Pianist Hsiang Tu knows how to play in front of an audience, especially when it comes to, as he describes, 50 third-year students. Professor Tu, who is currently on the faculty at Virginia Tech and previously taught at Utah Valley University and Snow College, was inspired to organize a recital of short piano works based on animal themes, which turned out to be a successful venture. This includes producing a YouTube video in conjunction with the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation with interviews, in both English and Chineseand performances of music for The Ivory Menagerie. In 2020, his first solo album, Bestiary on ivorywas released by Bridge Records to widespread acclaim.
You will perform the latest edition of The Ivory Menagerie to close Bachauer’s marvelous 2021-22 concert series on Friday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Jeanné Wagner Theater at the Rose Wagner Center for Performing Arts.
The concert is definitely an event for all members of the family, featuring short pieces by famous composers as well as contemporary musicians. This includes a three-piece set, The threatened species by Trent Hanna, a composer on the faculty of Snow College in Utah. The 2015 suite represents the vaquita, the pangolin and the Amur leopard.
Tu, a former winner of the Juilliard School Concerto Competition and an internationally renowned teacher and performer, explains in an interview with The Utah Review how he gathered suggestions from his colleagues. There were pleasant surprises as he curated and updated menagerie-inspired works. “For example, I learned that Seymour Bernstein had been inspired to write Fly from Bela Bartok Excerpt from a fly’s diary,” he adds. Both pieces will be performed at Friday’s concert.
You say he likes to “think outside the box” when programming this assortment of characters. There are no printed program notes. He groups the pieces in terms of similar animal species and speaks briefly during the concert not only about music but also about animals. “I’m going to talk about endangered species and why it’s important to have conservation efforts or how flies vomit saliva on their food to digest it,” he says. “There is a clear narrative about the fly in Bartók’s play, for example. This helps children grasp what is happening during the music. During the interpretation of William Bolcom tabby cat walkduring the silences of the music, you imitate the movements of a cat which yawns, stretches and falls asleep.
The program is truly diverse in style and the period in which a specific piece was composed, ranging from the 18th century to the present day. Most eras are represented except for the classical period, which might seem odd to some, even though there were character pieces that composers wrote during this era. There are rigorous and technically demanding works that would likely be part of the repertoire of any international pianist, regardless of programmatic themes, such as Liszt Saint Francis of Assisi. preaching to the birds (Saint Francis of Assisi, The Sermon to the Birds), by Ravel mothsby Schumann Vogel as Prophet (bird as prophet) and the Lisztian transcription of Schumann Frühlingsnacht (Spring Night).
It opens with a trio of short pieces from the French Baroque period — on the cuckoo, warblers and birds in general, respectively, by Louis-Claude Daquin, François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau. The most famous pieces like that of Camille Saint-Saëns The Swan (The Swan) and Rimsky-Korsakov The Flight of the Bumblebee in an arrangement by Rachmaninoff are joined by lesser-known works like Amy Beach Hermit Thrush at Eve and by Enrique Granados Quejas ó la Maja y el Ruiseñor (Lamentations, or The Maiden and the Nightingale).
There are several pieces by Bolcom, a 20th century composer, including Tabby cat walk; Butterflies, hummingbirds; California porcupine rag and The Serpent’s Kisswhich comes from a set of four ragtime fantasies in music by the composer The Garden of Eden after. There are also delicious confectioneries like that of Debussy Goldfish (Goldfish) and O Gatinho de papelão (Little cardboard cat) by Hector Villa-Lobos.
For tickets and more information, see the Bachauer website.