The six-month silence of classical-music concerts was broken Sept. 13 when Ian Hobson opened the 37th season of the Sinfonia da Camera with a 3 p.m. piano recital in a tent on the grounds of the Campaign Country Club.
Before an invited audience of about 30 people, who wore masks and were seated at appropriate distances, Hobson offered a program of piano music which, he explained, was of symphonic dimensions, thus somewhat making up for the lack of the Sinfonia da Camera ensemble.
The weather conditions could hardly have been better. With bright sunshine, temperature in the 70s and a light breeze blowing, one could relax and enjoy the views and the music. Hobson played on a grand piano loaned by Rick Murphy, who played old-time popular-song medleys before the concert began. Let me say that, with three sides of the tent open, the piano sound during Hobson’s recital lacked reverberation, thus clarifying melodic lines but cutting short some of the harmonic effects.
Hobson began his recital with the Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata, No. 23 in C Major, Op. 53, and stressed the dramatic outbursts of the first movement.
Beethoven’s subtle and inventive transition from the somber middle movement to the entry of the wondrous theme of the final movement was superbly handled by Hobson, who introduced the second selection, by Robert Schumann, with some brief notes.
The Suite “Faschingsschwank aus Wien,” Op. 26 (“Carnival Prank from Vienna”) had an opening movement with echoes of Viennese composers. One echo, an affectionate parody of a Schubert Waltz, I did recognize, but I did not catch the quotation of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.
The Viennese censors had forbidden the singing of that revolutionary song, and Schumann slipped it in to spite the authorities. I checked it later on Google, and yes, one could spot the outlines of the anthem, but in a different rhythm. Here, and in the later four movements, Hobson well captured Schumann’s fantastic style.
What followed was a series of pieces that highlighted Hobson’s virtuosity. In Maurice Ravel’s “Ondine” movement from his Suite “Gaspard of the Night,” which evoked the figure of a seductive water nymph, the music sparkled and shimmered in Hobson’s delicate treatment.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s piano version of the famous Scherzo from Felix Mendelssohn’s music for Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” was played with elfin charm.
The announced portion of the program ended with a grandiose reading of Frederic Chopin’s famous “Heroic” Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53.
Hobson then introduced his former pupil, Samir Golescu, who has been assisting Hobson in the production of the first volume of the piano music of the Polish/Jewish composer Maurice Mozskowski (1854-1925). As encore, Golescu joined Hobson in a delightful playing of two Spanish Dances for piano four-hands by Mozskowski.
The first and longest of the dances was indubitably Spanish from its opening notes. For the second, shorter dance, Hobson switched places at the keyboard with Golescu. Their playing evoked hefty applause, as had Hobson’s earlier playing throughout the afternoon.
In Hobson’s commentary, he mentioned plans for a series of chamber-music concerts at the Allerton Music Barn on the weekend of Oct. 2-4. A number of famous chamber-music pieces will be performed, and Golescu will take part, playing with Hobson Schubert’s masterpiece for piano, four-hands, his “Fantasia in F Minor,” D. 940.
Hobson also said that the young lady who had turned the pages of Hobson’s scores, Muen Wei, will be playing the piano in the October concerts as well.
John Frayne hosts ‘Classics of the Phonograph’ on Saturdays at WILL-FM and, in retirement, teaches at the UI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.