Anne Landa made an extraordinary and sustained contribution to the encouragement of young pianists in Australia, and although her legacy continues, her passion, energy and dedication were taken from us far too soon.
This set of twelve small pieces is intended to be the successor to my Five Bagatelles, which I wrote in a rapid burst of energy twelve years ago. By contrast the new pieces emerged slowly, and sometimes with inexplicable difficulty. My musings on the writing process are provided in the Performance Notes below, and there is little else to say about the music except that each piece is as highly differentiated from its neighbours as I could make it.
Carl Vine, 14 March 2006
The Anne Landa Preludes was commissioned by John Sharpe in loving memory of Anne Landa. The David Paul Landa Memorial Scholarship for Pianists continues to be supported by the New South Wales Government. More information on the scholarship is available here.
Additional Performance Notes: (from the printed score)
One or more of these preludes may be played in any order for any reason. If they are all to be played in one sitting I recommend the order in which they are printed, although other satisfactory orderings might exist.
A short passage of text accompanies each prelude. These are not so much program notes as stray reflections and idle curiosities linked in some way to the time or process of composition. They are neither especially serious nor entirely irrelevant, and may have no deeper meaning than that magnificent performance instruction of Erik Satie, "sans lunettes". - Carl Vine
1. Short Story
This prelude contains a story. But the drama emerges through its own internal logic rather than from a specific series of predetermined events.
One problem with pianos is that their keyboards are straight while our bodies are not. Interesting compensatory techniques have evolved so that our organically radial appendages may move more rapidly around these unyielding contraptions.
My first piano teacher often reprimanded me for "thumping" the keyboard. She was so stern that it took years to discover that playing loudly might also arise from good musicianship. Here is an open invitation to "thump", although finesse is still advised.
4. Ever After Ever
Only impermanence lasts for ever - everything else permanently changes. Our personal "ever after" is only as much of the ever remaining to us from now on. Living happily in that ever after is no simple matter. Even if you accept that impermanence is everlasting.
5. Two Fifths
Two fifths are not always forty percent. In this case two series of fifths mutate playfully into sixths and fourths and the occasional third. (Footnote: This prelude was originally known as "The Goblin's Cakewalk", but the teddy bears finished the cake at a picnic. It was then a "Goblin's Gavotte" until the fairies won a demarcation dispute against the Federation of Garden Bottoms. The final attempt to invoke fairy-tale creatures failed after accusations of racial profiling were upheld in favour of the golliwogs).
6. Milk for Swami Li
Swami Li, of course, does not exist. If, however, he were ever to materialise in our reality, this music is the sustenance I would offer him.
Perhaps the trajectory of our lives is so oppressive that we need constant diversion to cope. Or else our lives have no real trajectory but consist entirely of unrelated diversions, some of which appear weighty. But then no primary path can exist from which to divert, and so there can be no such thing as a diversion. What appears diversionary turns out to be the primary trajectory of our lives. What to do then, if it gets boring?
Chinese cuisine views taste as the combined effect of five fundamental qualities: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and hot. The English view of "sweet" and "sour" as simple polar opposites doesn't quite do justice to properties more at home on a continuous spectrum. This prelude is neither simply sweet with bitter undertones nor sad with saccharine overtones, but something more integrated.
A tarantella is a dance, generally in triple time, connected in some way to spiders. The terpsichorean arachnids in this case are Ariadne and her brother Trevor, who are perversely quintupeds instead of the usual eight-legged variety. Like most siblings they argue often, but have been brought up believing that it is unlucky to dance the tarantella alone.
Somewhere through the last century the word "romance" lost the remainder of its mystery, excitement, intrigue and passion. It lost, in short, its romance, leaving behind a sullen husk of sentimentality and dog-eared novellas. Which is a pity since love must still elicit some range of feeling beyond the enticing rush of hormones - some generically noble background to simple animal necessity. Or perhaps I'm just a romantic.
Identifying the sequence of pitch intervals within a melody as the source of its unifying power was a critical development in music of the Baroque. This is nowhere more apparent than in the magnificent fugues of the period. To avoid too close a comparison with those marvels of musical architecture, I offer here just a "small" sample.
Not every chorale needs to be religious, nor necessarily to be sung. References to this essentially liturgical form still seem to end up invoking a sense of pensiveness.