Happy Birthday today to Richard Drehoff Jr. who is a Baltimore-based composer and close personal friend of mine. Richard’s music asks performers to explore vulnerability, navigate fragile extended techniques, and observe silence as a crucial element of his compositions. In this piece, he writes multi-phonics at the extremes of their playable dynamics that are, as he says, “carved into the rock face” of the surrounding silence. He additionally composes for the solo flute using a double-stave score to impart the interplay of background and foreground in the work as inspired by Escher’s “Day and Night,” which gets projected in the background of any performance. Richard is one of my oldest friends and most frequent collaborators because we work closely together as members of earspace, a NC-based contemporary performance ensemble. Our close relationship and Richard’s unique mix of glowing warmth and unflinching meticulousness made this collaboration extremely fun and rewarding. -Philip Snyder (UofSC MM ’15, DMA ’18)
Born in Vienna on this day in 1759, pianist, singer and composer Maria Theresia von Paradis was blind from the age of 2. Her most famous composition, the Sicilienne posted here (originally for piano quartet), is now thought to have been composed by Samuel Dushkin, a composer himself who claimed to have found the work. Regardless of its origins, it is a poignant melody and a beautiful addition to the flute repertoire.
Performed by Jennifer Parker-Harley, flute and C
Recorded by Jeff Francis
Erik Satie, born on this day in 1866, published his set of Gymnopédies for piano in 1888 in Paris. In contrast to the displays of virtuosity often exhibited by 19th-century piano music, these pieces are decided simple and tranquil. The precise meaning of the title is uncertain except for a poem by Contamine published alongside the first Gymnopédie which includes the lines “…amber atoms in the fire gleaming/Mingled their sarabande with the gymnopaedia.”
Performed by Jennifer Parker-Harley, flute and Winifred Goodwin, piano
Recorded by John Epps
French composer Jean Françaix was born on this day in 1912. His parents were both professional musicians and he showed an early and prodigious talent. As a young child, he began composition lessons with famed teacher Nadia Boulanger, who considered him to be one of her best students. None other than Maurice Ravel wrote to the young child’s parents, Among the child’s gifts I observe above all the most fruitful an artist can possess, that of curiosity.This sense of wonder, play and humor is evident throughout Francaix’s entire output. He was also a wonderful melodist, as heard here in the Notturno from his Divertimento for Flute and Piano (1953).
Émile Pessard was born on this day in 1843. Pessard was mainly known for his operas and masses and the Andalouse certainly employs the composer’s familiar, singing style. The piece was originally written as part of a collection of 25 works for piano but lends itself easily to performances that include a soloist playing the beautiful melody. The title probably refers to the Andalucia region of southern Spain.
Performed by Jennifer Parker-Harley
Recorded by Jeff Francis