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The Fisherman and his soul from "A House of Pomegranates" for piano solo

By Joseph Dillon Ford

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Piano Solo - Advanced Intermediate - Digital Download
Composed by Joseph Dillon Ford. 21st Century, 20th Century, Neo-Classical. Score. 3 pages. Published by David Warin Solomons (S0.435039).

Item Number: S0.435039

One of four vividly descriptive piano pieces after the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde in various late-romantic and impressionistic idioms.
"In my musical interpretations of A House of Pomegranates, I have endeavored to reveal something of Wilde's multifaceted literary personality, which was alternately romantic and modern, sublime and earthy, brilliantly idealistic and grimly realistic. It is worth noting that in 1891, when Wilde published this collection, the world of keyboard music itself was no less diverse, for Albéniz, Brahms, Debussy, Grieg, and Scriabin were all actively engaged in composition. Rather than focussing on any particular "period style," I decided to allow each of the four pieces to take its own course, with the result that two--"The Young King" and "The Fisherman and His Soul"--are firmly rooted in the romantic tradition, while the remaining two--"The Birthday of the Infanta" and "The Star-Child"--anticipate (or recall) twentieth-century idioms, particularly 'impressionism'."

The four movements are available in one score or as separate movements as follows:

1 "The Young King" [3/4, d, M+]
"The Young King" is a "Presto" movement in the key of d minor, although its apotheosis-like conclusion leads to the parallel key of D major. The movement is in sonata-allegro form with an unusual development section that begins in the home key and proceeds as a fugal variant of the "royal" opening theme of the exposition. Remote modulations and pervasive horn fifths lend characteristic harmonic color to this fanciful tableau, which summons to mind both Wilde's poignant tale and the age of chivalry.

2 "The Birthday of the Infanta" [various meters, C-sharp, D]
"The Birthday of the Infanta" is a pianistic representation of the fatal infatuation of a court dwarf for a Spanish princess on the occasion of her twelfth cumpleaños. The composition is in A-B-A' form, with a wistful middle section depicting the dwarf's sufferings that starkly contrasts with the grotesquely animated party music with which the piece begins and ends. The harmonic material remains highly volatile throughout, although cadences intermittently clarify the overal tonal center of C-sharp major.

During the reign of Philip IV, little people were retained at the royal palace to serve and entertain the king and his family, as brilliantly depicted by the painter Diego Velásquez in numerous pictures. These diminutive comedians did much to alleviate the stiff formality of daily aristocratic life, although their privileged position could hardly have been just compensation for the ridicule to which they were routinely subjected as court jesters and buffoons.

3 "The Fisherman and His Soul" [12/8, f-sharp, M]

"The Fisherman and His Soul" is a through-composed song-without-words in f-sharp minor marked "Allegro tranquillo." Its seaside setting is evoked by gently shimmering figuration and flowing arpeggios in twelve-eight time, which lend textural unity to the piece and gently support the principal melodies. In the first phrase, the fisherman summons the mermaid in his basso voice, to which she responds in the treble with a similarly falling line. They dialog briefly before she slips again into the sea and the fisherman reluctantly bids her farewell.

4 "The Star-Child" [3/4, b-dorian, E]
"'The Star-Child' is written in the ancient Dorian mode on B, with a raised G-sharp for its sixth degree that instantly distinguishes it from the natural minor scale. Although the meter given is three-four, the performer is advised to imagine the entire piece as an extraordinarily soft, seamless "golden tissue" without strong metrical accents. The atmosphere is one of cool, quiet serenity, just as it was in the winter woods where the Star-Child slept before his discovery by the woodcutters. This is my Requiem for Oscar Wilde, whose timeless genius I commemorate by calling for the endless repetition of the entire piece, each time more softly than before, as his light ascends ever higher into the night sky. I realize that this may well be the longest and most difficult work ever conceived for the piano, and that such a performance is frankly impossible for us mere mortals. Nevertheless, I can imagine no better way to embody the ideal of 'Art for Art's Sake,' and encourage all who choose to perform 'Star-Child' to come as close to its attainment as humanly possible."

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