Award-Winning Schimpf to Open Piano Series
GERMAN-BORN ALEXANDER SCHIMPF is becoming one of the best known pianists of his generation.
Awarded the Audience Prize by those in attendance at the final round of the Cleveland Competition, Mr. Schimpf has performed with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra.
He has also played recitals at Carnegie Hall, Beethovenhaus in Bonn, the Salle Cortot and Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, and other important halls throughout Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, England, and South America.
His International Piano Series concert October 30 at the Sottile Theatre will be one stop on his 50-plus concert tour of the United States. The complete program notes are included below.
Tuesday, October 30
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
J. S. Bach (1685-1750) composed his six French Suites during his happy interlude at the royal court in Cöthen (1717-1723), where his output was primarily instrumental. They were written for harpsichord, but—like so much of Bach’s keyboard material—they adapt nicely to the modern piano. The fifth suite, in G Major, is one of the more upbeat and laid-back of the series, though also one of the trickiest. Like the rest, it contains four standard dance movements: Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue—but with three additional dances (Gavotte, Bourée, and Loure) inserted after the Sarabande. As usual, there’s plenty of variety in tempo, mood, and style—crowned by Bach’s inimitable, brain-teasing contrapuntal wizardry.
French Impressionist master Claude Debussy (see this brochure’s Foderé recital notes) composed two sets of Images; all are counted among his finest piano works. This second set (1908) begins with Cloches à Travers les Feuilles, (Bells through the Leaves): a dreamy and reflective piece offering a shimmering impression of distant bells chiming, as filtered through the sound of rustling leaves. Debussy suggested that said rustling—from the left hand—should be heard as if “in a rainbow-colored mist.” A whole-tone harmonic structure prevails. Et la Lune Descend sur le Temple qui fut (And the Moon descends on the Ruins of the Temple), an even quieter piece, achieves its soft, nocturnal effect with both chromatic and modal harmonies. Think of it as a mystical, moonlit spiritual meditation upon the distant past. The third piece, Poisson d’or (Goldfish), stands in lively contrast, with suddenly changing rhythms evoking the capricious and constantly shifting movements of darting fish.
L’isle Joyeuse (Island of Joy)—written after he had eloped with another woman to the Isle of Jersey following the collapse of his first marriage—radiates an almost feverish sense of impassioned happiness. Listen for its nearly symphonic scale and sound, relentless rhythmic drive, and Debussy’s unique bag of musical tricks: fragmented melodies, multi-layered sonorities, and whole-tone harmonies.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote his famous “Pathetique” Sonata in 1798 at the age of 27; it is nicknamed for its tragic character. While still under the influence of Mozart and Haydn, Beethoven’s emerging penchant for thundering drama and customary thematic continuity across an entire piece are already apparent. Following its ominous opening C Minor chords, the composer launches into a headlong, upward-surging motif over quivering tremolos in the left hand. Somewhat more lyrical, yet still nervous themes follow, without ever really letting up on the overall doleful mood, all the way through to the crashing coda. The central Adagio movement features one of Beethoven’s loveliest, most songful melodies. It takes a pensive turn for a while, before shifting into its more nervous second theme and ending in its original sweetly tranquil mood. The final Rondo is an animated (and agitated) piece, with brief lyrical interludes interrupting its prevailing sense of urgent forward motion.
Much of Franz Liszt’s (1811-1886) extensive piano output was programmatic in nature: based either upon popular operas or art songs—or designed as a musical (often impressionistic) tone painting of a story, place, or natural phenomenon. But his Ballade No. 2 in B Minor (1853)—like Chopin’s famous quasi-narrative Ballades—follows no such program, leaving listeners to depend on their imaginations. While some have linked the piece to the ancient legend of Hero and Leander, Liszt never confirmed that association. Specific story line or not, the piece is chock-full of Liszt’s hallmark emotional effusion and forbidding keyboard pyrotechnics that had made him his era’s most brilliant virtuoso.
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Learn more about the International Piano Series.
The International Piano Series is directed by CofC Artist-in-Residence, Enrique Graf.