Russian-born classical pianist Boris Berman — who has held concerts in over 50 countries and recorded 20 albums — will fill Morse Recital Hall with music from the Romantic era on Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m.
The concert is part of the Horowitz Piano Series, which is directed by Berman himself. The series honors pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who left his papers to Yale after his death, through monthly concerts featuring notable faculty pianists and other world-renowned artists.
On Wednesday, Berman will perform works by Schubert and Chopin. Ronaldo Rolim MUS ’20, who studied with Berman, called Berman “one of the most prominent musicians and piano teachers on the entire planet.”
“When you’re listening to him play, not only do you notice the beauty of his sound and technical prowess, you’re experiencing a full account of the piece of music,” Rolim said.
Berman, the Sylvia and Leonard Professor in the Practice of Piano and coordinator of the piano department, joined the School of Music faculty in 1984. Two of his current colleagues in the School of Music’s piano department, Melvin Chen ’91 and Wei-Yi Yang MUS ’99, studied with Berman during their time as Yale students.
Berman has balanced an intense schedule of performing, touring and recording with a career in teaching.
“It is demanding,” Berman told the News. “But being a concertizing pianist makes me a better teacher and being a teacher makes me a better performer.”
Berman said the spontaneity required of a concert pianist and the organizational capacity required of a teacher “enhance and enrich each other.”
“He’s a wonderfully intellectual man,” said Rolim. “He is always telling you something unbelievably well-thought-out and carefully understood because of his many years of teaching and performing and studying.”
Wednesday’s concert will open with Schubert’s “Piano Sonata in A major, D. 959,” which was composed two months before Schubert’s death in September of 1828. The A major sonata is one in a set of three sonatas that defined Schubert’s works in solo piano.
Despite Schubert’s deteriorating physical health, the sonata showcases beautiful melodies that suggest hope, joy, wistfulness and sadness. The sonata is a 38-minute tour de force written in four movements with cyclic thematic material.
Rolim said that pianists typically use pieces like the Schubert to end a program.
“Starting a program with it is quite a statement itself,” said Rolim. “I’m sure that his sense of Schubert’s music and beautiful legato sound will be clear.”
Berman decided to dedicate the whole second half of the program to the music of Chopin because he has not played Chopin in concert in several years.
Berman’s selection features a diverse collection of Chopin’s music. Two of his later works, the Op. 60 Barcarolle and Op. 61 Polonaise-Fantaisie, bookend three earlier works: four Mazurkas each from the Op. 30 and Op. 33 collections and two Nocturnes from the Op. 27 set.
Dance forms inspire most of these works. A barcarolle is a traditional folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers. Chopin’s F-sharp minor Barcarolle is among the most famous classical music works based on that dance form. The Mazurka and Polonaise both refer to Polish folk dances. Mazurkas are in triple meter with accents on unexpected beats, and polonaises are often played at carnival parties.
Berman’s recital was originally scheduled for January 2020 but was moved due to his Jan. 24 solo performance of Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” with the Yale Philharmonia.
According to Berman, even though soloing with orchestra and performing a solo recital both involve spontaneity and “beautiful music-making, with an orchestra you have to mobilize all your energy basically to earn the right to be in front of the orchestra and command attention of the audience.” He added that in a recital, “you can instead be as intimate as you want and explore all the emotional aspects of a piece of music.”
“It’s almost as if [Berman]’s writing [the piece] for you in the moment,” said Yevgeny Yontov MUS ’20, another longtime student of Berman. “And every person in the hall feels that.”
Berman’s next performance, a recital with viola faculty member Ettore Causa, will be a week from Wednesday in Sprague Hall.
Phoebe Liu | firstname.lastname@example.org