Performing a unique program, including full symphonic works arranged for one performer, Yale School of Music associate professor of piano and Deputy Dean Melvin Chen ’91 will take the stage in Sprague Memorial Hall Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m.
Chen will perform works by Brahms, Sibelius and Ravel. With the exception of the Ravel, the repertoire comprises unique arrangements of orchestral works adapted for solo piano. This concert continues the Horowitz Piano Series, a concert series that features distinguished pianists in an intimate recital setting on campus.
“One of my favorite activities as a string player was to play in orchestra — I loved the sound of the orchestra, and also the repertoire,” said Chen, who played violin as well as piano in his early music career. “Since I don’t play the violin much now, and certainly not in an orchestra, this program is a way for me to stay connected to the orchestral repertoire as a performer.”
The evening will begin with German musician Otto Singer II’s arrangement of early 20th-century Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia.” This eight-minute patriotic tone poem was composed in 1899 as a secret protest to increased censorship in the Russian empire.
“Melvin Chen’s pianism reveals an artist of extraordinary talent and probing musical insight,” said Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker. “His innovative programming has earned the respect and admiration of audiences across the globe, and tonight’s concert is a striking example.”
Another work by Sibelius, titled “Valse Triste,” will follow “Finlandia.” Chen will then perform a second waltz: the “Valses nobles et sentimentales” of French composer Maurice Ravel. Ravel wrote the piece for piano in 1911 and created an orchestral arrangement the following year.
The evening will culminate with German romantic composer Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F major, originally composed during the summer of 1883 and later arranged for solo piano.
“The program is challenging for me because it’s my job to make the piano have the variety of colors of an orchestra,” said Chen.
Chen said that the Brahms symphony presents both physical and mental challenges because it is “so complex and thick, with its great variety of textures and contrapuntal writing.” Yet, Chen hopes that the program will “stimulate the audience to think about these transcriptions” in ways they had not previously.
This work — the third of Brahms’ four major symphonies — includes four movements and has a run time of around 30–40 minutes. The symphony is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, a contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani and a full string section. But in the performance on Wednesday night, Chen will encapsulate all these distinct voices on his own.
Blocker looks forward to Chen’s performance of the Brahms, noting that since this piano arrangement is rarely performed, it will add “much anticipation to Professor Chen’s concert.”
“[Chen] is a wonderful colleague, who is a multifaceted musician and has a powerful playing style,” said fellow School of Music professor of piano Wei-Yi Yang. “The transcription of a Brahms symphony for a solo piano ought to be a unique and fitting showcase of his artistry.”
Student admission to the concert is $7, and public general admission is $15.
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