december, 2021

05dec10:30 am11:30 amLiane Kee10:30 am - 11:30 am CST Hamel Music Center - Collins Recital Hall

Event Details

Free I No ticket required


Liane Kee piano recital


Program notes

Suite Bergamasque
I. Prélude (c. 1890)

While the Suite Bergamasque pays tribute to the suite, a collection of dances popularized in the Baroque period, its inspiration comes from the late-19th century poet Paul Verlaine, whose poem “Clair de Lune” was transformed into Debussy’s iconic piece of the same name. Verlaine’s poem invokes imagery of a serene landscape under the moonlight, populated by dancers and singers whose joyous music disguises their deep melancholy. If “Clair de Lune” is the moonlight, the Prélude is the festival, and given the Debussy and Debussy-inspired pieces to come, I felt that it would be a fitting introduction to the program.

Préludes, Book II
V. Bruyères (c. 1912)

The title “Bruyères” is often translated as “Heather,” after the alpine plant, but it might also refer to the town of Bruyères, a rural community in Eastern France. Bruyères is nestled in the Vosges Mountains, the perfect place for heather to thrive. Whether referring to the heather or the town, this piece paints a tranquil picture of this countryside, where the flute of some distant shepherd blends with the rustling of heather in the mountain breeze.

Clouds (c. 1940s)

Florence Price, a prolific African-American woman composer of the 20th century, is currently seeing a resurgence of interest in her music. While she wrote many works for solo piano, “Clouds” was never published during her lifetime–its existence was only discovered in 2009, when it was found in an abandoned house in St. Anne, IL. This fortunate discovery led to the preservation and publication of “Clouds,” and is the reason why I’m able to share this beautiful piece today. What emerges from “Clouds” is a patchwork of the many musical influences that inspired Price, coming together to form a uniquely American mosaic. The delicate opening melody recalls Debussy’s own Préludes, while the turbulent C section features the chromaticism favored by Price and her contemporaries. As you listen to the piece, picture the sky’s transformation throughout the piece, shifting from partly cloudy to dark and stormy.

Nocturne (Homage to John Field), Op. 33 (1958)

As the title suggests, “Nocturne” was inspired by John Field, a Romantic composer who popularized the nocturne as a song form in the 19th century. However, Field is not the only influence behind this piece. John Browning, who was the debut performer for many of Barber’s pieces, speculated: “I think Sam was paying tribute, not so much to John Field as to Chopin, who often spoke of his admiration for Field’s nocturnes. I doubt that Sam loved Field’s music the way he loved Chopin’s. So, in essence, Sam honors Chopin in this small but powerful work.” Unlike Chopin’s nocturnes, Barber’s creates an unsettling, dissonant atmosphere that initially sounds like Chopin’s music but quickly unravels as it spirals into a frenzy. Despite their differences, Barber’s “Nocturne” has an undeniable method to its madness that, like Field’s and Chopin’s, spins a story well suited for the night.

I. Un poco allegro (1942)
II. In slow blues tempo (1944)
III. Allegretto (1944)
IV. Allegro molto (1944)

Composed between 1922 and 1944, the aptly-named “Excursions” are a series of forays into American music, sampling from a variety of regional idioms. While none are given titles, each movement is inspired by its own genre of Americana, albeit with Barber’s various twists.

The first movement, composed in June 1942, is a tribute to the boogie-woogie, a spinoff of blues music that gained popularity in the 1920s. Boogie-woogie music, easily recognizable by its repeating bassline, is often accompanied by boogie-woogie dance, a high-energy routine that is paralleled in the athletic melody of Barber’s piece.

The second movement, composed in 1944, takes a jaunt to the slower side of blues, combining the ragtime syncopations of Piedmont blues with the passionate vocals of Delta blues. One can easily imagine this movement played by a soloist on slide guitar, accompanied by soulful singing spinning a tale of love and loss.

The third movement was the last of the four to be composed (in late 1944), and its inspiration comes from the folk music of the American West. Its tune is adapted from the folk song “The Streets of Laredo (The Cowboy’s Lament),” a campfire classic played by cowboys all over the West. Listen for “The Streets of Laredo” as it weaves its way through Barber’s piece (play melody). This mournful melody, syncopated crookedly over the steady bassline, makes me think of a cowboy singing on horseback, his voice falling in and out of sync with his horse’s hoofbeats.

The fourth and final movement, composed alongside the second movement in 1944, closes the Excursions with a celebratory flourish–and what could be a better celebratory song than a traditional hoedown? The movement, which begins sparsely but builds up to a joyous dance, conjures images of square dancers stomping to the music of fiddles and banjos, which grows fainter as if fading into the distance.



(Sunday) 10:30 am - 11:30 am CST


Hamel Music Center - Collins Recital Hall

740 University Avenue

Hamel Music Center - Collins Recital Hall740 University Avenue