With slow, hushed notes, Stephen Porter, Adjunct Instructor in Music, began playing “Hungarian Melody, D. 817” by Franz Schubert. The piece’s calm introduction quickly shifted to a lively theme and concluded by gradually growing softer and smoother before reaching silence.
Porter exclusively played songs by Schubert and Claude Debussy during Saturday night’s Faculty Piano Recital in the Cochran Chapel.
“I give a concert [at Andover] every year, and usually, it is a way to run through programs I am playing in other places. I have a concert in New York coming up, and I’m playing some of the Debussy pieces. Then I have some concerts later in the season where I’m playing Schubert,” said Porter.
Porter opened the concert with Schubert’s “Serenade, D. 957 No. 4.,” beginning with quiet and deep notes before striking a series of higher notes just a few seconds later. He played slowly as the piece’s volume rose and fell.
“[One of] my favorite pieces was the ‘Serenade.’ I think [Porter] had really great control of the dynamics, and he expressed the emotion well,” said Albert Wang ’18, an audience member.
Porter also played selections from two series of compositions by Debussy, both called “Images.”
“In the first book of ‘Images,’ [Debussy] has a way of putting different layers into his music. Different things happen at different ‘heights,’ if you will. He has another way of almost forming a 3D space where you hear things in the background, and then details come out into the foreground,” said Porter to the audience.
The first piece of the first series was “Reflets dans l’eau” or “Reflections in the Water,” which commences with a gentle succession of notes before transitioning into several speedy, repeating rhythms punctuated with louder strikes on the keys. For the finale, Porter played a rapid series of notes before returning to the long and low tone of the song’s beginning.
Porter concluded the concert with Debussy’s “Poissons d’or” or “Fish of Gold,” the last piece in the second series of “Images.”
“[Debussy] had a little Chinese lacquer box, and there were two goldfish swimming in a stream and a willow tree hanging above,” said Porter.
“The piece begins with this vibration – an amazing dissonance vibration that gives a feeling of the surface of the water and then the fish coming through the water. Sometimes they are moving together, and sometimes they are chasing each other. He does all sorts of acrobatics with these fishes. Very, very vivid,” he added.
Beginning with a short but frantic flurry of notes, “Poissons d’or” evolved into a rapid and rushed tune. Throughout the piece, Porter played strings of notes so that by the end, two melodies were playing at the same time, creating a layered pattern of sounds.
“[Schubert and Debussy] are just two of my favorite composers, and these are some very interesting pieces,” said Porter in an interview with The Phillipian. “I think my performance went pretty well. There are always funny things in your performance – you forget a few notes here and there, [or] the piano makes some funny noises, [which] throws you off sometimes. But overall, I was very happy.”
In 2012, Porter was named resident artist of the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, where he performed for Debussy’s 150th birthday. He has played in concert halls around the world and judged national and international piano competitions.