The musical works of classical masterminds Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn and Frédéric Chopin filled Cochran Chapel Sunday afternoon as John Gibson ’15 performed in a piano concert.
The concert began with “Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Minor” by Bach. With a slow, simple melody and underlying chords, the piece gradually added more and more layers as it progressed. It centered around two complementary melodic voices, which created a dynamic musical conversation in which the two voices vied for the audience’s attention.
“The Bach [piece] is a very complex fugue, which makes it more challenging, but also much more rewarding, because his mastery of the interchanging voices and everything is just exceptional,” said Gibson.
Gibson then performed two movements of Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata in E Minor.” The first movement, whose title roughly translates to “with vitality, feeling and expression” began with fast, light notes, before slowing down to focus on contrasting low chords. The second movement, also fast, had a more playful mood.
Following the brief intermission, Gibson performed “Piano Sonata in E-flat Major” by Haydn.
The sonata began with a series of fast trills and scales. Despite being in a minor key, this portion had an energetic and lively mood. The piece then slowed down to a more elegant and minor tone, but retained some of the beginning’s quick trills.
“The middle movement [of the Haydn] is actually the biggest movement [of the] sonata.… I mean that in a couple of different ways. It is the longest of the three movements in terms of time (making up about half of the sonata’s full length), but it is also the most substantial. It is a very atmospheric movement that explores a wide range of colors. This movement shows signs of Haydn’s maturity in that he is more willing to explore and develop the variety of sound than in many of his earlier works,” said Gibson in an email to The Phillipian.
Gibson concluded the concert with “Ballade in F Minor” by Chopin. Using a wide range of volumes to emphasize a more dramatic or soothing portion of the piece, Gibson created a narrative. In addition, he used “ritardando,” or gradual decreases in speed, to emphasize the end of a phrase.
“It’s pretty clear [Gibson’s] been thinking about these pieces for a really long time and that he really has synthesized both the emotional and the intellectual parts of these really terrific pieces,” said Bryan McGuiggin ’15, a member of the audience.
Gibson said, “I had been working longer on the Chopin [piece] than any of the other pieces, and that piece, I’ve known it for years, and it’s very close to my heart.”
Gibson has been playing the piano for years but didn’t begin taking formal lessons until the eighth grade. For him, the versatility of the piano’s repertoire was its major draw.
“Although almost all instruments have some solo music, the piano repertoire is especially rich in this regard. Although collaboration with other musicians, whether through chamber music or concerti, it a necessary part of a musician’s development, there is something very special about giving a recital without anyone else on the stage,” said Gibson in an email to The Phillipian.