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Richard Ruggero of Ruggero Piano provides an opportunity on the fourth Friday of most months for area musicians, professional and amateur, and talented students, to showcase their talents in the shop's performance space, Bösendorfer Hall. The piano available is the hall's namesake 9'6" Imperial Grand, a treat for both the performers and the audience.
On September 26, the lineup opened with program organizer Eric Hale, baritone, singing "I'm Sick of Playing their songs" from Forbidden Broadway, a parody with lyrics by Gerard Alessandrini of Marvin Hamlish and Carole Bayer Sager's "They're playing our song." He was accompanied by (or should I say his accomplice was?) Timothy Owens, a student of Meredith's James Clyburn.
Young pianist (age 14) Audrey Low, a student of John Ruggero, brother of the shop's owner, took over the keyboard next, presenting four selections, all from memory. The first was the opening movement (Maestoso-Allegro con brio) of Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 111. She followed with the third movement (Presto) of J. S. Bach's "Italian Concerto." Next Low played in entirety Prokofiev's single movement Sonata No. 3, Op. 28, and concluded with Chopin's "Winter Wind" Etude, Op. 25/11. This is an impressive offering for someone her age, and the performance was equally impressive; if you had closed your eyes you would never have guessed it was not an adult striking the keys. Her interpretations were appropriately varied for the different musical styles and periods, and they had all the appropriate nuances for their various internal sections. Low is very serious in her approach and accomplished in her results.
Low was followed by soprano Alana Sealy, a high school junior and student of James Longmire, here accompanied by Sue Timmons, for an offering of two very different works. She began with Gian Carlo Menotti's "What a curse for a woman is a timid man" from The Old Maid and the Thief, in which she displayed a maturity in both singing and expression far beyond her years. She followed with Mozart's much more familiar "Alleluia," in which she suffered from comparison with memories of frequently heard recordings by the big name sopranos, alas.
Raleigh MD Frank Camp, who returned to the piano in retirement, studying with Meredith's Margaret Evans, took the stage next to offer Scott Joplin's "Pineapple Rag" and Skryabin's Nocturne in D-flat for the left hand alone, Op. 9/2. His explanation for undertaking the latter was that he had undergone surgery on his right hand several months ago, and Evans had insisted that he not waste or lose the time during recovery when he could not use it. He has only been able to use it again for the past few weeks and was brave to attempt the Joplin, which went well until it became too much for him fairly close to its end. The Skryabin, into which he graciously segued after an apology and the explanation, was truly exquisite.
Bringing the evening to a close were area oboist and composer Bo Newsome and pianist Nancy Nelson playing Henri Dutilleux' Sonata for oboe and piano dating from the mid-1940s, one of the last works in what the composer referred to as his "practice" period before he published his Op. 1, as Newsome explained. The three movements of this rarely programmed work are marked Aria, Scherzo, and Assez lent, the last being the lightest and sounding somewhat like a French folk melody. The piece and the performance were delightful.
We have touched here on another of Ruggero's stated goals for the series: to offer an opportunity for area professional musicians to present works that they like but which, for whatever reason, never make it into the programs of other area series. The latest offering in this series, which began last June, was a perfect balance of the various goals, and while not all presentations were absolutely flawless, it was a very enjoyable evening. A printed program giving complete first names for composers rather than initials only would be preferable, even if the setting, presentation, and ambiance are intentionally informal. The performance was followed by a small reception to give the listeners an opportunity to socialize with each other and with the musicians. There is one more scheduled for this calendar year on October 24 (artists and program t.b.a.), and then there will be a break for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.