Faculty hosts recital to celebrate classics

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The University of Dallas’ director of the music department, Kristin Van Cleve, is also the principal second violinist at the Dallas Opera Orchestra. -Photo by Elizabeth Kerin

On Monday night, Sept. 19, music faculty members Brian Bentley, Jim Higgins and Kristin Van Cleve performed in a recital entitled, “The Musical Inspiration of Song and Dance.”

The recital consisted of 13 pieces from the 1600s to the 1900s, spanning a variety of musical inspirations such as ballet, opera and tango.

In the intimate setting of the performance room in upstairs Haggar, the recital offered the opportunity to enjoy the piano, cello and violin up close.

Higgins, the cellist, ensured that the audience was introduced to each composer and composition before a piece was played, allowing even novices of music to appreciate the background and meaning of every piece.

After the audience was seated, Higgins began the performance by introducing the first composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully — a composer during the era of French King Louis XIV.

After the courtly suite of Lully, the audience enjoyed an energetic Rome-inspired piece by Joseph Haydn, followed by a Frédéric Chopin waltz, a “Song Without Words” by Felix Mendelssohn and two Slavonic Dances by Antonín Dvořák.

After these pieces, a special treat chosen by Higgins was the impressionistic piece “Nuit d’Etoiles” by Claude Debussy.

While the song was originally composed for a soprano voice, Higgins decided to have the music played by the piano trio for the performance.

He was enthusiastic about the new arrangement.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time this has been performed by a piano trio,” Higgins said.

Music pieces from more recent times followed.

A beautifully optimistic “Marietta’s Song” by Erich Korngold preceded a lively “Hoe-Down” by Aaron Copland, leaving the audience in many pleased smiles.

To conclude the recital, Higgins introduced the crowd-pleaser “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla.

Previous attendees of faculty concerts may remember that this piece was played before.

This time, however, the audience was invited to analyze the many layers of the piece.

First Bentley demonstrated the rhythm and the layered chord progression on piano, then Van Cleve played the first melody on violin and finally Higgins played the complementary melody on the cello and began the performance of “Libertango.”

After the last note faded into the air, the performers received an exuberant applause and a standing ovation.

In the wake of a declining appreciation of traditional and classical music, the performers nonetheless managed to seize the attention of the listeners and intrigue their interest for an entire hour.

Perhaps this attraction lay in the connection the current culture has with songs and dance, or perhaps the attraction lay in the beauty of being close to the musicians themselves.

It is most likely the indomitable enthusiasm of the performing faculty that made the recital such a success.

Such a positive response should hopefully result in larger audiences for future faculty performances.

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