WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART / ANDERSON & ROE
Grand Scherzo (based on the Finale to Act I from Così fan tutte, K. 588), Presto – Poison?, Allegro – The “Doctor”, Andante – Goddesses, Allegro – A Kiss!
Suite No. 1 (Fantaisie-tableaux) for Two Pianos, Op. 5, Barcarolle, The Night… The Love, The Tears, Easter
RADIOHEAD / ANDERSON & ROE
“Paranoid Android” from OK Computer
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH / MAX REGER
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048, Allegro moderato, Adagio, Allegro
ANDERSON & ROE
Animal Suite, The Cat’s Fugue (Scarlatti), The Swan (Saint-Saëns), Flight of the Bumblebee (Rimsky-Korsakov)
GEORGES BIZET / ANDERSON & ROE Carmen Fantasy for Two Pianos
Mozart/ Anderson & Roe: Grand Scherzo (based on the Finale to Act I from Così fan tutte)
The name of Mozart’s Così fan tutte means something like “that’s how all the girls act.” The question of “how all the girls act” is, perhaps not surprisingly, a matter of some dispute in the opera. According to young Neapolitan gentlemen Ferrando and Guglielmo, the two girls with whom they are (respectively) in love are faithful and pure. But the older Don Alfonso claims that the two girls are like all women–that is, they could easily be made to cheat.
A wager is made–and hilarity ensues. First, Ferrando and Guglielmo pretend they’ve been called to war, and bid a tearful goodbye to the girls, Dorabella and Fiordiligi. Once they’re gone, the girls’ maid, Despina, advises Dorabella and Fiordiligi to take lovers–an idea they indignantly reject. Next, Don Alfonso bribes Despina to help him win his wager. The two young men return, disguised as mustachioed Albanians, and in this guise, declare their love for the (respective) girls. The girls tell them to make themselves scarce, which they do. And we arrive at the Finale to Act I.
Poison?: The ostensible Albanians return. They threaten to take poison if the girls won’t entertain their advances, and pretend to follow through by swallowing arsenic. Don Alfonso urges the girls to take pity on their would-be lovers in their dying moments.
The “Doctor”: Despina, disguised as a doctor, mumbles minced Latin and Italian mumbo-jumbo, and pretends to draw the arsenic out of the dying “Albanians” with a magnet.
Goddesses: The “Albanians” come to. In their supposed delirium, they supposedly mistake the girls for goddesses.
A Kiss!: The young men ask the girls for a single kiss (each.) The two girls express outrage. The other four wonder whether the outrage is feigned or real. Curtain.
Rachmaninoff, Suite No.1 (Fantaisie-tableaux) for Two Pianos, Op.5
Rachmaninoff’s Fantaisie-tableaux, written in 1893, and dedicated to Tchaikovsky, who died the same year, is a set of four pieces inspired by four poems:
At dusk half-heard the chill wave laps/ Beneath the gondola’s slow oar. …
…once more a song! once more the twanged guitar! …
…now sad, now gaily ringing, The barcarolle comes winging
The boat slid by, the water clove: So time glides o’er the surge of love;
The water will grow smooth again, But what can rouse a passion slain!
“It is the hour” (Byron, from Parisina)
It is the hour when from the boughs/ The nightingale’s high note is heard;
It is the hour — when lover’s vows/ Seem sweet in every whisper’d word;
And gentle winds and waters near,/ Make music to the lonely ear.
Each flower the dews have lightly wet,/ And in the sky the stars are met,
And on the wave is deeper blue,/ And on the leaf a browner hue,
And in the Heaven that clear obscure/ So softly dark, and darkly pure,
That follows the decline of day/ As twilight melts beneath the moon away.
Tears, human tears, that pour forth beyond telling,/ Early and late, in the dark, out of sight,
While the world goes on its way all unwittingly,/ Numberless, stintless, you fall unremittingly,
Pouring like rain, the long rain that is welling/ Endlessly, late in the autumn at night.
Across the earth a mighty peal is sweeping/ till all the booming air rocks like a sea,
As silver thunders carol forth the tidings,/ Exulting in that holy victory…
Radiohead/ Anderson & Roe: Paranoid Android
Radiohead, a British rock band formed in 1985, has enjoyed both great critical acclaim and massive commercial success (more than thirty million albums sold.) The band draws on an eclectic array of influences, including the Beatles, post-punk eighties bands, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, and also, producers of multi-layered pop music such as Phil Spector and various hip-hop artists. The result is a level of complexity and textural richness and variety somewhat rare in the popular music world, which in recent years has led classical performers, especially pianist Christopher O’Riley, to adapt the band’s songs for classical instruments.
“Paranoid Android,” the name of which comes from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, is found on the band’s 1997 album OK Computer. The song is unusually long and complex for a rock song–six and a half minutes (nine and a half as played by Anderson & Roe) and in four distinct sections. The first section is two minutes long, with the following lyrics: “Please could you stop the noise, I’m trying to get some rest/ From all the unborn chicken voices in my head/ What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)/When I am king, you will be first against the wall/ With your opinion which is of no consequence at all/ What’s that…? (I may be paranoid, but no android).” The second section (also about two minutes long in the present version) continues in the same tempo, but the tone grows more emphatic. The lyrics continue: “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly/ Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy/ You don’t remember/ Why don’t you remember my name?/ Off with his head, man/ Why don’t you remember my name?/ I guess he does …”
Anderson & Roe introduce the song’s slower third section with music evoking rain, appropriate to the lyrics: “Rain down/ Come on rain down on me/ From a great height/ That’s it, sir/ You’re leaving/ The crackle of pigskin/ The dust and the screaming/ The yuppies networking/ The panic, the vomit/ God loves his children, God loves his children, yeah!” A brief coda leads to an abrupt ending.
Bach/ Reger: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
J.S.Bach’s beloved Brandenburg Concerti owe their name to the the margrave of Brandenburg, to whom the composer presented the six pieces in 1721. (The margrave himself received his name not from a place, but from his membership in the royal family of Brandenburgian Prussia–which did receive its name from a place, the principality of Brandenburg.) It is not clear whether the concerti were originally intended for the margrave; they may have been written as many as thirteen years earlier.
The early twentieth-century composer Max Reger was a great devotee of Bach: he transcribed forty-four of the master’s works for solo piano and organ, and, for piano four hands, the orchestral suites and the Brandenburg Concerti. The present transcription dates from 1905-06.
Anderson & Roe: Animal Suite
Scarlatti’s “Cat’s Fugue,” published in 1739, is so named for its fugue subject, the unusual spacing of which suggests, to some, the path of a cat’s paws across a keyboard. Many internet writers, most of them presumably cat-lovers, have elaborated on this charming image to inform us that the feline in question was Scarlatti’s pet, Pulcinella. Indeed, according to this helpful crew, it was Scarlatti himself who described Pulcinella’s inspiring keyboard journey, and its galvanizing effect upon the composer. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that any Pulcinella ever existed. The name of the piece was actually bestowed by Muzio Clementi, about fifty years after Scarlatti’s death. Concerning this fugue, Verdi wrote to his publisher Ricordi: “with so strange a subject a German would have created chaos, but an Italian made something as clear as the sun.” Anderson & Roe’s version is, in all likelihood, faster and jazzier than those Verdi may have heard, and evokes, more than a pet Pulcinella, an alley cat.
“The Swan,” originally written for two pianos and cello in 1886, comes from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, a work the composer considered to be purely amusing, and strictly for private consumption. It is not known whether Saint-Saëns’ swan is the same that appeared in Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, first performed in 1900. (The lifespan of swans can extend more than twenty years, so it is entirely possible.) Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, based on a Pushkin poem which is itself based on a Russian fairy-tale, tells the story of Gvidon, the son of Tsar Saltan. When Tsar Saltan chose his wife, her two older sisters were jealous. And so when the wife gives birth to Gvidon, her sisters, along with the old woman Babarikha, trick the tsar: they tell him his wife has given birth to a monster. He proceeds to order mother and child to be placed in a barrel, and cast into the sea. Later, a still-alive and full-grown Gvidon, living on an island, saves a swan from a bird of prey. When Gvidon wishes to see his father, the swan transforms him into a bumblebee; and in this form, he flies onto the ship where his father and his entourage are sailing, stings each of his wicked aunts on the brow, and blinds Babarikha by stinging her in the eye. Meanwhile, the orchestra plays the famous “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Later, the swan transforms herself into a princess and marries Gvidon; and still later, Saltan and his forgiving wife are reunited.
Bizet/ Anderson & Roe: Carmen Fantasy for Two Pianos
In the glorious tradition of innumerable operatic fantasies from the nineteenth century, Anderson & Roe’s Carmen Fantasy creates a dazzling display piece out of several distinct moments from its source opera. These are, following an introduction: the Aragonaise which serves as an entr’acte to Act IV, just before the opera’s climactic bullfight and Carmen’s murder by her former lover, Don José; the Habanera from Act I, in which Carmen sings “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle,” or, “Love is a rebellious bird”; the Card Aria from Act III, in which Carmen reads in the cards that both she and Don José are doomed to die; and the beginning of Act II, in which Carmen and her friends entertain army officers by singing about gypsy girls (much like themselves) dancing to the sound of music played on Basque tambourines and squeaking guitars, dancing, accelerating, carried along by the whirlwind of the music’s crazed, burning, fevered rhythm.