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  Elegie - Francis Poulenc   --  The Sonata for oboe and piano by Francis Poulenc dates from 1962. It is his opus number 185 and is dedicated to the memory of Sergei Prokofiev. According to many oboists, the last movement "Déploration" was the last piece he wrote before he died. It sits as a kind of obituary. The Oboe Sonata is very difficult in places, especially the Scherzo. The sorrowful Déploration also requires great skill. To express his mourning for his friend Prokofiev, Poulenc uses the extremes of the oboe. For example, in one passage the player must play a phrase at the bottom of the oboe's range including B flat, the oboe's lowest note, very loudly (fortissimo). The same phrase is then repeated but is marked to be played very quietly (pianissimo). Another obvious example of Poulenc's use of extreme scoring in the first movement is the starting theme which is very high and the player must be skilled to control the notes and keep them in tune. The piece is in three movements: Elégie (Paisiblement, Sans Presser) Scherzo (Très animé) Déploration (Très calme) The movements are in the order slow-fast-slow as opposed to the fast-slow-fast of the traditional sonata. A typical performance will last between 13 and 15 minutes. The sonata is the last of Poulenc's three sonatas for wind instruments, the others being the Flute Sonata (1956) and the Clarinet Sonata (1962).

  Ich hab'ein gluhend Messer (Ihave a gleaming Knife) - Gustav Mahler   --  The work's compositional history is complex and difficult to trace. Mahler appears to have begun composing the songs in December 1884 and to have completed them in 1885. He subjected the score to a great deal of revision, however, probably between 1891 and 1896, and some time in the early 1890s orchestrated the original piano accompaniments. The lyrics are by the composer himself, though they are influenced by Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of German folk poetry that was one of Mahler's favorite books, and the first song is actually based on a poem. The third movement is a full display of despair. Entitled "Ich hab'ein glühend Messer" ("I Have a Gleaming Knife"), the Wayfarer likens his agony of lost love to having an actual metal blade piercing his heart. He obsesses to the point where everything in the environment reminds him of some aspect of his love, and he wishes he actually had the knife. The music is intense and driving, fitting to the agonized nature of the Wayfarer's obsession. In German In English Ich hab'ein glühend Messer, Ein Messer in meiner Brust, O weh! Das schneid't so tief in jede Freud' und jede Lust. Ach, was ist das für ein böser Gast! Nimmer hält er Ruh', nimmer hält er Rast, Nicht bei Tag, noch bei Nacht, wenn ich schlief! O weh! Wenn ich den Himmel seh', Seh'ich zwei blaue Augen stehn! O weh! Wenn ich im gelben Felde geh', Seh'ich von fern das blonde Haar Im Winde weh'n! O weh! Wenn ich aus dem Traum auffahr' Und höre klingen ihr silbern Lachen, O weh! Ich wollt', ich läg auf der Schwarzen Bahr', Könnt' nimmer die Augen aufmachen! When my darling has her wedding-day, her joyous wedding-day, I will have my day of mourning! I will go to my little room, my dark little room, and weep, weep for my darling, for my dear darling! Blue flower! Do not wither! Sweet little bird you sing on the green heath! Alas, how can the world be so fair? Chirp! Chirp! Do not sing; do not bloom! Spring is over. All singing must now be done. At night when I go to sleep, I think of my sorrow, of my sorrow!

  Op 53 in F Major - Felix Mendelssohn   --  The eight volumes of Songs Without Words, each consisting of six "songs" (Lieder), were written at various points throughout Mendelssohn's life, and were published separately. The piano became increasingly popular in Europe during the early nineteenth century, when it became a standard item in many middle-class households. The pieces are within the grasp of pianists of various abilities and this undoubtedly contributed to their popularity. Book 4, op. 53 (1839–1841) No. 1 Andante con moto in A-flat major No. 2 Allegro non troppo in E-flat major No. 3 Presto agitato in G minor No. 4 Adagio in F major No. 5 Allegro con fuoco in A minor ("Volkslied" [Folksong] ) No. 6 Molto Allegro vivace in A major Book 4 was dedicated to Sophia Horsley.[1

  La Diva De L'empire - Erik Satie   --  La Diva De L'empire was originally written for voice and piano, in 1900 but it was the transcription for solo piano by Hans Ourdine that made the work famous. La Diva was not a "waltz chantee," Darty's typical repertoire, but a cakewalk song, with a strutting rhythm. Using a moderate march tempo, the music depicts a diva of Napoleon's time. The pianist is required to maintain a strict rhythm, while the vocalist sings with her distinctive "rubato de diva." This piece is best summed up by one of its lines -- "C'est à la fois très très innocent et très très excitant" (It is at once very, very innocent and very, very exciting).

  Dance Like the WInd - William Banfield   --  Dance like the wind is the 3rd of three movements in a larger work of the same title. William Banfield, an African-American 20th century classical composer, completed this work in 1992.

  Piano Variations

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