Murakami Music was a program that had been brewing in my head ever since my freshman year at Juilliard. I was introduced first to his short stories and then drawn to his novels, all of which captivated me for their rich storytelling and bizarre imagination. Something that became immediately clear to me from story to story was his use of weaving works from the classical repertory into the plots... and it was usually far from the standard popular Vivaldi Four Seasons. Realizing how cool it would be to present a live concert of these works to people unfamiliar with the works could be yet another dimension, I rounded up a list of piano solo works that have been featured in his books, as well as a few pieces that contemporary composers have been inspired to compose from his stories. With the works ranging from standard works from the Baroque era to unknown pieces of today, reflecting many different styles, they can be selected in a wide variety of orders to present an entertaining recital to those even unfamiliar with Murakami's writings.
"Of all her father's records, the one I liked best was a recording of the Liszt piano concertos: one concerto on each side. There were two reasons I liked this record. First of all, the record jacket was beautiful. Second, no one around me — with the exception of Shimamoto, of course — ever listened to Liszt's piano concertos. The very idea excited me. I'd found a world that no one around me knew — a secret garden only I was allowed to enter. I felt elevated, lifted to another plane of existence. (10-11)"
-south of the border, west of the sun
From Pinball, 1973 (1980, 2015)
"It was thus to the distant accompaniment of the distant strains of Haydn's Piano Sonata in G Minor that I picked my way under and through the tottering pile of benches that served as a barricade for Building Nine. (107)"
From Norwegian Wood:
Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte (6'30)
Debussy: "Clair de lune" from Suite Bergamasque (5')
Bach: Fugue (unspecified) or Invention (unspecified) Ch.6, 11
From Wind-up Bird Chronicles:
Schumann: "Vogel als Prophet" from Waldszenen, Op. 82 (3'30'')
Inspired by Wind-up Bird Chronicles:
Ryan Francis: Wind-up Bird Preludes (13')
“Wind-Up Bird Preludes engages in some pretty head-spinning musical and literary referencing. The title of the set comes from Haruki Murakami’s massive novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Murakami’s novel itself is divided into three separately published parts, each named after classical pieces, respectively Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, Schumann’s Bird as Prophet and “Birdcatcher” in reference to Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Jazz music also plays a central roll in the musical backdrop of the novel. I was always impressed by the sophistication and depth of meaning in Murakami’s choices of these pieces and thought it would be an interesting project to bring these presences of to Rossini, Schumann, Mozart, and jazz full circle as fleeting presences in a set of pieces that respond to the form of his novel.
Throughout Chronicle, the titular “wind-up bird” is heard—though never seen—by various characters, and its appearance often coincides with, or even prophecises, the onset of some calamity. That role of the bird in his novel seems to draw a clear line to that of the magpie in Rossini’s opera, whose thieving ways create the central dramatic conflict. In a more earthbound reference, the novel’s protagonist is searching for his wife, with the parallels to Papageno being obvious.”
From Sputnik Sweetheart:
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 "Appassionata" (22')
She and Miu shared similar musical tastes, it turned out. They both loved piano music and were convinced that Beethoven's Sonata No. 23 was the absolute pinnacle in the history of music. And that Wilhelm Backhaus's unparalleled performance of the "Sonata for Decca" set the interpretive standard. (20)
Brahms: Ballades (ch.9)
Bach: Well-tempered Clavier
“You like sequences,” Fuka-Eri asked, without a question mark. “To me, they’re like Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. I never get tired of them.”
From Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimmage:
Liszt: "La mal du pays" from Années de pèlerinage, Première année (6')
As they listened to one piano recording, Tsukuru realized that he'd heard the composition many times in the past. He didn't know the title, however, or the composer. It was a quiet, sorrowful piece that began with a slow, memorable theme that played out as single notes, then proceeded into a series of tranquil variations. Tsukuru looked up from the book he was reading and asked Haida what it was.
'"Franz Liszt's 'La mal du pays.' It's from his Years of Pilgrimage Suite 'Year One: Switzerland.'"
"'La mal du…'?"
"'La mal du pays.' It's French. Usually it's translated as 'homesickness,' or 'melancholy.' If you put a finer point on it, it's more like 'a groundless sadness called forth in a person's heart by a pastoral landscape.' It's a hard expression to translate accurately." (68-9)
Liszt: "Sonetto 47 del Petrarca" from Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année (5')
Inspired by Tony Takitani:
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Solitude (from film version by Jun Ichikawa)
Inspired by Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood:
James Romig: Second Piano Sonata (2007) 16'