Two Soviet Love Songs for Vocalizing Pianist were composed in December 2003. The idiosyncratic mannerisms of performers have long fascinated me. Often I find myself guilty of habits potentially disturbing a performance. The unconscious movements or noises one makes while performing, however, are inevitable and, perhaps, better not to be avoided. They are there for a good reason. It would be unthinkable if Glenn Gould were asked to play without humming of gesticulating. In fact these two pieces were inspired to some extent by watching a video tape of Gould’s performance, as well as hearing the composer-pianist Frederic Rzewski performing his The Road. The pieces were originally meant for the private entertainment of accomplished pianists who also like to sing, but, as I played them after their completion, I felt that their theatricality seems to demand an audience.
The two Soviet tunes are something I grew up with. They are still extremely popular in China and often heard in karaoke houses. In Katyusha, besides the tune itself, I also quote Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony (the Scherzo movement) as well as a familiar American show-tune which Shostakovich himself once arranged for orchestra.