"Butterflies" by Marcel Zidani
Publisher Elena Cobb is offering a signed copy of Butterflies to one of the readers of the Rosewood Piano Studio blog. To enter, simply leave a brief comment at the end. The winner will be selected Monday, October 5th.
Marcel Zidani recently released the sheet music for his advanced piano solo, Butterflies. He shared some thoughts with me about this new work as well as his creative process, the influences that led him to become a composer, and some of the challenges facing living composers today. At the end, he leaves a note for students who are learning his piece...
Marcel Zidani's "Butterflies Etude" is, at first blush, disarmingly ethereal. It is a tremulous light that effloresces into a revelation of color and texture suspended in the highest registers of the piano. One moment, there rises a seraphic voice, the next sends powerful chills down your spine. A splendid denouement ensures that the ending is not so much an ending as the delicate emergence from a dream. "Butterflies" is easily one of the most spellbinding pieces of romantic piano repertoire by a living composer that I have heard.
Something about Butterflies is evocative of halcyon memories that I'm not sure I own, memories universal enough to have been absorbed through cultural osmosis. I am removed to lazy, sun-drenched childhood afternoons, when to espy the motion of a butterfly's wings was to stir the imagination and invoke the thrill of the chase. This time I would find out where the butterfly was headed (surely someplace fantastic!) Every afternoon, the limitations of my lawn - or often as not, my patience - would curtail the promise of any adventure before it could begin.
The listener will find no such limitation in Zidani's "Butterflies Etude."
In south central England there is a region known as the Cotswolds, a pastoral retreat with a rich cultural legacy. Outstandingly beautiful (the Cotswolds is officially designated as an AONB, or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) the rolling hills and rural lifestyle of the Cotswolds have served as inspiration for a number of composers, among them Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst.
Little wonder that this is where we can find composer Marcel Zidani.
Marcel discusses "Butterflies"
The title ‘Butterflies’ came during composition and was finally decided on afterwards. The title refers to the sensation you get in your stomach when struck by nervous energy. Obviously the term comes from the insect because of the fluttery feeling that you get.
Also, when playing this piece your hands do look like they are fluttering in the same shape as butterfly wings, and so it gave meaning in all senses of the word.
Marcel on the creative process:
I can’t remember the first piece I composed, but when I was young - around 10 or 11 - I would write down snippets of music that I really liked the sound of whilst improvising. I still start off that way with a lot of music and try to develop it from there.
My compositional style has matured over the years through practice. The more practise you have at writing the more eloquently you can get you message across.
I know now that having a good idea is not enough. You must realise when something needs changing or isn’t working, and adapt or even leave it out altogether.
Marcel on the role models in his life:
My mother used to play the piano very well but there were only ever a few occasions that I heard her play. When she was at school she wanted to be a pianist, but the teachers directed her into secretarial roles and so she gave up.
The role model - This would be Beethoven, my mother had a tape of Wilhelm Kempf playing the famous piano sonatas which we used to listen to together. [Click through to hear Wilhelm Kempf performing the Appassionata] I then went through her sheet music collection and started learning these one by one. Although I had no piano teacher I was absorbing music through listening, and playing piano in all of my spare time.
Marcel on the challenges faced by living composers:
There are many composers around today that do not get the exposure that they deserve. I fear that if not supported, most of these composers will just disappear and their music will end up being just notes on a piece of paper, never to be heard. If we only consider legends like Beethoven and Mozart and limit ourselves, then a future Great will lay undiscovered.
The challenges I face as a composer are really: finding the time to get my ideas on paper and then keeping the momentum going. I would love to have time to finish the many sketches of music I have in my rough manuscript book, but I have to prioritise and work around my teaching and performing as well as family life.
Finally, a special note from composer for students learning Butterflies:
It sounds quite simple, but actually it is not easy. I hope you enjoy learning it as much as I have enjoyed composing it. I would be happy to hear from any students who are learning [Butterflies] and answer any questions.