Sclater Series presents rare fortepiano performance in chapel

Twice a semester, the music department hosts a concert featuring various guest artists and faculty members to honor James Sclater, local composer and now-retired longtime music professor at Mississippi College.

The performance on Feb. 28 featured a variety of classical pieces, concertos, and even a set of organ compositions written by MC alum David Mahloch for organ professor Robert Knupp.

This set of organ pieces, entitled Quirky Quarks, entertained the audience with its creative rhythms and colorful use of various organ stops.

Mahloch composed these pieces in the summer of 2012 using materials from his notebook that had remained unfinished until that point. After discovering several interesting ideas from these old notes, he expanded on the material in to create the five-movement work.

The string quartet featured members of the Mississippi Symphony and included Vince Massimino and Milena Rusanova on violin, Austra Jasineviciute on viola, and Charlie Patton on the cello. Patton is the son of music professor Angela Willoughby.

MC faculty performers included current head of the music department and piano professor Angela Willoughby, the assistant department head and composition professor, Benjamin Williams, and organ professor, Robert Knupp. Also, jazz band director, Wayne Linehan, played the trumpet in an exciting rendition of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat Major.

“The trumpet concerto was my favorite,” said sophomore church music major Mary Kate Holder. “I loved the blend of the instruments, especially with the use of the organ within the chamber ensemble.”

Williams arranged this piece especially for this night so that the piece could be performed with only the string quartet, organ, and fortepiano.

The use of the fortepiano provided a unique area of interest, as it is not often heard throughout the country today. The earliest form of the modern-day piano, it is constructed only with wood, hammers, and strings.

Modern-day pianos include three pedals that are played by pressing down with the foot, but the fortepiano pedals are used by raising the knee to press up against the bottom of the instrument.

The name of the instrument literally means “loud-soft” in Italian. Until its development, performers did not have the ability to control the volume of their playing on keyboard instruments, so the invention of the fortepiano provided an entirely new aspect to music composition throughout the 1700s.

In the time of Haydn, Mozart, and throughout Beethoven’s early years, these composers wrote their piano music primarily for this instrument. Later in Beethoven’s life, the fortepiano began a period of steady evolution, culminating in the late 1800s with the “grand piano” that we know today. The earlier fortepiano became obsolete and disappeared from the musical scene for many decades.

However, as interest in historically-informed performances began to revive throughout America in the 1900s, audiences began to hear the fortepiano again.

On the night of the performance, guest artist Rachael Heard explained the construction and history of the instrument. This Julliard-trained fortepianist has been featured on several professional recordings of classical works for the instrument.

– Amy Lauren Jones, A&E Editor

“I really enjoyed hearing the different timbre of the fortepiano in the C.P.E. Bach Rondo,” said Ashlynn Grissom, a sophomore music education major in attendance. “However, my favorite piece was the Haydn trumpet concerto.”


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