Obscure Music Monday: Palmgren's Moonlight
Selim Gustav Adolf Palmgren (Feb. 16, 1878 - Dec. 13, 1951) was a Finnish composer, conductor, and pianist. He studied at the Helsinki Conservatory in Helsinki from 1895 to 1899, then continued his piano studies in Berlin. He conducted several orchestras and music societies in Finland, and had successful performances as a pianist in Finland and Scandanavia. In 1921 he moved to the United States to teach at the Eastman School of Music, and from 1936 - 1951, he was Professor of Harmony and Composition at the Sibelius Academy.
Palmgren's writing was mainly for piano, including the piece we are looking at today-- Moonlight, which is part of his Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 54. Palmgren has an uncanny ability for creating fantastic atmospheres, and this work is no different. The piece starts with a dissonant pair of notes, before a graceful line that almost sounds harp-like comes in, sitting above that funny dissonance. That dissonance is then replaced with simple octaves as the work around it develops and blossoms. As it carries on, those octaves become more elaborate and swirling with the calm melody growing and diminishing above. Palmgren creates a dark, mysterious, and magical atmosphere that's an absolute delight to listen to.
Thankfully there's a recording of this work for you to enjoy!