In choosing some works of other composers to alternate with selections from her new CD of piano music by Nils Vigeland, Jenny Q Chai has sought to make connections of shared expression, form, and similarities of piano writing in the pieces. Both pairs of études by Debussy and Ligeti, while highly contrastive in tempo and texture, illustrate how the percussive nature of the piano can be modulated by the use of the pedals. In these pieces, as well as most of the Vigeland works, the sustaining pedal is constantly employed not only to sustain and blur the harmonies, but also to increase the resonance of the instrument. Vigeland also often uses the middle pedal of the piano to sustain selectively held tones which are usually activated by sympathetic resonance, creating a kind of ghost harmony lurking beneath the struck tones.
Many of Schumann’s piano works are sets of character pieces as are three of the five pieces on the Vigeland CD. Usually in a character piece, a single mood or idea prevails. The excerpt from Kreisleriana, however, opposes two moods, an introspective quiet section, succeeded twice by livelier music before closing as it began. This is somewhat the strategy of ‘L’Empire des lumières,’ hommage à Rene Magritte, a musical evocation of the famous painting in which a nocturnal streetscape is crowned by blue sky. Here though, the restful atmosphere of the opening is not returned to, eventually giving way to a levitation of flighty, rapid arpeggios. The Scarlatti pieces, though formally binary sonatas, can be thought of as character pieces as well. The final work on the program was written specifically for Jenny Q Chai and seeks to give wide opportunity for great variety of articulation, dynamics, and sound quality, which release in the final piece in maximal display.
Works to be performed on the “Piano Music of Nils Vigeland” program include:
György Ligeti, “Cordes à Vide” and “Autumn in Warsaw” (from Etudes, Book 1)
Nils Vigeland, Ricercare (from Allora e ora)
Claude Debussy, “Etude pour les quatres” and “Etude pour les huit doigts” (from Douze Etudes)
Nils Vigeland, Barcarolle (from Life Sketches)
Robert Schumann, Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch (from Kreisleriana)
Nils Vigeland, ‘L’Empire des lumières’ (hommage à Rene Magritte)
Dominico Scarlatti, Sonata in D Major, K. 29 and Sonata in G Major, K. 547
Nils Vigeland, Five Pieces (for Jenny Q Chai)