Sunday, April 13, 2008

Different, Difficult and Fun to Play: Ching-Ming Cheng’s First Solo Piano Recital at HSU

Ching-Ming Cheng didn’t have a particular theme in mind in choosing music for her first solo piano recital as an HSU Music Department faculty member. But the pieces she chose for her concert on Sunday afternoon, April 13, turn out to have several elements in common: variety, difficulty, and music she loves to play.

She might have begun with a more obvious selection from Johann Sebastian Bach, but she chose the Toccata in E minor. “Because of the variety,” she said. “It starts slow, then goes to a moderate fugue, then an improvisation section, and then a very fast section, which is another fugue. The Toccata has a little of everything.”

Her next selection is “Kreisleriana” by 19th century German composer Robert Schumann, which has a very specific kind of variety. “It contains two opposite characters in one piece, just as some believe he had two different personalities—an impulsive side and a tender side. This is probably one of Schumann’s finest piano compositions.”

She begins the second half of her recital with Sonata No. 2 by the Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin, which he wrote at the end of the 19th century.

“This is also called the “Sonata-Fantasy” because the first movement is a kind of fantasy—it has an improvisational feel to it,” she said. “It’s a very beautiful movement. It’s very hard to memorize, actually—it has four different voices going on the whole time. Every time I play it, it’s more and more fun. But the second movement is very straightforward and very fast-- totally opposite to what we hear in the first movement.” Contrast and variety.

The final piece on the program is “Alborada del Gracioso,” a section from a larger work by 20th century Basque-French composer, Maurice Ravel. “This is probably one of the most difficult pieces in the piano repertoire,” she admits. “It doesn’t sound very difficult, but it’s very hard to play. But it’s got a lot of variety, and once you have it down, it’s a pleasure to play.”

Ching-Ming Cheng performed with violinist Cindy Moyer in a concert at HSU this past November, but April 13 will be her first solo performance as an HSU faculty member. She teaches piano, ear-training, accompanying and piano literature.

Originally from Taiwan, she studied piano and earned her masters and her doctorate at the University of Miami. After teaching there and at Barry University in Florida, she came to HSU in 2007.

Ching-Ming Cheng plays works by Bach, Schumann, Ravel and Scriabin on Sunday April 13 at 4 PM in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $8 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. This Faculty Artists Series concert is produced by the HSU Music department.

Additional Notes:

“Kreisleriana” by Robert Schumann is an eight movement piece composed for solo piano in 1838, dedicated to Frederic Chopin. The title may refer to the fictional character, Johannes Kreisler, a manic-depressive poet in three books by E.T.A. Hoffmann.

Alexander Scriabin wrote ten piano sonatas over a period of 11 years. But Sonata No. 2 alone took him five years to complete.

“Alborada del Gracioso” by Maurice Ravel is one of five sections of the solo piano work, “Miroirs” (or Reflections, meaning the reflections in a mirror.) Each section is dedicated to a specific individual. This section, which translates roughly as the jester’s song, was dedicated to music critic and writer Michel Dimitri Calvocoressi, who wrote the text to Ravel’s composition, “Cinq mélodies populaires grecques.” Ravel later scored this section of “Miroirs” for orchestra.

media: photo and story at Humboldt State Now.

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