José Feghali Coming March 1

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jose Feghali

A CHILD PRODIGY in his native Brazil, pianist José Feghali—who will perform at Memminger Auditorium on March 1—made his recital debut at the age of five and his concerto debut three years later with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. When he was fifteen he moved to London to study with Maria Curcio Diamand, then continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Music with Christopher Elton. He went on to win the Gold Medal at the Seventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

Mr. Feghali is Artist-in-Residence at Texas Christian University and Associate Director of the Mimir Chamber Music Festival in Fort Worth. Read more about him at Wikipedia and his web site.

Tuesday • March 1
8 PMMemminger Auditorium (843) 953-6575
Tickets $20 at the door
(under 18 and CofC students free)

Program Notes by Lindsay Koob

W. A. Mozart is believed to have written his comparatively lengthy and challenging Piano Sonata in B-flat, K. 333 for his own use during a three-week stay in the Austrian city of Linz. As he wrote in a letter to his father, he was hurriedly writing a new symphony (the “Linz” Symphony, K. 425) for a concert he was staging there—and it is likely that he wrote this charming sonata at the same time, to be performed at the same event. From The work’s sunny and graceful opening Allegro onward, the music comes across as a sort of solo concerto, balancing filigree-laced solo passages against more robust “tutti” sections. The central Andante cantabile makes for sweetly affecting “piano singing,” and the exuberantly witty final Allegro Grazioso even has what sounds like a cadenza.

Frédéric Chopin brought the nocturne (a form originated by Irish composer John Field) to new levels of sophistication, refinement and emotional intensity. Mr. Feghali brings us two of the very greatest examples, beginning with the deeply melancholic Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27/1. This brooding masterpiece drips almost gruesome despondence, with its uncharacteristically grinding left-hand arpeggiations. The middle section’s impassioned outcry lapses back into the unsettling opening mood before a tentative ray of major-key sunshine ends the work on a more optimistic note. The Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48/1 is perhaps the most imposing of all the nocturnes, both structurally and emotionally. Again, we hear crushing grief and desolation in the granitic opening passages. The slowly reflective central section builds like a gathering storm to a peak of crashing triumph over adversity before relapsing into a feverish reprise of the opening theme that finds uneasy peace only in the final coda.

Jose Feghali performing

Robert Schumann composed his Kinderszenen, Op. 15 (Scenes from Childhood) to help keep himself occupied during a period of painful separation from his fiancé, the pianist Clara Wieck, while she was on an extended concert tour. The cycle’s 13 short pieces were not written for actual performance by children, even though many of them are easy enough (at least technically) for a talented youngster to play. Instead, the individual pieces offer touching musical reflections on the sorts of universal childhood situations, playtime games and moods that all of us (having once been children) will recall with smiling nostalgia. The wondering opening piece, ‘Of Foreign Lands and People,’ offers a tender theme that recurs in contrasting guises in many of the other pieces. ‘Catch Me if You Can’ evokes a scampering game of tag, and any parent can identify with ‘Pleading Child.’ By far the most famous piece is ‘Träumerei’ (Dreaming), with its sense of quiet fantasy. Limited space precludes discussion of the eight remaining items, but Schumann was careful to give the pieces suggestive titles that—with a little imagination—will enable any sensitive listener to connect with the music as the composer intended.

Franz Liszt’s magnificent single-movement Sonata in B minor—among his thousand-plus piano works—remains the only one written in strict sonata form. It comes across as a free-flowing, spontaneous fantasia—but it’s in fact very tightly organized around the materials heard in the work’s opening bars. It dates from 1854, after one of his high-born mistresses convinced him to retire from concertizing to concentrate on composition. Single movement or not, the piece has all the trappings of a conventional sonata. Liszt managed to draw three complete themes from the opening bars—plus a chorale-like central passage. All of them are revisited in the later Prestissimo section, and (in part) in the concluding Andante. And there are sections of the work that even correspond to the common “opening movement-slow movement-scherzo-finale” format. But even if you can’t catch them all, the work’s spectacular pyrotechnics and unbridled passion will simply bowl you over.

See the entire 2010-2011 International Piano Series schedule

The International Piano Series, now in its twenty-first year, is directed by CofC Artist-in-Residence, Enrique Graf.

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