The Geneseo Symphony Orchestra performed with pianist, Department Chair and professor of music Jonathan Gonder in Wadsworth Auditorium on Sunday Oct. 19. The first half of the concert featured renditions of Hector Berlioz’s “Hungarian March from ‘The Damnation of Faust’” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Suite from ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ Ballet, Op. 66a,” which includes the well-known “Waltz” as heard in the Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. Played by Gonder, Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 1, ” comprised the second half of the concert and acted as the focal piece.
Gonder has balanced performance activities with academic and administrative duties throughout his career. He has performed as a pianist in solo concerts, concerto performances with the orchestra, chamber music, accompaniments and piano duo concerto. He has won the Southeast Regional Music Competition and was chosen as a finalist in the William S. Boyd International Piano Competition
Gonder played Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 3” with the Geneseo Symphony Orchestra last semester and even wrote his own cadenza––the most elaborate and virtuosic element of a piece played by a soloist at the climax of the first movement of a concerto. At this concert, however, Gonder used one of the original three candenzas Beethoven wrote.
Beethoven wrote his first published piano concerto “Piano Concerto No. 1” at the age of 28. At that time, he was already regarded as the most promising young composer in Vienna. While the concerto is clearly indebted to Mozart, it sparkles with the addition of Beethoven’s exuberance and originality.
Beethoven has always been one of Gonder’s favorite composers, which may be why he has such a strongly developed personal view of how the composition should be played. In addition to understanding Beethoven and conducting extensive performance practice, Gonder has become an expert in expressing his own ideas and music throughout his performances.
Along with the orchestra, Gonder shared his music with the audience and members in the orchestra. For a great pianist like Gonder, the goal of playing alongside students is to inspire. As the soloist, Gonder has to constantly follow and lead the student-composed orchestra, which can sometimes limit the soloist’s performance.
Even with this slight limitation, Gonder thoroughly demonstrated his musical ability. The second movement of the concerto—which is slow and conspicuously exposes the ability of the pianist—was especially phenomenal. The phrases exchanged by Gonder on the piano and senior Nick Ellsworth on the clarinet provided an impressive example of how great musicians can create even greater music.
Gonder will be performing later this semester with the Geneseo Wind Quintet as well as with the newly formed Geneseo Piano Trio alongside violinist Peter Povey and cellist and lecturer of music James Kirkwood.