John Covelli (piano) – “With Strings Attached”
Mother’s Day 2009 was very special for a full house in attendance on May 10th, when pianist John Covelli presented a piano recital with two of his friends, string players—a guitarist and a violinist—in a diversified program leaving the audience wanting for more as they usually do whenever Covelli plays.
This recital was one of a series presented at Johnson City, New York’s new Schorr Family Firehouse Stage. Covelli and friends played a program illustrating his enormous pianistic prowess. The program began with Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op.57, “Appassionata” (1804-05), a signature work for Mr. Covelli. Considered one of Beethoven’s three masterwork sonatas from the composer’s middle period, .the first movement offers disquieting changes in dynamics in tone, a stark contrast to the middle movement’s set of variations. The concluding movement, one in perpetual motion, emulates the power and majesty of the first movement. The audience rose to give Mr. Covelli a standing ovation at the conclusion.
The recital continued with guitarist William Yelverton, a professional guitarist and teacher (Middle Tennessee State University-Murfreesboro), who performed two solo pieces, first a traditional Faruca Fandago after which he performed Leo Brouwer’s (b. 1939) Canciones de Cuna. Violinist Barbara Lundy joined Mr. Yelverton in one of Astor Pizzolla’s (1921-92) infectious tango pieces, Nightclub (1960), offering an interesting and uplifting interplay between violin and guitar.
Covelli returned to the stage to close the first half with Latin American composer Alberto Ginastera’s three-piece suite entitled Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2 (1937), a suite of three finger-breaking dances calling for almost inhuman demands on the pianist … and the piano! The first piece, “Dance of the Old Herdsman,” was unusual in that the left hand plays the black notes while the right hand plays the white notes. Ginastera’s genius melds the two hands thus providing a framework for the melody by mixing texture and rhythm. The second piece, “Dance of the Beautiful Maiden,” is comprised of two sections, the first employing chromatic inflections while, in the second, intervals of fourths and fifths offer a feeling of expansiveness. The sound reflects the Argentinian pampas (grasslands). The third piece, “Dance of the Arrogant Cowboy,” is a furiously violent dance with a conclusion marked ffff, bringing the dance to its end with an unforgettable glissando. Covelli captured his audience, again to a standing ovation.
Mr. Covelli opened the second half of the program with the poetic music of Frédéric Chopin and the Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1 (1841), the first of two Nocturnes comprising the Op. 48. Here, Covelli dips into his deepest emotional reserves. No less an authority than nineteenth century composer-pianist-teacher Theodor Kullak (1818-1882) remarked: “the design and poetic contents of this nocturne make it the most important ones Chopin created; the chief subject is a masterly expression of a great powerful grief.” Covelli conveyed this deep expression with conviction to a silently entranced audience.
Guitarist William Yelverton joined Mr. Covelli to play Joachim Rodrigo’s (1901-99) Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (“Fantasy for a Gentleman”), originally composed for guitar and orchestra in 1954. Rodrigo’s work of four sections derive from six dances by Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710) from the latter’s three-volume work entitled Musical Instruction on the Spanish Guitar, a bible for guitarists. Rodrigo expanded the six dances of Sanz thus creating his own four-movement work, commissioned by famed guitarist Andrés Segovia. The mood of the entire piece worked well with guitar and piano. The fourth section, “Canario,” originates as a folksong from the Canary Islands, as brought forward by Gaspar Sanz. In paying homage to these islands, Rodrigo emulates a bird call near the end of the movement. William Yelverton, a Binghamton, New York native, was warmly received for his contribution to this recital and offered an encore in appreciation.
John Covelli closed this recital with Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in D-flat Major, one of the most pianistically demanding of Liszt’s nineteen Hungarian Rhapsodies. Comprised of three sections, the first part is an introduction (Tempo Giusto), where the left hand of the pianist plays a steady bass line made up of the chords in the D-flat major scale. Due to the overlapping of the melody over the bars, the piece does not sound as though if it is in a 2/4 rhythm because Liszt did not start the first chord of the piece as an upbeat, which is what many composers might have done to relate to the actual time signature of the piece. The melody of the first part is repetitive, ending with a long cadenza, using mostly the black keys. The second part (Presto) is in C-sharp major and has a lively rhythm, leading to the second movement, Lassan. Played slowly, the Lassan emulates an improvised rhythm finishing with a large cadenza at the end, leading to the third section, Friska, where the pianist must move in fast octaves. The bass line stays the same, with rhythms difficult to play with precision at high speed, however for Mr. Covelli, whose command of keyboard technique is second nature, a flawless performance again raised the audience to their feet in admiration of this great artist. •
Lance G. Hill
______________________________________________________When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]