PIANO WORKS OF KENNETH KUHN
Chiharu Naruse, piano
Prelude No. 3 in G-minor
This work is in two parts and opens with a dramatic theme in the style of 1940s piano music for movies. The main theme is then contrasted by a lyrical subordinate theme. The second part opens with a transformation of the dramatic theme into a beautiful flowing melody with a joyous and yearning subordinate theme. The music builds to the grand conclusion first conceived as an impromptu at the piano one Saturday morning in 1979. As if controlled by some external something I literally watched my hands play this without any thought in the process. The rest of the work was then built from that impromptu and carried in my head until written in 2003. It is quite a showpiece for piano and the performer has ample opportunities for a dramatic performance.
An Alpine Song
This music first occurred to me in a dream in 1990 of a young woman playing a guitar and singing a song of peace and tranquility to a small crowd on a mountain hill somewhere in the Alps. I was in the audience and although she was singing in a Bavarian language foreign to me, I understood every word. I woke up about 2:30 that morning and fortunately had the presence of mind to jot down the melody and guitar part so this work could be written. Even without words in whatever unknown spoken language, the theme of peace and tranquility is understood by all in the universal language of music. The first version of this work was completed in 2003 and this revised version was completed in 2016.
Fantasia on a Folk Theme
The hauntingly beautiful melodies and motifs in this work are from familiar American folk music. The music is sad, happy, celebratory, and very introspective. The work is divided into five continuous sections: Introduction, Main theme, Reminiscing, Retrospective, and Closing. The brief introduction opens with a very recognizable three-note motif from old American folk music and different harmonies are briefly explored. The haunting main theme has a sad wistful quality that inspires nostalgia for simpler times of the past. Its happier subordinate theme recalls fond memories. A third wistful theme in counterpoint with the memory of the main theme (now silent) and its subordinate represents melding multiple memories. The reminiscing section is one long continuously evolving melody that explores the opening motif from a variety of perspectives and builds to a joyous celebration of memories relived in a magical fantasy of being transported back in time. The music then closes in a deeply introspective manner as time now becomes the present and the sad retrospective section is the realization that people and places of the past may be gone physically and can only be relived as memories. The closing section recalls the haunting main theme and the introduction now takes a new path to bring the work to a somber close. The work was conceived around 1994 although the main theme had been haunting my mind for many years. The first version of the work was completed in 2004 and this revised version was done in 2016 in preparation for its premier performance at a concert in Birmingham.
Ode to Memories
After a melodious introduction the main theme is a bittersweet melody representing fond memories. A quasi-religious subordinate theme exalts the memories. The happy introduction takes a sudden sad turn and the music transforms to the very dramatic middle section of remembrances. After that storm settles the music then takes on a yearning quality and builds to a majestic version of the main theme representing the triumph that memories live on. The work was composed in 1974 after two very happy years at a technical school prior to moving on to college. The tragic middle section was inspired by the death of a technical school classmate in a motorcycle accident shortly after I began college.
Song of the American Frontier
This is a tone painting composed between 1973 and 1978 inspired by scenes from American frontier history and is based on themes and motifs that evoke thoughts of that era. Thus, much of the music seems familiar even if the listener cannot identify any particular theme. The opening theme describes a grandeur scene of rolling hills and valleys with a subordinate second theme representing a river flowing through. The third theme brings to mind the majestic image of a thousand head of cattle grazing peacefully on a broad plain. The fourth theme opens with the innocence of a young girl growing up on a farm and becomes broader as she matures. The music builds to a grand cadenza leading to a recapitulation of abbreviated triumphal versions of the first two themes bringing the work to a proud close.
- Kenneth Kuhn
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