Lyceum series off to splendid start

James Marquis - Columnist - (mug) photo taken 10-28-05 (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

James Marquis - Columnist - (mug) photo taken 10-28-05 (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Albany State University newest faculty member played a technically perfect program of piano music from the Romantic era Sept. 14 in the university's ACAD auditorium. It marked the first in the school's annual performance series for the 2010-11 academic year. This year's series has a name: "Experience the Arts." It is dedicated to T. Marshall Jones, a longtime faculty person who eventually became chairman of the Department of Fine Arts.

Noda began her program with the seven movement first Partita (No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825). BWV are the initials for Bachwerkeverzeichnis. The Germans have a knack of running words together to fashion new words. To the less sophisticated, the results seem bewildering, but when such a word is broken down into its parts, it is really quite simple. This word consists of three parts: Bach -- the composer's last name; werke -- which simply means work; verzeichnis -- catalogue. Put simply, it means a catalogue of the works of Bach (Johann Sebastian Bach, that is, as distinguished from his three sons, all of whom were illustrious composers; all pupils of great "old man").

Noda made good use of the cordless microphone, placed to the right of the felled music rack, to make cogent comments about the music she'd programmed. She began these with the ABEGG Variations, Op(us) No. 1 of Robert Schumann. This work marked the beginning of a long string of works he wrote for solo piano after blowing his chances of becoming a pianist by foolishly exercising and injuring the middle finger of his right hand on some silly contraption he'd invented to make the finger stronger, he thought. His teacher, the famous piano pedagogue of the time Ferdinand Wieck, was, to put it mildly, simply aghast. Noda explained that the letters ABEGG in the variations represents the notes of five of the seven letters of the musical alphabet from A to G.

Schumann arranges them so that they make a short theme (or motif), which she sounded on the piano, then played the several short variations on that theme.

In the music following, she enlisted the aid of four voice students to offer the famous quartet from Giuseppi Verdi's equally famous opera Rigoletto. The students were Kelly Harlemon-Goodson, soprano; Raquel Ewings, mezzo soprano; Samuel McPhee, tenor, and Edwin Gilliam, baritone. Here, Noda assumed her more familiar role as accompanist.

The recital continued with additional judicious samplings of pieces by Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin and Ernst von Dohnanyi, with Noda continuing her brief comments upon the life and work of each composer, beginning with Schumann.

To begin her post-intermission portion, Noda doffed her attractive gown, substituting it for a native Japanese Kimono with its close-fitting, constrictive, colorful design with the characteristic big bow in the back. She looked like the delicate, demure "Cho Cho San" -- the famous Puccini heroine of his famous opera Madame Butterfly -- as she tipped in necessary short steps to the piano to begin the second half of her program. She took a few moments to explain to an entranced audience the costume's tradition, how it was made and other interesting tidbits about it.

Noda closed each portion of her program with big virtuoso offerings: the first part (pre-intermission) with Franz Liszt's "Concert Paraphrase of Verdi's [opera] Rigoletto," then ending with the broad "Ballade No. 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 47" by Frederic Chopin. Both pieces designed to show off the pianist's technique. In both these as well as the program as a whole Noda did not disappoint. Her's was a program of complete entertainment; a thoroughly musical and enjoyable evening. Dean of the College of the Arts and Humanities, Leroy Bynum, can boast of yet another star in his mini-firmament of faculty colleagues. Altogether they represent a boon to students, to the university, as well as to the community.

James Marquis is a composer and emeritus professor of music at Albany State University.