A piano may have a total of only 88 keys, but they produced a thousand different textures and voices during this past Sunday's piano performance in Wadsworth Auditorium, when associate professor Amy Stanley took the stage.
Placing her piano firmly on the shoulders of giants, from Ludwig van Beethoven to Johannes Brahms, Stanley made the notes sing out, bringing piece after piece in her repertoire to life with a range and vitality that started with her very first note.
Beginning with "Selections" from Jean Sibelius' "10 Pieces, Op. 24," the opening Andantino was lilting and sweet. The light-hearted staccato of that first movement did not last long, though, quickly shifting into the more somber "Barcarola" and the sad "Romance." Hauntingly beautiful, these last two selections belayed the dark undertone that would appear repeatedly throughout the performance.
Yet, audiences would not have guessed that darkness would return to the program as Stanley's performance took an upbeat shift. Her second work, Joseph Hayden's "Sonata No. 61," rang pleasantly through the auditorium. Built on interesting themes and clean, clear dynamics, the piece was both playful and precise under Stanley's playing. It was this precision and care that characterized the concert; two aspects that never faltered through fancy fingerings and intricate instrumentation.
Moving to an extended selection from the work that bore Beethoven's beloved "Moonlight Sonata," Stanley's rendition of "Sonata Op. 27 No. 1" was an exquisite affair. It was a piece that encompassed everything, and, yet, Stanley shifted through it with an almost effortless grace that made the frantic turn lovely and the ominous become the evocative.
With a brief pause to let the Beethoven's lively last notes dissipate, Stanley began the final two portions of her program: Carl Nielsen's "Chaconne" for "Piano Op. 32" and Brahms' "Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79." The way these pieces filled the entirety of the auditorium was beautiful, showing off Stanley's dexterity and musicality with booming crescendos and complex harmonies. They were fitting ends to what was a truly pleasurable hour and a half of music.
The only thing the show was really lacking was a mirror over the piano; it would have been fascinating to see Stanley's fingers flying over the keys. Stanley's recital was a quality performance and a perfect spring showcase on a sunny Sunday afternoon.