Sunday, May 28, 2023

Love letters on display at Krinovitz

By Jessica Landman

SUNY Plattsburgh alumnus Mason Barber will return for the piano recital “A Fool for Love” featuring Karen Becker on piano and Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins as soprano. 

This recital will take place in SUNY Plattsburgh’s Krinovitz Hall located in Hawkins Hall April 1 at 7:30 p.m. 

The recital will be following a master class March 30 from 3 to 5 p.m. in Krinovitz Hall hosted by Stoner-Hawkins available to music students. 

Stoner-Hawkins is the Senior Artist-in-Residence in Voice at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. In the master class, she will be working with students on their repertoire and interpretation of it as well as their vocal technique. Both the master class and the concert are free to attend.  

A master class is an open lesson where students get the opportunity to work with an expert in their field. The singers for this master class are predetermined, but everyone is welcome to go to see the inner workings of preparing a recital or concert. 

The theme of “A Fool for Love” is letters — more specifically, love letters, ranging from pieces of music by particular composers to love stories about composers paired with pieces of their music.

Performing on April Fools Day, Becker wants to bring in the idea of romantic misfortunes by having every love letter performed be some failed or unrequited love story from a composer, thus creating the idea for “A Fool for Love.”

“Since classical music is what we call art music, it’s helpful to make it more accessible by giving a recognizable theme or something that [students] can really relate to,” Stoner-Hawkins said.

Becker and Stoner-Hawkins will be reading several of these love letters and performing romantic-era pieces from composers such as Robert and Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms and  Ludwig van Beethoven. 

Brahms and the two Schumanns were composers in the romantic era, which began around 1830 and ended in the early 1900s. Brahms fell in love with Clara Schumann, who was already married to Robert with a house and children. Throughout this recital, Becker will read the many letters between Clara and Brahms. 

The recital will follow that love story through the written letters from Brahms, accompanied by pieces written by Brahms and performed as solos by both Becker and Stoner-Hawkins.

From there, Barber will read Beethoven’s letter addressed to an “Immortal Beloved.” 

Since the letter has no name within it, several theories have formed about who it was written about. The letter became famous because of the speculation and mystery behind whom it was meant for.

“Beethoven was famous for unrequited love,” Becker said. “He was a rather toady man and always falling in love with women who did not return his affections.” 

Becker will accompany this reading with part of Beethoven’s sonata, which was composed around the same time that the letter was written.

Beethoven’s letter will be followed by a scene from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin.” The opera is about a woman who wrote a love letter for a man who rejected her. 

The story follows his regret of letting her go. The heartbreaking narrative is paired with dramatic music composed by Tchaikovsky to create a fascinating love story.

After intermission, Becker and Stoner-Hawkins will play songs composed by Lee Hoiby. Much of Hoiby’s work is based upon the idea of love and writing letters to express love. 

The recital will end with a musical theater piece called “Tell Me on a Sunday.” This piece, from the play of the same title, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black, is a piece about a man leaving a woman who is still in love with him.

If tragic love stories or the mystery behind one of the most famous love letters intrigues, consider spending some of your last hours of April Fools Day in Krinovitz Hall.  

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