11 April 2012

Climb Onto the Saddle

Knowing that time would be short, and that schedule-juggling has its inherent challenges, I decided to shelve composition of the quartet.
Instead, and figuring on the three of us (flute, harp & clarinet), I elected to take a few short pieces, music which has not yet seen public performance, and arrange them for this trio into a makeshift suite running about seven minutes to finish off the lunchtime program at King’s Chapel. One of the pieces: Marginalia, the short middle piece from the cello ensemble suite, Its all in your head (not that thats a bad place for everything to be). For the surrounding diptych, two of the clarinet duos of These Unlikely Events.
The goals were:  (mostly) energetic music to wrap up the concert; duration (of course: cannot have the musical program run over, as many members of the audience – and we do hope they will be many – will need to return to their respective workplaces promptly);  and ease of rehearsal, as the time is short (concert is a week from to-day), and the other players (Peter H Bloom & Mary Jane Rupert) leave town on a brief tour to-morrow.
The two numbers from These U. E. made for easy work.  Without any transposition, the clarinet 1 part mapped quite readily to the alto flute, with only a couple of octave transpositions needed.  Adding the occasional harp touch as a highlight (which makes for relatively light duty for Mary Jane, who already has plenty of work in stars & guitars) was mentally easy, and musical value added out of proportion to that mild effort.
Adapting Marginalia was somewhat more effort.  There were just enough ‘moving parts’ to the task (transposing the whole up a major third; going from concert-pitch instruments to two transposing winds; needing to mind the alto flute’s range) that it demanded undivided concentration to get it right the first time (for there would be no time to mend it, if done wrong initially).  All the same, I had all three pieces ready by about six o’clock on Sunday afternoon, to send electronically to the band.
It was well done, for in the event, we three needed to rehearse Monday evening.  Which rehearsal went very well.
Last night I went to Memorial Church on the Harvard campus to hear David Briggs play the inaugural concert on a newly installed Fisk organ (Opus 139).  Fine concert, fun occasion, something of an air of “everybody who is anybody in the Boston organ scene is here.” (Not absolutely true, of course; just something in the air . . . possibly a whiff of complacency.)
Saw my old teacher (from Wooster) Jack Russell there. Jack has been in the Boston area some little time, so it was a somewhat curioyusly delayed (though no less delightful for that) reunion.
Mr Briggs’s program concluded with the DuruflĂ© Suite, which itself concludes with a boisterous Toccata (“fiendishly difficult,” Mr Briggs called it).  That in turn made me think of my own (fiendishly difficult – no, but really) organ Toccata, and how so few organists have (read: only one organist thus far has) played it.  My buddy Eric Mazonson (no craven when it comes to playing Henningmusick) once suggested that the notation needs to be improved (I don’t know how closely he dug into the score, but he’s certainly an intelligent score-reader).  So long as all my notes remain intact (compositionally, I continue to own the piece entirely), I have no objection at all to changing the look of the notation, especially if it will aid potential performers of the piece.
Thus, after the end of the recital last night, I asked “J.R.” (as we fondly knew him back in Wooster) if he would kindly look the score of my Toccata over, with an eye to ‘optimizing’ the notation.  And I’ve sent it off to him via the miracle of e-mail.  We shall see . . . .
Just looking at the piece again, though, my excitement over, enthusiasm for, and pride in the piece all well up afresh in the Henning bosom.  It’s a piece which could take the organ music world by storm – if only we can find three or four intrepid organists.

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