Opus-ing One’s Music

AMONG WESTERN CLASSICAL MUSICIANS exists a form of namedropping that set them apart from the hoipolloi or ignorami. I am referring here to those pianists enamored by opus numbers of well-known compositions who at an intimate salon recital might in response to a request from the audience “to play us something,” cheerfully say “Shall I play you the Op. 53?” For the uninitiated that would mean essaying either a lengthy performance of a favorite of mine – the Herculean Waldstein Sonata in C major by Beethovenor, in sheer contrast, the pithier Heroic Polonaise in A flat major by Chopin.

I must confess that I’ve been guilty of opus-dropping (or opus-ing) in my earlier years on the concert stage to the delight of some and groans of despair from others.

In regard to my own rather limited output of original compositions, the earliest dates back to 1945, when at the age of 12  I wrote and performed as part of a full-blown debut solo recital at the Town Hall in New Delhi a Lento work, which I entitled “My Prayer for a Caged Pet Parrot.” Very much later on – in fact, all of 30 years! -as my roster of original piano works grew, I decided to append the momentous shorthand of Op. 1 to the manuscript of My Prayer. And it was only two years ago that I made an amateur video recording of the piece in my Englewood home.  Here it is:

Then, beginning in 1945, I began a series of works for piano (and one for string quartet) through the years culminating in my 4-movement Piano Sonata entitled Impersonata that was published and copyrighted in the USA in 2015:

I: Maestoso – Allegro

II: Largo

IIIA: Theme and Variations I-II

IIIB: Variations III-IV

IV: Finale – Allegro giocoso

Op. Posth.
There is a genre of opuses, abbreviated to Op. Posth., that I was unaware of until I was taught in New Delhi by my esteemed teacher, Mrs. Thomas, Chopin’s brilliant Fantasie-Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, Opus 66, which was composed as far back as 1834, but only published 21 years later in 1855. I was told by her that chronologically the first of Chopin’s impromptus, the Fantasie-Impromptu was not intended by him for publication. The assumption arose that it was withheld on account of a stated similarity – unintentional, no doubt – to an Impromptu in E flat major by Ignaz Moscheles, the eminent Prague-born pianist, conductor and teacher (1794-1870.) Several other pieces of Chopin were later clubbed together as Posthumous Works Opuses 66-73 that include gems in the Nocturne genre (5) as well as Mazurkas (2), Waltzes (2), Polonaises (3) and Ecossaises (3).

In 2009, I gave my last solo performance – a Spring Music Recital of Light Classical Pieces, just before my right hand ‘pinkie’ succumbed to Dupuytren’s Contracture. The half-hour program includes short works by Chopin (4), Schumann, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Antonin Dvorak and my maternal grandmother, Rose Ziadine Akmal.