Composers turn 200

The School of Music celebrated the 200th birthday of two Romantic composers Wednesday.

School of Music Professor Peter Frankl played pieces from Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann in Sprague Hall at a recital honoring the bicentennial of the composers, both born in 1810. Frankl performed Chopin’s “Polonaise in C-sharp minor,” “Four Impromptus” (including the famous “Fantasie Impromptu in C-sharp minor”), “Four Mazurkas” and “Scherzo No.1 in B minor,” as well as Schumann’s “Fantaisiestücke” and “Carnival Scenes from Vienna.”

School of Music professor Peter Frankl received a standing ovation from an audience of 450.
Zoe Gorman
School of Music professor Peter Frankl received a standing ovation from an audience of 450.

“It’s wonderful to play in front of my students, but it’s a challenge because some are playing technically better than I do,” Frankl said.

But Frankl received a standing ovation from an audience of about 450.

The performance was colored by heavy downstrokes, sweeping arpeggiations and quick, running segments. The Chopin pieces incorporated several rapid ascending sections, shifts between major and minor keys and parallel thematic structures. Schumann’s works involved loud staccato sections leading to accented cadences accompanied by softer, rolling parts and chime-like chords. At several times during the recital, Frankl raised his hands almost a foot off the keys to emphasize a chord and crossed one hand over the other to maintain melodic fluidity.

Frankl, who has recorded Schumann’s complete works, said Schumann is one of his favorite composers and he hopes to play this program again in different places.

Frankl arranged the program by placing the Chopin pieces at the beginning and end of the Schumann, said Wei-Yi Yang, a colleague of Frankl’s at the School of Music. Instead of pausing between each piece, Frankl grouped multiple pieces by the same composer to create fluid transitions, he said.

Yang said he thought Frankl brought out the humanity as well as the genius of the two composers.

“It happens very frequently that we look to see what composers have major anniversaries coming up and use the occasion to explore the literature and to honor them,” said Vincent Oneppo, a spokesman for the school. “Peter Frankl is very adept at creating interesting programs.”

One spectator, Wayne Chan, said while Schumann’s pieces are regal and grandiose, Chopin is the “working man’s composer,” who evokes images of city alleyways and streets.

Three of the seven audience members interviewed said they preferred Chopin to Schumann, two favored Schumann, and two said they liked them both equally.

Student pianist Amy Yang MUS ’10, who is studying under Frankl and is herself playing Schumann’s music for the bicentennial year, said she thought the performance was “charismatic, beautiful and heartfelt.”

“[Frankl] brings out the best in you,” Yang said. “He is an extremely good listener. It is always a joy to hear him play in lessons.”

According to the recital’s Web site, Chopin and Schumann admired each other’s work. Chopin dedicated one of his Ballades to Schumann, and as a music critic, Schumann appraised Chopin’s pieces.

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