Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Program news for guitarist Roland Dyens, and pianist Louis Lortie

One of the more pleasurable and interesting parts of my job is evaluating, choosing, and sometimes shaping the repertoire that Spivey Hall guest artists perform. Sometimes it's known immediately from an initial exchange about an engagement what the artist will perform; this can take place up to two years in advance of the artist's arrival at Spivey Hall. More often, especially with duos or individual artists in recital, the program comes together six months to a year in advance.

And sometimes, no one knows what the program will be until the audience is seated and listening to the music. That's the case with many jazz artists, and it's true in the instance of the remarkable French guitarist Roland Dyens, who makes his Spivey Hall debut this Sunday, October 3, 2010, at 3 PM. When I requested a program a few weeks ago from his manager (which ordinarily we would publish on our website and in the program book), I received the following, and I think the phrase "Classical player in his fingers, Jazz player in his mind" rather aptly sums up what our audience may expect from this multi-talented musician, who speaks five languages fluently and whose artistry cannot be easily compartmentalized.

Roland Dyens


Roland Dyens is unique in the classical guitar world, in that he always starts his concerts with an improvised piece. Each of these spontaneous compositions is different from his last concert or his next. You and he will experience this first piece of music together, for the first time.

Classical player in his fingers, Jazz player in his mind ...

In the world of jazz, the notion of a concert program does not exist. Roland Dyens rarely gives prior notice of the pieces that he will play in recital. It is his way of creating the best possible atmosphere, by taking into account his audience, the acoustics of the hall and especially his deep desire to be true to his feelings at the moment that he actually interprets the music.

In the same way, the improvisation is a sort of “tuning in” process, a prelude that is as indispensable for this special artist as it was for the lute players in the past, awaiting the “Suite.”

In order to create the warm connection with his public that he treasures, Dyens prefers to announce his program from the stage, as the evening unfolds.

This creates an interesting link between the world of jazz and those classical lovers who have a taste for musical innovation.

I, for one, am intrigued by what we'll hear!

I recently also had program news of a more concrete nature. The outstanding French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie, an extraordinary musician renowned for his Chopin, is keeping extremely busy in this Chopin year (March 1, 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of Frederic Chopin's birth). Spivey Hall pianophiles will recall Louis' triumphant debut here, when he astounded us with an immensely rewarding performance of the complete Chopin Etudes, brought to life with tremendous panache and jaw-dropping feats of virtuosity.

For his return on Sunday, October 17, 2011 at 3 PM, he offered Spivey Hall several choices of repertoire, including another great all-Chopin program, interweaving Nocturnes and Impromptus and culminating with Chopin's majestic Sonata No. 3 in B minor, and this was happily agreed almost a year ago.

But (as my tombstone will read), "Artists and programs subject to change." Louis has embarked on an ambitious multi-year project of recording Chopin's solo piano works for the Chandos label, in a series of very carefully-conceived programs that mix and match repertoire in a synergistic way, such that the juxtaposition of works heightens the listener's appreciation of each, and the overall artistic result is greater than the sum of the parts. (This is what someone profoundly familiar with this repertoire, as Louis truly is, can achieve, and the results can be fascinating.) The program offered to Spivey Hall and originally announced was tied to these recording plans, and because these plans have changed, the repertoire he's performing this fall has also changed. I should note that in addition the solo recitals he's giving this fall, he's being welcomed by many orchestras as soloist in Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor...and there are, indeed, limits to how much repertoire any pianist can carry in a given period, even for someone with near super-human abilities.

Fear not -- we will still have an superbly attractive all-Chopin program to look forward to: the four Scherzos, complemented by related Nocturnes, and the F-sharp major Barcarolle, Op. 60. The Scherzos offer up some of Chopin's most dazzling and inspired writing, with fiery openings, lyrical middle sections, and blistering finales that vividly demonstrate why Chopin was such an original composer for the piano, and justly celebrated not solely for his virtuosity, but also for the depths of Romantic expression he could summon. The Scherzos conjure up excitement through their technical fireworks, as well as a big build-up and release of dramatic tension. By contrast, the Nocturnes, while also pulsating with life, are less aggressive, and dwell more extensively on the reflective, atmospheric, inner world of Chopin's creative genius. The Barcarolle (reminiscent of Venetian gondolas in the moonlight), which separates two Nocturne/Scherzo pairings in the first half of the program, has an expansive tendency that is at first suggested, but ultimately fully realized, moving gloriously upward and outward in spirit.

All of this is first-rate Chopin. The four Scherzos and most of the Nocturnes he'll perform are featured in Volume 1 of his Chandos Chopin cycle, and his playing on this CD is simply exhilarating. I wouldn't doubt there might be some marvelous encores, too. No one who loves beautiful solo piano music should miss Louis Lortie's recital, which promises to be one of the great artistic highlights of Spivey Hall's Twentieth Anniversary Season.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Welcome back the Takacs Quartet!

The superlative musicians of the Grammy Award-winning TAKACS QUARTET are back at Spivey Hall tonight (Saturday, Sept 25 '10) to open our Twentieth Anniversary Season, in a program that culminates with Franz Schubert's lyrical and dramatic "Death and the Maiden" String Quartet. The Takacs Quartet is truly a favorite ensemble of Spivey Hall music-lovers, and we are delighted to welcome them back. The concert begins at 8:15 PM, and some good seats are still available, either online at www.spiveyhall.org, or by calling the Box Office at (678) 466-4200 from 7:15 PM onward.

Prior to the concert, Clayton State University music faculty professor Dr. Kurt-Alexander Zeller will speak about the program,which includes the third of Franz Joseph Haydn's "Apponyi" Quartets (the Takacs have been playing them, and their new CD recording is due out soon; we'll have recent Takacs CDs issued by the Hyperion label for sale at tonight's concert). This free pre-concert talk begins at 7:15 PM in Room 157 of the Music Education Building, adjacent to Spivey Hall, and reachable via Spivey Hall's lower lobby.

Following the concert, we celebrate the return of the Takacs Quartet and the beginning of what promises to be an extraordinary Twentieth Anniversary Season. I wish to express my deep and abiding gratitude for the loyalty of our subscribers and the generosity of our donors, and especially this evening's Friends of Spivey Hall Concert Sponsor, Mr. Richard F. Tigner, for making a critical difference in sustaining the artistic excellence of Spivey Hall's programming. Thank you!!

The entire audience is warmly invited to join the musicians, members of the Atlanta consular corps, and special guests at a reception in the lobby immediately following the concert. The Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Hungary joins the Friends of Spivey Hall in hosting this reception, and Spivey Hall extends its warm thanks to the Honorary Hungarian Consul, Mr. John F. Parkerson, Jr., for his gracious collaboration in welcoming the Takacs Quartet back to Spivey Hall.

Last fall, we surveyed many of our patrons, and one of the things they asked for was better signage on campus -- it seems that finding Spivey Hall can pose a challenge, especially at night. We have duly taken note! Patrons arriving this evening (and for future concerts) will see signs indicating critical turns on campus, and indications of Spivey Hall parking areas. We hope this will make a positive difference in making patrons' experience at Spivey Hall a more enjoyable one.

Summer is over, fall is here. Bring on the music!