Archive for January, 2006

I received an email from a former pupil of Adele Marcus at The Juilliard School, Fred Gajewski, who has become a historian. He shared a most intriguing find that I am very interested to explore for a world premiere and future performances. In the links and article below, you will find out about the pupil of Chopin, Carl Filtsch, who died before his fifteenth birthday and was a brilliant prodigy that Franz Liszt acknowledged: “When this little one begins to tour,” said Liszt of Carl Filtsch, “I will have to close up shop.”

He also studied with Clara Wieck-Schumann’s father, though his studies with Chopin are evident in this remarkable 15 minute Konzertstuck for Piano and Orchestra. The work resembles the Chopin’s Concerto no. 1 in e minor in inspiration, though the harmonies are definitely Filtsch’’s.

For my conductor and administrative friends reading, I plan to learn the single movement work for the 07-08 season, which can be paired with Chopin’s Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise, or even the Concerto no. 1 in e minor should there be interest–one on each program half. It can also be an excellent source for educational outreach that pianists and teachers in the communities would be excited to learn about in my visits to their schools during my stay. Though I am stilling planning to bring the Billy Joel concerto to orchestras in 06-07-08-09 and beyond, I hope to perform the Filtsch as well in cities that would find the work of interest.

The only incarnation of the Filtsch piece at present is the mechanical one at
http://www.freewebs.com/fjgajewski/

You can find out more at
http://www.booklocker.com/books/2232.html

Jeffrey’s email: sharpnat@aol.com
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Software revives antique piano concerto
Friday, January 20, 2006
BY JULIA M. SCOTT
Star-Ledger Staff
The 160-year-old musical treasure that Westfield piano teacher Ferdinand Gajewski discovered while a graduate student was nearly lost — again — save for cutting-edge computer software.

A concerto by Carl Filtsch, one of the greatest pianists of his time before he died at 14, languished in Gajewski’s basement for 25 years before one of his students told him he could make playable copies using a computer program.

Gajewski, 64, who studied at Juilliard, typed in each of the 20,000 notes using a program called Finale, which prints the music out and creates an electronic performance. He finished entering in the final musical notes right before Christmas.

Since then, the score for a 60-piece orchestra has drawn much attention. The online site where the performance is available, http:/ /www.freewebs.com/fjgajewski/, received 400 hits in two days, a stampede in the classical music world.

“This Web site can’t be getting more hits unless it were pornography,” Gajewski said. The score is available at http://www.booklocker.com.
The Finale-generated performance begins with dark chords before the tension resolves into a simple theme that is developed with expression and drama. A drawn- out cadenza, where the unaccompanied pianist must quickly maneuver up and down the keyboard, allows the player to show off his ability.

The piece is technically as demanding as other noted concertos for piano, according to those who have played it.

“It was much more than I expected out of a 13-year-old,” said Gajewski. “This is as great as any grown person could write.”

Gajewski stumbled upon the score, which was lost after Filtsch’s death, while researching his doctoral dissertation on Polish pianist Frederic Chopin. Filtsch was Chopin’s most talented student, and so impressed the master that he mentioned a major work by Filtsch in his letters. Gajewski read the letters and traced Filtsch’s descendants to a titled English family that had inherited all of his compositions. The piano teacher traveled to England to meet with the family, which agreed to give him a microfilm copy of the neat, handwritten score.

Few know Filtsch today, although he was very popular during his short lifetime.

Filtsch was born in Germany in 1830 and was immediately recognized for his natural musical talents. By 6, he was performing throughout Europe and had a patron, a Hungarian countess, who paid his way. At 11, he started studying with Chopin.

Filtsch composed more than a dozen works, but his most ambitious piece, the piano concerto that Gajewski found, was never performed. Filtsch was backstage at the world premiere when he became so ill he could not go on stage.

Weeks later he died, most likely of an infection caused by a burst appendix, Gajewski said. Other scholars believe Filtsch died of tuberculosis.

Now, some 160 years after his death, Filtsch’s concerto is back on the performance track.

Julia M. Scott covers Westfield. She may be reached at jscott@star ledger.com or (908) 302-1505.

© 2006 The Star Ledger
© 2006 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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Been away from posting for a few months. Hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays and is in full swing into 2006. During November, I wrote the piano part for a new piano concerto conceived by Billy Joel. I had asked Billy Joel via email if he might consider writing a piano concerto for me, and his personal assistant shared that he did not have the luxury of time to do so, though he asked if several of his classical solo piano pieces might be reworked into a virtuosic piano concerto. In utilizing the music already published as ‘Fantasies and Delusions’, the selections chosen came to my mind as a conception for a cohesive concerto in four movements of various styles and moods. The music is purely original, with Billy’s renowned gifts for melodic invention and harmonic ingenuity. As a classical pianist, I found it natural to take the music and hear the expanded transcription of it in my mind’s ears. Billy has also approved Phillip Keveren to be the orchestrator for the score who will work the orchestration around the piano part. It’s not a pops piece, though it can be positioned on any concert program as an alternative to any concerto for piano and orchestra.

Fantasy (Film Noir)
Sorbetto
Reverie (Villa D’Este)
Nunley’s Carousel Waltz

The ‘Fantasy’ reminds me of some early piano music of the passionate and color-sensed Alexander Scriabin, the soulful Frederic Chopin, with a taste of Saint-Saens and the tender lyricism of Cesar Cui. It seems natural to employ a good deal of difficult left hand filigree to support the beautiful original melodies. ‘Fantasy’ is a very passionate work with a Romantic Russian feeling. It is a mesmerizing piece of music, and especially demanding for the pianist in its shifts of mood.

‘Sorbetto’ is a short and spirited palate cleanser that immediately brings to mind the style of Robert Schumann. In one passage, I quote from Schumann’s ‘Carnaval’ as the music dictates. It’s a light-hearted morsel situated between two larger movements.

‘Reverie’ contains tender melodies of nostalgic beauty that develop in a dream-like state furthered by a tango which Billy inserts between the passion and the dream. The piano part develops to seem nearly delirious in ecstasy and passion. I feel the spirits of Brahms and Chopin amidst the originality of Billy Joel’s creation. As in the chordal majesty in Rachmaninoff’s piano concerti, I employ a similar chordal grandeur as the music calls for. The movement concludes in an exotic dream state–a ‘reverie’.

For the finale, ‘Nunley’s Carousel’ is a pianistic showpiece that conjures the spirits of Peter Tschaikowsky, Artur Schulz-Evler and Leopold Godowsky in their own brilliant transcriptions of Strauss waltzes, and of course, Chopin in his waltzes. Billy’s carousel theme takes everyone back to the days of yesteryear when we all rode the carousel. My two sons had the chance to ride the beloved carousel at Long Island’s Nunley’s Amusement Park before it closed its doors. Re-creating this waltz for the piano concerto provided great pleasure and nostalgia for me. It’s a pianistic tour-de-force which brings the concerto to a virtuoso finish for both pianist and orchestra.

It is my personal goal to bring this concerto to cities worldwide, to share how a pop music icon can also pen beautiful classically styled material and allow a classical pianist to take it to the next level. Perhaps this can begin a trend in the 21st century to make room for new classical contemporary repertoire with universal appeal conceived by popular music celebrities–especially when their talents warrant such creation.

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