Two recent recitals at the Amarillo College Concert Hall Theatre illustrate why the fine arts thrive here in the middle of nowhere.
On Jan. 28, Dr. Nathan Frmyl, AC’s Director of Choral Music, showcased his virtuosity by performing an all-Beethoven piano recital, as part of the 2019-2020 AC Piano Series.
And, in case the boast hasn’t yet registered, AC is the only venue in Texas hosting all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in celebration of the maestro’s 250th birthday.
On Feb. 9 the music faculty held a late winter recital, emphatically demonstrating why AC is rated as one of the few fully-accredited community college music programs in the state.
Nate’s program was unusual in that it consisted of three works either thought unfinished or published against Beethoven’s wishes. The latter situation explains the puzzling opus numbers in comparison to the years of composition.
The first two works were Sonatas # 19 and #20. One theory is that these leitsonatas were composed as gifts for friends or assigned to students, which would explain the composer’s reluctance to publish.
#20 has a very Viennese quality, without any dark undercurrent that color much of his oeuvre. #19 evokes a different character as the Andante is solemn but the Rondo Allegro, by contrast, is very perky and arpeggiated.
Nate’s masterful exposition on the Shigeru Kawai presented a distinct separation between the pieces, which would continue to the last two works on the program.
The Sonata in E-minor, Op 90, numerically tagged #27, embodies more technical experimentation as the work dates from late in the composer’s middle period. And, in contrast to the first two works, here a strong emotional content emerges, a restless brooding that bespeaks loneliness and longing.
But, in the second movement, perhaps Ludwig has found love as we hear a discernible happiness that foreshadows Schubert.
Finally, the numerous attendees received a humorous treat in the Rondo a Capriccio Op 129, entitled Rage Over A Lost Penny. The title is attributed to Beethoven’s hagiographer and biographer Anton Schindler, whom music historians have accused of a number of apocryphal emendations.
Beethoven’s description, “in the Gypsy style,” stems from his own neologism, which modern audiences more readily compare to a Looney Tunes sketch involving Roadrunner’s taunting of Wile E. Coyote. Bottom line: this piece was just fun!
The general opinion of pianists holds that Sonata #20 is the easiest to play. However valid that assertion, Nate Fryml made it purely academic as he performed all of the pieces with consummate artistic ease.
But, there’s more as Dr. Fryml and his colleagues demonstrated on Feb 9 why AC has such an outstanding music program, which helps account for Artsy Amarillo.
In the program’s first number Nate accompanied tenor Eric Barry in Nate’s rendition of Shenendoah: Away Home. Originally composed two years ago, this adaptation maintains the stirring spirit of the iconic Shenendoah while enhancing the piece musically. At one point Barry hit and held a high A which rolled up to a B-flat. That certainly got everyone’s attention!
Then, Dr. Diego Caetano, professor of piano, continued educating locals about his Brazilian countryman Heitor Villa Lobos, playing his Floral Suite. These three sections move from summer lassitude to the ominous sounds of the rain forest.
Since just the piano corpus of Villa Lobos totals over 600 works, Diego still has plenty to share with us. Guess that’s job security for the next fifty years!
There followed four ensembles, two of the “classical” designation, one Jazz and the last a hybrid mash-up.
Cassandra Hussey, harp, Kay Fristoe, flute and Puntita Panyadee, piano, played Mozart’s Concerto for Piano, Flute and Harp, a nice touch on any stage in the Comancheria.
Kay Moore, violin, Tiffany McDaniel, violin, Camille Day Nies,viola, Russell Steadman, cello and Diego Caetano, piano, combined their talents to play the Allegro non troppo from Brahms . This involved movment has a strong opening theme which reappears throughout and emphatically finishes the section.
Question: when do we get to hear the entire work?
Then, on a different tack, Dr. Jim Laughlin led a special group of former students in a jazz work by Chick Correa entitled Spain. A few years ago, this ensemble consisting of Austin Brazille on guitar, Rito Monge on bass and Paul Galindo playing drums, participated in a national contest only to be beaten out by a little school named Julliard!
Because of AC’s success at this national level, there is now a separate category for community colleges. What does that illuminate about the caliber and quality of this music program?
Jessie Sieff, a nationally-known percussionist, arranged a work for solo snare with the enticing moniker Chopstakovich. An AC quintet of Katy Moore and Tiffany McDaniel on violin, Camille Day Nies on viola, Russell Steadman on cello and Brandon Borup on snare drums took that to a new level in Sieff’s arrangement of the second movement of String Quartet No. 8 by Dimitri Shostakovich, dominated by Borup’s pyrotechnic paradiddles.
The traps imparted a wonderfully light touch to the Russian master, leaving audience members with an unexpected reaction to a Shostokovich work: a smile!
So, in understanding the prevalence and pervasiveness of the fine arts in this unlikely locale, prime consideration must go to the extraordinary music department of our community college.
When it affords us the opportunity to hear all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, attracts professional artists from all over the world, then offers to showcase the talents of its faculty, it makes it easy to say, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”