William Petschek Award Recital - a dozen years later by Elizabeth Roe

#FBF: 12 years ago, on this day, I gave the 2007 William Petschek Piano Debut Award Recital at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York. It remains one of the most meaningful concerts of my life, and looking back on that evening fills me with nostalgia and gratitude. I performed a program featuring works I love, including the haunting and hypnotic Consolations by the talented composer (and Juilliard classmate) Ryan Anthony Francis.

Ryan's commentary on the work:
Consolations came about from a variety of influences but mostly from big romantic repertoire. I wanted to write something akin to a Chopin Scherzo or Ballade—in other words, a piece that traverses a large emotional landscape, that feels like an arduous journey, but is actually quite compact (8-10 minutes). I ended up with something a little longer than the Ballades and Scherzi, but managed I think to keep the piece largely within the affect of those masterpieces. I’ve always admired Thomas Adès’s Traced Overhead because I feel that he brilliantly accomplished something similar in that piece.

I have also always been drawn to Franz Liszt's set of miniatures he ambiguously titled Consolations, not so much for the actual music, but for the meaning in the titles. What did he mean, exactly? There might be a clear scholarly reasoning behind the titles, but I’ve never been particularly interested in finding out what—that would ruin the mystery for me.

Consolations also has a lot to do with Die Nebensonnen, from Franz Schubert’s Wintereisse. As the penultimate song in the massive cycle, it narrates the protagonist’s vision of false suns, known in modern times as “sun dogs," which is a phenomenon where the sun’s image is refracted through snow in the atmosphere during a bad blizzard, causing two ghost suns to flank the real one. If you were living when Wilhelm Müller wrote his poem, seeing something like false suns was considered a terrible vision. Death would be near. I used the first stanza of Müller's poem an epigram in the score.

I saw three suns appear in the sky
I stared at them long and fixedly
And they too, stood staring.

It's with this image that the piece begins.

What A Wonderful World by Elizabeth Roe

…I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world…

Happy Vernal Equinox! What a joy to film this music video on the epic grounds of the Tippet Rise Art Center. The Beartooth Portal loomed majestically in the background as Greg and I (and the beautiful Steinway piano!) endured the ever changing weather systems throughout our shoot. The skies were some of the most glorious I’ve ever witnessed, and I intentionally chose this gown as a nod to one of the most significant moments of my life.

Oblivion by Elizabeth Roe

Sing then the core of dark and absolute oblivion where the soul at last is lost in utter peace.
-D.H. Lawrence


Heavy, suddenly they seem heavy
the linen and velvets of your bed
when our love passes to oblivion

Heavy, suddenly they seem heavy
your arms embracing me
formerly in the night

My boat parts, it's going somewhere
people get separated,
I'm forgetting, I'm forgetting

Later, at some other place in a mahogany bar
the violins playing again for us
our song, but I'm forgetting

Later, it splits off to a cheek to cheek
everything becomes blurred and
I'm forgetting, I'm forgetting

Brief, the times seem brief
the countdown of a night
when our love passes to oblivion

Brief, the times seem brief
your fingers running all over
my lifeline.

Without a glance
people are straying off
on a train platform,
I'm forgetting, I'm forgetting

-poem/lyrics by Astor Piazzolla & Angela Denia Tarenzi