Live audio from the CBC broadcast – Gregory Oh

“André Ristic did something similar, in a fierce, ambitious piece that in its late stages hammered its way through incrementally declining progressions toward some kind of harmonic bedrock. Ristic’s prelude was full of hard glissandi and forearm slams, as if only violence could answer the rhythmic motto that kept blurting out from the middle of the keyboard. You didn’t need to read the composer’s program note to sense that this music was about a struggle to the death, or against death. It was the only piece on the program that was much more than a pièce d’occasion.” – Robert Everett-Green, Globe and Mail, Sept 27, 2007

André is one of the best contemporary music pianists Canada has ever produced, and he’s also one of my favourite composers. This piece is great on so many levels – great fun to learn, to play and to experience, and in my opinion, a beautiful example of excellent notation. Technical difficulties include rapid glissandi, complex hand choreography, fortissimo arm and hand clusters, and a really tough Prelude ending that I was never able to guarantee 100% accuracy on. The end of the fugue also requires decent stamina and a solid rhythmic pulse.

This is one of my favourite modern pieces. It is well written, falls well under the fingers and makes a big splash. I find lots of humour and cleverness in the writing. Consistency and accuracy of practise is essential in building the piece – you’ll need a lot of discipline – but the reward is a piece in your repertoire that will likely get lots of mileage.


Performer Notes:

  • I don’t think you can play this piece without gloves, unless you have teflon palms. If you are practising, just graze the keys, to preserve your skin cells.
  • Don’t forget to distribute notes between your hands, for ease and accuracy and tone control. For example – bar 16, I take the 3rd beat E and bottom 5th beat D# with my left hand. Bar 59 is another example.
  • At b. 92 of the Prelude, imagine an ambulance racing by – it’s like a musical doppler effect.
  • B. 23 of the Fugue looks complicated, but it’s really just 4 16ths (beat 1), a quintuplet (beat 2) and a 3/8 bar (beat 3+1/2).
  • The ending of the fugue can really tire you out if you use too much pressure. The pedal will handle the sustain, so I prefer to use a strong attack but not to mash the keybed. Remember that relative volume is solely a function of velocity, and has nothing to do with applying or maintaining pressure to the key, post-attack.
  • Practise the pedal catch in the last bar of the Fugue on each piano – it’s really great if you get it right, but…

Title: Prelude and Fugue    


Composer:  André Ristic

Country:  Canada/Belgium

Duration: 7 min

Date of Composition: 2003


Purchase: Email Andre Ristic.

Commission: CBC Radio


Premiere: Gregory Oh, September 25, 2007, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, ON, Canada

Performance History:  

  • Gregory Oh, January 25, 2010, Music Gallery, Toronto, ON
  • Wesley Shen, August 20, 2014, St. Andrew’s Church, Stratford, ON
  • Stephanie Chua, March 8, 2015, Hart House, Toronto, ON
  • Stephanie Chua, March 21, 2015, Music Gallery, Toronto, ON



Prélude & Fugue (2007)

for piano

Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Notes to the Performer:

In order to play very fast and soft glissandi, the piece should be played with wool gloves on, with all the tips cut out to expose the fingers. The glissandi should always be played with the palm of the hand.

When notes seem to be missing ledger lines (clusters, or glissandi) no specific pitch is asked, the Performer can play any notes in the suggested register.

In the Fugue, some quintuplets are «incomplete»; this is intentional, and results in strange time signatures (e.g. 0.4/8 and alike). The idea is to have two alternating «speeds» for sixteenth notes (the speed of the normal sixteenth, and the faster quintupleted sixteenth note).

All the clusters in the music are diatonic: in almost all the cases, they are to be played on the white keys. The only exception is at bar eighty-nine of the Prélude (to be played on the black keys). Furthermore, many clusters are notated as «exclamation points» (straight or upside down): the «main» note of those (the one played by the thumb) should come out a bit; the clusters we are talking about are those of bars 2 (left hand) or bar 15 (both hands), for example.

The gruppettos can be played indifferently on the beat or before the beat (the second method being seemingly trickier). The upper and lower pitches of all of them are left to the discretion of the Performer, keeping in mind the «main»note should always come out.

In case of doubt, questions, comments, insults, etc. do not hesitate to contact the Composer at


Quebec City, Québec, 1972

The tone that emanates from the music of André Ristic is at once lively, substantial, and fundamentally original. This pianist, accordion player, and music theorist trained in mathematics handles musical language as a virtuoso combinatorialist, through his preferred instrument, humour. This is a reviving humour that permits the reinvention of the world, and the reinterpretation of reality to reflect personal desires. Catalogue de bombes occidentales (2000 Prix Jules-Léger), for example, is structured in three distinct parts: a reality check, a calling into question of the event, and a proposal for a solution, in this situation, sleep.

Born in 1972, André Ristic studied mathematics at the Université du Québec in Montréal (UQAM) and completed his musical studies at the conservatory in Montréal where he received instruction in composition and piano. As a music theorist his interests include the mathematical representation of sound and programming models, as well as the musical applications of signal theory and the analytical study of musical manuscripts. His awards include a number of prizes and grants, including the Prix Opus awarded by the Conseil québécois de la musique for “Composer of the Year” in 2001, and the SOCAN award for chamber music in the same year, as well as the Jules-Léger Prize for new chamber music in 2000.

In his spare time, this composer also performs as a pianist (Trio Fibonacci) and accordion player. An active and eclectic musician, he has commissioned and premiered a number of works from both Canadian and international composers, especially those of his own generation. As part of his own compositional process, Ristic seeks out ways of representing sound numerically, with the aim of developing new techniques based mainly on vector geometry. With respect to this subject, he has a publication project underway in partnership with Jonathan Goldman that is devoted to relationship of mathematics to music. André Ristic has an international career and a number of recordings to his credit.

from SMCQ

Andre Ristic at Wikipedia

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