Sunday, October 21, 2012



October 20, 2012
Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

Preludes in Seattle Part 4
Keith Eisenbrey, piano

Here is the program from my recital last night:

24 Preludes op. 50 - 1938-1966            Lockrem Johnson
    XIII - F-sharp Major
    XIV - E-flat minor
    XV - D-flat Major    Andantino sostenuto but flowing, gently syncopated, sleekly like a cat stretching after a nap
    XVI - B-flat minor    Poco allegro, rumbling

Patti’s Parlour Pieces  - 2000            Ken Benshoof
    13. Largo
    14. Waltz Time
    15. Freely, expressive
    16. Heavy

24 Preludes for piano  - 2003            Ken Benshoof
    13. F-sharp Major    wide, still
    14. E-flat minor        slow dance
    15. D-flat Major    jocular, teasing
    16. B-flat minor        deep, wide

24 Tonal Preludes  - 1965-1966            Greg Short
    XIII - F-sharp Major    Andante cantabile - (after R. Schumann’s F# Romance)
    XIV - E-flat minor    “Dialogue”
    XV - D-flat Major    Allegro molto - “Alberti Bass”
    XVI - B-flat minor    Andante con moto - “Himalayan Chant”

24 Preludes for piano - 2009-2011        Keith Eisenbrey
    I    C Major        Shiny
    II     A minor        Goth
    III     G Major        Pubescent
    IV     E minor        Claret
    V     D Major        Trilbied
    VI     B minor        Noir
    VII     A Major        Straight
    VIII     F-sharp minor        Brusque
    IX     E Major        Curvy
    X     C-sharp minor        Rapt
    XI     B Major        Buoyant
    XII     G-sharp minor        Turbulent
    XIII     F-sharp Major        Glow
    XIV     E-flat minor        Dark
    XV     D-flat Major        Bubbly
    XVI     B-flat minor        Quixosis
    XVII    A-flat Major         Lacustrine
    XVIII    F minor        Mirrored
    XIX    E-flat Major        Occluded
    XX    C minor        Amber
    XXI    B-flat Major        Abstract
    XXII    G minor        Ripping
    XXIII    F Major        Fungal
    XXIV    D minor        Solid


So what are preludes, and what do they precede? After considerable thought I have come to the tentative conclusion that a Prelude is a distinct creative thought about the idea of a key, and of the myriad ways in which a key can establish itself in the ear of a listener. It is, quite directly, about its own tonality. Considered this way, a cycle through the 24 keys becomes an essay upon the whole system, the particulars of how each prelude develops and evokes its key affecting how we hear the particulars of each of the others. The joy is that each composer brings a fresh quirky way of thinking to the issue. What do they precede? They precede the completed idea of themselves, their own particular lingering sense of their own ever-so-particular key - it may be C Major, but it is an emphatically unique C Major, unmistakable.

Ken Benshoof has been a familiar presence in the Seattle music world for so long that he hardly needs an introduction from me. I honestly can’t think of anyone who has met him who doesn’t smile when they think about him. But burning behind his easy just-folks manner lurks a deeply speculative and incisive musical mind. I remember composition lessons with him being as much about how one might think about music as about how one might compose it.
Patti's Parlour Pieces, though there are 24 of them, don’t follow the key scheme of the preludes. They are nevertheless in many other ways the same kind of animal. Ken writes:

“Dedicated to Patti McCall
In celebration of wonderful times with friends
After dinner with coffee, dessert and good conversation,
The warm embrace of the parlour, the fireplace,
The grand piano displaying the usual collections of small salon pieces. . .
Among which I hope this volume of little sentiments
Will find a place.”

Of the 24 Preludes, Ken writes: “These pieces were composed without interruption over several months. As a consequence they exhibit a fairly narrow range in style and expressive intent, rather like a collection of short stories that take place in restricted time and location. I chose to call the set “Preludes” partly because of the joy I still derive from sets with the same title, most notably those from Bach, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. I have not intentionally borrowed material from those composers but I did steal the key relations from Chopin - his way of going through the 24 major and minor keys. Mark David Taylor is the engraver of this edition. His passion for piano music, for odd little pieces, and for sets written through the keys served as a constant inspiration and so I dedicate these preludes to him.”

Keith Eisenbrey brings to his pianism a composer's imaginative musical understanding, and to his composition a mysterious and majestical whimsy. Cerebral and sensuous, remorselessly speculative, his music seeks to illuminate those most intimate of our personal spaces: the silences across which, in which, and out from which music, thought, and utterance unfold. A native of the Puget Sound area, he studied composition with Dell Wade, Ken Benshoof, John Rahn, and Benjamin Boretz, and piano with Victor Smiley, Joan Purswell, and Neal O'Doan. He is a charter member of The Barrytown Orchestra, an interactive music-making ensemble based in Barrytown, New York, and is a co-founder of Banned Rehearsal, an ongoing argument in creative musical expression, now in its 29th year. His critical and theoretical work has appeared in Perspectives of New Music, News of Music, and Open Space, and he assisted in the editing of Boretz’s Meta-Variations: Studies in the Foundations of Musical Thought for its republication. His oeuvres includes solo pieces for various keyboards, songs, and chamber works. He opines weekly at He lives in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle with his wife Karen and their two boys, John and Isaac.

I wrote 24 Preludes for piano largely out of curiosity. Having worked so closely with the prelude cycles of Lockrem Johnson, Greg Short, and Ken Benshoof, as well as with the more well-known works of Chopin and Scriabin, I wondered what a set by me would sound like. Also, having largely abandoned tonal practice as a teenager I wondered what it would be like to compose systematically in keys. Over the course of 2 weeks in April of 2009 I sketched out a quick idea for each key, then spent the next two and a half years alternately fleshing them out and whacking them back. The descriptive titles were added last, not so much as titles or tempo indications, but rather as suggested attitudes.

Lockrem Johnson was born March 15, 1924, in Davenport, Iowa. He studied music at the Cornish School of Music and the University of Washington. He taught there 1947-49, was pianist with the Seattle Symphony 1948-51, music director of the Eleanor King Dance Company 1947-50, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1952. He lived in New York for several years where he worked in the music publishing business. He was head of the Cornish School of Music 1962-69. He died March 5, 1977, in Seattle. His works include the chamber opera A Letter to Emily (1955), the ballet She, a symphony (1966), numerous chamber and vocal works, 6 piano sonatas, and a multitude of other solo piano works. In Seattle he was a well-known teacher and active supporter of local musicians. The 24 Preludes, op. 50, are arranged in circle-of-fifths order, emulating the cycles of Chopin and Scriabin. However, these are not so much concert works as teaching pieces for fairly advanced students. Variously witty, poetic, droll, and flashy, each prelude shines with a distinct and unmistakable image.

Greg Short  was born in Toppenish on August 14, 1938. He studied piano with Lonnie Epstien at Juilliard, and composition with William O. Smith at the University of Washington, and with Homer Keller, Monte Tubb, and Harold Owen at the University of Oregon. He taught music in Eugene and in the Puget Sound area from 1959 until his death on April 1, 1999. His colleague Anthony Spain writes: “Greg Short grew up in Washington State and was heavily influenced in his music by themes of the Northwest. He once stated, that by growing up in the shadow of the ‘great white one’ (Mount Rainier), that his music was heavily influenced by the themes and history of the Northwest. Because of this he composed a large number of pieces based on Native American themes and on the themes of mountains in the Northwest. Largely regarded as one of the most accomplished composers in the Northwest, he is a past recipient of the Washington State composer of the year award.” Greg’s music has been part of my repertoire since I was in elementary school, when I performed some of his short teaching pieces at a recital somewhere in North Seattle. The score of 24 Tonal Preludes appeared on my doorstep one day in 1986, with a note asking me (along with 5 other pianists) to play four of them at a concert at the Seattle Art Museum. They are big, splashy showpieces, in a forthright two-fisted style. There was nothing half-hearted about Greg, ever.


October 13, 2012
Symphony No. 43 in E-flat - Haydn - Academy of St. Martin-In-The-Fields, Neville Marriner
Concerto in D - Haydn - Moscow Virtuosi, Vladimir Spivakov, Evgeny Kissin

October 14, 2012
Klavier Trio No. 27 in C - Haydn - Beaux Arts Trio

October 15, 2012
Symphony No. 104 in D - Haydn - Austro Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, Adam Fischer

A sluggish reading, as though it were a ponderous work by Schumann.

October 16, 2012
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C - Beethoven - Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa, Rudolf Serkin

October 17, 2012
Sonata No. 9 "Kreutzer" in A - Henryk Szeryng, Ingrid Haebler

I only knew this work by repute. Very strong.

In Session at The Tintinabulary

October 15, 2012
Gradus 214 - Neal Meyer

Careful readers of this blog will notice that the last Gradus session was listed as number 215. Is time going backwards? Sort of. Due to scheduling issues we had not had a session in many months. Awhile back I had been expecting Neal so I made a notation in my logbook. He was unable to make it that night but the log entry remained. When we finally got together on the first of this month I erroneously presumed that the log entry was correct, not discovering the error until I was copying the sound file onto my hard drive. This session worked through the set of A-naturals that should have been used earlier but weren't.

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