Piano professor’s recital showcases historical keyboard instruments
This Sunday, professor of piano Timothy Hester will present Pianorama!, a solo recital featuring six very different pianos and related instruments.
The six keyboard instruments will be arrayed around the stage of the Moores Opera House; each instrument is particularly suited to the piece that Hester has chosen for it.
“These keyboards give you an idea of what it must have been like to play in the composers’ eras, and you can learn a lot. The reason I’m doing the concert is to continue my learning about how to play all different kinds of music,” Hester said.
The Italian-style harpsichord is ideal for the music of Domenico Scarlatti, which will open the program.
A Clementi sonata will follow on a replica of a 1795 fortepiano made by Chris Maene. Mozart, Haydn, and other composers of this era used instruments such as this one for composing their music.
“The keys are very light to press and don’t go down very far, so it takes a lot of control to play,” Hester said.
This instrument has a unique style of pedal mechanisms that are worked by the knees of the performer.
Next on the program is Beethoven’s final piano sonata, which will be performed on an 1832 Bösendorfer piano. This instrument is especially rare because it has all of its original parts.
“You really feel like you’re playing a part of history [on this instrument],” Hester said. “There’s so much character in its different ranges.”
The concert will include a world premier of a piece that a surprise composer wrote specifically for the Moores School’s new Schiedmayer celeste.
The celeste contains rows of metal plates inside of the instrument’s chamber that are struck by hammers when the player presses each key. It is exceedingly rare to hear the celeste as a solo instrument, but it is a common part of the orchestra.
This celeste was purchased by a grant awarded to Blake Wilkins, professor of percussion and director of undergraduate studies for the Moores School, for the purpose of improving the Moores School’s instrument library.
The school’s previous celeste was less than top-of-the-line, but the new instrument is a higher-quality model than even that of the Houston Symphony.
Next on the program is Associate Professor of Composition Rob Smith’s “Free Toy Inside,” written for the Moores School’s Schoenhut toy piano. This piece chronicles the excitement, suspense and ultimate success of a child hunting for the free toy inside a box of cereal.
“In recent years, the toy piano has been appearing ever more frequently in a wide variety of performer’s recitals. As a result, there have been a large number of composers writing for the instrument, mostly doing serious work,” Smith said.
“My two works for the toy piano, however, definitely lean towards the whimsical.”
Smith’s first work for the instrument, “Schroeder’s Revenge,” is a creation written for the Peanuts cartoon character, Schroeder, who is probably the most famous player of a toy piano.
Finally, Hester will play two pieces on one of the Moores School’s new Steinway pianos, which is part of the initiative to turn Moores into an all-Steinway institution.
This set is centered around the effects of life in Paris on two non-French composers, Georges Enescu and Igor Stravinsky. Hester will perform an arrangement of the suite from Stravinsky’s famous ballet, The Firebird.
“It’s extremely difficult, but I just couldn’t pass up the chance to experience it,” said Hester, who has played the piano part to the full orchestral version of the ballet twice before.
“Stravinsky composed his music at the piano, so while he may have been imagining orchestral sounds, this is probably what he heard while composing The Firebird,” Hester said.
All of the instruments for the performance are owned by the Moores School, and its students are allowed opportunities to practice and perform on these unusual keyboards.
“I really enjoy going to piano recitals and hearing not just the grand piano. I think it’s very entertaining,” Hester said.
Hester gave a similar performance on 5 instruments in 2005 and says that the experience was a lot of fun for him and the audience.
“The fun of it for the audience members is to come hear a spectrum of pieces on the instruments they were meant to be performed on,” Hester said.
Pianorama! takes place at 2:30 p.m. on November 23 in the Moores Opera House. For tickets and more information, visit music.uh.edu.