A “Classical” Riot

Photo by Maxwell Reide.

On Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. SUNY New Paltz faculty and students graced the stage of the Julien J. Studley Theatre to put on a performance titled “Piano Riot.”

Part of the music department concert series, the concert showcased the array of talent of pianists that prevails within the music department.  On one shared piano, a combination of professors and students played a number of songs at one time including Professors Sylvia Buccelli, Alex Peh and Ruthanne Schempf. Students who took the stage included Adam Gloc, 21, a double major in piano performance and music composition, second-year Theresa Orr, 19, studying piano performance and music therapy, Theodor Rosa and fourth-year piano performance major, Danielle Strassman, 21.

According to Peh, a pianist of 30 years, the idea for such a performance came about when the piano faculty wanted to do a recital with all of them playing at once. “We thought it would be fun,” he said.

From there, the search began for music composed for three pianists at one piano.

The show opened with “Overture from The Marriage of Figaro” played by Buccelli, Peh and Schempf.

Orr and Peh performed a piece by Felix Mendelssohn.

“The duet I am performing by Mendelssohn will be very beautiful and I am excited to share it,” Orr said before the performance.

Other songs performed include “Waltz and Romance” in A major for Six Hands performed by Gloc, Rosa and Strassman. Buccelli and Schempf performed the “Wizard of Oz Fantasy.”

What made this program so special was that this was the first time more than two pianists have shared one piano during the concert series.

“While four-hand concerts have previously been programmed, the addition of a third faculty pianist ventures into new territory,” Buccelli said. “Also, very importantly, the addition of students to the mix definitely makes more fluid the boundaries between student and professor and creates a true New Paltz piano community celebration of the sounds of the piano.”

Another emphasized aspect about this concert was that students and faculty collaborated.

“It’s beneficial for students because it gives them performing experience with professional musicians,” Gloc said. “In turn, it is beneficial for teachers because then they have to keep up with their students.”

The three professors closed the show with a piece called “Celestial Mechanics: Makrokosmos IV” composed by George Crumb.

According to Buccelli, its four movements are named after various galaxies and the resulting piano sounds seek to push into an  “extraterrestrial” realm. With tones generated from inside the instrument as well as the keys, Crumb forms a literal totality of piano sound not often encountered.

“It’s an extremely demanding work for two pianists and page turner [who plays a small part in the piece]. We play the piano in every way imaginable, from simply playing the keys, to scraping the strings, plucking them and knocking on the wood,” Peh said.

During the piece, the performers changed their seating a number of times, struck the strings of the piano and before the performance; Peh mentioned how this piece needed amplification to be performed properly.

The show ended with a satisfied audience and a standing ovation to the performers.

“It is not often when you hear three people perform on one piano,” Strassman said.