Here is a link to the YouTube video of the premiere performance of my new new piano composition “Alexander’s Bachiana”.
I composed it to honor my father Alexander Kettlewell Scott, who died April 22, 2015, and put the finishing touches on the piece on April 6, 2016 the day before this recital on April 7. This performance was part of the Schubert Club Lunchtime Series at the Landmark Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, along with a epic piano composition “Hamurrabi” (not in the video) by the Iraqi-born composer, Beatrice Ohanessian, who spent some time performing and teaching in Minnesota, before she died in 2008. Her sister Sita attended the performance.
My father loved J.S. Bach, especially the Cello Suites, and this piece is musically inspired by the Sarabande from Suite No. 4 in E Flat (score below). In addition to its poignancy and depth, the Bach has interesting musical qualities, that have influenced the shape and style of my work. There are harmonies that which suggest later jazz harmonies, which of course were also a major part of my father’s musical life. From the age of 10, he taught me some of these harmonies, and so I have incorporated them, along with the emphasised second beat (a sort of syncopation) inherent in the Sarabande. Improvisatory passages link my original Sarabande to Bach’s, and back again. There is also a very subtle nod to the opening theme of the “Eroica” Symphony of Beethoven, also in E Flat, which I know he loved. and musically related to the Bach.
Music expresses emotion, and there is melancholy, struggle, pain, even anger, which I have felt this past year, and wanted to express musically. There is also rich beauty, and some resolution. When I quote the Bach, it is elaborated, as if in memory and with added lines. When the original theme returns, it is higher, more ethereal, and re-harmonised, as if more difficult to hear. It ends with a softly jazzy dissonance, but one I know he would have enjoyed.
I am pleased with the piece, and I will post another more polished performance with higher quality audio soon, probably played on my Bösendorfer grand.
My hope is that it is a fitting memorial to him, as we mark the one year anniversary.