On Thursday, March 30 from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert of chamber music featuring Bill Schaffer on French horn. Joining him will be pianist Joshua Pifer and trombonist Matthew Wood. The concert will feature music by Louis Piantioni, Nicolas de Krufft, Alex Wilder, and Luigi Caracciolo.
Gifts from Bob Ekelund & Mark Thornton and anonymous friends of the series have helped to make this concert possible.
Luigi Caracciolo was a late-1800s composer. His “Tuscan Folk Songs” includes colorful titles like “A Streamlet Full of Flowers” and “Oh! Happy Are the Blind.” Caracciolo wrote the songs for soprano and baritone voices with piano, a popular type of song during that period. Schaffer arranged Thursday’s version of the piece, substituting French horn and trombone for the vocal parts. Wood will play the trombone part.
Schaffer said arranging for his instrument is a big part of his life. Some of it is published by RM Williams Publishing, a small firm that specializes in music for the horn. He said he’s been arranging since college and does a lot ensemble pieces.
French horn player Bill Schaffer
As a faculty member at Auburn, Schaffer acknowledged that publishing music for his instrument is part of Promotion and Tenure. But he said he is also very motivated by a desire to make new repertoire for students of the instrument. “You want to do stuff so that horn players will have stuff to use.”
Though there is a small income stream from his specialized arrangements, Schaffer said it isn’t very much. “This is really not about the money,” he said, adding that his entire market is the country’s 200-or-so horn ensembles. He said it’s more about getting your music performed and supporting the community of people who play and study the instrument.
“There is a real fraternity among horn players,” said Schaffer, adding that the idea is instilled early in a player’s formation. He said one of his teachers once told him, “You’re a part of a family of people who get up every morning and wrestle with the dragon that is going to bite you.”
Schaffer said his teacher was referring to the extreme difficulty of the instrument. Perhaps more than with most instruments, Schaffer said there is the constant danger of making a very loud, very noticiable mistake, and that it happens even to the very top players. “Everyone face plants,” he said. He said they don’t judge or criticize each other for it, because, “Next week, it will be you.”
As he will do Thursday, Schaffer likes to open recitals with a piece by Louis Piantoni, “Air de chasse,” from the early 20th century. Pifer will join him on what he described as a happy, short piece that sounds like a composer writing music for his students to play on recital.
Schaffer and Pifer will perform “Five Love Songs,” originally written by Alec Wilder (1907-1980) for horn and orchestra and commissioned by Morris Seacon. He said all five movements sound like 1950s New York City jazz ballads.
Nicolas de Krufft lived and wrote music around the turn of the 19th century. Schaffer said this period of the late 1700s and 1800s was a great one for horn music. Very well-known composers like Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Luigi Cherubini, Johannes Brahms, and Camille Saint-Saens wrote for the instrument.
But Schaffer said a lot of lesser-known composers added to the repertoire during that period. He likes to highlight those, and de Krufft is one of them. Schaffer holds the piece in as high regard as the more commonly heard ones. “I think it’s as good as or better than most of the pieces that get played.”
During Schaffer’s career he has taught every level from Kindergarten through graduate school. He has remained active as a performer since the early 1980’s and currently serves as principal horn with Sinfonia Gulf Coast in Florida.
Pifer is Lecturer in Piano at Auburn University. In December 2015, Joshua released his solo CD, “Alexander Tcherepnin: My Favorite Piano Works” with Puros Records.
Wood is Associate Professor of Low Brass at Auburn. In 2015, he was awarded a Southeastern Conference Visiting Travel Grant. Prior to joining the Auburn faculty, he was a performer, educator, and clinician in the Austin and San Antonio areas.
On Thursday, March 23 from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the Auditorium by pianist Vadim Serebryany. The concert will feature Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata (Op. 106) and music by Béla Bartók.
A gift by anonymous friends of the series is helping to make this concert possible.
Serebryany will open Thursday’s program with a short, four-movement suite by the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. Typical of Bartók’s work, the piece draws its influence from the folk music of Eastern Europe.
But Bartok is only a warm up. The main event will be Beethoven’s famous Sonata in B-flat, Op. 106. “It’s just really notoriously hard for the pianist,” he said. At 40 minutes long, he added that it can even take some work from the listener.
Serebryany described the sonata, nicknamed “Hammerklavier,” as extremely complex, dense music. For instance, it includes a fugue section that he described as “relentlessly, densely contrapuntal all the way through for ten minutes.” And he said its slow movement is easily Beethoven’s longest, outside of the string quartets he wrote during the same later period of his life.
“His late music is unique as far as how deeply personal it is,” said Serebryany of Beethoven’s last ten years or so of compositions. “It’s not unfair to say that they are all uniquely strange pieces of music,” he added.
Beethoven is often painted as a tortured person. Some connect his complex and intense music with the struggles of his life. But Serebryany doesn’t see it that way.
Serebryany acknowledges Beethoven’s troubled life, especially during the last years. In addition to the composer’s famous loss of hearing which forced him to stop performing, Serebryany noted the extreme toll taken on him by turn-of-the-century European politics.
Beethoven took much hope for mankind from what was happening in France after its revolution, said Serebryany. He said the composer was a great believer in the steps Napoleon was taking, moving forward in the new democracy of the French Republic. But when Napoleon declared himself Emperor in 1804, Serebryany said Beethoven was crushed.
The subsequent Napoleonic Wars that included two campaigns through Austria put further stress on Beethoven, said Serebryany. Though a proponent of universal brotherhood, the composer’s closest friends were in the Viennese aristocracy. The wars forced them to flee the country.
Despite all of this, Serebryany sees Beethoven’s art as less affected by his troubles and more by his artistic temperament. Unlike Beethoven’s contemporary, composer Richard Strauss, who wrote his waltzes in his signature way until the end, Beethoven was always looking for solutions to musical problems, said Serebryany.
“He was the epitome of the idea of never being satisfied,” said Serebryany. “He pushed the boundaries of the harmony he inherited.”
In fact, the “Hammerklavier” sonata was the first piece Beethoven wrote after a ten-year period of producing nothing. Serebryany said Beethoven felt he had nowhere to go, so didn’t see any reason to write anything at all.
But even if Beethoven’s work, and especially his later work, seems at times dark and brooding, Serebryany said there is evidence of hope. He referenced Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony setting of Friedrich Schiller’s poem, “Ode to Joy,” as evidence of the composer’s persistent faith in people’s ability to come together for the sake of a better world.
Serebryany said Beethoven’s life and music support the idea that all was not gloomy for the composer. “Beethoven ultimately doesn’t have a pessimistic worldview,” he said, adding that there are always glimpses of Paradise, even in the intense and complex “Hammerklavier.”
Thank you for your support!
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art would like to thank you, for saving the bunnies! With 112 donors raising $8,330, and reaching 104% of our goal, Alex Podesta’s “Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers)” is now added to our permanent collection. Please listen to our project ambassador, Tracy Awino (senior), send a personal thank you to everyone who made this possible.
Former MSO Fellow Laura Usiskin Will Perform for Museum Series
Lawrence Quinnett Returns to A Little Lunch Music
On February 23 from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the Grand Gallery by pianist Lawrence Quinnett. The concert will feature Ludwig van Beethoven’s first three piano sonatas. Thanks to Bob Ekelund & Mark Thornton for helping to make this concert possible.
Gifts from Bob Ekelund & Mark Thornton have helped to make this concert possible.
When Beethoven wrote his first sonatas, committing full piano concerts to memory was well on its way to becoming standard practice for pianists. But the music Beethoven wrote was so new and different that many performers refused to do it, said Quinnett. The idea was that no wrong note would be played, honoring the genius of the composer.
Quinnett said even the renowned composer Clara Schumann, who championed Beethoven’s works in her late career, was disparaged by critics for playing his music from memory.
Musicians had good reason to put Beethoven on a pedestal, said Quinnett. Many things about these pieces were markedly different from what came before, challenging music conventions of the time.
And Quinnett said he enjoys challenging himself with the pieces. “All these sonatas are new to me,” he said.
Quinnett said Beethoven had a brilliant mind, and was known for his ability to play difficult music at high tempos. He said Beethoven’s compositions showcased these abilities and that the sonatas display this technique clearly. “They tend to land better at slightly quicker tempos,” said Quinnett.
Beethoven also used a new approach to tempo, said Quinnett. He said though the composer included conventional tempo markings in his music, he didn’t use them in the same way. Not only did Beethoven usually intend the music to be played a bit faster than the tempo markings instructed, he also took liberties with the tempo. When he performed, he made tempo adjustments even during the course of a short musical phrase.
“Contemporaries of Beethoven would say than he rarely played a couple bars the same tempo,” said Quinnett. “He had a sense of freedom with his performances.”
Beethoven’s music is complex, said Quinnett. It makes use of harmonic shifts that hadn’t been heard before and cadenzas, or extended virtuosic passages. Quinnett said Beethoven had a penchant for playing impressive improvised solos, and that the cadenzas he wrote sounded like the music he improvised. Though cadenzas are mostly found in his concertos, Beethoven included one in his third sonata.
Quinnett said in Beethoven’s time, it was commonplace for classical performers to improvise. “There was a culture of improvisation,” he said, adding that it was found not only with Beethoven, but in earlier music as well.
Born in Montserrat, Quinnett has played solo and chamber music in the Caribbean, United Kingdom, and United States. He has judged competitions, given masterclasses, and been featured as performer and pedagogue in festivals including the 2015 Montserrat Music Festival, the Colour of Music Festival, the 2013 Ligeti Symposium, and the Fayetteville Piano Festival. He holds a doctorate from Florida State University and teaches as professor at Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC.
David Banks Gospel Jazz Experience to perform at A Little Lunch Music
Help us add “Self- Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers)” to our permanent collection
Auburn’s art museum needs your help to give a permanent home to Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Bathers). This sculpture is part of a series, in which Alex Podesta of New Orleans draws parallels between imagination’s role in children and adults. The piece is the second-place winner of the biennial Out of the Box: A Juried Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition and a community award winner. The bunnies, as they are affectionately now known, tell a unique story—whether you are five or 65. But they are on temporary loan and scheduled to leave. Your gift can save the bunnies!
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art represents Auburn’s commitment to advancing the arts. The outdoor sculpture program showcases the beautiful grounds and makes art accessible. Interacting with sculpture in nature is a unique experience unlike one has within the museum walls. But often, these works are on temporary loan by the artist. Through philanthropic gifts, the museum can create an engaging sculpture park for campus, the community and visitors.
By presenting this sculpture and other works, the museum offers art experiences to nearly 40,000 visitors annually—from elementary, high school and college students, to faculty and staff, plus lifelong learners—not to mention countless others visiting the grounds for recreation and relaxation.
Your support extends Auburn’s outreach nationally and internationally through this professionally accredited institution. Thank you for believing “art changes lives!”
Visiting International Pianists Featured on Two Upcoming Recitals
Pianists Sangmi Lim
Kyungha Kay Lee, violinist
Pianists Dino Mulić