Long Sisters to Open International Piano Series

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Beatrice and Christina Long

IT’S BACK TO the Sottile Theatre after many months of restoration, and what better way to start the twenty-second year of the International Piano Series than with a double dose of piano—in this case by two sisters who will present a wide array of musical selections (see Lindsay Koob’s program notes below).

Born in Taiwan to a musical family, Beatrice and Christina Long boast distinguished solo careers. Together, they are winners of First Prize and Award to the Best Performance of American Music in the Ellis Duo Competition sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs.

Beatrice is a graduate of the Curtis Institute and Peabody Conservatory of Music and has received top awards in the Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition, the Young Keyboard Artist Association International Competition, the AMSA World Piano Competition, and the Taipei International Piano Competition. She has performed as a soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México, National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, Taipei City Symphony Orchestra, the Jura Symphony Orchestra of France, and the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Christina is artist-in-residence at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and has served as assistant professor of piano at Westfield State College in Massachusetts and Tabor College in Kansas. In addition to holding a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas, she has earned the Dissertation Award for Excellence in Musical Performance.

Tuesday • October 4
8 PM • Sottile Theatre, 44 George St • (843) 953-6575
Tickets $20 at the door
(under 18 and CofC students free)

Program Notes by Lindsay Koob

Busoni remains best-known for his remarkable piano transcriptions, especially of J. S. Bach’s music. Drawn to W. A. Mozart almost as strongly as he was to Bach, he couldn’t resist reworking the Austrian genius’s delightful overture to his operatic masterpiece, The Magic Flute. The piece has it all: grand drama from the three opening chord-fanfares, followed by a happy, skittering romp that builds to a glorious climax, in contrast to a brief episode of minor-hued mystery.

In 1943, Messiaenafter spending eight months in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp—returned home to German-occupied Paris to find his wife near death. Such spiritual jolts led to some of his finest music, to include his Visions de L’amen: his effort to explore the meaning and function of the liturgical term “Amen.” Of the work’s seven different “visions,” we hear ‘Amen of the Angels, the Saints, the Songs of the Birds.’ Building on an enigmatic and questing modal theme, the work unfolds in layers of complex, dissonance-laced sonorities that become increasingly ecstatic and dancelike, yet powerful—overlaid by unmistakable evocations of birdsong before finishing with an exhilarating clash.

photo by James Ting

American icon Hovhaness is noted for his many mystic-toned compositions that are inspired by nature and spiritual forces, and that incorporate a wide array of Eastern influences. Our artists are celebrating this, the composer’s centennial year, with Ko-ola-u: named for a Hawaiian mountain range that no doubt helped to inspire the music (Hovhaness had a thing for mountains). The last of a cycle of three pieces for two pianos, this hypnotic music spins sophisticated counterpoint over a steady drone—with complex and repetitive (yet smooth-sounding) rhythmic patterns that resemble those of Indian ragas.

Bartók’s Mikrokosmos consists of 153 piano pieces that range from simple material for beginners to full-blown concert works. In 1940, he arranged seven of them for two pianos—resulting in works of tremendous verve, color and appeal. Four of them are heard here, beginning with ‘Bulgarian Rhythm,’ with a typical Hungarian folk-tune over a repetitive bass pattern. ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ marches up and down the keyboard to a hard-driving, toccata-like beat. ‘New Hungarian Folksong’ offers a sweetly plaintive melody that grows in nervous intensity. The final ‘Ostinato’ conveys a sense of breathless momentum and wild rhythmic vitality.

Arensky composed Silhouettesa five-movement suite—in 1892. These somewhat capricious and satirical character pieces begin with ‘The Scholar,’ a kind of romantic answer to the Baroque fugue that begins with a brusque slow theme in the bass and elaborates on it. Contrast comes with ‘the Coquette,’ a light and dainty waltz that vacillates between blithe spirits and mild melancholy. ‘The Buffoon’ is a volatile and downright comic scherzo that’s a perfect foil to the next piece, ‘The Dreamer’—a much more serious affair that builds lyrically to a passionate climax. The final ‘The Dancer’ is an exuberant, Spanish-flavored number.

Takeshi Asai is a New York-based pianist and composer whose works have been acclaimed for their lyricism and cross-cultural eclecticism. His Japanese cultural background is diversified by his advanced studies in piano technique and jazz improvisation/composition. See this evening’s separate handout for specific information about this evening’s work by him, ‘Spring Thunder.’

Milhaud composed his smash-hit Scaramouche—named for a Paris children’s theater—in 1937. The three-movement suite recycles music from two plays that Milhaud had written music for. The frisky opening ‘Vif’ leads into the slower central ‘Modéré,’ before ending with ‘Brasiliera,’ a lively and exuberant samba. It is interesting to note that our performers share the same last name with one of the French pianists who premiered the work at the 1937 Paris Expositiion: Marguerite Long.

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See the entire 2010-2011 International Piano Series schedule.

The International Piano Series is directed by CofC Artist-in-Residence, Enrique Graf.

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