PianoFest 2013: opening night performers reflect on their performances

PianoFest 2013: opening night performers reflect on their performances
By Jenn Tyborski
jennonthetorch@gmail.com

Six student pianists opened the Chicago College of Performing Arts’ fifth annual PianoFest last Tuesday. The festival is a weeklong event, featuring performances from top faculty pianists from Roosevelt University’s own CCPA.
Students were selected to perform for the opening-night recital through a competition held at the end of September. The auditions were judged by an outside panel of pianist experts.
Performers Tuesday night included Tong Liu and Stephen Uhl.
The pieces performed were hand selected by each student, featuring composers like Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn.
Liu, a CCPA senior, performed “Prelude and Fugue in A-flat Major, WTC I” by Bach for the recital. The piece comes from Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” a collection of solo keyboard music.
After the recital, Liu shared his thoughts on the performance.
“It was a fabulous program set that included all kinds of music, including Baroque, Classical, Romantic and contemporary repertoire,” he said.
Liu began playing piano when he was eight years old and has been playing ever since.
“When I was 13, I decided to go to music middle school because I enjoyed playing the piano,” Liu said. “I especially liked playing in front of people at that [time].”
Preparing for the performance wasn’t as strenuous for Liu as some may think. Liu’s methods included listening to the recording often and meditating every night before bed.
Despite his preparation, Liu still gets nervous on stage. He expressed that the complexity of Bach’s piece contributed to these nerves before walking on stage.
“Mostly because of the repertoire that I played,” Liu said. “Bach’s music is always hard to memorize because it is counterpoint, so many voices and layers are together mixed up, so it is easy to make a mistake.”
Also performing was Uhl, first year Master of Music student in Piano Performance. Like Liu, Uhl was eight years old when he began to play piano.
“I initially began playing at my mother’s suggestion,” Uhl said. “I continued playing because I came across a recording of Alfred Brendel playing Liszt. Thereafter, I thought that if I worked hard enough, I might be able to do that.”
Uhl performed “Four Intermezzi, Op. 116” by Brahms from the “Seven Fantasias,” and expressed his thoughts on his and his collages’ performance.
“Very seldom does everything go exactly according to plan, but I felt it was a decent performance,” he said. “All of my colleagues play exceptionally well in general and did so on tour, but I felt that last night people were particularly on their game. I was lucky enough to ride the wave of their awesomeness.”
Like Liu, Uhl said he also gets nervous on stage.
“I was prepared for the wave of nerves,” he said. “My usual coping mechanism for nerves is to accept them as part of the performance process. It means that one cares about the performance.”
Uhl said he chose the Brahms piece because of a connection he felt to the emotion behind it.
Before he stepped foot on stage, Uhl didn’t think about the audience, his nerves or anything, actually.
“Before and during the performance, there weren’t really any thoughts running through my head,” Uhl said. “I find that performing is more fulfilling if one does not think. One simply lets the body do what it has been trained to do. After the show, I felt proud of everyone who performed.”

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