Never before has music been so entrancing and captivating, but also informative and educational.
Award winning pianist Elena Nezhdanova, acclaimed cellist Roman Placzek and Geneseo’s own visiting assistant professor of violin Andrew Bergevin performed at the faculty recital at Doty Recital Hall on Saturday Nov. 11. The works came from various composers, and were influenced by a wide range of themes like love, the creation of art amidst oppression, industrialization and the struggles of leaving home to escape a hostile regime.
The first piece, “Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor, op. 40,” by Dmitri Shostakovich, was written to represent grueling factory work in Soviet Russia, the fear of KGB agents knocking at any time and also coming home to a family after a day’s work, according to Placzek.
The piece accurately represented Placzek’s description, as the music evokes images of somber smoke stacks, arduous factory work with little time for individuality or the allowance for joy to be furtively experienced.
Following this piece, Nezhdanova and Placzek performed “Sonata No. 3 for Cello and Piano, H 340” by Bohuslav Martinů, which was slightly more optimistic. This song tells the story of someone escaping the communist regime in the Czech Republic by fleeing to the United States, where the individual finds both opportunity and uncertainty, according to Placzek. The music attempts to portray the struggle of joining a new nation, while keeping the values of one’s home.
Once again, the story given can be applied to the sound that followed. The music contains soaring notes of liberation, but also those of trepidation and alienation. The tune is wild and free, and in that there is a danger. Such a mixture of emotions was sure to keep the audience engaged.
While Nezhdanova remained at the piano, Placzek allowed Bergevin to take the stage and show off his prowess with the violin. First up was Amy Beach’s “Romance for Violin and Piano, Op. 21,” a violently beautiful melody.
The final song performed was Henryk Wieniawski’s “Polonaise Brillante No. 2 in A Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 21,” a rapid and triumphant work that offered a great close to the recital.
“I thought [the pieces] were absolutely phenomenal,” mathematics and vocal performance major junior Sarah Ploof said. “I thought the musicianship was amazing. I’d never heard [Bergevin] play solo before, I’ve only ever heard him in trio’s and he’s absolutely phenomenal.”
The songs were a testament to music’s ability to convey ideas as efficiently as words. To learn about life in Soviet Russia through melody is far preferable, and in some way more informative, than to read about it in a textbook. Book entries allow the reader to circulate around events and people in history, but music puts you inside the heads of such people, to witness those events through their eyes. This faculty recital was one of those rare performances that made you feel as if you’ve experienced many lives in the span of an hour.