The September 13, 2013 concert at 7:30 p.m., by Esther Park at Mathes Hall at Eastern Tennessee State University included pieces by Felix Mendelssohn, Bela Bartók, Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin . Although all the pieces were by 19th century composers, the program was nonetheless filled with variety.
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There was serenity in the Liszt, drama and fireworks in the first and third movements of the Mendelsohn, programmatic humor and evocation in the Bartok, and moody contemplation with very familiar phrases in the Chopin. The pianist was highly competent and gave her all to the performance. The audience seemed very appreciative, although many attendees may not have realized how accomplished their soloist was.
It was not clear whether the choice of pieces was meant to showcase some of the wide range of music created in the 19th century, but it certainly did so. It may also have been meant to showcase to Ms. Park’s strengths.
Perhaps the consistency of the program was Ms. Park’s personal choice because of her love of this era in classical solo piano music. Whatever the reason, it made for a very lovely effect overall. There was no jarring intrusion from another wildly different style or period. This created a pleasant atmosphere throughout the concert.
The first piece was the Fantasie in F Sharp Minor, Opus 28, also called the “Scottish”. This was by Felix Mendelsohn. The first movement involved an opening of descending arpeggios, and then a great deal of speed and drama.
There was no melody that could be immediately discerned, but the music was not atonal, so it gave the impression of melody. The middle movement was very meditative and quiet. The third movement returned to explosions of fast and exciting chords and runs up and down the keyboard.
The second piece was perhaps the most thrilling of all the concert, although it was fairly short. It was the Bela Bartok piece entitled Out of Doors. This was filled with the sounds of nature and of machines and people. At least, that was one interpretation of this wild music. It is interesting to wonder what the reaction of the audience must have been when they first heard this work back in the 1800s.
It was definitely programmatic, meaning that it makes sounds like the title suggests that it should. In this piece, one could hear so many different possible noises from the real world. It begins with pounding low chords and then rapid dissonances a bit higher. The dissonances are not displeasing.
For a modern listener, the programmatic nature of the work is actually more familiar than the smooth contemplative nature of the other older pieces in the concert program. It is reminiscent of the music from many movies and cartoons, evoking familiar sounds at times almost like a sound track.
The Paraphrase from Rigoletto by Franz Liszt is not immediately familiar as being from that opera’s most familiar themes. However, it is a lovely piece all on its own, even if one had no idea how Rigoletto sounds. It included enough fireworks of its own to make it interesting.
The 24 Preludes, by Frederic Chopin was a scary prospect at first. How to sit and listen to one piece for the entire second half of the concert was a bit off-putting. However, there was an immense disparity between each one of the pieces.
One of them at least was very familiar, having been used somewhere as a piece in a movie, or perhaps to introduce a program on radio or TV. The other ones were variously spiky and filled with glancing notes, or flowing and peaceful.
As a summary of the piano trends of the 19th century , this concert worked very well. It was a reminder to listeners that one century can contain vast differences in composition.
Powell Piano Series. Performed by Esther Park. Mathes Hall, Johnson City. September 13, 2013.