A Palooza of Piano Performance at the Music School

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This post appears courtesy of the Delaware Arts INfo Blog – view the original post here.

The Music School of Delaware showcased its pianistic talents on November 18 with a concert titled— aptly enough — “PianoPalooza.” The evening also served to honor faculty members with 20 or more years of service to the School. Artists on this program celebrating that milestone included David Brown (48 years), Donna DeLaurentis (30+ years) and Hiroko Yamazaki (23 years). Also taking the stage Wednesday night were Jennifer Nicole Campbell, Dr. Oleg Maslov, Liliya Maslov and rising star Douglas Nie, a 10th grader at Wilmington Friends School who studies piano with David Brown.

DeLaurentis and Yamazaki opened the program with a performance of Robert Schumann’s Pictures from the East (Bilder aus Osten) composed in 1848. This is an engaging set of variations on a theme in six consecutive vignettes that share a strong internal infrastructure. This is not a piece one hears often, but DeLaurentis and Yamazaki made a strong case for it with a reading that was full-bodied in sound yet dramatically sublime.

David Brown offered works by Beethoven, Brahms and Brown, apologizing to Mr. Bach for the apparent slight. Brown gave a clean and well-articulated reading of Beethoven’s Seven Variations on God Save the Queen, the British national anthem. Most impressive was his ability to make the melody “come alive” while bringing out the secondary notes in the left hand.

Brahms described the intermezzi of Op. 117 as “three cradle songs for my sorrows,” and Brown is brilliant as he brings out the inventiveness and sublime lyricism of the third Intermezzo in C-sharp minor with an ease that belies its technical difficulty.

Brown kicked things up several notches with a performance of his Rondo Fantasia, a piece of rapidly changing moods and wild arpeggios.

Dr. Oleg Maslov’s prodigious gifts allowed him to excel in the pyrotechnics of Liszt’s two concert etudes: La Leggierezza and Waldesrauschen. The former — Liszt’s most Chopin-esque work — was played with a feverish ardor while one could hear the rustling of the trees in the piano work of the latter.

Douglas Nie took the stage following intermission, capably demonstrating why he has earned the reputation of the School’s “rising star.” The fifteen-year-old offered works by Griffes (Lake at Evening) and Rachmaninoff (Polichinelle). Lake at Evening is not an easy piece to play without getting excessively Romantic. But Nie’s judicious reading conjured up all the exotic imagery suggested by the title, filling the concert hall with mystery. By contrast, his performance of Rachmaninoff was appealing and passionately Romantic, marked by a technical fluency beyond his years.

Jennifer Campbell’s superior technique and interpretation was most evident in her performance of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor — one of the most difficult of the repertoire. Her attack was strong from the first bold chords and built to a series of climactic arpeggios that brought the haunting central melody to life.

Dr. Oleg and Liliya Maslov explored the rich diversity of sound possible with two pianos. Both pianists executed the virtuosic figurations of Ravel’s La Valse with ease. As the waltz continued, becoming jarring and almost barbarous in intensity, Dr. Maslov took the lead, steering the frenzied dance through sudden, impulsive spasms. The duo succeeded in adding a thunderous splendor to the sensuous theme. Equally impressive was Liliya Maslov’s ability to turn her own pages while in the throes of this thrilling performance.

See www.musicschoolofdelaware.org.