Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was always a charmer, and he charmed again in a concert that the Music Department hosted last Wednesday evening in Barnes Hall. The performer of the night was Mike Lee, grad, a master of the fortepiano, who played alongside Annalise Smith, grad, and Prof. Roger Moseley, music.
The Music Department holds concerts in Barnes Hall multiple nights every week, and the theater is a respectable space, if not acoustically ideal. There was a satisfactory turnout of about 70 people, many of whom were from outside Cornell. The concert was scheduled for 8 p.m. and started a few minutes after; when Mike Lee arrived about 10 minutes before the scheduled start, someone whispered to him, “You made it!”
The concert opened with soprano Annalise Smith, who was accompanied by Lee in her four art songs. She strode in with cheer that lit up the stage, but when the music at last started, her singing brought less joy. By all means, it was a pleasant voice, but by no means outstanding. Her higher notes and coloratura passages had the potential to shimmer, but her lack of breath support hindered her from fully engaging in all the notes. At this point, one might call her a lyric soprano, but I would dare to call her a light lyric in training. Her tone was bright and clear, but did not shine — all potential but no power, I would say. Her voice promises to delight and fully develop in the future, but in order for that to happen, she has to harness the inner sweetness of her sound. Her German diction, on the other hand, was quite nearly impeccable, so brava for an earnest performance.
Lee, quite conversely, was able to impress with his versatility, sensitivity and panache. His solo piece, “Piano Sonata in F Major,” had three movements, and by the beginning of the second, I was already convinced that he was an excellent pianist, indeed. His ending for the second piece was exquisite, as he drew out the last chord and delicately emphasized each note to achieve resolution. His transition into the third and final movement was no less excellent. He proved that his fingers were dexterous and agile throughout the piece, and occasionally, his arms too, as he swung them with just the right amount of flamboyance.
The final piece was a sonata for two fortepianos, played by Lee and Prof. Moseley. The duet was in D major and had three movements. My expectation for the two pianists was they would deliver an immaculate performance, and they delivered nothing less. Although the first movement, Allegro con spirito, had no climax, it was still played with spirit. The strong beginning melted into a nuanced performance throughout the sonata. The two faced the audience, so that the audience could not see their hands. At many points, it was confusing from which piano the sounds were coming and the theater was filled with the sound of notes on notes on notes. Personally, the piece was a little too dandy for me, and the abundance of scales throughout the piece were redundant, but there is no denying the two fortepianists played gracefully. The beginnings and endings of the movements were just as fine as the actual playing; Lee and Moseley would look at each other, look at the music, look at their hands and, finally, play in perfect synchronization. Lee added in his personal flair during his page turns, when he would gently lift the pages, as if the pages themselves were a fundamental feature of the music. One of my favorite parts was when the two performers would turn the pages in sync. At the end, there was a hearty round of applause, and I add to the prolonged applause by saying “Bravi tutti.”