Classical Music Buzz > From the Top Green Room > Show 246: Listening Guide

From the Top’s Show 246 was taped at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, February 14, 2012, in celebration of the 100th anniversary celebration of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music. Check out their video scrapbook!

We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

Grant Jameson, euphonium, 17
“Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms”
By: Simone Mantia

Photo Credit: Alisa Garin Photography

I feel that this piece is a great example of your typical theme and variations that euphonium players would so often steal from the cornet literature. “Believe Me” was one of the first really popular “Euphonium” pieces; because of this piece, many pieces were written specifically for the euphonium, making it more and more popular as a solo instrument. I feel that this piece is the origin of the fast growing literature we see today.

This piece is special to me because I feel I can really show off a lot of the great qualities of the instrument. The lyrical section provides the audience an opportunity to hear the voice of the euphonium and the fast, technical sections let them know that the euphonium can be virtuosic as well.

Post Show Reflection: It was terrific to perform for such a great audience. Before I went on stage I felt a little bit anxious. At that point I just told myself, “why feel anything but happy when I am about ready to go out and do exactly what I love?” I will always remember the three days I got to spend with such fine musicians and the “From the Top” staff, especially the day of the performance.  I had a great time at the Arts Leadership Orientation the last day and came away from that with so many great ideas that I will be able to use in my everyday life!

I believe music has the power to change lives by taking people away momentarily from the everyday stressors.

Aleksandr (Sasha) Voinov, piano/composer, 14
Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53
By: Frédéric Chopin

Photo Credit: Alisa Garin Photography

Polonaise: In my eyes and ears, this piece is a battle. We join a heroic group of troops engaged in a war. Throughout this Polonaise, one can detect when soldiers triumph, and when they run into trouble. I feel like in the beginning the battle is at full-scale, but our heroes are slowly losing ground. In the exciting middle part, a genius yet risky plan for an ambush is conceived… and immediately put to use. Finally, the loyal troops regain control in the fight and hammer home their victory in the breathtaking ending of the piece.

What makes this piece stand out is its intensity. The entire Polonaise is one big bowl of excitement and stunning persistence. It is tricky (mildly put) in the middle section, where there are no-stop sixteenths octaves in the left hand. But wait, Chopin made it even more challenging – they must be played quietly, too!

Mistakes on a Theme of Paganini: It was a few summers ago that I was writing Variations on Paganini’s Caprice No.24. After I wrapped that project up, it was close to Halloween. I was in deep thought as to what I should compose for the recital on October 31st, and then it came to me: isn’t it freaky for Paganini to have mistakes?! Well, that idea immediately got me started and finished within a week, and then I performed this piece with a nice little act to go with on Halloween Day.

But the act didn’t get completely left behind; here’s me with a little surprise up my sleeve still!

Post Show Reflection: One of my favorite memories was playing “Spoons” with cards right before our big performance, and of course catching Mr. O’Reilly off-guard with the Paganini wig. J The crowd was such a blast to perform for…it was the most fun I have had in a long time.

Music can influence anyone to do anything, that’s why we enjoy it so.

Daniel Orsen, viola, 17
IV. Vivace from Sonata in F-minor
By: Johannes Brahms

Photo Credit: Alisa Garin Photography

This is a very happy movement. Even though the first movement of the sonata is the only one in minor, this it is so dark that it takes the other three to balance it out. The last movement is actually quite triumphant, and the repeated three-note motif reminds me of bells.

One unique thing about this movement is that it is so straightforwardly happy and exciting. Most viola music seems to be kind of depressing or obscure. The most important thing for me when playing this movement is the dynamics, while the most difficult thing is the articulation with the bow.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was the after-concert reception when everyone could just relax and have fun. The performance was a little scary, every performance always is, but it was also really fun and exciting.

Music can do a lot. I’m not sure exactly what its limits are, it probably has some like it can’t feed and clothe people; outside of physical stuff, maybe none.

Temple University Music Preparatory Honors String Quartet 
(Charles Parker, Coach)  
I. Allegro from String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, “Death and a Maiden”
By: Franz Schubert

Photo Credit: Alisa Garin Photography

Amy Semes, violin, 16 (missing listening guide)

Throughout this entire piece, there is always a sense of urgency and mysteriousness. This piece was written when Schubert was contemplating his own death, which, in of itself, gives the music an edge.  He knew that he was going to be dying soon, and you can sometimes hear the clock ticking in the music.

The most challenging part about this piece is keeping the sense of intensity and high energy going even when it is quiet. The emotion that Schubert put into the piece is the most important element to convey to the audience because that is what really drives the story of the piece.

Post Show Reflection: I really enjoyed listening to everyone play at the dress rehearsal. Everyone played so well; it was a bit intimidating, but it was very fun. Everyone on the From the Top staff made the actual taping very laid back and relaxing. The talking was a little scary but I think it was fun.

I believe music has a lot of power. It can connect to people even just by listening.

Brenden Zak, violin, 14

When I play this piece, I feel it really sounds like the nickname it was given (“Death and a Maiden”).

When I play this piece, I get an intense feeling of the a seriousness to it, which really draws me into the music. This is something I really enjoy happening when I play a piece of music.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was when all the performers met in the hotel lobby after the show. I felt that the performance went amazing the acoustics were wonderful and the audience was absolutely superb

I believe music has the power to give people hope.

Tiffany Laraia, Viola, 17

I think of this piece as being sinister, aggressive and mysterious. I think most of the piece requires an unknown mysterious feeling. When the piece begins, I think about 2 people talking about something odd and confusing that happened. As the music continues, the story unfolds and we get a sneaky and a bit of a scary story. My favorite part is the last loud and aggressive part right before the slow ending. At that point, we’re able to pick up a little speed and give everything we have into those notes; I love that part of the story.

This piece has more of a flowing & continuous feeling of confusion, fright, and mystery. I haven’t played a piece with so much of the emotion just continuously building up to a grand point. It’s important for us to get across the sinister-like story using dynamics and just plain showing our feelings through our playing. We need to get the emotion for the piece so the audience can picture the story aclearly. It’s a little difficult to change the similar emotions in the piece and really cause an effect that the audience feels.

Post Show Reflection: A favorite moment for me was the rehearsal – it was fun to do and interesting to see how the show is produced. The performance was very exciting, and yet not too nerve-wracking because we were able to get a good take at rehearsal. The hall was beautiful, the lighting was great to set the mood, and the sound was great as well.

Music will change people’s lives. It can make you feel so many emotions and it a lot of the time brings me so much joy. I’ve also made the best of friends through music!

Bihn Park, cello, 15

During our concert in December, in which we played the first movement of Schubert’s Death of the Maiden, I was really busy that day, already having played a concert. In order to make-up some of the time I needed to play the piece with my group, I went to a practice room in the building and went through the spots I needed to practice. But apparently, I had more than a few spots to practice so I completely lost track of time. Not realizing this, I continued practicing but one of my quartet members came to find me, frantic, saying that we were on stage in two minutes. When I heard that, all I could think of was “What?” and we all sprinted together towards backstage and as we caught our breath we walked on stage.

The most difficult thing about playing this piece is getting into the right flow of the music right away, starting with the first note. Too many times it can sound bogged down, which resulted in a funeral-like march rather than an energetic folksong

Post Show Reflection: My favorite moment was talking with my fellow From the Top’ers late at night after the show. The performance was very exciting, no pressure, and just a great time to enjoy the hall and the music I was playing for the audience.

Music has the power to inspire and move people to action.

Kelly Talim, violin,16 
Rhapsody No. 2, BB96a, Sz. 89 
By: Béla Bartók

Because these are folk dances, I tend to think of people in costume having a great time. Some of these dances have elements similar to the footsteps of the people, sometimes sounding heavy and sometimes light. In one dance, I image little elves prancing around with a very cheeky grin on their faces because the music is very light and fun.

Each dance has a unique character to it, and I find it challenging to capture each character as well as transition from one dance to the next.

Post-Show Reflection: I don’t have a favorite memory; everything is my favorite memory! I enjoyed meeting and getting to know everyone and I especially enjoyed performing for the audience. The reception after the concert was also delicious! I’m currently on a recipe hunt to make those raspberry cream pies…

Music can give energy to people and allow them to experience new emotions. It’s funny that we performed on Valentine’s Day!


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