EVANSTON REVIEW for Ravinia Rising Stars

EVANSTON REVIEW for Ravinia Rising Stars
March 9, 2010

Recital: A terrifying performance experience for a young music student; an excellent opportunity for a professional to show what he or she can do.

The spring series of Rising Stars recitals at the Ravinia Festival’s year-round Bennett-Gordon Hall began March 5 with Tanya Bannister at the piano. The Steans Institute alumna is now a polished professional and demonstrated both considerable technical ability and graceful sensitivity.

Her program opened with a modest but winning transcription by Egon Petri of Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze.” She has a cool touch and the choral line fell from her fingers like small bell tones from beneath the familiar harmonies.

She then launched into Robert Schumann’s “Kreisleriana,” a series of eight pieces subtitled “Fantasies for Piano.” The nearly 30-minute performance was a display of Schumann’s many moods and Bannister’s ability to bring them to life.

The music ranges from a torrent of harmonies, played by flying fingers, to the most noble of sentiments, sedate and measured. The sounds could be as merry as a kindergarten class and as bittersweet as a memory. Bannister coaxed many a melody from the ebony Steinway that was placed front and center on the hall’s golden-hued stage.

The piece was dedicated to Chopin, but there were echoes of Bach, traces of Mendelssohn and even a structure resembling Brahms’ beloved “Lullaby.”

The second half of the program included two selections from “Iberia” by Isaac Albeniz, full of wistful guitar-like music, and Chopin’s Ballade No. 4, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death. But the most interesting part of the night were two pieces written for Bannister by contemporary composers Christopher Theofanidis and Suzanne Farrin.

“All dreams begin with the horizon” by Theofandis is a turbulent four-part work which at times rivaled the fury of the Schumann. The composer flirts a bit with minimalism, to positive effect, as major chords move about with subtle embellishments in the section marked “noble.” The fourth section “threatening,” resembled a film score warning us to be afraid, very afraid.

“This is the story she began” is the title of Farrin’s piece, which is meandering, flashy, rich in glissandos and as poignant as it is pleasant. The pianist handled both works with zest and vigor, demonstrating her devotion to playing the works of composer’s writing today.

Altogether, the young woman presented a diverse and highly satisfying performance of music spanning four centuries. It is amazing what a professional can do with just one recital.


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