Brian Ganz, piano instructor and artist-in-residence, held a noon Piano Talk on Tuesday, Nov. 29 where he performed pieces by Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and Frédéric Chopin. Then, on Thursday, Dec. 1, Ganz combined his talents with those of Suzanne Orban, cello professor, and José Cueto, arist-in-residence and head of the strings department, on violin to perform pieces by Samuel Barber and Ludwig van Beethoven.
At his Piano Talk, Ganz explained the alternative titles of the Talk were “Liquid Sound” and “Melting Boundaries.” He opened the Talk with a poem called “Monet Refuses the Operation” by Lisel Mueller. In the poem a doctor insists that Monet have surgery to correct the cataracts in his eyes that are altering his vision. In the poem, Monet says to the doctor, “Doctor, if only you could see how heaven pulls earth into its arms and how infinitely the heart expands to claim this world, blue vapor without end.” Monet loves how the cataracts have changed his vision.
Ganz related the ideas in this poem about impressionist art to an impressionist style of music. Ganz said that Debussy “wanted to paint music pictures.” Debussy was “the father of musical impressionism” and was “departing from [the normal] inherited practices” of music.
The style of Debussy’s music is what inspired Ganz’s title, “Melting Boundaries.” Ganz stated that Debussy was the “master at removing the desires we’ve come to associate with chords.” He “melts the boundaries of his chords.” Ganz also demonstrated how using the piano pedals while playing a piece can “dissolve the boundaries between chords by blurring them.”
Ganz first played Ravel’s “Jeax d’eau,” composed in 1901, which translates roughly from the French as “games of water” or “fountain.” Ganz’s second piece by Debussy, “Reflets dans l’eau,” was composed after Ravel’s piece. The title of this pieces translates as “reflections on the water.” Ganz stated that because the two pieces are so similar, it is possible that Debussy heard Ravel’s piece and was inspired by it. Both pieces give the auditory impression of moving water and light playing on water.
Ganz described these pieces as not fitting “squarely into neat boxes.” He stated, “You can feel those boundaries being permeated; you can feel those boundaries reaching beyond.” To close the Talk, Ganz performed two pieces by Chopin: Impromtu No. 2 in F sharp Major and Fantaisie-Impromtu, Op. 66.
“What is so amazing about Brian’s Piano Talks is the the way that he makes the music so accessible to all listeners,” said senior Jonathan Wagner. “He breaks down the way that composers build the foundation for songs and explains all of the theoretical music terms in a way that an audience member of any musical background can understand it.”
Wagner went on to say, “Of course, that is in addition to how incredible of a performer he is. Mr. Ganz’s performances are so breathtaking, not only for how intricate and beautiful his interpretations are (especially of Chopin) but for how much excitement he puts into playing. The joy that he puts into the way he plays communicates so well to the audience.”
At the Dec. 1 Chamber Music concert, Ganz was accompanied by Orban on the cello and Cueto on the violin. Ganz and Orban performed a duet for the first piece by Barber, Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, Op. 6. The three played all together for the second piece by Beethoven, Trio in C minor, Op. 1, No. 3.
Ganz briefly introduced the two pieces by Barber and Beethoven. He discussed how both composers had been in their early twenties when they composed them and yet they still managed to write full pieces. Before beginning the Beethoven piece, Ganz told the story of how Beethoven’s tutors told him that the world was not yet ready for a piece as “wild” as his new opus. Beethoven decided to compose and perform it anyway.
“I thought it was very enjoyable,” said Lauren Nelson, senior, about the Chamber Music concert. “I don’t get to come to [concerts] like that too often, so it was very nice. It was a great study break, very relaxing. I particularly loved the trio: the violin, the cello, and the piano all together.”
Ganz will be performing twice more this semester. All his performances are free and open to the public and take place in St. Mary’s Hall. On Dec. 8 at 8:00 p.m., Ganz will be performing pieces by Beethoven, Ravel, Liszt, and Chopin. Finally, on Dec. 13 at 5:00 p.m., Ganz will perform his studio recital.