Monday, May 13, 2013

G minor: Another Manifestation

When I was in high school I was assigned the Saint-Saens G minor Piano Concerto, the first movement of which I played with the school orchestra.  I recall it being a most unsatisfying experience.  Last night I heard a graduate student perform the same movement with an orchestra in town and I understood why.

In this piece Saint-Saens (quite pretentiously, it now seems clear) sets out to make thematic the very tones that do not work on the piano: B-flat - F#.  The theme, very clearly stated in the piano includes the sequence: B-flat / A / B-flat / F#.  It simply does not sound or feel good.

This piece is quite standard repertoire.  What a pity that we allow virtuosity to hoodwink us into thinking that what we are listening to has meaning.

Saint-Saens was a highly sophisticated composer but I have long suspected that he had various agendas that had little to do with actual sound.  One of them was his finishing the project Debussy did not live to complete: writing sonatas for unusual instrument combinations.

He did write some wonderful piano etudes for the left hand alone.