Leaving a Legacy: Concert Celebrates Christopher Walter’s Decades of Teaching

Siblings Sasha Scolnik-Brower ’13 and Sophie Scolnik-Brower ’08 struck the last note of “Cello Sonata” by Claude Debussy in perfect unison, performing at a concert dedicated to Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music.

This past Saturday evening, six students, alumni and former faculty performed at a piano dedication concert for Walter in the Timken Room of Graves Hall. Walter has been at Andover for 39 years and will be retiring in the spring. During his time at Andover, Walter has been the Chair in Music and the Director of Performance. He has also directed the Academy Chorus and The Fidelio Society. In addition to organizing the concert, the Music Department also dedicated a piano to Walter.

“The first I knew of [the concert] was [when] I read about it when somebody sent me the concert calendar, so it was a total surprise,” said Walter. “I knew at the end of last year that they had this idea that they were going to dedicate this piano to me, which was, of course, very touching, but that was all I knew. I didn’t know there was going to be a concert.”

Seho Young ’15 returned to Andover to perform “Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83” by Sergei Prokofiev. The sonata began with choppy chords and rapidly ascending melodies. At times, Young almost launched himself from the piano bench, adding energy and intensity to the piece. The piece featured a smooth, fluid melody in the middle before quickly returning to the energetic mood of the beginning of the piece.

“I was listening to one of my friends play [‘Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83’], and he said, ‘This is definitely the piece you have to play.’ I was really intrigued by that fact that it’s complicated, and it sounds like you’re improvising, almost,” said Young.

In contrast with the piano sonata, “Sonetto 104 del Petrarca” by Franz Liszt, played by John Gibson ’15, had a smoother melody. Gibson began his performance with a reading of a poem, whose title translates to “I find no peace.” Originally, “Sonetto 104 del Petrarca” was written with a vocal part based on the poem. In order to illustrate the conflict within the poem’s narrator, the piece alternates between grand melodies and softer tunes.
“Liszt wrote [‘Sonetto 104 del Petrarca’] when he was on a pilgrimage to Italy, and he had earlier written it as a piece for tenor and piano, and so in that version, of course, the tenor was singing the poem, and then he rewrote it for piano,” said Gibson. “I think the piano version is a lot better, but unfortunately, we miss out on the text, so I really wanted to incorporate that element into the performance by reading the poem before I played the piece.”

Sergio De Iudicibus ’16 performed Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in D Major, Op. 23, No. 4.” The prelude began with a simple, flowing melody. Featuring variations of this initial melody throughout the song, the piece maintained a slow rhythm with sections of low trills and loud, powerful notes. The piece then finished on a soft, resolved chord.

“Rachmaninoff is always a favorite composer of mine, but he’s usually known for his very bombastic pieces, and this is the one exception,” said De Iudicibus. “It’s very lyrical, it’s very slow, and I know that Mr. Walter prefers more slow and meaningful pieces. I think it’s a form to honor the man that did so much for every music student who passed through here. I know he was an enormous mentor for me and for other people. In addition to being an outstanding teacher, he’s an outstanding person, very supportive.”