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Four Etudes for Ursula

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1996

  • September 4, 1996
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FOR SOLO PIANO

 

Commissioned: Northwestern University for Ursula Oppens

Dedicated to Ursula Oppens

Premiere: February 4, 1997; Carnegie Hall, New York; Ursula Oppens, piano

Duration:12’

 

 

Ursula Oppens asked me to write her a set of etudes for a series of recitals she’d planned at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, the Konzerthaus in Berlin and Theatre des Champs-Elysées. Having heard Ursula play the Two Tangos for Ursula that Conlon Nancarrow had recently written for her, I decided to call the new work Four Etudes for Ursula in honor of Ursula and Nancarrow with whom I had become friends during the 1980’s.

 

The first Etude is a study in lyric and mechanistic playing; the second a study in polyrhythm, fast repeated notes and jazz; the third takes a detour down another road I’d sometimes traveled, the road that had brought me to Old and Lost Rivers and Where the Rivers Go to a place deep within me – a place that gave me the strength to share raw emotion through music and enabled me to write opera. The third Etude – even with its fragile melodic line – is also a study in polyrhythm and the balancing of voices within thick chordal structures. The fourth and final Etude studies the difficulties of polyrhythm, simultaneous melodic lines and expansive chords in the context of bravura and pianistic force. It is a study in endurance and I have seen pianists out of breath by the double bar. (Appropriately enough, I later adapted the fourth Etude for the scene in which Madame Raquin suffers a debilitating stroke in my opera, Thérèse Raquin). -Tobias Picker

 

Ursula Oppens asked me to write her a set of etudes for a series of recitals she’d planned at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, the Konzerthaus in Berlin and Theatre des Champs-Elysées. Having heard Ursula play the Two Tangos for Ursula that Conlon Nancarrow had recently written for her, I decided to call the new work Four Etudes for Ursula in honor of Ursula and Nancarrow with whom I had become friends during the 1980’s.

 

The first Etude is a study in lyric and mechanistic playing; the second a study in polyrhythm, fast repeated notes and jazz; the third takes a detour down another road I’d sometimes traveled, the road that had brought me to Old and Lost Rivers and Where the Rivers Go to a place deep within me – a place that gave me the strength to share raw emotion through music and enabled me to write opera. The third Etude – even with its fragile melodic line – is also a study in polyrhythm and the balancing of voices within thick chordal structures. The fourth and final Etude studies the difficulties of polyrhythm, simultaneous melodic lines and expansive chords in the context of bravura and pianistic force. It is a study in endurance and I have seen pianists out of breath by the double bar. (Appropriately enough, I later adapted the fourth Etude for the scene in which Madame Raquin suffers a debilitating stroke in my opera, Thérèse Raquin).

 

-Tobias Picker

 

Four Etudes for Ursula

Sheet Music 

 

Recording available on Wergo Records 

 

MI0001176502

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For solo piano
12’