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Musical Miniatures: The Perfect Magic of Shorter Works

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Musical Miniatures: The Perfect Magic of Shorter Works

4 Session Afternoon Course

4 sessions from September 5 to 26, 2024
Upcoming Session:
Thursday, September 5, 2024 - 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0501
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Chopin Concert (detail) by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1829

The economist E. F. Schumacher famously said that “Small is beautiful,” and throughout the centuries composers have been constantly drawn to the perfect simplicity of shorter musical forms. Preludes, bagatelles, overtures, romances, impromptus, nocturnes, dances, arias, etudes, songs without words, lieder, fantasias, intermezzos: The range of small-form musical works is astoundingly varied, but creating exquisite miniatures is a demanding art. According to Burt Bacharach: “You can get away with murder in a 45-minute piece but not in a 3 1/2-minute song.”

With some of the most deeply loved music in the repertoire, pianist and scholar Rachel Franklin shows how it’s done using miniature marvels by Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Grieg, Bartok, Brahms, Faure, Webern, Debussy, and many others.

September 5   Can We Categorize a Musical Miniature?

Like the title itself, a definition of short-form concert music is elusive. If it’s not a sonata or a symphony, what is it? Is this program music? Salon music? How short is short? Is a miniature a character piece? Do art songs count? Enjoy multiple aspects of this limitless conundrum with Chopin waltzes, Chabrier’s Espagna, John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Caprice Viennois by Fritz Kreisler, and more.

September 12   Images and Stories Through Program Music

Program music has an extra-musical inspiration that gives it a narrative quality. In the world of miniatures, that tale must be told quickly. Instrumental and vocal works abound with examples such as Liszt’s St. Francis Walking on the Waves, Mendelssohn’s Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, In the Steppes of Central Asia by Borodin, and captivating art songs by Schumann and Schubert.

September 19   Piano Miniatures: An Infinite World in a Tiny Box

Short piano works are frequently defined as “character pieces,” and there are literally thousands of them. Chopin commands that genre, but he was far from the first. Bach inventions, the Mozart D-minor Fantasia, and Beethoven bagatelles introduce us to later mini-masterpieces such as Schubert impromptus, Chopin nocturnes, Brahms intermezzos, and Debussy preludes.

September 26  Delights of Salon Music and the Role of Nationalism

The violin and cello repertory is rich with beautiful short works that sometimes fall under the vague category of “salon music.” These miniatures are frequently great masterpieces, and Franklin offers selections including Fauré’s cello Elegie, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, and others. National styles are explored through the ravishing music of Catalan-born Isaac Albéniz, Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, and works by Copland, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Béla Bartók, and more composers.

4 sessions

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