Guest pianist mesmerizes with two act recital

Aleck Karis is a concert pianist who has performed a variety of classical pieces in his extensive career. On Wednesday, Jan. 8, he graced Lawrence’s Harper Hall for a recital, featuring several pieces by Claude Debussy and a sonata by Igor Stravinsky.

It was a rather extensive recital, with two acts totaling an hour and half. It was never for a moment dull, with Karis remaining an engaging performer, and his pieces would flow naturally and build off of each other.

Karis begins with a suite that Debussy wrote for his daughter, titled “Children’s Corner,” which consisted of six individual movements. The first signifies Debussy’s break from classical piano orthodoxy with his flights of fancy on the keyboard.

The second piece is taken from the Jumbo lullaby about the captive elephant, here titled “Jimbo’s Lullaby.” The piece centers on a single line that is expanded upon throughout its duration.

Next, we have “Serenade of the Doll,” which celebrates doll of differing nationalities. It is assumed that Debussy’s daughter, Chouchou, owned many of these.

“The Snow is Dancing” is an ode to the recently invented snow globe, which many believe Debussy bought for his daughter while at the Paris Universal Expositions in 1878 and 1889. It evokes a scene of swirling snow on a winter’s eve.

“The Little Shepherd” follows “Snow” with a meaningful evocation of solitude while keeping with Debussy’s pattern of building off of a single line.

“Golliwog’s cake walk” is inspired by the minstrel shows, cabarets and circuses that made up the popular entertainment of the late 19 century in Paris. This last movement is the most playful of them all.

We follow “Children’s Corner” with a sample of Debussy’s “Etudes: Book 1.” The first etude starts out rather dull and then comes together with Debussy’s flights of fancy (as they are called by his contemporaries), making the whole piece more subversive than we imagine.

The second etude is dedicated and serves as an homage to Chopin, one of Debussy’s favorite composers, and is played in thirds. The following etudes are played in fourths, sixths and octaves with the final etude being played with only eight fingers.

After an intermission, we returned to hear a sonata by Stravinsky, who was greatly influenced by Debussy. This sonata, and Stravinsky’s general playing and composing style, is considered neoclassical, though he was much more restrained than Debussy when it came to experimenting with the genre.

The recital ended with selections from Debussy’s Etudes: Book II. The first etude builds off of chromatic scale movement to beautiful effect. The second etude moves through ten different key signatures with tempos and moods that are constantly evolving and changing. Edgar Allen Poe’s “imp of the Perverse” inspired the third etude. It is much more quirky in character than most of what we have heard thus far. The fourth etude is very complex and moves to a rousing climax that defies expectation. The fifth etude is an example of the elegance of arpeggio notes that is seductive and ultimately sublime. The sixth and final etude takes on a clear three-part form that achieves a dizzying harmony by the time Karis reaches his climax.

Overall, the incredibly varied and talented Aleck Karis delivered a beautiful recital that really makes one feel as if their soul has been fed to satisfaction.

 

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