About this Recording
8.559669 - DANIELPOUR, R.: Preludes, Books 1 and 2, "The Enchanted Garden" (Xiayin Wang)

Richard Danielpour (b. 1956)
The Enchanted Garden: Preludes, Books I and II


Book I

This set of preludes for solo piano was inspired by my dream-life: the juxtaposition of and contrast between my experience of subconscious dreams and conscious reality. In a sense, this work is “a garden of the mind.”

The first movement, Promenade, was inspired by my daily practice of walking through Central Park before or after working hours. The somewhat mesmeric ostinato of its middle section depicts “daydreaming;” the movement’s outer structures reflect various encounters experienced while walking through the park. Mardi Gras, the second movement, resulted from a dream I had of the Berlin Philharmonic and its late music director dancing and marching, instruments in hand, down the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans (or was it the West village in New York?!). The cycle’s third movement, Childhood Memory, includes its most vivid musical description of waking from a dream. Here I recall a childhood dream in which I discovered nature as nurturer. At the sound of six chimes (depicting 6 am), the dream ends; an evocation of birdsong serves as the coda to this song without words. From the Underground, the fourth movement, remembers a nightmare from my childhood of imaginary gremlin-like creatures skittering and slithering under the ground in New York. The fifth, and last, movement, Night, pays homage to both the consoling and frightening aspects of things nocturnal. A chant of bells (transcribed from those which sound at sunrise and sunset each day in the northern Italian town of Bellagio) is heard in the piano’s upper registers during the work’s final minutes. Thus the beginning and the end of the day are perceived as one.

The Enchanted Garden: Preludes, Book I was commissioned by The Louisiana School for its annual piano festival in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The complete cycle was premiered by Christopher O’Riley on July 4, 1992 at the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado.

Book II

Written nearly seventeen years later in 2009, Book II includes seven preludes that are based on true to life experiences and memories. The fine line between dreams and memories, between reality and fantasy has always intrigued me. The ancient Greeks believed that the “real” world was the unseen world.

Each title in Book II refers to memories and personal experiences in my life. Some are from long ago, others refer to recent experiences:

No. 1. Persepolis refers to my memories of being in Iran for a year in 1963 with my family. I remember as a child seeing the ruins of Persepolis and imagining it as it once might have been. This Prelude is dedicated to my sister.

No. 2. Surrounded By Idiots is a scherzo-like movement, more an Etude than a Prelude, and points to the fast pace and frustrations of life in New York City. I have often felt that New York brings out both the best and the worst in us…but having a sense of humor about it helps.

No. 3. Elegy is the only Prelude in this book first drafted in the 1990’s. It was completed with the others and was originally written in Paris for my friend and former teacher Philippe Drevet after the loss of his longtime companion. The Prelude with its “walking” tempo, refers to a memory of walking along the Seine in Paris.

No. 4. Lean Kat Stride relates, in its title, to my wife Kathleen, whose name implies a retrograde of the title. This jazzy movement is a portrait of my wife in her more spontaneous and effusive moments. It is also a reference and homage to her quick wit and sense of humor…

No. 5. A Community Of Silence is about those who bear witness to life; it is essentially a piece about artists whose eyes, ears and senses are open, receptive and vigilant. This Prelude was written for John Corigliano’s seventieth birthday.

No. 6. There’s A Ghost In My Room! Rumor has it that the apartment we live in is haunted. The building on the upper west side of Manhattan was erected in 1901 – it was once briefly occupied by Chaplin. Sometimes I wonder if we are not the only occupants. Of course, we have a lighthearted attitude about the possibility of our home being haunted. It has become a sort of in-house joke, which is also what this Prelude is.

No. 7. Winter Solstice. It has always fascinated me that the darkest time of the year in the northeastern United States is also the time in which a celebration of light is omnipresent. It is from this paradox that the premise of Winter Solstice, the final prelude in the cycle is borne out. It is a memory of that brief time each year when the world remembers its own potential for love and compassion.

The Enchanted Garden: Preludes, Book II was commissioned for Xiayin Wang and was premiered by Ms. Wang on May 18, 2009 at Alice Tully Hall, New York City.

Richard Danielpour

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