Event Description

This solo piano program by Shi-An Costello, presented as part of the NMC Presents concert series, explores music written last year by Chicago-based composers and pianists, including Costello himself, Sebastian Huydts, and Jonathan Hannau. The program, consisting entirely of works written in 2020, explores the revisiting of piano repertoire through improvisation, during the isolating early months of the coronavirus pandemic.
Streamed live from the Nevermore Performance Space, onto the NMC YouTube page!
The program features Sebastian Huydts’s newly composed work inspired by a lost theme of Franz Joseph Haydn. As Huydts writes: “During the months of June and July of [2020] my activities at the piano consisted in revisiting Haydn’s 52 collected sonatas from my aging Wiener Urtext editions. Presumably penned down by the maestro himself to keep a catalogue of his works, I consider the actual excerpts as incomplete little shards of great musical potential. I had already used these excerpts before as a basis for improvisation. Intrigued by the challenge to write in a different musical style and language but also to escape the present I focused on three of the themes which I subsequently composed out into coherent, full-length works to the best of my ability. This is the first of the three divertimenti.”
In theme with improvisation as a tool for discovery in 2020, Jonathan Hannau’s work Stalactites provides a musical framework for creating textures through polyrhythms and rhythmic modulations. In addition to notated music, the score presents an open ended image of stalactites (icicle-like rock formations found in caves), inviting the performer to carry the music onward through improvisation.
Rounding out the program are two short response works to Hannau and Huydts: Development, a structured soundscape, built upon Haydn’s keyboard music, and the memory of remembering, an improvisational work inspired by the musical styles and abilities of Hannau.
Franz Joseph Haydn/Sebastian Huydts – Sonata No.21/ Hob.XVI:2a (2020)
Shi-An Costello – selections from Development (2020)
Jonathan Hannau – Stalactites (2020) *world premiere*
Shi-An Costello – the memory of remembering (2020), (after Chopin Prelude No. 24, Op. 28)
Franz Joseph Haydn/Sebastian Huydts: Sonata No.21/ Hob.XVI:2a (world premiere)
Shi-An Costello: selections from Development
Jonathan Hannau: Stalactites (world premiere)
Shi-An Costello: the memory of remembering, after Chopin Prelude No. 24, Op. 28
Program notes:

“The key of the third divertimento (WUE Sonata No. 25) is E minor and the first two bars are originally Haydn’s.
The ensuing work has again been created in the so-called Empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style) guided by studying the C.P.E. Bach’s Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber and the Haydn’s Sonatas from 1760 to ca.1785. I put myself in the position of a young, serious, imaginary student of Haydn in the mid 1780s assigned to create a three movement work based on a theme provided by the maestro himself with the instruction to create an intense first movement, balanced by a more lyrical second movement and an exciting, joyful third movement to bring the work to an upbeat finish.

The first movement thus created is a passionate statement full of suspense and drama that recalls C.P.E. Bach’s sonatas in the minor key, and Haydn’s own E minor sonata No.53, Hob.XVI/34. I took full advantage of the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic devices that both maestros employed at the time to musically define Empfindsamkeit. A gracious second movement in the parallel key of E major takes the tension down a bit but nonetheless reveals a decidedly serious undertone, while the last movement, also in E major, offers relief at last from the serious two prior movements. It features quasi-Hungarian twists and turns that were popular in their day and displays the type of exciting musical and instrumental licks and tricks on the keyboard that both C.P.E. Bach and Haydn were fully capable of.” – Sebastian Huydts, Chicago, July 2020.

“The Development project is a rewriting of sonata-allegro form in all its iterations of the piano repertoire. Pulling from Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and others, Development seeks to better understand and at the same time, challenge the conventions of formal structure in piano sonata repertoire.” – Shi-An Costello, Chicago, March 2021

“You enter a dark cave in the Appalachian region. In the distance you can hear the droplets of water falling off of Stalactites. You venture deeper within.” – Jonathan Hannau, March 2021

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