Loralee Songer and Perry Mears from Iowa Will Perform
Pianist Perry Mears
Soprano Loralee Songer
Pianist Perry Mears
Soprano Loralee Songer
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.”
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.
Pianists Sangmi Lim
Kyungha Kay Lee, violinist
Pianists Dino Mulić
Pictured: Jeremy Samolesky
On October 27 from noon to 1:00 pm, “A Little Lunch Music Series” will present a free concert by flutist Alina Windell with oboist Sue Tomkiewicz and pianist Jeremy Samolesky. The program will feature music by Sergei Prokofieff, and still-living composers Martin Kennedy, and Dana Wilson. Anonymous friends of the series have helped make this possible.
Anonymous friends of the series are helping to support the concert.
Composer Martin Kennedy is now Director of Theory and Composition at Central Washington University. He was a grad student at Indiana University when Windell was there earning her Bachelors Degree. At that time, she heard his piece, “Four Songs,” and said since then she’s been waiting for a chance to play it.
Now, two degrees later and teaching at Auburn and Southern Union, Windell has been able to program the piece for A Little Lunch Music.
A piece of music often ebbs and flows, offering its climax at or near its end. Windell said the four-movement Kennedy piece is different. “Everything just really calms down as the piece goes on,” she said.
Windell said the first movement, “Ferocious,” is the most intense. It is the most dissonant, is louder, and has really complex textures, she said. “The last piece is the most relaxed, kind of like a loose, free feeling,” she added.
In between, Windell said Kennedy’s second movement is fun and playful and reminds her of Aaron Copland’s music at times. She said the third is a sweet love song with hints of Disney music. She said the composer is a pianist, and the piano part to “Four Songs” is really virtuosic.
They will perform “Sonata” by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Though Windell said it is a staple of the flute’s repertoire, this will be the first time she’s had the chance to play all of its four movements together. Windell said that though Prokofieff’s music can be fairly adventurous, this is one of his more consonant sounding pieces.
“I just like it,” said Windell.
Thursday’s program will also feature a trio by still-living composer Dana Wilson, “Gold Mosaic.” Oboist Tomkiewicz was involved in its commission, and frequently plays with Windell for the Springer Theatre orchestra in Columbus.
Windell said they will repeat the program at Columbus State University on Nov. 10.
Windell has performed throughout the USA and abroad and is a member of the LaGrange Symphony. In the summer of 2016, she performed at the National Flute Association Convention in San Diego, CA; at the Orfeo Music Festival, in Vipiteno, Italy; and at the International Double Reed Society conference at Columbus State University. In 2015, she was a soloist in a concert tour of Malaysia.
Tomkiewicz is the Associate Professor of Oboe at Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music and the Director of Honors on the school’s RiverPark campus. She has commissioned, premiered and recorded new works for oboe and English horn by such composers as Brian Cherney, Brooke Joyce, Bruce Pennycook and Nancy Galbraith. She is currently the English hornist with the Columbus Symphony.
Samolesky serves as Associate Professor of Piano and Piano Area Coordinator at Auburn University. Recent concert tours and performances include China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Colombia, and Ecuador, with regular appearances as performer and teacher throughout the US. His Kennedy Center recital was broadcast on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today.” Praised by critics as “brilliant,” “distinguished,” and “full of intensity and drama,” Samolesky’s debut solo CD was released by Centaur Records in 2015.