By Dorothy Andries
Sometimes a concert is so graceful and so unusual that it must be mentioned. Such was the program “Music/Words” the evening of Saturday May 2 in the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.
Pianist Inna Faliks performed three works by Beethoven, interspersed by three sets of poems by German poets Goethe and Schiller, read by Peter van de Graaff. Faliks has a national career and was featured in MIC’s fourth annual Distinguished Alumni Concert because at one point she studied with the late Emilio del Rosario, one of the community music school’s outstanding teachers.
Van de Graaff is a bass-baritone, who sings with numerous area groups and has performed internationally. He is also a long-time announcer on radio station WFMT, and it was for his speaking voice that he was engaged for this enterprise.
The evening opened with three poems by Goethe. There’s nothing like a good radio voice and van de Graaff has one of the best. He presented the poems with clarity and precision and, when appropriate, decidedly cheerful animation.
Who can object to an all-Beethoven program? Faliks eagerly embraced the challenge of that monumental composer. She opened with his Polonaise in C, which begins with crashing chords, but includes delicate moments. She handled everything deftly, displaying speed and her formidable technique throughout.
Her second number was Beethoven’s Fantasia, Op. 77, a free flowing fire-and-ice composition. It seemed an ideal match with her temperament.
Van de Graaff demonstrated his dramatic abilities in the poems by Schiller. Especially memorable was “The Breeze,” in which his voice dropped to a whisper as the words tell of sleep. The well-chosen finale was “Elysium,” which bespoke eternal rest and joy.
Faliks concluded the night with Sonata No. 32, giving the work a nimble, graceful performance, showing off her dexterity, as well as her dynamic reach.
She is associate professor of piano at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. The Music/Words, now in its sixth season in New York City, is her own creation. The MIC concert was so carefully crafted and delightfully done that it resembled a salon experience.
This imaginative event lasted just over an hour, but was as satisfying, actually even more so, than a program twice its length.
More programs of the Music Institute of Chicago at musicinst.org.