Tonight I performed with an orchestra for the first time in ages! I was the pianist with the Oakland Public Conservatory Chamber Orchestra in performance of Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland and Dismal Swamp by William Grant Still. Both pieces have substantial, beautiful (and somewhat technically challenging) piano parts and I had a great time performing the works.
First, we performed Appalachia Spring, which starts slowly and gently, evoking a sunrise, gradually building into a raucous folk music inflected “hillbilly ho-down”. The piano part is filled with octave leaps, parallel intervals, and towards the end, exceptionally fast scalular patterns which don’t leave much room for error. Additionally, there are frequent time changes (alternating between 3/8, 4/4 and 5/8 and sometimes 1/2), which require constant focus and counting to ensure keeping one’s place in the music. Despite the challenge, it is such beautiful music! I’ve always been a fan of this particular Copland piece.
Dismal Swamp is a gorgeous piece of music from a composer whose work I’ve been familiar with for many years. My piano teacher from my teen years, Eugene Gash, had exposed me to several African American composers of music, including some of Still’s works. His work “Out of the Silence” is one of my favorite pieces in my repertoire. “Dismal Swamp” piece reads like a mini-concerto, with the piano receiving solo treatment as well as being used for texture within the orchestra. I had a few occasions to be expressive as a soloist within the work, which I truly enjoyed! Despite limited rehearsal time, I think the overall performances went well!
Many thanks to our conductor, Sandra Noriega, and to all of the orchestra players for a great job, and for making me feel a welcome member of the ensemble, and thanks to Owen for coming to the concert! Now, I feel inspired to learn and perform a concerto. I already own the scores for the Grieg, Rach #3 , Liszt #1 and Shostakovish #2 ….hmmm…maybe one day…