violet (Das Veilchen, K. 476)
Longing for Spring (Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling, K. 596)
Claire Boling, soprano
Roger Wiesmeyer, piano

Laudamus Te from Great Mass in C minor, K. 427
Claire Boling, soprano
Mozart Birthday Festival Orchestra
Matthew Phelps, conductor

Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat Major, K. 595
Roger Wiesmeyer, piano
Mozart Birthday Festival Orchestra
Matthew Phelps, conductor

These special events will benefit the Children’s Kindness Network, who are at the forefront of countering bullying and teaching kindness and empathy to our youngest citizens.

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2017: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Off The Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

In what is becoming an annual tradition, here I review my experience writing Off The Podium over the course of the year and share some statistics. We will also see if I have learned anything and I will attempt to describe what this blog – which sometimes goes off in unexpected directions – is all about.

2017 was a very full year, packed with many significant events and activities. Off The Podium continues to provide a great means to share the activities of the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony with the world. It also remains a productive format that has inspired me to continue to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education – these features of Off The Podium reach thousands of readers all over the world and  have brought me into contact with many musicians and educators I would otherwise have had no opportunity to meet or correspond with.

Thank you everyone for your continued encouragement and support.

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Concentration

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my piano teacher assigned me a simplified arrangement of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer. At that point in my piano study, I had not yet attempted to play anything that required such independence between my hands – this arrangement retained the typical ragtime style of a syncopated melody in the right hand set against the left hand alternating bass notes on the beat and chords on the division of the beat.

This piece was a struggle for me to learn, but it was the right piece at the right time. Despite the difficulty I had in coordinating my hands to play the two distinct rhythmic patterns against each other, I was captivated by The Entertainer and very motivated to learn it. My parents had taken me to see The Sting and had given me the film’s soundtrack recording on LP featuring Marvin Hamlisch’s marvelous arrangements of Scott Joplin’s original rags. So putting The Entertainer in my hands at that stage of my piano curriculum was timely on the part of my piano teacher and incredibly fortuitous for me. Thank you, Mrs. Stoike.

I clearly remember the day it happened.

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Martha Argerich: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon

(click photos to enlarge)

When Deutsche Grammophon released a box set of Martha Argerich’s complete recordings for their label in September 2015, I coveted it immediately, eventually succumbing to temptation and purchasing it for my CD library. This summer I made a project of slowly listening to all 48 CDs in order of release, savoring each recording and listening to many of them several times. OK, most of them.

Just in case you’re not a classical pianist, or slept through the last fifty years, Martha Argerich is widely regarded as one of our greatest living pianists, and certainly as one of the most important classical artists of the post-WWII era.

Which makes this stupendous collection – a wide-ranging survey of all of her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon and Philips spanning 55 years from 1959 to 2014 – perhaps the single greatest collection of recorded classical piano music in history. It’s astounding.

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15th Annual Mozart Birthday Concerts

(l to r) Nashville Symphony musicians Gil Perel & Roger Wiesmeyer

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. For the 15th consecutive year, Roger Wiesmeyer’s Mozart in Nashville will present concert celebrations in honor of the Austrian wunderkind’s birthday. As in years past, this year’s events feature an ensemble of local musicians – including members of the Nashville Symphony, free-lance professionals, and amateurs – who will perform two benefit concerts for a local charity featuring music by Amadeus.

This year’s concerts will take place:

Friday, January 13, noon, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Road, Nashville.

Monday, January 23, 7 pm, at Edgehill United Methodist Church, 1502 Edgehill Avenue, Nashville.

This year’s concerts feature:

Piano Sonata in B flat Major, K. 333
Roger Wiesmeyer, piano solo

Bassoon Concerto in B flat Major, K. 191/186e
Gil Perel, bassoon solo
Mozart Birthday Festival Orchestra

Proceeds will benefit the Mary Parrish Center for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

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2016: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Off The Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

As I did last year at this time, here I review my experience writing Off The Podium this year and share some statistics, what I have learned, and come clean on what exactly this blog is about.

The year has been a wild ride. Off The Podium has provided a great means to share the activities of the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony and the launch of our Accelerando program with the Nashville community and the world. It has also continued to provide me with a format and incentive to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education – regular features of Off The Podium that now reach thousands of readers all over the world.

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Olga Scheps: 2016 Update & Satie

Olga2015byUwe Arens

photo by Uwe Arens

The most remarkable pianist of her generation – Russian-born Olga Scheps, who was raised and resides in Germany – has continued this year to develop her repertoire and career in surprising directions. I first wrote about Olga nearly a year ago, upon the release of Vocalise, her fifth CD for Sony. That article – Meet Olga Scheps – includes biographical notes, links to some videos of her performances, and an overview of her discography.

The last year has been busy for Olga – in addition to her concertizing, she has just released another disc – so I decided to write a review of some of her recent activities, and about her new recording, Satie.

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14th Annual Mozart’s Birthday Concerts

detail from a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, painted in 1782 by his brother in law Joseph Lange. Mozart wrote the C minor piano concerto in the winter of 1785-86

detail from a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, painted in 1782 by his brother in law Joseph Lange. Mozart wrote the C minor piano concerto in the winter of 1785-86

This month Roger Wiesmeyer and an ensemble of local musicians – many of them members of the Nashville Symphony – will perform two benefit concerts for a local charity featuring music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as Roger has done every year at this time since 2003.

This year’s concerts will take place:

Friday, January 15, noon, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Road, Nashville.

Sunday, January 31, 6 pm, at Edgehill United Methodist Church, 1502 Edgehill Avenue, Nashville.

This year’s concert features the C minor piano concerto, K. 491 conducted by Vinay Parameswaran with Roger as piano soloist. Admission is $10, and all proceeds benefit The Contributor.

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2015: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Offthe Podium

2015 Off the Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

Disclosure: self-indulgent meta-post follows

It’s the last week of 2015, and looking back I decided to review my experience writing Off the Podium this year and share some statistics, what I have learned, and in a way give an overview of what exactly this blog is about.

Writing has been something I have wanted to do for years now, and I began to write in secret some time ago, but it was last year’s career transition that found me leaving the classroom to work at the symphony that finally enabled me to begin writing in earnest. I just couldn’t put it off any more!

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