I'm gone this weekend, but I hope you enjoy the following music selections that I'm hearing at the studio. My students are choosing contest repertoire, and prior to this decision we gather information, and listen to lots of recordings. From the Senior A (17-18 year old) list, here is Albeniz, "Cordoba".
We keep this list in a spiral notebook, and after they've heard 4-5, they choose their favorite from the list. Sometimes, we do this as early as summer, if the piece will be challenging for them. I tell my students that iPods are our friends, listen to lots of recordings of the same piece, different pianists, other pieces by the composer and other pieces in this style to really understand what's happening in their music.
The questions I ask are similar but not limited to:
Who is the composer and where is he from? Isaac Albéniz was a child prodigy who first performed at the age of four. At age seven he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Paris Conservatoire, but he was refused admission because he was believed to be too young. By the time he had reached 12, he had made many attempts to run away from home. At the age of 12 he stowed away in a ship bound for Buenos Aires. He then made his way via Cuba to the United States, giving concerts in New York and San Francisco and then traveled to Liverpool, London and Leipzig. By age 15, he had already given concerts worldwide. Cordoba celebrates one of Albéniz’s favorite cities. In the heart of Andalusia, the city of Cordoba is home to Spain’s famous “great Mosque”. The city is rich in history, but Christian and Moorish, and Albéniz captures the mood and feel of both in Cordoba. Clark states that the name of the piece may have been inspired by Albéniz’s namesake, St. Isaac of Cordoba, who died defending his faith in this southern Andalusian city.
The piece begins with the sound of tolling church bells. The sound of a g dorian hymn plays in a faux bourdon style, rhythmically ambiguous so as to resemble liturgical singing. The A section ends in contrasting character, reminiscent of a guzla playing a serenade in a more Moorish sound. The B section sounds of flamenco dancers and Spanish folk song rhythms as it mounts to a moving climax. There is a repeat of the A section and a brief Coda before the end.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard?
What is the title? What does it mean? See above.
What time period is it from? Late Romantic
What about this piece do you like? The ability to move the tempo and be very expressive was this student's answer.
What sounds challenging pianistically? To him, it was fast sections with octave work.