About this Recording
9.70216 - VIGELAND, N.: Piano Music (Life Sketches) (Jenny Q Chai)

Nils Vigeland (b. 1950)
Piano Music


The five pieces on this recording span forty years in their date of composition and constitute about half of the music for solo piano I have written. They appear on the CD in reverse order of composition, from most recent, 2013, to oldest, 1973. Of the seventeen individual movements, the most common link between them is duration—more than half of them are less than three minutes long and, with the exception of all in due time, none are longer than six minutes. This has something to do with their form—most of them are character pieces, but their relative brevity and grouping suggest a value for me in much music, that of internal similarity in sequential contrast. They also share, I think, a certain sonority, much dependent on the piano’s pedals, especially the middle sostenuto pedal, which is used extensively in many of the pieces creating a distant haze of sustained tones.

Allora e ora (Now and Then),in four movements, starts with an evocation of a thirteenth-century saint, Santa Fina, whose life lasted fifteen years, the last five spent lying on a wooden pallet. Accusi va er monno (That’s the way the world goes) is a song without words to a text by the scabrous Roman dialect poet of the common people, G.G. Belli (1791–1863). Ricercare is a more abstract piece in which eleven notes keep unfolding in highly divergent patternings. I Turisti imagines the great Italian monuments, here represented by fragments of two songs, Three Coins in a Fountain and O Sole Mio, enveloped by chattering visitors.

Five Pieces is a set of untitled character pieces written for Jenny Q Chai. The different texture of each of the pieces was intended to give Jenny every opportunity to utilize her varied and remarkable gifts of touch and timbre.

Life Sketches is dedicated to the memory of Yvar Mikhashoff, with whom I studied piano 1974–76 at the University at Buffalo. I cherish the memory of his teaching, his friendship and his generosity. Yvar was a person of opposites; publicly gregarious, privately lonely. He loved both all things theatrical as well as arcane. A large man, somewhat ungainly, he was an exquisite ballroom dancer. The six movements of the suite locate Yvar at various moments in his life and his personae. The last piece, Barcarolle, floats down the river Styx and remembers the first piece, Wild Hopes, now shorn of its hysteria, as well as Cambiata Waltz, which floats above a muted ostinato.

eL’empire des lumières attempts to find some musical equivalents to the extraordinary tromp l’oeil of René Magritte’s lamplit street scene beneath a blue sky. This is sought in three sources , a hesitant chordal sequence in many tempi, a simple diatonic melodic fragment that incongruously follows this and a rapid disappearing act, ppp, over the entire range of the keyboard.

all in due time is, perhaps, the least like any of the other pieces. I was, as were many then, much concerned with music as process, the texture of the first and last parts of this piece being entirely canonic in which the entries of the voices gradually move into correct alignment to produce the scale figure solutions.

Nils Vigeland

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