During the final class of the day, BYU composition faculty member Christian Asplund led the audience through an historical look at the prepared piano works of John Cage, featuring the actual preparation of the pianos (made visually accessible to all in attendance by careful video monitoring) and performances by several of his students. Asplund is an authority on Cage’s work and his students proved to be quite accomplished at performing the pieces selected (“Bacchanale,” “Totem Ancestor,” “And the Earth Shall Bear Again” and “The Perilous Night”). Following the last class, the five pianos at the venue were prepared for the evening’s concert, for which the audience swelled to fill the venue. The concert program consisted of: I. Stephen Scott’s “Entrada,” played by nine students under the able direction of BYU piano faculty member, Scott Holden. This piece featured extensive use of piano bows, for which the composer is so well known, and was as much a delight to see as it was to hear. II. Excerpts from John Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes,” in a nuanced performance by BYU graduate student Jenny Cho. Ms. Cho demonstrated an exceptional affinity for the sound world of this work (which would have delighted the late composer), one of the best-known and most often played examples of prepared piano literature.
Piano prepared for a John Cage piece.
III. Pianist and aspiring piano technician Neema Pazargad performing the first of two world premieres by composers from CalArts (where he earned his Masters Degree in piano performance). For “Euphotic,” by composition faculty member Ulrich Kreiger, Pazargad was joined by BYU music student Matthew Webb (a composition major, whose main instrument is viola, no less!). The graphic score they realized made extensive use of touching, strumming, and plucking the strings, along with drawing rosined fingers pinched around pieces of fishing line that were tied to various bass strings, all to the accompaniment of droning “E-bows” that moved from one pitch to another as the piece unfolded. IV. CalArts DMA composer/performer Milen Kirov’s “Vortex,” in it’s maiden public performance. This piece, from Kirov’s doctoral opus of piano etudes, was a tour-de-force for Pazargad, who handled the rhythmic complexity of the score (written in 13/8) with great aplomb. Equally impressive was the pianist’s ability at playing two pianos--situated at a ninety-degree angle to each other—simultaneously. V. The concert closed with Jason Hardink performing excerpts from George Crumb’s “Macrokosmos.” This performance was propelled into sonic hyper-space by the other-worldly tone, sustain and power of the 10’ 3” Fazioli model 308 concert grand piano, generously provided for the occasion by Rick Baldassin, RPT. Hardink met and exceeded the score’s demands both on the keyboard and inside the piano, his exceptional pianism and the piano’s extraordinary sounds both dazzling the enthralled audience. At the day’s end, one of the BYU faculty members commented that he could hardly believe that folks who are so well informed about music, so wellspoken, and so personally concerned with the education of young artists are piano technicians. “Believe it,” was the response his observation elicited. “We ARE piano technicians, but we are also so much more than JUST piano technicians!”
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