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Piano at the Albright Knox

Huebner

Pianist Eric Huebner at First Friday at the AKAG

In the general drought that live classical music performance seems to undergo every July and August in the Buffalo area, the many fervent members of the local classical concert going audience welcome any occasional respite. The Knox Auditorium in the Albright Knox Art Gallery will be the location for just such an event this Friday, August 1 at 8:30pm, when pianist Eric Huebner presents an hour long recital as part of the M&T First Fridays @ the Gallery series.

Eric Huebner, who is an assistant professor of piano in the department of music of the University at Buffalo, is also the staff pianist for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, a prestigious post that he has held for the past three seasons. One of the very finest pianists in Western New York, Eric is equally at home in every area of the vast repertoire of classical music composed for the piano. That being said, it should be noted that he has displayed a remarkable affinity for the most cutting-edge contemporary and near-contemporary piano works, which will be the focus of Friday’s recital.

The program will feature two classic works from the second half of the 20th century: Luciano Berio’s Sequenza IV and Salvatore Sciarrino’s Sonata no. 2, as well as a recent work by Pulitzer-prize winning composer Roger Reynolds who has been a frequent guest at the internationally acclaimed June in Buffalo Festival of new music. In addition, a pair of very recent works by Buffalo-based composers Paolo Cavallone and Nathan Heidelberger, both students of David Felder, who have completed or are in the process of completing (respectively) their PhDs in composition at UB, will also be performed.

“Both the Sciarrino and Cavallone works take a more metaphorical approach to the sonata,” says Huebner. “The Sciarrino is more of an extended étude, or study, consisting primarily of rapid alternation of seventh chords between the hands and in the second half, loud, booming chords in the bass. Palo Cavallone’s Confini, which was first performed by pianist Stephen Gosling at June in Buffalo in 2006, looks to break out of the formal structure set up by its three parts which according to the composer’s preface loosely correlate to the sonata-allegro form found in many of the first movements in the sonata’s of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. The piece even has the pianist hitting his chest, stomping his foot, and slapping his open mouth to produce various percussion effects meant to sound like a distorted take on the Spanish flamenco”.

“Berio’s Sequenza IV,” says Huebner “is a highly influential work completed in 1966. I first performed it last April at Kleinhans Music Hall and for the first time came to appreciate how so many composers after Berio have approached writing for the piano in a similar fashion. It is an exploration of the piano’s natural resonance and its ability to play a single line of music very fast. One particular passage is written almost entirely in small note-heads, reminiscent of cadenza passages in romantic piano concerti.”

He will perform Mercurial, Web, and Alteration, three of the new études by Roger Reynolds. “They are taken from a recently completed set of six études premiered at UB last April,” says Huebner. “I have known Roger since 2005 and have worked with him regularly since that time. Each étude in the set quotes a passage from a well known étude by Chopin, Debussy, Liszt or Ligeti. I find it a fascinating attempt at entering into a discourse with some of the most well known music in the piano repertoire. The results are both fresh and familiar and for the listener who recognizes the quoted passages as they fly by, it conjures an odd sense of déjà vu.”

UB graduate student Nathan Heidelberger has already demonstrated compositional skills at a professional level, no more so than in his Poems: Descriptions of the Moon. That song cycle of well-chosen texts by Dante, Joyce, Borges and Calvino, among others, was vividly interpreted by mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley with Eric Huebner at the keyboard at ‘A Musical Feast’ concert at the Burchfield Penny Art Center in 2012. Huebner characterizes the composer’s new solo piano work, Crude Words, Refined Grammars, “as a dramatic study in contrasts. A loud, insistent opening half sets up a harmonically distilled, pointillistic second half. It’s as if we are hearing the first half repeated, but the musical material has been power-washed. It’s a striking contrast by a composer who writes exceptionally well for the piano.”

Admission: $5. Free for Gallery members. Information: albrightknox.org.

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