The Yale Undergraduate Piano Collective on Friday night held its third-ever performance — “Suites and Sweets.” Centered on the theme of Valentine’s Day, the group performed suites by Barber, Grieg, Piazzolla, Rachmaninoff and Ravel, oscillating between jubilance and turbulence, liveliness and tranquility.
To begin the show, pianists Mahima Kumara ’20 and Allison Song ’19 entered the Davenport College dining hall — newly transformed into a concert hall. Two baby grand pianos stood at attention on the southern wall and rows of wooden dining hall chairs circled the makeshift stage. The performers seated themselves at the two pianos, and then launched into Rachmaninoff’s “Suite No. 1, Op. 5.”
The collective is new to campus: It formed in spring semester of 2017. Aside from a couple spots for pianists in the Yale Symphony Orchestra, student pianists often lack spaces to train and perform, said Sarah Switzer ’19, a violist for the YSO. Rishi Mirchandani ’19 founded the collective to fill that void.
“It gives an opportunity not only for students to perform but also to engage audiences — especially [audience members] who haven’t had as much of a classical background,” said Eric Xiong ’19, a concert attendee and former violinist for the YSO.
In addition to providing pianists with a space to train and perform, the collective’s monthly studio classes give its members the opportunity to perform solo pieces in front of the group and to receive feedback, Mirchandani said. Although it has peer organizations at Princeton and Harvard, groups like the collective are fairly rare on college campuses.
In the hour-long concert, 18 of the group’s 33 members performed a range of classical pieces. John Mori ’20 and graduate student Roger Sheu GRD ’20 performed Barber’s loud and dissonant duet “Souvenirs, Op. 28.” Zeynep Karacan ’21 and Kenneth Xu ’21 performed Piazzolla’s “Libertango.” All of the suites — some serene, some blustery — expressed the rough and tumble nature of love.
The collective is notable for its collaborative setup. Each suite on the program had been arranged for multiple pianists to play. Known as “two hands” or “four hands” pieces, pianists sat next to each other at the same piano, or at separate pianos facing each other. In the finale, four pianists played all at once.
According to Mirchandani, a program composed entirely of duet and quartet pieces is unusual. He said one of the group’s missions is to bring to life “duet and quartet literature,” which often goes underappreciated. Annabel Chyung ’19, a concert attendee and YSO violinist, said the collective is unique because it chooses audience-friendly pieces.
While many audience members had previous exposure to classical music through their involvement in various classical music groups on campus, others attended the event to support friends or suitemates. Judah Ellison ’21 said that although he is no music connoisseur, he occasionally studies to a background of classical music. In contrast, collective member Vivian Xu ’21 has been playing piano for 14 years — almost three quarters of her life. For audience members like Ellison and piano enthusiasts like Xu, the collaborative is a venue for Yalies to get a taste of classical music and for pianists to hone their craft.
While “Suites and Sweets” was not as zany as the group’s last performance — in which its members donned Viking hats, Minnie Mouse ears and devil horns as part of a Halloween theme — the mood was nonetheless lighthearted. The performers wore semi-formal concert attire, clad in the pinks and reds of Valentine’s Day.
Footage of “Suites and Sweets” will be posted on the group’s Facebook page, Yale Undergraduate Piano Collective. Their next performance will be held at Sudler Hall in April.
Alejandra Larriva-Latt | firstname.lastname@example.org