Today I’d like to share a short music history anecdote.

Before I begin though, credit must be given to Dr. Linton Powell, retired UTA professor/organist/musical historian, for passing this story along in my Music History I class. He claims this story actually occurred, and that historical documents and letters exist to back it up.

The setting: late 1700’s, Europe (likely in Vienna), the home of a rich nobleman

The context: Mozart teaching piano to the daughter of one of his patrons. People don’t always realize this, but even the greatest musicians/composers often needed other forms of income (usually teaching) to augment their performance/commission revenue.

The story: During a piano lesson, the patron’s daughter begins to perform one of Mozart’s compositions. Not long into the piece, Mozart joins her on the upper register up the keyboard and begins to improvise a beautiful accompaniment that both embellishes and compliments the components already present.

Naturally.

On an important side-note, those who have ever seen the movie Amadeus will certainly understand that Mozart acted a tad eccentric and just plain strange at times. The film, of course, takes a fair bit of creative and historical license with these traits, but the point comes across loud and clear. If you have not seen it, find a three hour block and allow yourself to experience a cinematic masterpiece.

With that point addressed, back at the piano, Mozart grows tired of the duet with his student. He promptly stands up, walks over to a nearby dinner table, climbs up on the table, and begins to hop around meowing like a cat.

The End

Now every time you see this picture, you can imagine him meowing.

And being an absolutely brilliant composer.

And then some.

-Spurrier

So I finally received a nice, large book of Prokofiev solo piano music, and the first work I’ll be delving into is a collection of 20 small pieces entitled the Visions Fugitives.

According to the notes at the beginning of the book, the editor mentions that Prokofiev’s goal was to capture “the idea of a single fleeting mood or character” with each Vision, which seems fitting after having listened to the first 10 or so on Rhapsody.

My knowledge of Prokofiev has been rather limited until recently, but my initial reaction to his work is a modern day Debussy. The use of jazz chords, the extreme freedom/rubato, the juxtaposition of the dreamlike or humorous: all elements that recall the master impressionist composer (however, we cannot forget that Debussy rather disliked the term impressionist in relation to his own works – but that’s neither here nor there).

Here is a YouTube video of a live performance of the first nine movements of the Visions. If you don’t have time for all nine, at least check out the first one. It’s quite entrancing and only a minute or two long.

Profokiev Visions Fugitives, Op 22 1-9

On a side note, this work also reminds me of the Brahms Waltzes: another collection of miniature gems – each one so brief yet brimming with emotion and power.

The following video contains my personal favorite of the 16 waltzes – not great sound quality I know, but this performance is far superior to the others I found on YouTube.

Brahms Waltz Op. 39 No. 3

Miniature pieces seem more rare than they should be. Many times our focus is drawn to the pieces of great size and length (symphonies, concertos, operas, etc.) just due to the sheer volume (both dynamically and spatially).

However, when we look to a work like the waltzes or the Vision Fugitives, we find the bare necessities. With each subsequent listening, we begin to understand that these are pieces that could never get away with even one single added or deleted note. Everything falls into place with just the right moments of tension and release.

They stand alone: perhaps more simple, but, in a sense, more real.

-Spurrier