Student Pianists Perform Bach, Chopin

By John Gosselin

Sometimes the most intimate settings make for the most moving concerts. The spring piano recital by the students of Diana Fanning was one of those sometimes. The Music Department sponsored the concert which featured 10 students from all years who performed a wide variety of keyboard works. The concert was open to the entire Middlebury community.

The first performer, Chaeree Lee ’18, played the andante movement from W.A. Mozart’s K. 283 G Major sonata followed by Frederic Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, Op. 34 No. 2. These slower pieces helped to start the concert well by putting the audience into a mood to listen. I enjoyed the Chopin waltz more because of how the waltz rhythm changed so much after the first minute or so. It is an interesting activity to try to hear the difference between a waltz for listening and a waltz for dancing.

Julien Souffrant ’19 performed Claude Debussy’s Reverie L 68. The popular TV show “Westworld” features this piece prominently in several important dramatic moments. Played in concert, it loses the dramatic connotations but none of the emotional catharsis

Laura Harris ’17 played Franz Schubert’s Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op. 90, No. 3, D. 899 and Alberto Ginastera’s Danza de la moa donosa from Danza Argentinas, Op. 2, which translates to “dance of the beautiful maiden.” Schubert’s Impromptus are counted among some of the finest pieces of solo piano music because of their soaring melodies, of which this piece is a fine example. The Ginastera piece reminded me a bit of the Debussy pieces in terms of how it did not seem to include motivic or contrapuntal devices but rather flowed naturally.

Tiansheng Sun ’20 shared Enrique Granados’ Quejas, O La Maya y el Ruisenor, which translates to “Laments,” or “the Maiden and the Nightingale.” I was again reminded of the Debussy pieces which came before and after.

Garrett Johnson ’20 played Claude Debussy’s La Cathedrale Engloutie from his first book of preludes, L 117, which translates to “the sunken cathedral.” Watching how this piece was played in person helped me gain a new perspective on it. It is difficult to hear the effect the low notes have on the higher notes in recordings. Hearing it in the concert hall, with the sound filling the room, helps to give a greater sense of what Debussy was trying to do (and succeeded in doing) with this piece.

Andrew Smith ’18 performed J.S. Bach’s Fugue IX in E Major, BWV 854 from the Well-Tempered Claiver, Book I and Johannes Brahms’ Intermezzo in B-Flat Minor, Op. 117. I felt that the intermezzo especially was one of the best pieces of the evening. For the past few weeks, I have listened to Glenn Gould’s Brahms recordings on repeat, but hearing it live makes all the difference in the world.

After a brief pause in the concert, it resumed with Junya Iwata’s ’19 playing of the Allegro from J.S. Bach’s Italian Concerto BWV 971 and Gabriel Faure’s Nocturne in A-Flat Major, Op. 33, No. 3. Both were played beautifully. After listening to so much impressionist work in the Debussy, it was refreshing to hear some French music in a more classical vein.

Gareth Cordery ’20 performed the third movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op.31, No. 3. It was Beethoven’s 18th piano sonata, which, along with Op. 49, represent the last entries in his catalogue, which come in sets. The piece has significant portions requiring crossing the hands, like many of the pieces on the program, but the ease and grace with which Gareth played those sections in this piece astounded me. He also performed Claude Debussy’s Les sons et parfums tournent dans l’air du soir and Les collines d’Anacapri, both from Book I of his Preludes, and they translate to “sounds and fragrances swirl through the evening air” and “the hills of Anacapri”, respectively.

Gloria Breck ’19 played the first movement of Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Sonata No. in F Major, Op. 46 and the third movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in E Major, Op. 109. I was again amazed by the quality of the playing, especially in the Kabalevsky. The storminess communicated in the first movement makes me want to explore this composer’s entire catalogue of works.

Finishing the concert after nearly two hours, Zach Blacker ’19 performed Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 47. Like the Chopin played by Chaeree Lee ’19, the music felt fitting as a transition. The way in which the piece developed over the course of a few minutes blew me away. Overall, this concert was a great experience. I look forward to future concerts by these and other musicians.