By Richard Lynde
More than 50 piano lovers rejoiced at an all 19th century romantic recital by the sensitive Robyn Carmichael. This event on Sunday October 14 inaugurated the brand new, mid-sized Kawai grand piano provided by an anonymous donor that will permanently grace the Episcopal Church of John the Baptist here in Aptos.
The Aptos Keyboard Series was created by composer and impresario Josef Sekon whose small home in the Rio Del Mar Flats area would almost burst at the seams with even around 20 attendees. The new Kawai is a satin finished black piano shipped from Hamamatsu Japan. It was delivered untested but is of such high quality that before its first performance, master technician Jeffery Potter simply tuned it.
Madame Carmichael gave us an afternoon of compositions by the “Big Four” — Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1848), Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and Franz Liszt (1811-1886). The recital opened with the two-part Mendelssohn’s “Rondo Capriccioso.” Both Carmichael and Maria Sekon, a teacher and fine pianist in her own right, had deemed the action of the new piano as “fast,” and this reviewer was impressed by its warm tones and even sequence of sounds.
Chopin’s dreamy Nocturne Op 27 no. 2, inspired by a flower in a young woman’s hair, and his Waltz, Op. 34 no. 3, was a vivace showing off to a Parisian audience. The centerpiece of the afternoon was Chopin’s Sonata in B minor from 1848 arranged by Franz Liszt for piano solo. Chopin would frequently scold Liszt for “improving” by adding embellishments to his works.
Carmichael then from Schumann’s 1837 “Fantasy Pieces,” played a perfectly contrasting duo first, “The Evenings,” followed by a passionate “In the Night,” for his wife Clara Wieck Schumann. This woman as a pianist herself, was considered “second only to Liszt,” by both critics and audiences alike.
The program was concluded with Schumann’s works: first the spiritual “Liebestraum” No. 3, with the program concluding with a Tarantella from his “Years of Pilgrimage” with Marie D’ Agoult, “Venice & Naples” from around 1849. Ms. Carmichael was well up to these challenges and as an encore, she played a short, soft Scarlatti sonata, a delicate piece from an earlier age in total contrast to the super romantic program.
This pianist’s gift of communicating her love for the music and her sharing it with us, made Robyn Carmichaels’ inaugural recital on this remarkable, new piano a truly memorable event in the Aptos Keyboard Series.