Midday Melodies

By Derek Simon

To say that New York is a musically rich city is the equivalent of saying it is a very large city: technically true but completely missing the point. Conveniently, Rockefeller happens to be located in this cultural hub, and as such we all have the opportunity to go listen to this impressive array of world-renowned musicians. But as is so often the case, with great talent comes great ticket prices. One of the rare exceptions to this rule happens to be located in our very own Caspary Auditorium every Friday at 12pm.

Founded in 1986 by the late Alexander Mauro (1921-1989), Professor of Biophysics at Rockefeller, the Tri-Institutional Noon Recitals are a highly regarded (both within the RU community and beyond) concert series featuring top-tier classical performers. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free and requires no tickets? If you have not yet attended one of these intimate recitals, the atmosphere is casual and welcoming. Not familiar with classical works, especially chamber music? No worries. All that is required is a set of ears and an open mind. Too busy making groundbreaking discoveries? No problem. There is no obligation to stay for the whole recital or to even show up on time. Sneak in between movements if you want or slip out at the end of a piece (quietly and respectfully of course). Stay for the Beethoven and leave for the Brahms, or vice versa if you prefer.

To help increase awareness of the range of artists and works, this column will present the schedule of the upcoming month, a brief biography of the performers, and some brief notes on the composers and pieces. The Tri-I Noon Recitals offer a gratis sampling of one of the many sumptuous dishes that makes New York the cultural smorgasbord that it is. So stop by some Friday at noon and enjoy!

November 1: Christine and Michelle Naughton, duo pianists


These 20-something twins have received international accolades, performing from San Francisco to Munich to Hong Kong. The recital will open with two works for piano four-hands (both pianists playing on the same instrument). The Andante and Variations in B-flat, Op.83a is a charming piece by Mendelssohn while the Fantasy in F-minor, D940 by Schubert opens with a sublime melancholic melody representative of its composer’s idiom, and moves through contrasting sections of brevity and gravity. The highlight of the recital is a two piano rendition of the Concerto in F minor by Gershwin. One piano takes on the solo while the other substitutes for the orchestra. Jazzy tunes and dazzling passages abound in this enjoyable, highly original work.

November 8: Ilya Poletaev, piano


The piano retains the spotlight in the next recital featuring this Yale-trained Russian pianist/harpsichordist and performer of a wide range of repertoire, but emphasizing Baroque (roughly the 17th and 18th centuries) composers. The recital will open with the suite in A minor from the Nouvelle Suites de Clavecin (new suites for harpsichord) by Jean-Philippe Rameau, a leader of the French Baroque, who wrote a series of suites for harpsichord. Counterpoint and incredible intellectual depth permeate this collection of French dances. The Humoreske, Op.20 by the German Romantic composer Schumann is a large piece consisting of seven contrasting sections played attacca (without pause). The music flows from lyrical and pensive at times to agitated and lively at others (the exciting 5th and the regal 6th sections are particularly enjoyable).

November 15: Shai Wosner, piano


This internationally renowned and NYTimes-acclaimed pianist has been widely praised for his interpretations of the music of Franz Schubert, the Austrian prodigy and writer of an enormous amount of piano (and other) music before his premature death at 32. Mr. Wosner treats us to a full concert featuring Schubert’s works and one piece inspired by the composer. The Drei Klavierstucke D946 (three piano pieces) is an unassuming title for the impressive range of wonderful melodies and episodes the pieces encompass. Jorg Widmann is a 20th century composer who’s Idyll and Abyss (Six Schubert Reminiscences) were composed as an introspective homage to the master of melody, contemporary of Beethoven. Pending the final program the concert concludes with either the Sonata in A major D664 or the challenging Sonata in B-flat Major D960.

November 22: Concerto Koln, chamber ensemble


The final recital of the month breaks the streak of piano performances with this phenomenal chamber orchestra that specializes in the Baroque era and has released more than 50 recordings. They will present a concert entitled “Bach and the Italians” with the note “performed at A=392.” A current trend championed by this group is an attempt to accurately reproduce performance mores that are consistent with the time period in which the music was composed. These diligently researched period performances use only instruments available at the time and playing styles performers may have used for the music’s premiere. Therefore, A=392 means instruments in this concert will play the note A at 392Hz (the historical pitch during the Baroque period) even though current musical standards define 392Hz as depicting A-flat (this difference actually has more historical significance than I have space to describe here, but is merely an example of the meticulousness characteristic of period performances). Works will include three pieces by Baroque Italian composers: Dall’Abaco’s Concerto Op.5 Nr. 6, D Major, a piu Istrumenti (ca. 1719), Locatelli’s Concerto Grosso Op.1 #12 in G Minor, and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violoncello, Strings and Basso Continuo in D minor, RV407. J.S. Bach rounds out the program with two of his famous Brandenburg Concertos, No. 5, BWV 1050, in D Major, and the popular No. 4, BWV 1049, in G Major.

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