Geneseo faculty alumni captivate with original sonatas

Geneseo faculty alumni James Willey and Linda Boianova visited Geneseo on Sunday Jan. 22 to present Willey’s original piano sonatas. Boianovaperformed these pieces, while Willey supplied the audience with the significance of each. 

The Geneseo community was treated to a dynamic piano recital by instrumental coach and accompanist in music Linda Boianova on Sunday Jan. 22 in Doty Recital Hall. 

Boianova is a Bulgarian-American pianist who holds a doctoral degree in performance, vocal coaching and stage direction from the Eastman School of Music. A former Geneseo faculty member, Boianova is currently studying Arabic and ethnomusicology in Muscat, Oman. 

The program consisted of three sonatas for piano, as composed by fellow former Geneseo faculty member James Willey. Willey, also a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, began studying piano and composing at a young age. 

The first of the sonatas was written in 1960 when Willey was a senior in college. The language of the piece is similar to that of Paul Hindemith, a composer Willey greatly admired at the time. He described his four-sectioned, one-movement piece as “deliberately cheesy and satirical.” 

The piece itself is layered with multiple opposing themes, as if to foreshadow his future works. The initial soft and playful melody gradually built up into a forceful staccato. 

The second sonata put emphasis on the use and long-lasting sound of the foot pedal, as Willey believes this sonata is “dramatic and exuberant, yet peaceful.” The piece opens with an allusion to Little Richard, which Boianova instantly brought to life through a series of complex and sporadic rhythms. 

The widely different themes are heard and cut off throughout the piece, up until a gentle melody broke through, like an “eruption of light.” These sounds slowly faded away as the pianist lightened her movements and let the echo of the last note effectively close the piece.

The third and final sonata was a three-movement piece that is still being tweaked, according to Willey, who described this sonata as being very sentimental and close to his heart.  

The piece is almost a combination of the first and second sonatas. The first movement is strong, powerful and fast. As the first movement ends, the melody becomes quiet, slow and calm, akin to the “sun coming through the clouds” after a storm, before transitioning to the second movement, which Willey called “goofy and bouncy.” 

This movement sounds similar to the first sonata, as its familiar themes find their way in and out of the main melody. In the last movement, Willey quoted himself by incorporating a theme from a separate piece he had composed. It slowly fades to an end, as the last note powerfully resonated in the room.

Performances like this serve as a reminder of how important it is to keep the arts alive at Geneseo. Willey and Boianova provided a beautiful demonstration of the power of artistry, talent and collaboration.