Charles Shere:  Three Pieces for Piano
1964
solo piano
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score: eight pages (available: see below)
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These, the earliest pieces of mine that I still like to think of, were written in October and November, 1963, and February 1964. At the time we were living on a small grant from Edith Fitzell, a gentle, enthusiastic widow who took recorder lessons from me, and who volunteered at KPFA, the listener-supported radio station in Berkeley. She sensed my need to devote an unbroken year to musical study, and enabled me to quite my day job. (I was then a laborer for the City of Berkeley, working mostly on the sidewalk crew, breaking up old sidewalks and laying new ones.)

I spent that year studying composition with Robert Erickson and conducting with Gerhard Samuel, and listening to as much music as possible -- much of it on the radio, for KPFA broadcast a great deal of new music in those days.

The first and last of the three pieces were written slowly and intuitively, at the piano. They are centered on soft dynamic levels and smoothly phrased lines, and meant to be played very softly. The middle piece was added later, for contrast, pitched on a much louder level, and alternates violent and rapid gestures with ringing sonorities. It uses only pitches omitted in the outer movements; otherwise the composition follows only intuitive principles of structure, not conventional tonal or serial concepts.

Much of the music is essentially unmeasured and meant to be played quite freely, and the third movement ends with a performer's choice between two possible approaches to the close. 

The solo pieces waited for their premiere until  March 1993, when Rae Imamura played them at Annie's Hall, Berkeley, on an instrument tuned not in equal temperament but to Kirnberger 3. (Also on the program: Charles Ives, Piano Sonata 2; Somei Satoh, Incarnation II .)

From the second movement:

 

The score, published by Ear Press, is available from Frog Peak and Lulu


Further comments:


The music was orchestrated in 1964 as a Small Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. No new material was added; I simply assigned some of the notes to rather large orchestra, including a harmonium in the wings, a pair of Wagner tubas, and alto flute among the more usual instrumentation. In this form the music was premiered in August 1965 at the Cabrillo Music Festival, with Nathan Schwartz as soloist and Gerhard Samuel conducting.

From the second movement of the concerto (same passage):

 
The orchestral score of the Small Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
is available from
Frog Peak and (in print and as e-book) at Lulu.

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