“Artistic Expression in Contemporary American Piano Music: Insights for the 21st Century Performer”
A highly interesting lecture recital was given by Dr Heidi Louise Williams at the music department of TNUA (Taipei National University of the Arts) on Monday 18 May 2015. Entitled: “Artistic Expression in Contemporary American Piano Music: Insights for the 21st Century Performer”, the lecture recital included extracts from works by Charles Griffes, Ernest Bloch, Samuel Barber, George Walker and Daniel Crozier.
Dr Williams had a very warm, open-hearted and engaging spoken manner as she explained some of the recurring general themes in American music. The interest of the audience was piqued further by demonstration of use of the middle pedal in the Barber Sonata. I for one had never before heard the piano music of George Walker, the African- American composer and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996, and this programme served as a wonderful ‘ear-opener’.
The piano performances by Dr Williams, which interspersed the spoken explanations, were all very well played on the resident Steinway Grand piano. Some were performed from memory (no easy task, particularly with contemporary music). The acoustic of the Recital Hall was excellent and one could not have a better room for such a lecture recital.
My only criticisms of the event are minor. A free printed handout was supplied, showing extracts of the music performed, together with handwritten comments by the piano teacher of Dr Williams: but these were printed so small they were almost illegible. As for the selection of works, everybody might have their personal preferences for American composers. I cannot help thinking that Alan Hovhaness, say, or George Crumb, both born in the USA may be more deserving of inclusion in this lecture recital than Ernest Bloch, who only took American citizenship aged 44. However this is admittedly a personal opinion, and one very much hopes that Dr Williams will be brought back again for “Part 2”!