Ha! I have a little block (maybe more than a little) when it comes to promoting my own concerts. So I’m just getting this up the afternoon of the show.
Tonight, pianist Nariaki Sugiura and I play a recital as part of the Greencastle Summer Music Festival, which I started about seven years ago and continue to (barely) organize. There have been stories in the Banner-Graphic (the Greencastle, Indiana paper) and on the DePauw site.
It will probably be Nariaki’s last concert in Greencastle for quite a while. He starts a new faculty position at the University of North Dakota next month. He’s a fabulous young pianist, who just finished (or is close to finishing) his DMA at Indiana University. He was the accompanist for Janos Starker’s cello studio for several years, so he knows the cello repertoire inside out.
He’s a delightfully flexible collaborator, too. Sometimes when a pianist has worked a lot with a famous artist or teacher, he or she will want everyone to play the way the great one did/taught: “Starker does X!” “Mr. Rose always made a ritard here.” “Alisa Weilerstein plays this tempo.” So what? We are playing, not them.
My favorite was when in my own doctoral-student days I was rehearsing the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations with a pianist and triumphantly nailed the final variation. I sighed, smiled, and looked up at her.
She’d been listening to a recording. “Rostropovich plays faster,” she deadpanned, in her not-yet-fluent English.
With Nariaki, though, it’s always starting fresh, and I like that. He’s never asked me to play like Starker or anyone else.
Nariaki starts things off tonight with a solo set. He begins with a vivacious Allegro from a Haydn piano sonata, followed by two short programmatic pieces (“Banshee” and “The Harp of Life”) by the American composer Henry Cowell (1897-1965), and then a piece by a actual living composer: Alan Jay Kernis’s Superstar Etude No. 1.
The Kernis is wild and crazy. A hard act to follow!
But I’ll give it a try.
Together we’ll play the Five Pieces in Folk Style by Robert Schumann. I think it’s the first time for both of us, certainly for me. I grew up listening to these pieces as performed by Pablo Casals. As I explain in the press release included here, the first cello record I was given included these pieces. I’d listen to them, or the Schumann Cello Concerto on the other side, almost every night as I went to sleep. (I had an automatic turntable, which would turn itself off when a record was over, in my room.) At some point in my teens, I decided to wait until I was an adult to learn and perform them–I thought it would be nice to “save” them. Last week, thinking about tonight’s program, I decided now is the time.
That got me thinking about other childhood pieces, and the Saint-Saëns A Minor Concerto started floating through my head. An album with Leonard Rose playing it, along with the Lalo Concerto and the Fauré Elegy, came into possession early in my cello life as well. I got to meet Mr. Rose in 1973 after a concert, and he autographed the album for me. I was with another cello student and he signed it, “Hello fellow sufferers! Greetings, Leonard Rose.” The Saint-Saëns Concerto was one of my favorite pieces. I haven’t performed it since 1989–it’s out of fashion to play concertos with piano accompaniment, although this was done all the time in the 19th century as well as the pre-World War II era in the 20th. So why not? It’s such a terrific piece, and it sounds great with piano.
We finish off with Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango, which he composed in 1982 for Mstislav Rostropovich. They didn’t get around to performing it until 1990. So I definitely didn’t grow up listening to it. But I love Piazzolla, and this piece is enormously fun to play.