American Concert Pianist, Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger

On learning new, contemporary music... 

In about a month i will premiere a totally new work by Uruguayan-American, Chicago-based composer, Elbio Barilari. Elbio and I have have a wonderful working relationship- I premiered his Toccata Gaucha in 2012, and also performed hi Darwin's Dream Trio on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series in 2012. Last year, he invited me to perform a solo recital on his Latino Music Festival at the Pianoforte Salon in downtown Chicago, and numerous times at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he is on the faculty. I have also heard his orchestral works performed by the Grant Park Symphony, and I must say that Elbio is a true original!
His works always alternate between a natural lyricism and the vitality of his native country's dance rhythms. Invigorating and energetic, to be sure. Harmonies are unusual and often times unexpected, while his orchestrations are so very effective.
Naturally, it should come as no surprise that when he called to ask me if I would learn and perform his latest solo piano work, I didn't even hesitate! He aid it would be "easy". Well, I have to be honest, it is not as easy as I thought it would be! But, then again, there is an easy comfort I have in knowing and understanding his style, from having played and listened to many of his other works. 
So, you see, for a performer, it is no different with contemporary composers and the "old masters"- the more you play and learn a composer's works, the easier it is to continue to do so- to "specialize" in that composer's work. And so often we see living composers have their favorite performers/interpreters of their music- and so it goes.
So, now I am working up both the Toccata Gaucha and his new "Saxon Variations" to include on a recording of Spanish/Latino music. I hope I can do it justice! On the one hand it is great to communicate directly with a living composer, as opposed to having to do the performance practice research and guesswork as to how the composer intended his work to go. On the other hand, it can be a little nerve-wracking having the composer present- because, as a performer, you really want to make the audience not just love your own playing, but also the music which you champion. And that is a hefty responsibility!
While I feel a need for integrity and creativity as a performer  and interpreter of all music, I feel that the true geniuses of music are the creators and composers of it. One time I dreamt of being a pianist and a composer. Today, I am "just" a pianist. Will I ever try my hand at composing again- only time will tell!

1 comment

  • Contemporary Music Artist

    Contemporary Music Artist Las Vegas

    Thank you for your post!This tutorial is fabulous! Lots of great info including, Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s to early 1990s, which includes modernist, postmodern, neoromantic, and pluralist music.

    Thank you for your post!This tutorial is fabulous! Lots of great info including, Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s to early 1990s, which includes modernist, postmodern, neoromantic, and pluralist music.

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