Having written a wind quintet for the Dorians, upon which they lavished playing of great precision and elegance, I was warmly disposed towards them. So it was no surprise when, in a burst of friendship I blurted out, "Is there a piece of music you all wished-no dreamed-had been written for wind quintet? I will transcribe for your Quintet anything you choose".
After much conversation the players settled upon Shubert's song "An die Musik" - a little miracle in two verses which is often the last song sung on the last recital of a distinguished lieder singer's concluding career.
My dear friend and piano-champion, Marc Peloquin, heard this arrangement and posited: "David, I think it would also sound well on the piano". He began then to transcribe my transcription which started me thinking: Could this become the basis of a grand piano fantasy much as, in 1978, I transmuted my chaste Acrostic Song into a gleaming, grandiose Virtuoso Alice? Yes, I decided, it could work and set to the task quickly and with passion.
To Music is the result- 9 minutes that Franz Schubert might have written had he been enamored of Richard Wagner and at the same time a piano student of Franz Liszt!
A noted champion of contemporary music, Levin finds in American composer David Del Tredici’s Ode to Music an ideal outlet for her unique talents. A reworking of an earlier adaptation of Schubert’s touching Lied ‘An die Musik’ for wind quintet, Ode to Music develops the principal subject of ‘An die Musik’ after the manner of Schubert’s brilliant Wanderer-Fantasie, with, as Del Tredici indicates in his description of the piece, Lisztian and Wagnerian pretensions. Taking both performer and listener on a magical journey in eleven-and-a-half minutes, Del Tredici’s writing marvelously intertwines with Schubert’s familiar melody, the younger composer’s work exhibiting Ralph Vaughan Williams’s aptitude for assimilating existing thematic material into his own original music. Levin’s heart is clearly as captivated by Ode to Music as her fingers are energized by it. As she plays the piece, the listener immediately shares her enthusiasm.
Though pianist Beth Levin has become known for her recordings of music by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Schubert, she also champions the work of contemporary composers, among them Henryk Gorecki, Michael Rose, Andrew Rodin, and David Del Tredici, the latter two of whom have written works expressly for her. In truth, it was the latter's presence on Bright Circle that more than anything else initially attracted me to the release. My first exposure to his music came in 1992 when Nonesuch issued his 1980 Pulitzer Prize-winning In Memory of a Summer Day, one in a long line of Alice in Wonderland-themed works spanning a quarter-century (1968-1995), and so captivated was I by the hour-long work that other Del Tredici recordings have regularly found their way into my collection ever since.
I expected his 2014 composition might be dramatically unlike the Schubert and Brahms pieces (the Piano Sonata No. 20, D. 959 and Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, respectively), but as it turns out Ode To Music, a so-called fantasy on the Schubert song “An die Musik,” isn't so different after all; in fact, the long-time Manhattanite himself describes the piece as one “Franz Schubert might have written had he been enamored of Richard Wagner and been a piano student of Franz Liszt,” making it into something of a modern-day counterpart to those early Romantic works. At the same time, Ode To Music is very clearly marked by Del Tredici's customary daring and the expressiveness of his Neo-Romantic style. One additional connection between the three pieces: just as Del Tredici re-imagines Schubert on this seventy-eight-minute release, Brahms does much the same with Handel.