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Music

Here I will be posting recordings and performing materials for some of my solo and chamber works. I will also try to include recordings when possible; I will be attempting to get modern recordings with decent-quality sound.


Temesvári Gyászzene (1989)

“Funeral Music of Timişoara” for solo piano • Download Score

  Duration: 10′ 52″

This piece was written (safely across the border in Hungary) during the dark days of the Romainian Revolution of 1989. The outer sections are based on the gradual transformation of a single sonority. The middle section is a canon based on a Transylvanian Hungarian folksong, Katona vagyok én / I am a soldier — this is meant to commemmorate the origin of the uprising, when the people of Timişoara assembled to protect the ethnic Hungarian human rights activist Tökes László. The words of the folksong are:

I am a soldier, guardian of my country
My mother is mourning, because they have taken me away from her
My mother is mourning, my sweetheart also grieves
They have placed a black wreath in the window in their sorrow

 


Nocturne (1990)

For solo piano • Download Score

  Duration: 10′ 46″

Subtitled (in Hungarian) “A Sötét Szerelem Szonátája” (Sonata of Dark Love) for two reasons: first, it grew out of sketches for songs based on Hungarian translations of García Lorca’s Sonnets of Dark Love; and second, because it reflects my study of the Piano Sonata before and after Beethoven. Formally it is based on the Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti, though it also makes reference to works called “Sonatas” by other composers of other time periods.


Gyermekjáték (“Child’s Play”, 1995)

For toy piano • Download Score

  Duration: 2′ 43″

Inspired by a melancholy poem by the poet Szép Ernő — a verse about a man who never had a childhood.The narrator of Gyermekjáték describes the privations of his youth: he never had any toys, nor any books but school books; he never had time for games; he never got to see the Circus — not even through a hole in the tent. Eventually he passes into adulthood. But although he is accustomed outwardly to the world of grown-ups, the narrator takes comfort in one thing only: the thought that he will someday die. When he dies, he will kneel before the throne of the Almighty and ask if now, please, he could be allowed to play. Then, in language both beautiful and heartbreaking, this broken man describes his vision of the afterlife. The verse ends by trailing off, as though in a vision or a dream, with the stars turning to butterflies and gold dust between the narrator’s fingers.

In lesser hands, this poem might be overly sentimental, or even grotesque. But for all the childlike simplicity of Szép’s language, and the seemingly straightforward tale the verse tells, Gyermekjáték is anything but simple.

When Wendy Chambers (described by the New York Times as “possibly the world’s foremost virtuoso of the toy piano”) approached me about writing a piece for one of the world’s least-expressive instruments, I hesitated — until I remembered Szép’s poem. Gyermekjáték is about a man broken by his childhood; how better to illustrate the poem musically than with this terrible, broken instrument from childhood? The challenge was to write a piece of grown-up music for such a limited toy.

(Yes, that’s me playing the toy piano in the recording. Mr. Laughlin plays a vintage Jaymar two-and-a-half octave grand.)