Orchestra concert to feature student piano soloist

Elena Amesbury

Saturday’s Lawrence Symphony Orchestra concert promises a few unique highlights. Student concerto competition winner Jestin Pieper will be performing
Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat major, op. 10. The orchestra will also perform New England Triptych by William Schuman and Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, op. 36. This concert
hopefully boasts a new tradition. Starting on Saturday, a fanfare will call the audience to their seats instead of the usual flickering of the lights. It will be played live from the balcony by the brass section of the orchestra before the beginning of the concert and at the end of intermission. The fanfare will also serve as a prelude to the concert, as it will consist of a short excerpt from the melody of the first movement of the Schuman.
Orchestra director David Becker chose New England Triptych “as part of out project this year to study 21st-century
composers,” he explained. Schuman based each of the three parts of the triptych – a term borrowed from the fine arts which refers to a three-paneled picture or carving – on a different hymn written by the 18th-century composer William Billings. The hymns will actually
be performed during the concert by a vocal quartet made up of orchestra members Bonnie Alger, Rebecca Young, Peter Gillette and Garth Neustadter.
The “enigma” referred to in the title of Elgar’s Enigma Variations is the unknown theme that Elgar hid within the music, different from the main theme presented in the beginning. Becker said he chose the piece to give students an opportunity to experience the music that they are studying. “The piece is being taught right now in one of the music history classes,” he said. “It is being performed as part of a collaborative
effort to play pieces that are being taught. The intention is also to get the college students more involved with the Conservatory, to get them over to the other side of the street.” Each of the 15 variations “is based on a character of one of Elgar’s friends,” said Becker. “When you listen to the piece, you can hear the different characters, perhaps agitated or anxious. One of the variations is of his wife, and the last is Elgar himself.” The variations are each referred to by the initials of the corresponding friend or loved one that inspired Elgar to write the music. For example, as will be seen in the program, the initials C.A.E. follow the first variation.
Jestin Pieper, described by Becker as a “remarkable young talent,” will be performing the first Prokofiev piano concerto. Pieper, a freshman who also plays organ, came across the piece last year while looking for concerti to play. He commented that Prokofiev was a particularly cynical composer. “He wrote the piece when he was 18, and it sort of makes fun of everything classical,” Pieper said. “The character of the piece is pompous and big-headed, but some parts have a great contrast to that in their lyricism.