Piano Virtuoso Gives Steinway a Good Workout
“Her technical skills were impressive. Everything about her performance felt deeply personal, and her virtuosity was put to good service.”
“One’s eyes could see that Walters was playing from the heart, but one’s ears knew it best – this was no mere exhibition of skills: this was music, beautiful music.”
“Expressive and musical, her playing subtle and nuanced, the music breathed.”
Acclaimed classical piano virtuoso Teresa Walters presented her solo program to an appreciative Schuler Theater audience last Thursday night, Oct. 2, in the first performance of this year’s Arts & Humanities Council’s six show performing arts series.
The longtime New York City resident was raised on a farm in the American Midwest, began studying piano and a world map at age four, and has now given concerts tours throughout the world.
Earlier this year, the New York Times wrote, “Teresa Walters has performed on six continents and has earned the highest praise, deserving to be in the top tier of piano soloists in the world. Aptly nicknamed “The International First Lady of Piano,’ and overwhelmingly popular with audiences, this virtuoso discusses the music in her engaging manner before she performs.”
She used a microphone standing ten feet from the piano on the Shuler Theater stage to introduce each composer and composition to her audience. She has actually registered a trademark for these “Keynote Comments,” and they were very helpful for the audience in appreciating each piece she performed.
The first half – featuring works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Clara and Robert Schumann- gave the Shuler’s beautiful Steinway grand piano a robust workout. Her technical skills were impressive. The 44 minute first half was followed by an intermission. She returned in a long, slinky red gown that was gorgeous against the Shuler’s painted backdrop of an ornate Italian villa. She was animated and conversational, saying of the costume change, “Now you know how I spent intermission. How did you spend yours?”
The second half approached the sublime. Walters came to life, even more expressive and musical, her playing subtle and nuanced. The music breathed.
She limited herself to two extended pieces after intermission. The first was a Franz Liszt adaptation of a sonnet by Petrarch, the master poet of the Italian Renaissance. One’s eyes could see that Walters was playing from the heart, but one’s ears knew it best – this was no longer an exhibition of skills: this was music, beautiful music.
She closed with “An American Kaleidoscope” her arrangement of themes from George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” woven with elements of two early American compositions that included motifs from “The Star-Spangled Banner” from Gottschalk’s Union Paraphrase and “My Country “Tis of Thee.” Rather than today’s too-familiar bombastic patriotism, here was Americana that ran through blood veins to provoke a profound love of country. It was as Gershwin described it, “a kaleidoscope vision of America”, enhanced by subtly patriotic musical motifs added by Walters. Everything about her performance felt deeply personal, and her virtuosity was put to good service.
“An American Kaleidoscope” lasted a glorious 20 minutes and won Walters an encore, for which she chose another composition based on early American folk music. “Songs of Jubilee,” arranged for solo piano by Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, explored themes of finding one’s promised land, the safe sanctity of home and homeland. The slow, melodic piece continued the depth of feeling and expressiveness that Walters brought to her program and earned her a standing ovation from the Shuler Theater audience.