Desert Suite: Six Original Piano Solos.
Desert Suite is a collection of six short piano pieces inspired by the landscapes and culture of the American Southwest. At a total length of around 10 minutes, the pieces could be played as a set, though each piece is musically substantial enough to be performed individually. The composer has included introductory remarks detailing her interest in the desert southwest and Native American culture, as well as extensive performance notes and helpful pedagogical suggestions for each piece.
The six pieces all bear descriptive titles--"Dawn to Dusk," "Gecko Games," "Desert in Bloom," "Canyon Spirits," "Mother Earth, Sister Moon" and "Kokopelli (Invention in Phrygian Mode)." The composer succeeds in depicting the beauty and grandeur of desert landscapes by the use of extended damper pedal effects, sparse harmonies in open fifths, and modal, flute-like melodies. The technical level is intermediate. The performer must achieve a wide variety of dynamic levels, from pppp to ff, though there is no marking above mf until the final two pieces. In four of the pieces, the writing is lyric, atmospheric and medium or slow in tempo. As the only fast pieces in the set, "Gecko Games" and "Kokopelli" are staccato etudes requiring a bit more facility to deal with the alternating hand writing and quick position shifts. "Desert in Bloom" is a fine introduction to irregular and changing meters, while "Mother Earth, Sister Moon" asks the performer to tap rhythmic figures on the fallboard (the composer even suggests having a percussionist perform these while possibly improvising similar rhythms).
Desert Suite is a fine piece for study and performance for a strong intermediate-level student. The difficulties are primarily musical. There are lots of expressive markings in each of the six pieces, all spelled out in exacting detail by the composer, leaving little room for individual interpretation by the performer. Nonetheless, teaching a student to focus on dynamics, pedaling, articulation and other musical markings is of great pedagogical value. This suite should appeal to imaginative, expressive students with an eye and ear for detail (or those who need to work on these aspects of performing).--Reviewed by Charles Jones, NCTM, Natchitoches, Louisiana.
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|Publication:||American Music Teacher|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2007|
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