Showcase of Ellington classics in Mayo Concert Hall

Güneyman performs on stage.
Güneyman performs on stage.

By Nailah Mubin

Correspondent

The most recent Brown Bag, fifth in the series, was held last Friday, Oct. 12 in the Ernest and Mildred E. Mayo Concert Hall. Hosted by Dean John Laughton of the School of the Arts and Communication and featuring Meral Güneyman, it was conducted in an interesting format that featured both piano and discussion components.

As provided by Laughton in the short introduction to the program, Güneyman’s achievements proved to be particularly impressive. After making her initial orchestral debut in the U.S. as the winner of Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s Young Artist’s Competition, she went on to win even more prestigious accolades. These include winning performances at renowned places like Carnegie Hall, Julliard’s Chopin Concerto and even major concert halls in many European countries.

Afterward, Güneyman took to the stage to perform the piece titled “Solitude.” Though originally composed by great American pianist Duke Ellington, Güneyman transcribed the piece herself. After a seemingly effortless and expressive performance, Güneyman and Laughton came together for a short discussion.

While describing the piece as “classical and romantic,” she also went on to talk more about how she first started playing piano during her childhood in Istanbul, Turkey. Though she grew up without much exposure to music,  Güneyman’s father introduced her to a record at the age of 10, after which she instantly became attached to music. She began playing pieces from “West Side Story” by ear, listened to “musical masters,” and eventually began taking classes with supportive and encouraging teachers. Soon after, Güneyman came to the U.S., and as she explained, “It was just the right place to be.”

Following the discussion, Güneyman took to the piano again to play “The Clothed Bowman,” also composed by Ellington. This piece was particularly interesting as it varied greatly in its sound going from being slow with frequent pauses one second to fast, loud and blended the next. However even piano novices would still be able to recognize the patterns and appreciate its complexity.

Once again, Güneyman and Laughton had a short discussion following the performance. The audience learned more about her work and her collaborations with other pianists such as Dick Hyman, a well-known jazz composer. She also introduced her next piece called “Lushlife,” a song originally composed by pianist Billy Strayhorn. Although its lyrics speak of love affairs and loneliness, the separate instrumental sounded almost magical and reminiscent of twinkling stars.

After another discussion component, Güneyman played her final piece called “La Valse.” Longer than the rest, it was similar to “The Clothed Bowman” with its diverse notes. However it was originally written by Maurice Ravel as a choreographic poem. It began low, intense and had a certain level of darkness to it. At one point the change was so sudden, an audience member was startled into a response. Güneyman however gave herself completely to the performance. Her whole body jerked with the motions of her hands across the piano, and her facial expression changed with the tone of the piece. She ended with a flourish and passion that was strongly conveyed to the audience. Jillian Santacroce, freshman communication studies major said, “She was really good with her delivery. You could really feel her energy and passion through the music.”