The UConn piano studio welcomed the emerging spring with their annual Piano Project recital on Sunday afternoon in von der Mehden Recital Hall.
This year’s program was titled “Sour Flowers and Enchanted Gardens,” featuring all undergraduate and graduate piano students at UConn as well as the Assistant Professor in Residence of Piano and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies, Angelina Gadeliya. The recital was programmed around the works of three major piano performers and composers.
Professor Gadeliya entered the stage and opened the concert with a brief introduction to the project itself as well as an introduction to the featured composers and music that would be featured. To Gadeliya, the opportunity to feature all of her students in the collaborative recital is an opportunity to showcase the hard work and talent of her students from throughout the year.
The first section of the recital featured the original compositions of pianist and composer Richard Danielpour. Danielpour was actually in residence at UConn during the fall semester to hold a Master Class with the piano students and became the inspiration for this year’s piano project, according to Gadeliya.
The program featured five of his solo preludes, which all depict the garden of (Danielpour’s) mind, scenes of both of his subconscious dream and conscious realities, according to Danielpour.
The second part of the concert featured an eight-part piece called “Sour Flowers” by Richard Edward Wilson. According to Gadeliya, the cycle is a set of humorous tunes inspired by the Old English herbals. Historically, the use of herbs in the mid-to-late 16th century is heavily tied to the belief in folk magic and superstition. Before the performance of each piece, the performer read a brief text introducing the herb and its intended magical function. Musically, each piece depicted its functions as Wilson aimed to achieve the convergence of atonal and classical musical styles.
“As both a music student and a lover of music in general, I really enjoyed the Wilson pieces because he took common forms and styles in piano music and put his own tonal twist on them,” a second-semester civil engineering and music major Spencer Walker, said.
The final of set of the recital included the performance of a collection of duets by William Bolcom. The piece was called “The Garden of Eden: Four Rags for Two Pianos.” As suggested in the title, each rag was performed with pianists seated at two different pianos, playing musical lines both with and to each other. Together, the four parts aimed to depict the biblical story of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis.
The first two rags, “Old Adam,” and “The Eternal Feminine,” were lighthearted and fun, depicting the innocence and curiosity of Adam and Eve. The third rag, “The Serpent’s Kiss,” was as sinister as the serpent himself. Featuring primarily dark harmonies and heavy rhythms, the piece was a dramatic shift away from the theme of innocence toward the traps that can arise from sin and temptation. This rag also featured extended techniques including foot stomping, percussive drumming on the lid of the piano and clicking of the tongue as a further pull away from the themes of Adam and Eve. The piece closed with “Through Eden’s Gates,” which was a return of the joyful and upbeat mood of the first two rags, depicting the birth of a new Garden of Eden.
As a performer in the project, the experience coming out of a collaborative recital is unique and incomparable to much of the solo performance training that occurs as a classically training music student.
“[It] really helped us all grow as musicians because we got to play some two piano pieces that made us listen to each other and give feedback … It truly isn’t something you can go through alone,” fourth-semester music education major Brett Simms, said. “It takes a lot of workshopping and listening to your co-musicians. Even backstage, we all got to stand together, waiting for each other to go on stage and give our encouragement to one another before our performances. It was a great bonding moment for the UConn piano studio.”
Lucy Littlefield is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.