SPRING PIANO CONCERT: Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Piano Department (FIRST HALF)


The Piano Department at SOTA, although small, plays an extremely prominent role in the musical portion of the school as a whole. Students from the Piano department participate in performances of all types across the school, ranging from Vocal concerts to Orchestra and Chambre music concerts.  Despite being very much in demand by the whole school (cough cough), not everyone acknowledges that these students are also fabulous and talented soloists, in addition to being greatly skilled collaboricians (collaborators).

Friday, May 5, was the second out of the two piano recitals featuring a semester worth of work. Directed by Ava Soifer, the piano recital featured Henry Plotnick, Taylor Strongheart, Xing Yu Lai, Constance Joves, Angelina Wong, Simon Tabakh, Roman Dimov, Isabelle Fromme, Steve Fang, Janet Lin, Mikhael Vtorushin, Shabnam Jafari, and Jessica Kur.

The opening number of the recital was sophomore Henry Plotnick's performance of Manuel De Falla's Serenada Andaluz. In his concert reflection, Henry said that Serenada Andaluz "features stylistic tendencies of Spanish folk music, where the piano at times acts as a vibrant Flamenco quite with a pizzicato string section". He says that his "main focus as a performer is to bring out thematic focal points with clear dynamic contrast and tone color, and to tell a compelling story". In his performance, Henry demonstrated a good sense of rhythm and ability to combine several different moods into one performance. His connection to the music gave the piece an extra droplet of excitement.

Hesitation Tango (Souvenirs Op 28) by Samuel Barber was performed next by Henry Plotnick and sophomore Taylor Strongheart. Hesitation Tango was a wonderful program choice after Henry's solo. The tango maintained very similar rhythmic energy as the De Falla potent rhythm. Taylor and Henry kept the audience captivated with the interesting progressions and mood swings.

Allegro: Sonata Op. 2 No. 1 by Ludwig Van Beethoven was performed next by Taylor Strongheart. This piece was a drastic change in atmosphere compared to the previous two pieces performed. Taylor's managed to keep the audience engaged in all the repetitive patterns by bringing out the main theme equally with the subordinate theme, so that when the development section came along the listener recognized them and appreciated Beethoven's intricate variation work. Taylor called the piece "an intense, frantic piece full of emotion and heart, as is Beethoven's won't". Taylor really did this piece justice with his intonations and dynamics.

Impromptu Op. 90 No. 2 by Franz Schubert was performed next by freshman Xing Yu Lai. Xing really brought out Schubert's romantic style. The two contrasting sections were intertwined in mood during Xing's performance. Xing says he chose to perform this piece because of the "dramatic theme changes".

Hungarian Dance #4 was then performed by Xing Yu Lai and sophomore Constance Joves. This extremely well known piece brought the audience sitting at the edge of their seats as Constance and Xing performed it with rambunctious energy. The two worked very well together as an ensemble.

Menuet(Suite Bergamasque) by Claude Debussy played by Constance Joves was next. Debussy's minuet brought the audience back into the mood they were in during the first two pieces of the evening. The rhythmic pattern was played by Constance very decisively in contrast to the more flowing and impressionistic sections of the piece. Constance's staccato notes came forth very well and provided unexpected contrast in the climactic descending scale theme that was recurring through the entire piece. "This piece is a light, colorful work with surprising melodic and chord progressions",
writes Constance in her concert reflection.

Allegro molto(Sonata for Two Pianos) by Francis Poulenc was performed by Constance Joves and  Angelina Wong. This robust and upbeat duet was performed rigorously by Angelina and Constance. They brought out all the passionate counterpoint, climactic silences between phrases and very quirky harmonies.

Rhapsody Op. 79 No.2 by Johannes Brahms was played by Angelina Wong. Angelina's performance of, in her own words, this "dark" and "somber" piece was intriguing on many levels. The tension ensuing triplets were clearly brought out and Angelina built up to the several climactic moments in the piece very well.

Vocalise Op. 34 No.14 by Sergei Rachmaninoff was performed by junior Simon Tabakh. A piece written for high voice (dedicated to soprano Antonina Nezhdanova) and typically performed by coloratura sopranos, Rachmaninoff's vocalise has a very long and soaring melody that touches the hearts of anyone who hears it. Simon successfully portrayed the beauty of the human voice through the piano, presenting to the audience the heart wrenching performance filled with all the emotion an individual could ever endure. Simon wrote that "[t]his vocalise is the epitome of Rachmaninoff's romantic style...This work demands an intense emotional approach in order to perform it as the composer intended".

Berceuse Op. 57 by Frederic Chopin was then played by junior Roman Dimov. Roman impressed everyone in the audience with his excellent technique and effective use of dynamics. The seemingly simple theme of the piece stuck to the listener and, as Roman noted in his concert reflections, "the melody develops from a single singing line with increasing complex and technical passages until finally
coming to rest".

The last selection of the first half of the concert was Nocturne (Suite 3) by Dmitri Shostakovich, performed by Simon Tabakh and Roman Dimov. This beautiful piece was performed very gracefully and with heightened feelings. Simon and Roman worked their ensemble very well.

Please click HERE for the article on the second half of the piano concert.

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