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Meredith faculty pianist and UNCG DMA candidate Karen Allred gave her annual recital, which was at the same time a trial run for her graduate degree recital, on October 20 in the college's Carswell Hall. It was a well planned presentation and the artist provided interesting and appropriate written notes on a sheet accompanying the printed program, notes that were both informative and explanatory for the uninitiated as well as the connoisseur, simply written and concise.
She opened with two sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, the first in E, K.350, one of the more famous ones, and the second in C, K.513, which incorporates an Italian folk or shepherd tune. The same tune is incorporated in the work that followed, Hector Berlioz' "Rustic Serenade" from 1845. The three made for a nice set and were played uninterrupted even by applause because Allred adroitly controlled that aspect of the recital by maintaining her hands poised above the keyboard during the pauses between the works. She played a Steinway on loan from Hopper Piano, which had provided the instruments for the conference of the NC Music Teachers Association that was held on the campus the preceding weekend. It was a nice sounding instrument, and Allred used it suitably for the different styles of the works presented. Her touch was appropriately light for the Scarlatti and lushly Romantic for the Berlioz.
This set was followed by Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonata in A, Op. 101, dating from 1816, a three-decade step backwards in time, which formed the pivotal centerpiece of the evening. Allred's rendition was superb, demonstrating both solid technique and fine musicality. One of her colleagues, whom I have reviewed in these pages, expressed his admiration for her playing of Beethoven, and this was indeed an admirable performance. Applause was appropriately enthusiastic.
Allred followed this with a set of four works by Franz Liszt, the first two transcriptions or uses of themes of Hector Berlioz: "L'idée fixe," S.395, from 1833, an Andante amoroso, using a theme from the Symphonie fantastique ; and "Danse des sylphes," S.475, 1860-ish, with the melody from that movement of La Damnation de Faust. Berlioz is the composer on whom she has focused her musicological interest, although he wrote only three works for keyboard instruments. Indeed, the "Rustic Serenade" was written not for piano, but for "orgue-mélodium." Next up was "Au bord d'une source," S.160 (1855), from the Years of Pilgrimage , First Year , Switzerland . The Étude transcendante No. 10 in f, S.139, from 1851 brought the evening to a bravura close. As with the opening set, Allred controlled the audience's applause, thus establishing an ambiance, creating an enclosed Lisztian musical world that she took us into. This was most effective and served to set the quality of her playing apart from the ordinary as well.
An interesting tidbit from the program notes: the Liszt "Danse des sylphes" has been out of print since 1889. A librarian in the Library of Congress supplied Allred with a photocopy of the score. It is well worth hearing.
An acquaintance also in the audience, a music lover who has written some reviews in his day, commented to Allred in the receiving line that this was the best recital he had heard in Raleigh in 25 years. The audience was way too sparse for a performance of this quality, and there was an ineptly scheduled conflicting choral performance in the college's Jones Chapel that drew some of its music department listeners away.