Do you like piano? If you do, then don’t miss the University of Connecticut’s Piano Day. Every year, the music department schedules a day dedicated to this instrument, inviting professionals from across the world to play here in Storrs. This year, the wonderful Steven Osborne will give a masterclass and a performance this Friday, Oct. 27 in von der Mehden Recital Hall.
Osborne is an accomplished musician from Scotland whose performances have been met with much praise. These recognitions include Instrumentalist of the Year from the Royal Philharmonic Society, two Gramophone awards and many first prizes in international competitions.
The first event, the masterclass, starts at 12:30 p.m. To those unaware, masterclasses are events where an audience watches the master give a student a lesson on how to improve their playing. On Friday, students studying piano performance will be working on the first movements of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. These concertos are two of the pinnacles of music written for piano, specifically made to test the performer’s ability as a soloist accompanied by an entire orchestra. The Rachmaninoff piece is one of the most famous concertos ever, with its beautiful melodies going beyond the concert hall and into several classic films and even a song by Frank Sinatra. Ravel’s concerto mixes American sounds into his impressionistic style, including signature features of jazz and blues.
During a masterclass, you often hear already exceptional performances improve even more, as the student pianist takes input from the master. These events are great for pianists of all levels. Lessons of this nature typically help performers on the stage change their perspective on certain sections of the piece and encourage everyone watching to do the same to their own music. If you care about playing any sort of music on the piano, then you should attend.
At 8 p.m. on Friday, Osborne will give his own performance. Pieces by Franz Schubert begin and end the program. It starts with his six “Moments Musicaux,” which are, as the title implies, short pieces for solo piano; they are among the most frequently played of all Schubert’s piano music. Then Osborne will play Robert Schumann’s “Kinderszenen,” Opus 15, a piece the composer wrote to memorialize childhood experiences, ranging from “Von fremden Ländern und Menschen” (Of Foreign Lands and Peoples) to “Ritter vom Steckenpferd” (Knight of the Hobbyhorse) to the very famous “Träumerei” (Dreaming). If you want a preview, see this YouTube video.
After the intermission, Osborne will return with a single Bagatelle (a form of dance) written by Beethoven. Then, the grand finale, Schubert’s Sonata in A, one of the last works the composer completed, and one he completed knowing that he did not have long to live. Although it wa written in 1828, the work did not become popular until the mid-20th century when some famous pianists championed it along with two other late sonatas that Schubert wrote at the same time. These sonatas are now routinely praised for using a mature style and a rare depth of emotional expression. The work is in four movements and lasts about 40 minutes. If you want a preview, check out this Youtube video.