Chiu recital and master class welcome last-minute additions
By Peter Jacobi
Tuesday evening’s concert by pianist Frederick Chiu in Recital Hall was a last-minute addition. The distinguished Indiana University alum was in the area, realized he had a day in his busy schedule, decided he’d like to see the new IU Jacobs School of Music building, called his former teacher Karen Shaw, and the two worked out a schedule that included not only the concert but a Wednesday morning master class.
Lucky break undoubtedly for the students chosen to work with him in the master class, which I did not see. Lucky break without doubt for those of us who attended the concert. His prodigious pianism stuns not only for technique but for what Chiu locates and draws out of a score artistically. What’s more, he always seems to have an extra purpose in mind, a theme that allows him to explore a musical idea.
For Tuesday’s recital, he had prepared a “Classical Smackdown: Sergei Prokofiev vs. Claude Debussy,” focusing on two composers whose lives at least partially intersected chronologically and who contributed significantly to the directions music followed in the 20th century. Most of the works he chose to play were written in years when both men were active composers, from the later years of Debussy, the earlier of Prokofiev.
Chiu spoke about the repertoire before he first sat at the piano and between periods of music, which he called rounds in support of his ”smackdown” wrestling/boxing theme. He had cogent things to say, but that aspect of the program, which included a request for listeners to fill out a ballot to record favorites, would have made for better listening had he used a microphone.
The music heard proved a Chiu point: that although Debussy’s works, for the most part, stressed imagery and subtlety while Prokofiev’s aimed for modernity and propulsion, each man could and sometimes did cross stylistic lines.
Sorry to admit, I didn’t fill out my ballot, choosing instead just to watch and listen. Watch because Chiu sits not on a piano bench but an armless chair, almost in a slouch, appearing totally relaxed as he draws fire and magic from the Steinway. Listen because of an amazing flow of that fire and magic.
Debussy was represented by his evocative and multi-hued “Suite Bergamesque”; the transparently textured “Cloches a travers les feuilles” (“Bells through the leaves”) from “Images II,” with its pronounced chime effect; “Jardins sous la pluie” (“Gardens in the rain”) from “Estampes,” rich in competing melodies, and the dreamy “Reverie.”
The case for Prokofiev was made with Chiu’s arrangement for piano of excerpts from the ballet “Romeo and Juliet,” volatile in essence; a sprinkling of short exercises, mostly tempestuous (“Sarcasms,” “Two Fugitive Visions,” and “Diabolic Suggestions”), and the breathtaking, show-stopping “Toccata.”
Chiu played them all from memory and exceedingly well. Whose music did I prefer? I can’t say. I can say I’d hate to be deprived of either genius. And I’m grateful Frederick Chiu stopped by once again, this time to share his fascinating take on Debussy and Prokofiev, compositional giants both.
© Herald Times 2013
Jacobs alumnus and pianist Frederic Chiu will be in recital Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 8:30 p.m. in Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
The program, “Classical Smackdown: Sergei Prokofiev vs. Claude Debussy,” invites audience members to vote on their favorites.
A frequent guest artist at concert venues in Europe, South America, and throughout the United States, Frederic Chiu is devoted to enhancing the live concert experience for diverse audiences. He has created many innovative programs, often showcasing transcriptions and rarely programmed repertoire. Also a skilled collaborator, he has performed with many friends in classical music, such as Joshua Bell, Pierre Amoyal, Gary Hoffman, and the St Lawrence String Quartet, as well as with artists in other genres, including jazz pianist Bob James, writer/storyteller David Gonzalez, actor Brian Bedford, and clown Buffo.
Chiu has released over 20 CDs, many available on the harmonia mundi usa label, including the complete piano works of Prokofiev, as well as works of Chopin, Liszt, Ravel, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Rossini, and Grieg. His most recent recordings include the Beethoven/Liszt Symphony No. 5 and the solo piano version of Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals with David Gonzalez as the narrator of verse penned with today’s young audiences in mind. In addition, he is a frequent presence on popular radio shows such as St. Paul Sunday Morning, Performance Today, and WNYC’s Greene Space.
Through his Deeper Piano Studies (DPS), a philosophic and holistic training program, Chiu brings together advanced concert pianists, promising students, high-level amateurs, and piano teachers from around the world for workshops that develop a body/mind/heart approach to piano playing and music making. He has taught at The Juilliard School, Jacob School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, and Banff Centre, among others.
Chiu’s website, FredericChiu.com, contains up-to-date information about his upcoming concerts and DPS workshops, as well as links to recordings and videos.
It is with sadness that the Jacobs School of Music shares the news of alumnus Robert MacDonald’s passing on September 7, 2013 in Lakeland, Florida.
An internationally known concert pianist, Robert performed all over the world as a soloist and with top symphony orchestras. After debuting to rave reviews in Vienna in 1957, Robert performed his US debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City. He joined the faculty at Florida Southern College as an artist in residence, and by 1967 he became chairman of the Florida Southern College’s Festival of Fine Arts, a position he held until retiring in 2011. He was both teacher and mentor to countless students during his tenure.
Robert earned his masters of music in piano at the Indiana University School of Music. He also holds a music degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an artist’s diploma from the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, Austria.
Click here for more information.
By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | email@example.com | Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013 12:00 am
The printed program said: “The American Liszt Society presents ‘Hexameron’ with additional works by Franz Liszt.” Not listed in the rundown was Karen Shaw, the pianist/pedagogue and Liszt zealot on the Indiana University Jacobs School faculty, who put the package together with obvious relish.
She made an appearance to provide some introductions and to set the scene, but she made sure, as in that printed program, to cast the spotlight on others. So, what was it all about? Well, consider eight pianists on stage in Auer Hall. And think of Cirque du Soleil. The acrobatics on Wednesday evening required no wires or ropes or bodies defying gravity, but there was high flying underway, without doubt. There was daredeviltry. There was awe-inspiring exhibitionism.
And it was all in behalf of music: first, five works by the 19th century wizard of the keyboard, Franz Liszt, then a performance of “Hexameron, Morceau de concert,” a collaborative composition conceived by Liszt that called upon five contemporaries to join him in writing variations on a march theme from Bellini’s opera “I Puritani.” Those contemporaries: Sigismond Thalberg, Johann Peter Pixis, Henri Herz, Carl Czerny, and, yes, Frederic Chopin. It proved quite a show, Las Vegas in the concert hall.
But the preliminaries were a feast, too: a dreamy “Un sospiro” from Liszt’s Three Concert Etudes with its rolling arpeggios, played with sensitivity by Ji Hyun Kim; the grand Ballade Number 2 in B Minor, a technical stunner mastered by Read Gainsford; an introspective tonal painting, “The Fountains at the Villa d’Este,” from Liszt’s series of travel reflections, “Annees de Pelerimage,” beautifully relayed by Meeyoun Park; a wild, richly embellished Tarantella from “Venezia e Napoli,” executed with aplomb by Matthew Gianforte, and Mike Hanson in command performing “Reminiscences de ‘Lucia di Lammermoor,’ based imaginatively on the famous Sextet from that opera.
Then came “Hexameron,” which — in addition to the previously mentioned Gainsford, Park, Gianforte and Hanson —required the talents of Sean Cavanaugh, Mark De Zwaan, and Simeon Kim. The wonder, of course, is how seven pianists could have been collected to perform these remarkable variations, each requiring a musician with the loftiest level of technique along with an understanding of the romance and theatricality underlying 19th century keyboard virtuosity. But here, at the Jacobs School — from among its student body and alums back to teach in the Piano Academy — the needed personnel were collectible. Wednesday’s unusual, rarely available performance was thrilling and great fun to experience.
By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 12:00 am
The tragedy at Sandy Hook, pianist Read Gainsford told his audience in Auer Hall Monday evening, led him to design the recital he was about to repeat. The loss of innocent young lives brought images and memories that manifested themselves in three of the four works he chose to play late last year and, again, here: Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” (“Scenes from Childhood”), Beethoven’s Sonata in A-Flat Major, Opus 110, and the Shostakovich “Dances of the Dolls.”
For the sake of added virtuosity, he threw in a rip-roaring performance of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata Number 2 in B-Flat Minor, with its ocean of notes, to end his concert.
Schumann’s 13 pieces — written at an unhappy time, when the composer still struggled to marry his beloved Clara — are meant to be both an adult’s reflections on childhood and the experiences of a child as seen from the perspective of that child. Titles give away Schumann’s intent, among them: “Curious Story,” “Entreating Child,” “Perfect Happiness,” “Important Event,” “Knight of the Rocking Horse” and “By the Fireside.” The best known is “Traumerei” (“Dreaming”), indeed a dream of a tune. The music sounds simple but, for the pianist, is not. An atmosphere of innocence becomes as important as the technical requirements. Gainsford treated the pieces with exquisite care, up to the concluding, poetic “The Poet Speaks,” most likely addressed emotionally to Clara.
In Beethoven’s Opus 110, the pianist recognized the aging composer’s yearning for happier times. Beethoven wrote the sonata when he had been ill, felt lonely, and faced family and financial difficulties. Tunes from childhood are featured in the score, suggestive of a mental tracing back. The final movements, however, seem to bring Beethoven to his state-of-the-moment. The music first turns poignantly sad in an Arioso dolente (“Sad Song”) and then, throughout a remarkable fugue, one can imagine a relentless combat against reality, an expression of the indomitable will that kept Beethoven going, despite deafness and despair. Gainsford’s interpretation was impressionable and imposing.
The music in Shostakovich’s suite of seven dances, based on excerpts from his ballets, proved irresistibly delicious. The dances range from a lyric waltz to a romance, from a polka to the hurdy-gurdy. To the ears, they were sweet and saucy. Gainsford played them with unsparing gusto.
In his Sonata No. 2, pianist/composer Rachmaninoff appeared to tell future pianists, “Let me show you what I can do on a keyboard, which is just about everything. Now emulate.” Well, Gainsford emulated. He was all over that piano. Though the music itself seemed to go nowhere, despite the profusion of notes and challenges, it was admittedly striking, and strikingly Read Gainsford performed it.