By Michael Pearl
For the first time ever, Pro Musica presents a summer season of live classical music so you can once again listen to world-class performers in person after the long interruption caused by the worst of the pandemic. These concerts will be inside our home venue of St. Paul’s church with no more than 50 percent capacity, socially distanced seating, and standard COVID hygiene protocols in place. The first concert was held on Saturday, July 24, at 5pm, with the ever popular pianist Richard Dowling playing an all-classical program. Richard has played many concerts for us over more than a decade and is a favorite of our audiences. He is not only a renowned classical pianist, but also one of the foremost interpreters of popular American music of the 1920s and 1930s—ragtime. He was the first person ever to play the complete piano works of Scott Joplin in public in sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, which he repeated for us here in San Miguel.
July’s concert was an all-classical one, including music by Bach, Beethoven, Manuel Ponce, Schubert, and Chopin. The program begins with the first of Bach’s Preludes from his masterpiece The Well-Tempered Clavier, a series of 24 Preludes and Fugues. These are seminal works which have become one of the foundations of Western classical music. Chopin regarded Bach as a god and wrote: “His works are structured like those ideally conceived geometric figures in which everything is in its proper place and not a line is superfluous. Everything he does is perfect.”
We also heared Beethoven’s 32 Variations, from 1806. The Variations pose fiendish technical difficulties for the pianist and have been popular since the day they were written. The program also included two Schubert Impromptus, touching works composed in 1827, the last year of his tragically short life, and are fine examples of the composer’s incredible melodic gift.
The second half of the program featured works by Frederic Chopin, including his Etude in A-flat Major, the “Aeolian Harp,” a nickname given by Robert Schumann, as the sound reminded him of that instrument. The most famous piece we will hear is his Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, from 1834, but not published in his lifetime, probably because Chopin saw it as the property of his patron: Madame la Baronne d’Este. In 1960, pianist Artur Rubenstein discovered a manuscript of the work in an album owned by the Baroness. There were important differences from the previosly known version, which increase the already substantial challenges this work presents to the pianist. We will also hear The Introduction and Polonaise Brillante, originally composed for cello and piano for Austrian cellist Joseph Merk. The program concludes with several nocturnes and waltzes.
Tickets for the concerts at St. Paul’s are 400 and 600 pesos donation each and are on sale through our website and at the concert 45 minutes before performance time.