Professors enlighten in SCC piano recital

  • By Dale Burrows For the Enterprise
  • Thursday, January 31, 2008 5:29pm

Who says those who can’t, teach? Not those of us at the piano recital last Sunday at Shoreline Community College. The Music Department’s featured piano professors, Jensina Byington and Charles Enlow, drew standing ovations.

Rightly so.

Think of Mozart’s ever-erupting melodies and fragments of melodies and Brahms’ tortured obsession with motif. Think of the recital’s last half devoted to Rachmaninov’s, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant shifts in mood swing. There is a reason why some call works of his “The Rack.” Playing one is like being stretched out on one. It takes all you got.

Byington and Enlow set themselves up for that kind of challenge. They performed it, and performed it with style as well as explanations beforehand of what to listen for. Not bad for college professors with course caseloads and private lessons to keep up, don’t you think?

Rachmaninov’s Valse from Six Pieces for Four Hands, Opus 11, that the two played together to open the program, came off a little stiff and without quite all the bounce they were shooting for.

Byington picked up the pace with a noticeably spirited Allegretto from Mozart’s 10th Sonata. A little self-consciousness and hints of insecurity sneaked in here and there early on, in the major and minor chords in the Moderato and Cantabile.

But that Allegretto, wow! Byington forgot herself and took off, just her and Mozart and that swim of marvelous melodies that, down through the centuries, has come to fire up songwriters and composers across the boards, from rock and pop to classical.

Byington also got Brahms out in the open from his Four Piano Pieces, Opus 119, the Intermezzos in B and E minor and the one in C Major; and then took flight through the rhapsody in E-flat Major.

Brahms’ music can touch the heavens. But to get to it, you have to get through a left-brain the size of a chief accountant’s. The guy’s intellectuality snoops through details and more details. Byington soared.

I suspect Enlow and Rachmaninov were cut from the same cloth. The two got along famously through the second Sonata in B-flat minor, Opus 36. Both were decisive, commanding and authoritative; introspective, moody beyond belief; and manic to maddening intensity at times.

Talk about attention to accuracy. Rachmaninov killed his original of the Sonata by overworking it to death years later. Understanding that, Enlow played the original with transcription by Earl Wild. Rather than risk making a mistake, Enlow played with the sheet music before him rather than commit it to memory. The result was a trip through one of the 20th century’s most memorable examples of romanticism at its very best.

Offsetting the afternoon’s seriousness, Byington and Enlow concluded with a duet for piano that most of us have heard or danced to although we may not all know it by name, Rachmaninov’s Polka Italienne. The composer had to be in the most convivial of spirits when he wrote it. Byington and Enlow certainly left the rest of us that way.

This was the second in a series of piano recitals SCC’s Music Department is putting on to benefit their scholarship program for deserving students of piano. Is it worth supporting? Attend a recital. You’ll get closer in touch with things.

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