Posted on August 17, 2012 by Christopher Thrall

What is Life? Of Shadows, Cradles, Equanimity, and the Blues Please join professor Milton Schlosser for his performance at the Lutheran Church of the Cross on Cedar Hill Road in Victoria, BC. Tickets are $20 – $5 for students – and are available at (250) 477-6222. Recital works summary: Crowfoot, by Nicholas Howells Piano Pieces, …

What is Life? Of Shadows, Cradles, Equanimity, and the Blues

Please join professor Milton Schlosser for his performance at the Lutheran Church of the Cross on Cedar Hill Road in Victoria, BC. Tickets are $20 – $5 for students – and are available at (250) 477-6222.

Recital works summary:

  • Crowfoot, by Nicholas Howells
  • Piano Pieces, Opuses 117 and 118, by Johannes Brahms
  • Sonata in F Major, K. 332, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues, by Frederic Rzewski
This performance will be followed by a concert at the Langley Community Music School in Langley, BC, on Sunday, September 23, starting with coffee at 3 pm. Please see the link for ticket details.

Crowfoot is a work written for Schlosser in 2010 by University of Alberta graduate and Métis composer Nicholas Howells. An eleven minute piece, it includes, among other aboriginal aspects, the playing of a foot drum by the pianist and the speaking of words attributed to Chief Crowfoot around the time of his death in 1890 (“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset”). It is a mystical, engaging work that has moved audiences in Canada and Japan since its premiere in 2011 by Schlosser.

As well, the recital feature works written by Johannes Brahms, a German-speaking composer active at the time of Crowfoot’s death. In 1890, at the height of his popularity as a composer and concert pianist, an exhausted Brahms declared that he would compose no more, stating “it is high time to stop.” However, he then proceeded to write some of his most significant piano works, including the collections Opus 117 and Opus 118. Many historians see these works to be reflections on life and death; Brahms described the pieces of Opus 117 to be “the cradles of his sorrow.”

Mozart’s Sonata in F Major (K. 332) was composed in 1783 while the famous composer and keyboard artist was in Vienna. In his 18 sonatas written for solo keyboard, Mozart demonstrates an uncanny ability to engage the listener through dramatic contrasts. The three movements of the Sonata in F Major reflect the composer’s unique ability to balance these differing musical effects; beautiful melodies and playful virtuosity are highlighted and interwoven through the most ingenious of compositional means. In the end, a sense of equanimity pervades despite the wide range of psychological states and feelings presented.

Concluding the recital is an arresting piece composed by American Frederic Rzewski entitled Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. A tour de force within contemporary piano music, the work creates the soundscape of a working cotton mill. The piece is based upon a historic blues song that evokes the difficult working conditions in American cotton mills, conditions that resulted in some of the worst labour strife within American history. Indeed, one of the verses states the following:

Old man Sargent sitting at the desk,
The damned old fool won’t give us no rest.
He’d take the nickels off a dead man’s eyes,
To buy a Coca-cola and a Pomo Pie.

Milton Schlosser, Piano

Schlosser is an award-winning professor and pianist at the University of Alberta in Canada. As recording artist, he has been described as a pianist who “proves himself to be as sympathetic an accompanist as he is a stylish and feeling soloist” (The Vancouver Sun). Receiving university-wide recognition in 2007, he was awarded a prestigious McCalla Professorship for his significant contributions to research, teaching, and learning. From the university’s Augustana Campus where he is based, he has received awards for excellence in teaching, service to the community, and for his support of information literacy education.

Schlosser performs in live and CBC-broadcast performances as solo and chamber recitalist, as vocal and choral accompanist, and in concerts as soloist with orchestra. He holds Master and Doctor of Music degrees in piano performance from the University of Alberta, where he studied piano with Robert Stangeland and Stéphane Lemelin. He has won scholarships and awards which have facilitated further studies in Salzburg, Banff, Brussels, and New York with pianists Hans Graf, Claude Frank, and Madeline Bruser, and composer Frederic Rzewski.

He has released four recordings: Landsmål: The Lyrical Dialect of Edvard Grieg (with Kathleen Corcoran, soprano, and Tanya Prochazka, cello), Frederic Rzewski’s De Profundis and North American Ballads, Bohemian Woods (with Prochazka), and most recently, Frederic Rzewski’s Nanosonatas and Songs (with Corcoran). He is also an organist and published composer.

Schlosser has been engaged in two innovative research projects funded through University of Alberta awards: a project to develop methods in the use of digital video recordings by pianists and piano teachers drawn from neuroscience research, and the creation of an “online music practice log” for use by students and professional musicians to maximize experiential learning. In November 2011, the results of the former project were published in the article “Minding the music: Neuroscience, video recording, and the pianist” by the International Journal of Music Education.

For more information, see www.miltonschlosser.com.


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