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Friday Noon Concert Series

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    On Friday, February 1st, I attended one of the many concerts performed at the Balch Auditorium in Scripps College. Theses series of concerts are presented by the Music Department at Pomona and Scripps College in Claremont, California. At first glance, I noticed the fancy Greek style buildings surrounding the area before entering the auditorium. The auditorium itself, is very private, for the entrance is not easy to find. I walked through a maze of hallways, decorated with Greek God statues and fountains. The Balch Auditorium has the look of an old Medieval church, with high cathedral windows, wood benches, and candle-like lighting hanging from the roof. It is a very old-style church, with an intimate stage close to the audience. Upon my arrival to the seating area, I was greeted with a pamphlet, with the name of the artists and songs. I sat down in the front area of the stage parallel to the wall. The audience, at first, was very low in attendance. However, one by one, more people started to come in. The audience was mostly composed of elderly couples. There was a group of students as well.

    I also noticed a small crowd of middle-aged classic music enthusiasts. At exactly 12:15, the two performers greeted the audience and sat down on the Piano bench.  The performers that afternoon were Phillip Young and Jocelyn Chang. Phillip Young is a hailed pianist soloist, who has performed worldwide. Jocelyn Chang is an acclaimed pianist as well, with an extensive background in musical arts. The songs they performed were the following: Sixteen Waltzes by Johannes Brahms, Piece en forme d’ aria et bergerie by Reynaldo Hahn, and La valse by Maurice Ravel. The appearance of the performers was very formal, Phillip wearing a fancy suit, and Jocelyn dressed in an elegant dress. The quiet atmosphere and private talk made me feel like I was in mass. I felt peaceful with my surroundings, and a little anxious to hear the music, since it was my first experience with a live classic music concert. In my report, I will discuss the musical elements in the performance of the Sixteen Waltzes and La Valse.

    The first song the couple performed was Sixteen Waltzes by Johannes Brahms. This interpretation was great due to the piano duet being very talented. The couple together shared the piano and were able to keep up with each other during the interpretation of the Sixteen Waltzes Sonata. The harmony in this song was varied throughout the many waltzes in the song. For the most part, there was a tension building up creating Dissonance. As a result, it would create an emotional experience to be resolved by the Consonance. The resolution would put the melody at ease and made it the song more enjoyable. The pitches varied from minor to major or vice versa as well. The melody was seen through a series of different playing styles. In the beginning the song was a legato with a connected and smooth style. Then it would transition to an accented playing style due to emphasized piano playing. This would change my emotions from peaceful to joyful. It was interesting to notice the conjunct in the beginning of the song, and the disjunct at the end, due to the difference of larger and smaller intervals.

    The rhythm was Rubeto due to the sudden changes in the tempo. The different tempos would be bridged by impactful changes in the song expressed through the piano keys. The dynamics of the song varied from quiet to fortissimo. There was a lot of crescendo throughout the tune, which I noticed by the exaggerated movements from the performers. The quality of the sound or Timbre of the song was brilliant and elegant, the performers were able to make the quality of their individual keys sound different. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see them connect together when their hands or piano keys would meet in the middle. The sixteen waltzes performance was a rollercoaster of different tempos, which made the song that much more enjoyable. In the second song I will discuss, and compare is La Valse by Maurice Ravel. La Valse was also performed in a duet by both pianist.

    The setting remained intimate, as both artist stayed together. Unlike, the first song, this song shocked me to due to the extreme sounds and emphasized playing by the pianist. As a result, La Valse was a difficult waltz to analyze, compared to the Sixteen Waltzes, due to the complexity of melodies throughout the song. The harmony was diverse in melodies due to the constant shifts occurring throughout the song. The harmony created a chaotic dissonance through the different combinations of keys being played by the pianists. The harmony, unlike the Sixteen Waltzes, was crowded by different pitches that made it difficult to determine a base. Melodies in La Valse are constantly interrupted because the pitches in succession are not linear. The melody is heavily emphasized by the performers making the song an accented playing style, somewhat similar to the first song, but more exaggerated. This valse, or waltz, is best described as disjunct due the larger intervals through the songs that made it difficult to predict the next melody.

    The rhythm, like the Sixteen Waltzes, is hard to describe because there is no pacing or beat to follow in the song. La Valse is characterized by the different fragments of melodies that make it difficult to establish a rhythm. Dynamics in this tune are more diverse compared to the Sixteen Waltzes. There is an endless change in volume throughout the song for most of the time. The songs shift from decrescendo to crescendo. The accent is hard when the pianist leans into the piano keys making the volume stand out. Timbre or the quality of the song was clear and precise despite the sudden changes in the melodies. The performers were able to showcase their talents through their individual roles in the piano keys in La Valse. Nonetheless, La Valse was more interesting compared to the Sixteen Waltzes due to the complexity of the melodies and strong emotions displayed by the performers.

    The musical elements that I described for Sixteen Waltzes and La Valse matched the imagery that both these songs provided for me. The overall image that came to my head from these two songs was a ballroom dance. I imagined both these waltzes being played in a formal dance or prom. Both the waltzes reminded me of the elegance and art culture of the romantic period. The performers also painted a clear picture of the surprise elements found in classical music. The tunes were dramatic in a sense that I envisioned an intense ballroom dance with many people. These tunes also provide an image of a 19th century romantic period, where expression and the arts where best lived through the music. I also imagined these songs were being played for big crowds, where everyone was able to relate to the music and dance a waltz. It is clear that the complexity of the melodies in both songs are similar to the period that I imagined these songs being played in. Both songs reflect the improvisation in the heavily emphasized playing style. Both songs were waltzes, which resemble the in the music that was played in my imagination scenario. The Sixteen Waltzes and La Valse were especially similar to my imagery of the Romantic period due to the “through-composed”, or German “lied” element in both songs.

    In conclusion, I really enjoyed the performance because it opened my eyes to a different scene in arts and music category. I was able to appreciate the passion that the elderly audience had for the music. In addition, the dedication from the performers is something I admired. The pianists were both very passionate and illustrated their emotions through their body language. Considering this experience was new to me, I was able to grasps many of the musical elements we have learned in class this semester. Nonetheless, this experience was different for me, but special as well. I noticed how the difference in age groups was diverse which made me realize classic music is not dyeing. I have never attended a concert like this before. I was definitely out of my element but was still able to enjoy the concert. I would enjoy going back to this particular series of concerts because the performers are top of the line professionals and share their talents for free. Experiencing the music live enlightened my mood and broaden my personal musical perspective. Lastly, these series of noon concerts are not only free, but provide great classic music performances for those who wish to enjoy a Friday afternoon concert.

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