Pianist Eric Clark at Memminger

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
by

Pianist Eric Clark

The 2010–2011 International Piano Series (still temporarily relocated to Memminger Auditorium) will conclude April 5 with a concert by Eric Clark who has been heard throughout much of the United States and Europe in such prestigious halls as Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh and at Severance Hall in Cleveland. Having won First Prize in the All-Instrumental Concerto Competition at Carnegie Mellon University, he made his orchestral debut playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic conducted by Ronald Zollman.

He has also performed as a soloist with Sinfonia Perugina, in Perugia, Italy, conducted by Enrico Marconi. Eric is a College and University Honors graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied with Sergey Schepkin and IPS Director, Enrique Graf.

Tuesday • April 5
8 PMMemminger Auditorium (843) 953-6575
Tickets $20 at the door
(under 18 and CofC students free)

Program Notes by Lindsay Koob

As in his other five English Suites, J. S. Bach employed mostly French dance-forms for the English Suite No. 5 in E minor. But he suffused them here with a brainy brand of sober Germanic polyphony—as exemplified in the opening ‘Prelude’: a gripping three-voice fugue that projects an air of anxiety and vexation. The slower ‘Allemande’—the first of the dance movements—continues the solemn mood. Shifting into triple meter, the ‘Courante’ is somewhat livelier, but still quite earnest. The ‘Sarabande”—a stately slow dance—continues the generally somber trend. Some relief comes with the less complex and more animated pair of ‘Passepieds’ that follow—but the final ‘Gigue’ takes us back to the suite’s prevailing atmosphere while teasing our brains with particularly busy counterpoint.

Very little among the extensive piano output of Franz Schubert can be described as virtuosic. Schubert—never the virtuoso—was indeed frustrated that he couldn’t play his own Fantasy in C Major—the “Wanderer” very well. This often explosive and dazzling work can be described as an actual piano sonata, even though its four movements (Allegro, Adagio, Scherzo and Finale) are played straight through without pause. The work is loosely based—along with other lesser motifs—on the melody of ‘Der Wanderer,’ an earlier art-song. Also listen throughout the piece for Schubert’s cunning variations on the manic opening rhythmic pattern. The bravura opening section leads into the yearning slow movement; from there, we are swept along on an exciting, mercurially shifting musical ride that careens through a rondo section, a brief fugato passage and even a speedy, joyfully skipping waltz. The extended coda reprises the original rhythmic pattern, building up into a happy frenzy before the crashing final chords.

French impressionist master Claude Debussy—while grievously ill with cancer—still managed to compose his highly complex and forbiddingly difficult Twelve Etudes in 1915, publishing them in two books of six pieces each. As with Chopin’s etudes, each piece explores a pianistic problem of technical or interpretive nature. Three of these imposing works are heard here, beginning with No. 2, ‘Pour les Tierces’—a swirling marvel of parallel thirds presented in a tremendous variety of patterns and sonic contexts. The next is No. 3, ‘Pour les Quartes’—a slower and more reflective number that is spiced with occasional sharp outbursts as it tests the player’s ability to work in parallel fourths. Skipping to the particularly tricky No. 12, ‘Pour les Accords,’ we get brutally hard-driving chord-progressions, relieved by a restlessly quiet middle section. This admittedly “academic” and elusive music still rewards patient listening.

Mr. Clark recently commissioned a piano cycle—Le Mat (XXII Arcana)—from American composer Christian Kriegeskotte. The composer based the work on the ancient system of Tarot, which he describes as a “card oracle”—but with a far deeper and more detailed purpose than mere fortune-telling. He describes it as an extensive “illustrated encyclopedia of esoteric wisdom” that can help lead to “total enlightenment.” We will hear unspecified selections from the work’s twenty-two short pieces, corresponding to the Tarot’s twenty-two “major arcana” cards. A suggested method of determining the playing sequence is to lay out said cards at random and perform the pieces in the order drawn.

Petroushka existed only as a justly famous ballet score by brilliant Russian émigré Igor Stravinsky until 1921, when the great pianist Artur Rubinstein “urged” the composer (to the tune of 5,000 francs!) to arrange three of its movements for piano solo. The composer chose the exuberant ‘Russian Dance’ from the first tableau, the more pensive and ominous ‘Petroushka’s Cell’ from the second tableau, and most of the varied fourth tableau in ‘The Shrovetide Fair.’ Stravinsky provided absolutely brilliant (and beastly difficult) arrangements that—in the hands of the right pianist—will amaze and enchant any audience.

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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