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We welcome Dr. Phillips for an exclusive performance at UNC Campus Commons on November 7th, at 3pm!

About the Artist:

Described by the New York Times as a “talented and entrepreneurial pianist” and an “able and persuasive advocate” of new music, Nicholas Phillips’ playing has been praised for its “bejeweled accuracy” (Fanfare) and as “razor-sharp yet wonderfully spirited” (American Records Guide).  He maintains an active schedule as a soloist and collaborative artist having performed all across the United States.  He has also given solo recitals and performances in Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa

 

Phillips is an active recording artist and champion of living composers. In 2011 he released two CDs on Albany Records: Portals and Passages, which features the piano music of American composer Ethan Wickman (b.1973), and Boris Papandopulo: Piano Music, which was the first CD released in the U.S. dedicated to that prolific Croatian composer’s piano music. Other releases include American Vernacular: New Music for Solo Piano (New Focus Recordings, 2014), which includes commissioned works written for him on that theme by 10 American composers, Impressions (Blue Griffin Records, 2016), a collection of 21st century American piano music, and Shift (Panoramic Recordings, 2019), which includes world premiere recordings of works by eight living women composers.

 

A native of Indiana, Phillips began formal piano lessons in the preparatory program at Indiana University at the age of ten.  He holds degrees in piano performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, Indiana University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His teachers include Karen Taylor, Paul Barnes, Karen Shaw, and Robert Weirich.

Phillips is a Yamaha Artist. For more information, please visit www.nicholasphillips.net

RECITAL PROGRAM

 

Charles Griffes (1884-1920)

Roman Sketches, Op.7

                The White Peacock: Languidamente e molto rubato

                Nightfall-Al far della note: Lento misterioso

                The Fountains of Acqua Paola: Allegro moderato

                Clouds: Tranquillo

Three Fantasy Pieces, Op.6

Barcarolle

Notturno

Scherzo

 

Brief Intermission

 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata in F Minor, Op.57 (“Appassionata”)

I. Allegro assai

II. Andante con moto

III. Allegro ma non troppo

 

PROGRAM NOTES

by Hanguang Wang

 

Charles Griffes (1884-1920)

Roman Sketches, Op.7

                The White Peacock: Languidamente e molto rubato

Here where the sunlight

Floodeth the garden,

Where the pomegranate

Reareth its glory

Of gorgeous blossom;

Where the oleanders

Dream through the noontides;

……………….

………where the heat lies

Pale blue in the hollows,

………………

Here where the dream-flowers,

The cream-white poppies

Silently waver,

………………

Here, as the breath, as the soul of this beauty

Moveth in silence, and dreamlike, and slowly,

White as a snowdrift in mountain valleys

When softly upon it the gold light lingers:

………………

Moves the white peacock, as tho’ through the noontide

A dream of the moonlight were real for a moment.

Dim on the beautiful fan that he spreadeth,

………………

Dim on the cream-white are blue adumbrations,

………………

Pale, pale as the breath of blue smoke in far woodlands,

Here, as the breath, as the soul of this beauty,

Moves the White Peacock.

                      William Sharp

 

                Nightfall-Al far della note: Lento misterioso

The long day is over.

Dusk, and silence now:

And night, that is as dew

On the flower of the World.

                      William Sharp

                The Fountains of Acqua Paola: Allegro moderato

Shimmering lights,

As though the Aurora’s

Wild polar fires

Flashed in thy happy bubbles,

Died in thy foam.

                 William Sharp

                Clouds: Tranquillo

Mountainous glories,

They move superbly;

Crumbling so slowly,

That none perceives when

The golden domes

Are sunk in the valleys

Of fathomless snows.

                      William Sharp

 

Roman Sketches was written between 1915 and 1916. The collection includes four homophonic works, each with a title depicting various natural phenomena, representative of Griffes’ impressionistic period and is also the best known of his piano compositions. Griffes’ lifelong love of poetry and literature is fully reflected in this set and each piece is inspired and prefaced by an extract from poems by the British poet William Sharp (1855-1905) from his collection Sospiri di Roma.

The Musical Leader, in a February 8, 1918 review of Roman Sketches, said "more than any other American composer has he dared to free himself from tradition without overstepping the bounds of honesty and beauty.”

Griffith was always evolving as a composer, and although he was labeled the “American Impressionist,” impressionism was only one of his explorations of musical styles style. He was fascinated by the most popular tendencies and was interested in the most cutting-edge European studies of the “Russian” East and the French oriental pieces by Debussy and Ravel. Also, the works of Griffes brightly revealed features of the Art Nouveau style: the image of dance, the increased interest in the element of water, the use of whole tone and pentatonic scales, and the independence of timber layers.

Three Fantasy Pieces, Op.6

                Barcarolle

… The old impetuous sea changeless, yet full of change, it seem the very mirror of those dreams we call men’s lives…As…One great wave doth rise and scorn an ocean-grave, and leaves its crown of foam where the high cliffs stare seaward steadily: so from love’s throbbing, pulsing sea all lightning-lit by passion, reared a might wave resistlessly. -- William Sharp

                Notturno

L’étang reflète, profond miroir, la silhouette du saule noir où le vent pleure … Rêvons; c'est l'heure. --Verlaine

                Scherzo

From the Palace of Enchantment there issued into the night sounds of unearthly revelry. Troops of genii and other fantastic spirits danced grotesquely to a music now weird and my sterious, now wild and joyous. -- Griffes

 

Composers who are at the crossroads of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often cannot be singularly characterized because they are at the intersection of new musical styles emerging and traditional styles facing decline and constant evolution. As with Griffiths in that era, his compositional years are usually divided into three stylistic periods: late Romantic (1898-1911), Impressionistic (1911-1916), and Neo-classic (1917-1919).

Three Fantasy Pieces, Op.6 was written between 1912-1915, belongs chronologically to his impressionistic period, but it was less impressionistic than the other two collections from the same period. As far as the stylistic traits of Griffes music, he was both a great admirer of French Impressionist music, and equally influenced by German Romantic composers and music. At the same time, he was neither a pure imitator of a certain type of style, nor was he bound to write music in only one style. Thus, Impressionist, non-impressionist and even exotic styles were all on display in his music.

In this collection, Griffes used traditional titles common to the Romantic period for the three pieces, such as Barcarolle, Notturno, and Scherzo. In addition, he used other features closer to Romantic rather than impressionism. For instance, the lines in this set are long and flowing compared to the fragmentary and motivic melodies in Impressionism; for example, whereas Impressionism would often use dissonant as well as ambiguous harmonies and nonfunctional tonality, he made more use of modal and bitonal harmony. Thus, even though Griffes’ music takes on a more Impressionistic color, he still used these techniques within the framework of a traditional structure and tonality.

Each piece in the set has some prefatory text under it, and it was not until the work was ready for publication that the texts were specifically paired. In his diary of May 26, 1915, Griffes wrote, “…spent an hour in the library looking for a poem for the ‘Barcarolle.’ The ‘Notturno’ has verses from Paul Verlaine and the ‘Scherzo’ a couple of prose sentences of my own. After that I took the manuscript over to Schirmer’s to their editors.”

 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata in F Minor, Op.57 (“Appassionata”)

In 1804, following works born of the idealism of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment such as his third Symphony (“Eroica”), Beethoven composed the greatest solo piano of its time: Piano Sonata in F Minor, Op.57, nicknamed by the publisher the “Appassionata”.

Composed shortly after Beethoven first faced the disastrous prospect of incurable deafness, this is arguably Beethoven’s darkest and most aggressive work. Over the years it has been compared to Dante’s “Inferno” and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”.

Over the course of its three movements, the “Appassionata” pulls the audience through a wide range of extreme emotions. The first movement expresses repressed emotions and the desire for light; the second movement reveals that the hero's will is strengthened through contemplation and continues to fight hard and hard; the third movement demonstrates the boiling will to struggle, the indomitable momentum. "Appassionata", with its vivid and profound musical images, encapsulates the heroic outlook of the people of Europe against feudalism and aggression in the early 19th century.

“If Beethoven, who was so fond of portraying scenes from nature, was perhaps thinking of ocean waves on a stormy night when from the distance a cry for help is heard, then such a picture will give the pianist a guide to the correct playing of this great tonal painting,” wrote Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny about the finale of “Appassionata” sonata.