On Stage at Curtis

Student Recital: Chopin, Debussy, Brahms and Britten

A student recital. The program:

Chopin: Barcarolle in F-sharp, Op.60
Jenny Chen, piano
This is the first of two pieces Jenny plays for us tonight. Chopin worked long and hard on this Barcarolle, from the autumn of 1845 to the summer of 1846. It contains all of the elements we associate with Chopin: the grand Romantic gesture with a touch of wistfulness, and of course, devilishly difficult technical challenges for the player.

Debussy: Estampes
Jenny Chen, piano
Estampes translates as “etchings.” Debussy presents three impressionistic images: Pagodes evokes Chinese and Japanese temples, with a touch of gamelan bells; La soiree dans Grenade is another example of Debussy’s fascination with Spain, in this case, the Moorish legacy of Granada; Jardins sous la pluie recalls a violent rainstorm in Normandy, complete with thunder, rain and wind.

Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op.35, Book 1
Wei Luo, piano
Brahms’ Paganini Variations are arranged in two books. Tonight, pianist Wei Luo plays Book One, starting with Paganini’s Caprice No.24, followed by a set of fourteen variations. Brahms liked to think of this music more as “studies” on a theme, rather than just variations.

Britten: “And farewell to ye, old Rights o’ Man from “Billy Budd”
Julian Arsenault, baritone; Mikael Eliasen, piano
In 2013, the Curtis Institute marked the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth with a series of performances of his vocal and instrumental music. First up, we hear an aria from the opera “Billy Budd,” which takes place on an 18th-century British warship, and based on the novella by Herman Melville. This gripping drama examines the toxic relationship between seaman Billy Budd, ship’s captain Vere, and the malevolent master at arms John Claggart.

Britten: Phantasy Quartet, Op.2
Alexander Vvedenskiy, oboe; Katya Poplyansky, violin; Hyeri Shin, viola; Xin Shi, cello
This is an early work by Britten, written for a competition in 1932 while he was still enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music. The “Phantasy” is an old English version of the word “fantasia,” in this case, a one-movement, free-form composition.

Music Word of the Week: Barcarolle
A song in 6/8 or 12/8 time sung by Venetian gondoliers, with an accompaniment suggesting the rocking of a boat…the genre was also transferred to instrumental media: examples for piano were written by Mendelssohn …
Chopin … and Faure…” (from The Oxford Companion to Music)

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