Pianist Michael Arnowitt returns to the Unitarian Church of Montpelier on May 26th at 7:30 PM for an all-new program, “From East to West.”
From East to West explores the influence on Western classical composition of the music of eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and southeast Asia. The concert program features many pieces by great composers of the past, including Mozart’s well-known “Rondo alla turca (Turkish march),” romantic music from Gustav Mahler’s “The Song of the Earth” based on 8th century Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty, and Debussy’s “Pagodas,” influenced by his experience seeing a gamelan group from Java at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.
The program also presents intriguing and colorful pieces from recent decades. The English composer Peter Feuchtwanger’s “Tariqa 1” offers an amazingly realistic evocation of the mesmeric sounds of the santur, an Iranian dulcimer. “Black Earth,” by the Turkish pianist-composer Fazil Say, is based on a moving song for saz, a Turkish lute.
The influence of Eastern Spirituality on the West is featured in Alexander Scriabin’s powerful “Black Mass” Sonata, music strongly affected by Scriabin’s reading in 1905 the controversial writings on the occult of the Russian aristocrat Helena Blavatsky.
In turn, the program explores how the West has influenced the East, through pieces from Japan and China as well as the charming jazz-influenced classical music of the Russian pianist-composer Nikolai Kapustin, whose unique musical style shows traces of Chopin and Rachmaninov mixed with jazz harmonies, syncopated rhythms, and rambunctious hijinks.
Arnowitt, an internationally touring concert pianist who was a resident of Montpelier for 32 years before moving to Toronto in 2017, will demonstrate how artfully these composers have merged material drawn from the music and cultures of the East into the mainstream of the romantic concert piano sound developed in the West.
The music of this concert resonates personally with Michael Arnowitt as his mother grew up in Korea under Japanese occupation and emigrated in the late 1950’s to the United States where she met her eventual American husband. On a trip to Korea in the 1970’s, Arnowitt discovered his mother’s uncle was a well-known pianist, conductor, and composer in Korea in the mid-20th century. Like the program’s title, Michael Arnowitt is himself a mixture of East and West.
Tickets are $25 general admission, $15 students, and are available on Eventbrite at https://arnowitt_ucm.eventbrite.com. Tickets may also be purchased at the North Branch Café in Montpelier, and at the door as available.