Michelle Chan             [A     JMS]
Professor Saslow
Arts in NYC
Nov 1, 2009
Music Paper

The Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College is often the host of musical performances by Queens College’s own orchestra, alumni, or even the school’s own faculty. On October 26th’s crisp fall afternoon the school hosted its second alumna recital of the fall term at the LeFrak Concert Hall. Magdalena Garbalinska was the featured violinist alumna and Yumi Hashimoto was the pianist who performed with her. The two performers’ wardrobe choice of all black helped exude a professional grace about them. They performed a few classical music pieces by famous composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach from the Baroque period and Ludwig van Beethoven from the late Classical and early Romantic period. The recital only had one print out flyer advertising it on the doors of the building—which may have accounted for the small number of people that turned up for the performance. The audience consisted mainly of older adults with a few odd college students, and was not audibly or visibly excited but clapped politely and encouragingly after each piece. It was not a wild cheering akin to the type heard at loud rock concerts, but rather a more subtle, refined appreciation for the music.

The program revealed that all the major pieces in the performance would be in minor key and the first piece in the recital was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in C-minor, Opus 30 Number 2. It had four movements and opened with a brooding sinister sound. The piano and violin frequently repeated the opening melodic line in imitation. Dark, deep bass notes were played on the piano while the violin played on a higher register and provided an urgent feeling to the piece. The tempo in the first movement was very fast as noted by its description “allegro con brio,” meaning fast with liveliness, which contributed to the overall mood. The first movement may have been in ternary—or “three part, ABA”—form because its opening was repeated after a different melody or theme was played. While the violin carried the main melody, the piano helped add depth to the piece. In the second movement, the composition had a slightly less aggressive, more lyrical tone. In terms of tempo it was more relaxed, contemplative, and nostalgic. While the violin carried the main melody, occasionally the piano would play a counterpoint—a second melody—in conjunction with the main melody played by the violin. At certain points of the movement, the piano would play in a staccato rhythm with short detached notes as the violin continued in legato with a flowing continuous quality. Near the end of the movement, the tone became noticeably happier and took on a fleeting, soaring quality. The violinist occasionally plucked the strings (pizzicato), then resumed bowing (arco), returned to pizzicato, and ended the movement with more bowing.

The third movement took on a binary—two-part—form with two different melodic tunes repeating one after the other. Both were happy lively tunes with a fast tempo. Later on in the movement, the tempo slowed down and the tune changed to a soaring, grand, majestic melody. The fourth movement’s tempo was reminiscent of the first movement’s: fast and intense. It had many crescendos and decrescendos, and generally held a happy uplifting sound during the first few minutes. The piano and violin took turns imitating one another, which formed a call-and-response pattern as if the violin and piano were conducting a conversation. As the music built and increased in volume the piano dropped to a lower pitch and continued on in a darker, more turbulent tone whereas the violin became stronger and adopted a more stable, determined sound. The violin was not weak or fleeting and did not blend into the harmony provided by the piano. The fourth movement left an overall image of an adventurer on a dangerous journey full of surprises and perils; it evoked a feeling of excitement and suspense. The end of piece, which was also the end of Beethoven’s sonata, was marked by a very loud final dramatic cadence.

The second main piece was Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonata for Violin Solo in G-minor, BWV. 1001. There were only two movements for this piece: the first one, adagio, meaning slow, and the second, fuga, or fugue—a fixed strict composition. The first movement was plaintive and had high trills at the beginning. The notes were drawn out which created a lonesome yearning effect that was heightened by the sonata’s composition as a solo. Each time the violinist reached a high note, she immediately counteracted it with an instant drop to a very low note as if she was trying to restrict or interrupt herself. This created a very jarring dissonant effect—one that only occurred a handful of times during the recital. The second movement was very rapid with short notes and had an angry tone. As the piece continued, the melody became choppy and agitated. The violinist expressed her emotions openly on her face rather than remaining fairly stoic and a tragic tone accompanied by a few bird-like trills entered the piece near the end.

The only piece I had a negative reaction to was Caprice, Op. 1, No. 9 by Nicolo Paganini. The beginning of this shorter piece was happy, fast, and reminiscent of a lively dance tune.  This positive feeling was short-lived because soon after, the melody lost its pleasant smooth lines and instead became very jagged with many quick repetitions of low notes following high notes—creating a steep, stark contrast. The chords were dissonant and the composition seemed disorganized and jumbled, a huge departure from the previous main pieces. The notes produced by the violin were screechy, squeaky, and almost painful to listen to. The audience seemed to agree because many of them shifted in their seats and a couple exchanged furtive glances with one another. At one point the violin sounded off-key as if it were not tuned properly and the violin produced a sharp donkey-like braying every time it was bowed. I felt that this piece was intended be taken in a more humorous light because of its exaggerated pitch and tonal quality or timbre.

Many of the pieces were from very well known composers and although I am not familiar with any of the pieces I felt that they were not too foreign or experimental, and I enjoyed the performance. Because our class completed the music section and because I am currently taking a Music Appreciation class I feel that I was able to appreciate, follow and understand the performance better. My favorite piece was the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in C-minor, Opus 30 Number 2 because it seemed to create a story in my head and became less abstract because of the mental pictures it created. I enjoyed Paganini’s rendition the least because of its harsh and inconsistent musical texture, but I believe it was still successful in that it evoked strong emotions from the audience. The performance by Garbalinska and Hashimoto was both entertaining and beautiful, and on a more personal level I found it very rewarding because it was one of the few opportunities I had which allowed me to apply and exercise the knowledge I learned in a classroom setting.