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Thursday, October 7, 2010

L’Automne by Isaac Albéniz

Alright! Let’s get this going- blog number one on the subject of Autumn pieces written or transcribed for the harp...
This piece was among my least favorite considerations to learn, and sure enough: it’s turned out to be one of my current favorites:
“L’Automne Op. 201” by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) 
from Extrait De Album of Miniatures (Les Saisons) 
Written for piano in 1893 
Transcribed by Henriette Renié (1875-1956)
This piece is rarely performed or recorded, even on piano. There is another more popular work by Albéniz entitled “L’Automne- Valse.” Not to be confused- the “Valse” is lengthy and sweet. The one I’m living with is short and to the point- a real “miniature.” 31 short measures.
31 measures and 71 pedal changes. Oooh. It’s like playing Tetris- The puzzle-pieces (notes and pedals) are moving quickly towards you, and you have to place them “just so” before the pieces start to stack up all over the place and cause disaster. It’s an addictive game, I must say.
I’m enjoying my time with this piece because it evokes the busyness of Autumn rather than focusing on its sadness. I hear the movement of the air that stirs the trees and the leaves, the movement of people with their harvest, and the movement of animals as they prepare for winter. This movement is still melancholy, but there’s an excitement and purpose to it. 
Why all the pedal changes? It’s heavily chromatic- almost as if the leaves fall to the ground one half-step at a time.
I have been listening to a couple recordings of this piece on piano. Renié has taken a lot of liberty in adding spurts of pres de la table and harmonics. The result: even more dimension and color. 
Albéniz wrote L’Automne in London, from what I can read online. I wonder what he was inspired by as he wrote this. I wonder if he lived in a flat in the center of the city, or in the suburbs where the trees in his garden were shedding their leaves. I wonder if he composed next to a window. I wonder if the window was open. 
Then I wonder why Renié chose to transcribe it. So many chromatic challenges and pedal changes- it’s typical of her work. She seems to be slightly masochistic in this regard. 
Whatever the situation- I’m thankful for this transcription. It demonstrates the harps broad capabilities and textures and makes me smile. 
Ending with a petite haiku by Tiyler Durden...
Autumn Leaf
Leaf floats on the breeze
floating on the autumn wind
will you settle down? 

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