Commonwealth Chorale presents “Triumph and Homecoming”, part of Newton’s Festival of the Arts, Saturday, May 13, 2017 8 pm, at Second Church in Newton, 60 Highland Street, West Newton.
Music Director David Carrier has chosen four composers, four unique styles that bring drama, nostalgia and simple joy to the concert’s theme: Schubert’s Mirjams Siegesgesang, with acclaimed soprano Dana Lynne Varga in the title role; Brahms’ Drei Quartette, about longing for homeland and loves lost; Grainger’s Brig Fair from British Folk-Song Settings; and Copland’s minstrel and Shaker themes from Old American Songs.
This is a concert of contrasts. It’s a showcase for the conductor, seventy-nine singers, and three soloists. For the man at the piano, whose superb artistry will turn that instrument into an “orchestra”, it’s a tour de force. We are talking about Newton resident, Mark Feldhusen, Commonwealth Chorale’s rehearsal and concert pianist.
In a recent interview Feldhusen spoke about his love and need for music that most certainly was inherited from a grandmother he refers to as a “social pianist” entertaining him with her “spidery” fingers that seemed to float across the keys. At four, told he was too young for lessons, Feldhusen taught himself to play the piano. He did this by copying his older brother. It was in those early years that he discovered he had the gift for sight-reading and the pleasure of this extraordinary ability is still fresh today. He looks at music and does not question his ability to play it on the spot.
But sight-reading is just the beginning Feldhusen will tell you. The real work happens when he digs in and finds the best fingering and articulation to present the music as closely as possible to the composer’s intent, and for this concert, the conductor’s vision.
On Saturday, May 13, Feldhusen will sit down at the piano knowing his approach and nuances for each piece. Schubert will need to be strong and theatrical. With Brahms, Feldhusen is more specific. In the introduction to the second quartet, Der Abend, he won’t use the foot pedal to sustain the long notes of the right hand because that would override the staccato effect in the left hand and spoil the illusion of suspense. Creative, thoughtful preparation, that’s what Feldhusen brings to the job. But he wouldn’t call it a job; it’s too much fun to be a job.