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Tyler Hay     Piano

 Claude Debussy (1862–1918) – Preludes Livre 1, L125

These 12 masterful miniatures were completed between December 1909 and February 1910, which was an unusually fast pace for Debussy. The 24 Preludes as a whole represent the first major set of Preludes in musical history not to follow the strict pattern of complete key signatures. As a consequence, it is not a compulsory performance practice to play the works as either a complete set, or in numerical order. Debussy himself often chose groups of just three or four to play in public. Interestingly, the titles of the Preludes are placed in brackets at the end rather than at the beginning of each piece. This compliments the impressionistic quality of the music, allowing the performer to experience the sound world wholly, without encouraging the attempt to merely imitate a previously conceived image or idea.

 Danseuses de Delphes– The opening prelude is a broad and stately Sarabande in B flat Major. It is a tribute to the ancient Greek “Dancers of Delphi” fragment.

VoilesThe exact translation of Voilesis often discussed as either meaning “Veils” or “Sails.” It is a highly layered and evocative piece that improvises material on a whole tone scale.

 Le vent dans la plaine– The wind on the plain is depicted with fast swirling figures around the centre of the keyboard. These are interrupted with occasional descending chordal figures. This is one of the most economical of these compositions, with the maximum effect being extracted from 2 simple musical ideas.

Les sons et les parfums tournent dane l’air du soir“Sounds and scents mix in the evening air” is a quotation from a poem by Baudelaire. It obviously moved Debussy enough to compose one of his most colourful, suave and sophisticated compositions for the piano.

 Les collines d’AnacapriOne of the trickiest technical challenges in the set, “The Hills of Anacapri” is in a fast Tarantella rhythm. It is wonderfully tuneful and includes a slower middle section that touches on a more Jazz inspired sound world.

Des pas sur la neige– Almost bare in texture, this dark and thought provoking Prelude depicts a baron snow scene, touched only by footprints.

Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest– “The West Wind” consists of the most dramatic and virtuosic writing in the set. Rapid arpeggios and crashing chords bring a powerful hurricane to life.

La fille aux cheveux de lin– “The Girl With the Flaxen Hair” is easily the most popular and best loved of the Preludes. Despite the clear key signature of G flat Major, Debussy’s beautiful use of modal harmonic movements give this piece an entirely unique sound. With a solo soprano line often complimented with warm chords underneath, perhaps this piece is the most choral of Debussy’s piano works.

La serenade interrompue– The Spanish guitar is imitated here with repeated notes and acciaccaturas in both a comical and seductive way. The guitarist’s efforts to woo his lover are interrupted with unwanted and distracting noises from elsewhere.

La Cathedrale engloutieThe longest and grandest of the Preludes depicts the mythical sunken Cathedral of Ys. Debussy’s almost psychedelic language helps the music grow from distant bells to the awe inspiring mass of the full organ sound. Even pious monks sing Gregorian plain chant in this tone poem of a prelude.

La danse de PuckAnother of the more capricious and humorous of the Preludes, Shakespeare’s Puck is depicted here as a character not too dissimilar to Scarbo, the goblin at large in the final movement of Ravel’s mighty Gaspard de la Nuit.

Minstrels– The final Prelude of Book 1 is a highly melodic and witty parody of much of the popular music enjoyed at the time. It is both a tribute to the fast-growing Jazz genre and to the ballet music of composers like Satie and Poulenc.

Interval

Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) – Piano Sonata in A minor, D.845 

Moderato
Andante Con Moto
Scherzo: Allegro Vivace – Trio: Un Poco Piu Lento
Rondo: Allegro Vivace

Composed in 1825, the Sonata D.845 was the first of three Sonatas to be published during Schubert’s lifetime. It is often considered to mark a significant turning point in Schubert’s maturity towards Sonata form.  His previous Piano Sonatas had been clearly Classical in style but now the composer began to expand the size and length of the structure, which in turn opened up a wider range of possibilities for harmonic experimentation.  1825 had been an unusually prosperous and happy year for Schubert and so it is perhaps equally unusual for this large scale work to be so dark in character. It oozes drama and at times even threat but curiously, there is never a full explosion.

The opening unison theme in this first movement is ambiguous and wandering. It slowly opens up into a much more forthright and stern secondary theme. The clear relationship between A minor (home key) and C major (relative major key) in the material for this exposition remains a strong feature throughout the construction of the work. An eerily quiet development rarely reaches dynamics beyond pianissimo and it provides the bulk of this movement with an underlying mysteriousness. The slow build up towards the coda utilises the extraordinarily unusual unison texture used to open the piece. As the dynamics increase towards the end, the hands are pulled apart creating an unbearable intensity in the final chords. Despite this, the stature of the movement remains very much intact.

A theme and variations then follows in C Major. A contrast to the orchestral textures featured in the first movement, Schubert opens the slow movement with clear string quartet writing, truly Mozartian in its simplicity and sublime subtlety. The first of five variations introduces a cello line in semi-quavers that weaves contrapuntally underneath the melody in the treble. Strangely, four bars of material have been missing from this variation since the first edition was printed. Pianist Paul Badura-Skoda was the first to identify this irregularity in the structure – a mistake unique to this variation. Realising that the engraver may have overlooked these bars when copying from the now lost manuscript, he wrote four alternative bars as a suggestion – not included here. Variation 2 divides its primary rhythm once again, this time into demi-semi quavers. Light and playful, and the only variation in the minor, variation 3, is easily the most impassioned and intense music, right at the heart of the movement. Piercing minor 2nds and major 7ths help to conjure up this emotional pain. A refreshing key change to A flat Major introduces another light but difficult variation in demi-semi quavers. The speed of the rhythm slows into the final calm variation and the ethereal close.

The Scherzo is much more Beethovenian in its extremes of sudden dynamic changes. It is also quite eccentric in its phrase lengths and general musical content. This movement includes a very subtle harmonic shift from an A flat minor chord to an E minor chord. Schubert achieves this colour change with the most amazing compositional control and this moment remains one of great strokes of genius I have seen in any piano work of this period. The trio, in F Major, is in complete contrast to this erratic Scherzo and is one of the stillest passages in all of Schubert.

The Finale of this Sonata is in Rondo form and once again plays with this common relationship between A minor and C Major. The melodic material is inventive but just as ambiguous and searching as the opening movement themes. Texturally, this closing movement is a relentless perpetuum mobilein flowing quavers, making the technical demands the most challenging found in the piece. An accelerando on the final page brings the Sonata to an abrupt close.

Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785 – 1849) –Variations Brillantes sur une Mazurka de Chopin– Op 120

 Kalkbrenner was one of the most famous and most financially successful pianists of his generation. Chopin revered him as being the single greatest pianist he ever heard, even dismissing Liszt as “a zero next to Kalkbrenner.”Despite his pianistic prowess, he was almost universally disliked in the world of music, due to a self-absorbed and highly arrogant personality. Kalkbrenner was less than impressed with Chopin’s technical ability and suggested that three years of tuition with the master should iron out his problems. The musical circles in Paris were completely outraged but Chopin nevertheless considered the offer, eventually declining. Chopin payed tribute to his favourite pianist by dedicating his Piano Concerto in E minor to Kalkbrenner. In a typically bold and ruthless response, Kalkbrenner found the work to be “repetitive.”

After the death of both Beethoven and Schubert, piano music in the early 19thcentury was propelled forward to involve more extreme romantic emotional gestures. Liszt and Chopin were at the forefront of this musical development but Kalkbrenner found the movement to be distasteful. He was a thorough classicist and composed his music in an increasingly outdated style. His music was left behind as the 19thcentury progressed and the great romantic composers considered the majority of his output to be mundane and unimaginative. Despite this, his creativity occasionally struck gold and this set of variations, in a rare tribute to Chopin, is exciting, inventive, varied, tuneful and above all, highly virtuosic. An equally outstanding set of 25 Grandes Etudesop 143 will be added to complete my third solo album for Piano Classics, to be released later in 2019.   

Tyler Hay

Tyler Hay was born in 1994 in Kent and began learning the piano at the age of 6, studying for three years with Andrew Haigh, Head of Keyboard at Kent Music Academy, before gaining a place at the Purcell School for Young Musicians in 2007, studying with Tessa Nicholson.  As a result of winning the Senior Concerto Competition at the Purcell School, Tyler played Ravel’s Concerto for Left Hand Aloneat the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Spring 2013.

Tyler progressed to the Royal Northern College of Music, studying under Graham Scott, Head of Keyboard, and the British pianist, Professor Frank Wibaut.  Before graduating in June 2016, Tyler won the esteemed Gold Medal competition at the Royal Northern, and played in the prize winner’s concert at the Wigmore Hall in Spring 2017.  He went on to the Royal College of Music, studying with South African pianist, Niel Immelman, and now continues with renowned British pianist, Gordon Fergus-Thompson.

Tyler has become a virtuoso pianist who enjoys tackling some of the most demanding works in the repertoire, including Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata at Wigmore Hall and Cadogan Hall, and Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata at the Southbank’s Purcell Room.

Tyler successfully organised a full evening recital at the Purcell School as a charity event, raising close to £2000 for the Watford Peace Hospice in Summer, 2012. He has also achieved a full performance of Chopin’s 24 Etudes in Blackburn, 2014, and in February 2016 won first prize in the keyboard section of the Royal Overseas League Competition, going on to win first prize in the Liszt Society Competition in November later that year.

Tyler released CDs of Liszt’s piano music and John Ogdon’s unpublished works in Spring 2018 under the Piano Classicslabel, to superb critical acclaim.  His new album of Kalkbrenner’s Etudes Op 143 is due to be released in the summer of 2019 – the first commercial recording made on a modern pianoforte of these highly inventive and attractive works.

Back in 2012, Tyler won the £5000 Fenton Award from the Purcell School as a scholarship for furthering his musical education.  He has performed in South Africa, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Germany, as well as playing solo recitals, chamber recitals and concertos throughout the UK.

Tyler can be contacted through josdgarfield@hotmail.co.uk .

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