|The first event of the series will be a solo piano performance of the complete 28-part magnum opus of Federico Mompou, "Musica Callada". As stated in the front piece of Mompou's score,
It is rather difficult to translate and explain the real meaning of "Música Callada" in any language other than Spanish. The great mystic poet San Juan de la Cruz speaks in one of his beautiful poems: "La Música Callada, la Soledad Sonora" [Silent Music, Resonant Solitude] seeking thus to express the idea of a music that would be the very voice of silence. Music retaining for itself its quiet voice, that is, remaining silent while solitude becomes its own music.
This spare yet intense work is inwardly searching, prayerful, searing, and at times explosive. Mostly in very slow tempos, it seeks to explore the very space between life and death, a seemingly static place where there is no pulse. Yet there is remarkable drama in this stark setting, and the piece proceeds through its four books with an increasingly mystical tone, only coming to peace in the final pages. With a strong Catalan flavor, and sometimes with an almost childlike naiveté, this is a fantastic voyage, and a work of extraordinary beauty. You can see a video of Small playing the opening "Angelico" here, as well as listen to further audio excerpts from his CD recording of this work here.
Headlined "A Golden 'Silence' from Haskell Small", a Washington Post review of Small's live performance of the complete work at the Phillips Collection on Dec. 16, 2007 can be found here.
|In the second event, Small will perform his own composition for solo piano, "The Rothko Room: Journeys in Silence", as well as several works by Alan Hovhaness inspired by the spiritual power of mountains, including his Sonata, Mt. Chocorua, Op. 335. With a nod to Mompou and also Arvo Pärt, Small's work is in one continuous movement, but falls into four distinct parts, loosely paralleling the four paintings in the Phillips Collection's Rothko Room while offering a musical narrative of the painter's life journey. The piece opens with an "ether" theme suggestive of the meditative experience of viewing a Rothko, a sense of the color oblongs floating above the canvas.
Slowly propelled by a tolling bell motif, the music becomes more animated as the inner life of the painting reveals itself, and we are led into an ecstatic, primordial dance, a reflection on Rothko's more passionate nature. A chorus of angels follows, then is interrupted by the bell motif, now bells of doom, presaging the painter's eventual suicide.
||And for the final section of the piece, there is a burst of life's energy, musically portrayed by a full-blooded but tragically tinged polonaise, before the gradual diminution to a brief return of the opening ideas. The piece concludes by a further decrease in sound and increase in spaciousness until the sound completely dissipates into silence. Audio samples can be found by clicking here.
|In the 2015-16 season, Haskell Small is planning to present a series of two multimedia chamber music events. The first one will feature new music for 2 pianos by Small and other composers, as well as including a performance of Small's own 2-piano arrangement of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. For the second event, in Small's words, "The specific content is just beginning to take form in my mind. A major part of this event will be a new multimedia chamber work of mine which will embrace and enact the teachings of the Austrian-born Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber. In his book, "I and Thou", Buber defines and expounds on the concept of a living relationship between persons- an active, present-moment turning towards each other, affirming the other's viewpoint without sacrificing one's own stand, and emerging with a wholeness of being that celebrates the sacred space that can arise between the parties by pursuing this living dialogue. I am imagining my work to have a three-part structure, based on the three main sections of Buber's book, which will frame various modes of improvisation among the musicians, a mime artist and a poetry reader. My hope is that by the active listening and responding catalyzed by the improvisations and interactions, the performers as well as the audience can have an opportunity to experience a glimpse of the ineffable 'Thou'."
By making the full journey of this series, from the opening "Angelico" of Mompou's Música Callada to its reflection in the final offering of Arvo Pärt's Für Alina, Small's hope is that his listeners will discover a deeper appreciation for the pure, innate beauty of music that speaks quietly.