Off the Beaten Path

The idea for this project was born during the pandemic of 2020, when all future performances and engagements were cancelled and I had more time than I knew what to do with on my hands. I somehow got myself down a rabbit hole one day and found myself listening to so many beautiful and interesting compositions that I just had never heard of.  

We are blessed as pianists to have more repertoire than one could ever play in a lifetime, yet many of us stay within the usual canon of composers. This year, I decided to make it a project for myself to learn and play repertoire that ventures "off the beaten path". 

I will periodically update this page with performances and recordings of my project throughout 2021.

 Arthur Lourié - A Phoenix Park Nocturne (1938)

Compared to his contemporaries like Stravinsky, the Russian composer Arthur Lourié has become nearly forgotten, though his compositions have much to offer.  A Phoenix Park Nocturne is the latter piece in a set of two, and is dedicated to the author James Joyce. The title of A Phoenix Park Nocturne is taken directly from Joyce's novel, Finnegans Wake. In the novel, Joyce dubbed the section that describes the falling of dusk on Phoenix Park (which houses the Dublin zoo), and how humans and the exotic animals prepare for the descent of darkness, "A Phoenix Park Nocturne". Joyce writes in an enigmatic way, and if he had not explained much of his wordplay and veiled imagery in his notes, much would have probably been lost to the reader.

 

Joyce's work appealed to Lourié, and Lourié's A Phoenix Park Nocturne is enigmatic in its own way. Arpeggiation of subtle chords is juxtaposed with a rhythm that is insistent and jumpy, and sections end abruptly without a clear formal structure. However, there is just enough in the music that tantalizes and keeps the ear, leaving the listener wondering long after the piece has finished. 

©2021 by Haewon Yang.