Xenia Pestova

Xenia Pestova

Spotlight on Karlheinz Essl


You're listening to the 30-seconds Project Podcast, episode #4: Spotlight on Karlheinz Essl. The 30-second project invited composers from all over the world to write short pieces for piano or toy piano. In this episode I will discuss the work of Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl.

Listen to the Podcast...


I was first introduced to the work of Karlheinz Essl through his piece for toy piano and fixed media called Kalimba. The performer places a small speaker inside the toy piano. The electronic sound appears to come from the instrument itself, creating an interesting aural illusion for the audience. Let's listen now to a short fragment of this piece from a live concert recording made at The Music Gallery in Toronto in December 2008...

In the same concert, I premiered another work by Karlheinz Essl for toy piano, called Listen Thing. Originally written for music box, the piece has four parts, and uses a custom-punched paper tape, inserted into the music box in four different orientations. The toy piano version is a transcription of the music box pieces. Each of the four pieces has a different title: "Tingle Hints", "Shingle Tint", "Lent in Sight", and "Silent Night". The titles are all anagrams of "Silent Night", and the last movement is the Christmas carol "Silent Night". Let's listen to some of this piece now...

For the 30-second project, Karlheinz Essl wrote a 30-second piece for piano called Take the C-train. In this piece, the performer never plays the piano in the conventional way. Instead, an E-bow is placed on the middle C string, creating an oscillating magnetic field, and setting the string into vibration. The E-bow is a commonly-used electric guitar effect that also works well on piano strings, creating a sustained tone that is unusual for this instrument. The pianist strikes the metal frame of the instrument with a piece of wood to produce different resonances. The right pedal is also used, along with a silent resonance chord in the middle pedal, and a silently-held middle C that releases the damper, allowing the string to vibrate when set in motion by the E-bow. Let's listen now to a studio recording I made in Amsterdam in September 2009. Thank you to Wiek Hijmans for kindly lending his E-bow, and Pascal Meyer for access to his lovely Steinway piano...


Xenia Pestova premiering Karlheinz Essl's "Take the C-Train" on 17 Jun 2009 in Montréal

Xenia Pestova premiering Karlheinz Essl's Take the C-Train
Montréal, 17 Jun 2009


...and that was Take the C-train by Karlheinz Essl. To find out more about the composer and listen to examples of other works, visit www.essl.at. To listen to more pieces from the 30-second project, visit my website xeniapestova.com. Thank you for listening!


in: Xenia Pestova, The 30-seconds Project
Montréal 2009



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Updated: 10 Aug 2015