Gnossiene, No. 1 (pronouced: NO-see-en)
Erik Satie — 1866-1925
Erik Satie was a French composer, 1866-1925. Although mostly known for his six Gnossienes and three Gymnopedies, he has a vast body of work, composing 84 musical works between 1885 and 1924.
From Frances Wilson’s article regarding the Gnossienes, “They were radical for their time in that they were written free form without time signatures or bar lines (a habit favoured by later minimalist composers) and lack conventional performance directions.”
Technical Note: My copy of this piece alternates between 16/4 and 24/4, each one long measure extending fully across the page.
Since Satie’s Gnossienes didn’t fit into any existing styles of piano music, such as a sonata or a prelude, Satie made up a completely new word, in this case, “Gnossienne” (pronounced: NO-see-en).
This recording of Gnossiene No. 1, composed around 1890 and published in 1893, is basically a very simple piece to play technically but can be challenging to subtly express, especially since Satie’s compositions are not marked with any kind of expressive phrasing or tempo. He is well known for his compositions to be very repetitive in nature and this piece is no exception. For this reason, I shortened the piece down to about half the original length which is still within keeping the mood of the original whole piece.
Many pianists play this at a much faster tempo. I prefer the slower, moody, almost eerie and mesmerizing feeling that the slower tempo evokes.
Articles of interest:
Valse in A flat Major, Op. 69, No. 1
Frédéric François Chopin
Info from Wikipedia: It is also called The Farewell Waltz or Valse de l’adieu. The waltz was originally written as a farewell piece to Maria Wodzińska, to whom Chopin was once engaged.
Ballad in G minor, No. 1
Frédéric François Chopin
This is the beautiful melodic section about 3 minutes into the approximately 10 minute masterpiece of Chopin’s Ballad in G minor.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote four orchestral suites. The best-known “Badinerie” (a type of quick, light movement in a suite) is the final movement of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor which features the flute as its soloist.
This partial version of the Badinerie is transcribed as a piano solo.
Carnaval, Op. 9, No. 12 “Chopin”
Robert Schumann, 1810-1856
In musical terms, “Opus” (Op.) is basically a body of work which can be a composition or a set of compositions.
In this case, Carnaval, Op. 9 consists of 21 movements or numbers (No.) and No. 12 is called “Chopin.” (Chopin was a colleague of Schumann’s whom he respected and admired.)
A little information about this piece…
Robert Schumann wrote the 21 Carnaval short pieces between 1834–1835.
Since “Carnaval” is meant to depict the happenings, or events, during the “Carnival of Lent” ~ a traditional festivity that takes place before people go on a fast during Lent ~ the movements are meant to create various moods such as majestic, lively, passionate, and animated.
This recording ~ Schumann’s Carnaval No. 12, called Chopin ~ is marked to be played “Agitato” (played in an agitated manner). The melody, however, is often played twice. The first time, it’s played with an agitated emotion and fuller sound. The second time, to “interest the audience,” it is sometimes played a little slower and softer with a “more melancholy mood,” which is how I like to play it.
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
I had a year to prepare and chose Grieg’s Concerto in A minor, the only piano concerto Grieg wrote. It was a thrill to perform! My mother said my father was so proud he was “busting his buttons.”
Recently, in 2021, I recorded the slow solo part in the concerto. So, 57 years later I bring you a bit of history!
Kinderszenen No. 1, Of Foreign Lands and People
CHOPIN — Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35
This sonata was written in four movements. The 3rd movement, played at Chopin’s own burial, is known as the Funeral March (Marche funèbre) and was written in 1837, two years before the rest of the Sonata. The entire sonata was completed by 1839.
The full sonata typically lasts between 21 and 25 minutes to perform.
I’ve taken just a snippet of the 3rd movement to record, lasting only 20 measures and 2 minutes in length.
In my interpretation, the first section played is the somber death march which leads into the second section, an extremely contrasting, soft and beautiful melody. The short 3rd section echoes the funeral march to the finale.
When I play my short interpretation, the emotions that I personally feel from it denotes death, then being risen to the light of the next world, concluding with the finality of life on earth.
I was hesitant to express my emotional view because I think each person should interpret music, art, etc. in their own way.
That being said, I urge you to listen to the full version of Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 which has been recorded by numerous concert pianists, each expressing their own unique style.
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