Saturday, November 09, 2013

Tenor Nicholas Phan, pianist Paul Lewis this weekend

The wonderful American tenor Nicholas Phan makes his Spivey Hall debut this evening at 8:15 PM in a program of songs by Schubert and Britten.  His Britten recordings have enjoyed wide critical acclaim, and because of the centenary of Britten's birth this month, he's performing music by Britten (among others) far and wide this season.  I'm greatly looking forward to hearing him and pianist Myra Huang in Britten's Winter Words, which they recorded together. Britten (ever the master of setting text) composed highly characterful settings of the seven poems by Thomas Hardy, and the song cycle is rich with expressive opportunities for the interpreter.  Plus there are folk songs engagingly set by Britten to round out the program; I'm sure the audience will warm to them, as well as to these two exceptional artists.  Spivey Hall, with its extraordinary acoustics and intimate size, is an ideal space for such a song recital.  Clayton State University's Dr. Kurt-Alexander Zeller gives a free pre-concert talk at 7:15 PM. 

Tomorrow (Sunday) at 3 PM, the excellent British pianist Paul Lewis makes a very welcome and highly anticipated return to Spivey Hall, to perform on the Hamburg Steinway he so carefully selected for Spivey Hall in visits to Steinway & Sons' German piano factory in December 2011 and January 2012.  This will be his first recital on this piano (which we've named "Clara," after Clara Schumann, and because of the piano's beautiful clarity and transparency of sound) -- and as such, the recital marks a significant reunion of artist and instrument. 

Paul examined about a dozen pianos before honing in on the one that ultimately became ours, and I'm curious about how his experience playing "Clara" a few years after he first met her will accord with the memories of what originally attracted him to her.   In the intervening time, "Clara" has opened up some, and her character continues to be revealed to us as great pianists explore varied repertoire in recital.  There is keen interest among Spivey Hall music-lovers to hear his recital of works by Bach/Busoni, Beethoven (including  the "Moonlight" Sonata), some late Liszt pieces, and Mussorgsky's towering Pictures at an Exhibition. 

Following Paul's recital, there will be a reception honoring all the Friends of Spivey Hall.  Their generosity led to the completion of our special Piano Fund Campaign that made possible the acquisition of "Clara," and we wish again to acknowledge with thanks their contributions (as well as Paul's) that enabled us to call such a magnificent piano ours. "Clara" will serve Spivey Hall artists, and audiences both in the hall and via radio broadcasts, for years to come. 

Through the special Piano Fund Campaign, their annual gifts, our leading Friends Concert Sponsors, and the recently established Spivey Hall Endowment for Piano Artistry, the Friends continue play a major and growing role in sustaining the artistic excellence of Spivey Hall's programming.  It's thus quite fitting that on this occasion, the Friends of Spivey Hall -- collectively -- will be warmly recognized as the Concert Sponsors.  And Paul's will be a performance that no pianophile within driving distance should miss! If you can come, you'll be amply rewarded, and good seats are still available.