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ClassicsOnline Home » DEL TREDICI, D.: Piano Works (Complete), Vol. 1 - Gotham Glory (Peloquin)
Generally recognised as the father of the American Neo-Romantic movement in music, David Del Tredici has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. His recent energetic output for piano solo is due partly to a close artistic collaboration with Marc Peloquin, resulting specifically in S/M Ballade, a “pianistic terror”. The finale of Gotham Glory is another virtuoso test, Del Tredici’s celebration of New York closing with a Grand Fantasy derived from a waltz by Emil Waldteufel. This is the first of three volumes of David Del Tredici’s complete piano music, with its generously rewarding combination of achingly expressive romanticism, subtle references and ever-present sense of covert and overt drama.
David Del Tredici (b. 1937)
Gotham Glory: Complete Piano Works • 1
Generally recognized as the father of the American Neo-Romantic movement in music, David Del Tredici has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, and has been commissioned and performed by nearly every major American and European orchestral ensemble. “Del Tredici,” said Aaron Copland, “is that rare find among composers—a creator with a truly original gift. I venture to say that his music is certain to make a lasting impression on the American musical scene. I know of no other composer of his generation who composes music of greater freshness and daring, or with more personality.”
Much of his early work consists of elaborate vocal settings of James Joyce (I Hear an Army; Night Conjure-Verse; Syzygy) and Lewis Carroll (Pop-Pourri, An Alice Symphony, Vintage Alice and Final Alice, among other works). Over the past several years he has ventured into the more intimate realm of chamber music with works such as two String Quartets, Grand Trio, Magyar Madness and Facts of Life. More recently, Del Tredici has set to music a cavalcade of contemporary American poets, often celebrating a gay sensibility. OUT Magazine has twice named the composer one of its people of the year.
David Del Tredici began his musical career as a pianist, making his début with the San Francisco Symphony at the age of eighteen. His first compositions, in fact, were for solo piano. In 2003 Del Tredici began writing again for the piano, this time with boundless energy, composing twelve additional works for the instrument. In 2004, pianist Marc Peloquin became interested in the piano works of Del Tredici and began an artistic collaboration with the composer that has resulted in a commission (S/M Ballade), several performances of Del Tredici’s music, and the recording of his complete piano works.
This artistic synergy between the composer and performer is celebrated in this first volume of the complete piano works of David Del Tredici.
Aeolian Ballade (2008)
Aeolian Ballade is an elaborately developed prelude and fugue.
The prelude, Lento mesto, is by turns achingly romantic and sweetly expressive. Towards the end, a cadenza leads to a recapitulation, then to a climax. On the final note, without pause, an energetic fugue begins. The fugue subject moves in even quarter-notes, forte, and outlines the scale of the Aeolian mode (already hinted at in the prelude’s opening theme). The motion becomes increasingly frenetic, as quarter-notes yield to eighth-notes. At the same time, the harmony grows more chromatic, with many abrupt changes of texture and dynamics.
After a majestic climax, the fugue’s headlong motion abates, revealing a mysterious dolce section built on the letters/notes “G-R(re)-A-C-E”—a reference to Grace Cloutier, my commissioner and dedicatee. When the fugue returns, it seems half-spent, and the mood gradually becomes more romantic, even relaxed. With a series of winding arpeggios, the piece returns to the prelude’s last page. From a quiet beginning, the music grows to a grand climax. At the point where the fugue had earlier begun, now the ballade, having come full circle, ends.
Ballad in Lavender (2004)
Subtitled “Portrait-Fantasy on the Letters/Notes/Name B, R (re = D), U (ut = C), C, E,” Ballad in Lavender began life as a tribute to a pianist-friend, Bruce Levingston, who in due course commissioned the piece.
Ballad in Lavender has an elaborate Introduction with Cadenza that leads to the opening motto-theme on the notes B-D-C-C-E in a dance-like 6/8 rhythm that alternates seductively with one in 9/8. A second, more sustained, theme follows and builds to a climax. The Introduction returns, goes to a new place, then grandly recapitulates the two main themes, now encrusted with virtuoso figuration. This leads to a Quodlibet, wherein the two themes are combined—one atop the other—then developed.
Phrases from the second movement of Schumann’s Kreisleriana appear in the Ballad against a dissonant, unrelenting G-flat. This leads to another Cadenza and a lyrical, ornamental, espressivo version of the opening motto-theme. A gradual accelerando (which continues to the end of the piece) introduces tiny bits of the first movement of Kreisleriana in alternation with the Ballad’s theme—which is eventually displaced altogether, as little by little, the Kreisleriana fragments increase. In a haze of Kreisleriana-cum-Ballad, the piece ends mysteriously.
Ballad in Yellow (1997)
Ballad in Yellow is a transcription of a song I wrote to a García Lorca poem. The pianist-composer Robert Helps, upon hearing the première of the song, said to me, “I wish, David, that that song was a piano solo. I’d love to play it.” The moment he said this, I realized that a piano arrangement would require little alteration: I simply removed the vocal line and added a more pianistic ending. Needless to say, the piece is dedicated to Robert Helps, who played the première.
S/M Ballade (2006)
S/M Ballade is a twelve-minute, two-part, pianistic terror. The first and shorter part is a prelude that nevertheless has a figuration, consistency and difficulty (once it gets going) of an etude. The second section—a grand fugue in F-minor—follows. A repeated-note subject in three quarter time is pursued by a counter-subject in 4/4 time. Throughout the piece, the juxtaposition and combination of these two opposing rhythms remain a contrapuntal constant. A contrasting, more lyrical, theme appears in A-flat major is spun out, leading to an elaborate development of the fugue subject in remote keys. The interplay of warring rhythms, begun earlier, climaxes with the augmentation of the main theme against diminution of its accompanying motives. In the midst of this frenetic activity, the second theme reappears—now embellished with glistening sixteenth notes. At length, all activity slows, then stops. The coda begins like an octave etude and comes to an ecstatic peak. There is a brief reminiscence of the work’s opening, and then a final virtuosic descent from the top of the keyboard to the bottom. A crashing cacophony of F-minor vs. F-major ends the piece, with F-major ultimately victorious.
Marc Peloquin commissioned—and inspired—the piece, which I dedicate to him with deep affection and admiration.
Gotham Glory (2004)
Having lived and loved in New York for more than forty years, I thought it time to celebrate the place in my own idiosyncratic way. West Village Morning is an appropriately sunny, short work which acts, as well, as a prelude to the ensuing fugue, Museum Piece. A ten-minute, highly developed work, the fugue pays homage both to old musical forms and New York’s museum riches. Missing Towers (referring of course to the World Trade Center towers that the city lost on September 11, 2001) is a mysterious piece. The two voices in continuous canon with each other are my way of recalling those two significant buildings. At the very end, the pianist leaves the keyboard to play, on the inside of the piano, a further expression of vanished glory. The final movement, Wollman Rink, is a virtuoso extravaganza—a fifteen-minute fantasy on Emil Waldteufel’s The Skater’s Waltz. With cascading runs, arpeggios, and general pianistic fireworks, it stands to test any performer’s mettle. This work was commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation and dedicated to and premiered by Anthony de Mare.
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