Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 8 pm
Download a copy of the program here.
Current: A Piano Festival:
Prog to Bach & Bach Again
Stephen Prutsman, piano
presented by Old First Concerts and the Ross McKee Foundation
The Advent of Panurge
J. S. Bach (1685–1750)
Italian Concerto, BWV 971
J. S. Bach
Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 870
All proceeds from this concert benefit the Autism Society, San Francisco/Bay Area, helping to improve the lives of all affected by autism.
About the music
The Advent of Panurge of 1972 was written by the English progressive rock band Gentle Giant who were known for the complexity and sophistication of their music. This particular song has been described as “medieval-meets-funk”. The lyrical content was inspired by Gargantua and Pantagruel, a series of novels written in the 16th century by François Rabelais which are about the adventures of giants.
The Italian Concerto originally titled “Concerto in the Italian taste”, is a three-movement solo work originally written for harpsichord in 1735. Although conceived for this solo instrument, J. S. Bach implemented an orchestral-like structure of the time which exhibits the contrasting ensemble forces of a concerto grosso or tutti (the orchestra) alongside the concertino (the soloist). The 3-movement form (fast-slow-fast) further exemplifies the exuberant spirit of the Italian concerto grosso models of the time.
Sound Chaser was written and recorded in the late ‘70s by the progressive art rock group Yes. The piece is a virtuosic and complex work complete with quintessential Yes elements: Soaring melodies, frequent and innovation harmonic shifts, metric interplay and a lyric of hope and fantasy which begins:
Faster moment spent spread tales of change within the sound
Counting form through rhythm electric freedom
Moves to counter-balance stars expound our conscience
All to know and see
The look in your eyes
Supper’s Ready is a 23-minute prog-rock epic that was written and recorded by the English band Genesis in 1973. Lead singer Peter Gabriel is quoted as saying that the song was “a personal journey which ends up walking through scenes from the book of Revelations in the Bible … I’ll leave it at that”. Gabriel later claimed other parts of the lyrics were inspired by a late-night sighting of seven shrouded men walking in his garden. Anecdotally, some have said that this late-night sighting came from Gabriel’s then wife while on a psychedelics-induced trip. Structurally, (like the tone poems of Liszt and Strauss), it is divided into several contrasting sections with a grand chorus that appears early on and then re-appears at the end. The piece tells the story of two lovers who travel to strange worlds, eventually returning to their world only to witness the Apocalypse, which takes place inside a relentless bass pattern of 9/8, while tunes and melodies continue in a 4/4 meter.
About the musician
Moving easily from classical to jazz to world music styles as a pianist and composer, Stephen Prutsman continues to explore and seek common ground and relationships in the music of all cultures and languages.
Born in Los Angeles, Stephen first began playing the piano by ear at age 3, before moving on to more formal music studies. In his teens and early 20s he was the keyboard player for several art rock groups including Cerberus and Vysion. He was also during those years a solo jazz pianist playing in many southern California clubs and lounges and was the music arranger for a nationally syndicated televangelist program. He was a proud winner of television’s The Gong Show in 1976.
In the early 90’s his career as a classical pianist was launched after receiving the Avery Fisher Career Grant and winning medals at the Tchaikovsky (Moscow) and Queen Elisabeth (Brussels) Piano Competitions. Since then, Stephen has performed the classical concerto repertoire as soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras and his classical discography includes acclaimed recordings of the Barber and McDowell concerti with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. Solo piano recording projects have included Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, an album of Russian masterworks, and a CD of jazz piano originals, recently released entitled Passengers.
From 2004 – 2007 Stephen was Artistic Partner with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where he led concertos from the keyboard, performed in chamber ensembles, conducted works of living composers, developed and arranged collaborations for their Engine 408 series of contemporary and world music, and wrote several new works for the orchestra. From 2009 – 2012 he was the Artistic Director of the Cartagena International Festival of Music, South America’s largest festival of its kind, programming and curating concerts with themes ranging from Mozart celebrations to eclectic evenings of folk and popular music of the Americas, to hybrid programs fusing art and dance music of multiple musical dimensions. He was the curator for the acclaimed experimental series Evolution in San Diego and Tijuana and was the founder of the International Chamber Music Festival in El Paso.
As a composer, Stephen’s long collaboration with Grammy Award winning Kronos Quartet has resulted in over 40 arrangements and compositions for them. Other leading artists and ensembles that have performed Stephen’s compositions and arrangements include Leon Fleisher, Dawn Upshaw, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Spoleto USA, Emmanuel Ax and the Silk Road Project. His soundtracks to several great silent films of the 1920s have been performed throughout the world. As a pianist or arranger outside of the classical music world he has collaborated with such diverse personalities as Tom Waits, Rokia Traore, Joshua Redman, Jon Anderson of Yes and Asha Bhosle.
Passionate for participating in the greater good for families touched by autism, Stephen is involved as an active board member of several local and national Autism advocacy organizations. He co-founded the non-profit Autism Fun Bay Area, whose mission is to promote and create enjoyable Azure events: artistic and recreational environments for people on the spectrum and their families. Azure performances are now presented in many parts of the U.S., Canada and the developing world, which Stephen travels to when possible. His home is in San Francisco.