An old college friend stopped by last night. Was nice to talk about piano music with an informed professional for the first time in I don’t even know how long. Informed talk about piano lights up something in my brain, something that had stagnated for a number of years.
Solon Pierce passes through NYC every year or so, but last year time was limited and there was little time to discuss the curiosities of Alkan’s banalities before I proudly introduced him to Lubomyr Melnyk, whose work and personality seemed to have genuinely piqued his interest.
I was momentarily envious (but then not) that he made it to Chicago back in March to see Jonathan Powell play Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s Sequentia Cyclica, a 5+ hour concert of monstrously complex and difficult piano that was attended by an audience of about a dozen. There were two intermissions, and during one of them Solon had to sneak out to the lobby to eat a sandwich just to keep his concentration going. Even at that he humorously described having to reënter that concert in progress and wait for the pianist to play a loud passage so that he could continue eating the damn sandwich without disturbing other audience members — or the pianist himself, for that matter.
To his Sequentia Cyclica I countered that I had seen Mr. Powell perform Sorabji’s Opus Clavicembalisticum at Merkin concert Hall here in New York in 2004. Solon was surprised and even incredulous, thinking maybe I had mistaken Mr. Powell for some other pianist (Michael Habermann?). Solon’s incredulity stemmed from an encounter he had with Mr. Powell (a couple of beers at a local pub), who seemed to have implied in their conversation that he had never performed any Sorabji repertoire in New York.
I was not playing any kind of brinkmanship with this anecdote but as a hoarder of paper detritus documenting my purchases and travels I quickly provided evidence to support my claim: a ticket stub from that concert posted to my receipts. I also spilled several memories and recollections of that event which are unverifiable but which one would have no real reason to disbelieve.
I remembered how Geoffrey Douglas Madge’s premiere of Sorabji’s Opus Clavicembalisticum was also in Chicago, to be reminded that Kenneth Derus, a friend of both Sorabji and our mutual friend Don Garvelmann, is a Chicagoan and Sorabji enthusiast largely responsible for such a relatively vibrant presence of the composer’s music being performed in that city.
As he prepared to leave he surprised me by playing the opening measure of a piano piece I wrote in the early 1990s, a Sonatina of which I had no memory. It’s been so long since I’ve been around pianists and those interested in piano music that I forgot there was a genuine and legitimate interest in what I used to do in that realm, specifically the different and unusual things involving exotic repertoire and original compositions.
I’ve revisited the craft of original compositions again, thinking it is time once and for all to move on from being a re-creator of others’ music and focus instead on making my own.