On November 12, the Graduate Center’s Segal Theater will host a retrospective concert of Josep Prohens’ piano works, as well as a masterclass with Prohens himself and pianist Andreu Riera.
Josep Prohens: Piano Works. A Retrospective
Andreu Riera, piano
Petita variació cíclica (Small Cycle of Variations)
Sons per a un kyrie
Ombres + La llum
Josep Prohens and Kathryn Straker
The piano music of Josep Prohens is a study in contrasts. Its harmonic complexity and rigor, which follows in the tradition of modernist greats such as Messiaen, is offset by lyrical homages to tonality. Prohens’ techniques run the gamut from tonal harmony to free serialism, using synthetic scales along with familiar diatonic ones, as well as Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition (a set of seven symmetrical modes that can only be transposed a limited number of times).
These juxtapositions are a defining feature of Prohens’ work. In his solo piano music, in particular, he seeks a sound that is in a constant state of evolution. Sustained chords melt into each other and create new sonorities as the overtones merge. He defies listener expectation, veering into new directions just as we begin to feel at home. Although most of the works on this program are characteristically brief, Prohens explores the full body of the piano in each one. In only a short time, he uses the full register of the keyboard, often pitting the lowest and highest pitches of the instrument against each other, emphasizing the extremity. The large sonic space between the left and right hands creates an opportunity for free and creative pedaling, allowing the harmonics of the sustained chords to bleed into the empty register.
Prohens also employs exaggerated contrasts in dynamics, going from pppp to ffffff in only a few bars. He often doubles at the octave in key moments to create a sense of power and grandeur, as in the opening Petita variació cíclica. Other works, such as Somnis, are noteworthy for their subtle and expressive chromaticism.
Somnis and Freqüències were written in fulfillment of the Foundation for Iberian Music’s first ever composer’s commission. They premiered at Elebash Recital Hall in 2005. Most of the works, though, are being played in the US for the first time.
Andreu Riera began his piano studies in Manacor with Concepció Vadell before moving to Madrid, to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music with M ª Ángeles Rentería. He later studied with the eminent Hans Graf at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna and completed his studies in London, with Edith Vogel at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Riera is a versatile performer who has performed throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. He has premiered works by many Spanish composers and has released studio recordings for several of them. He currently teaches at the Conservatory of Music of the Balearic Islands.
Josep Prohens has composed numerous works for orchestra, piano, organ, chorus, percussion, guitar, and chamber ensemble. He is the author of Ensenyament de la música a Felanitx (The Teaching of Music in Felanitx; Centre Cultural de Felanitx 2003). Critics have said Prohens’ music possesses “a certain emotional abruptness and expressive strength.” Prohens currently teaches composition at the Conservatory of Music of the Balearic Islands. He is also president of Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Sebastián of the Balearic Islands. His works are published by Brotons & Mercadal (Spain) and Manduca Music Publications (US).
Andreu Riera and Josep Prohens will jointly conduct a piano masterclass at 12:30pm, November 11, at City College's beautiful Shepard Hall. This event is free and open to the public.
Co-organized by The Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation at The Graduate Center - CUNY and Institut Ramon Llull.
With Andreu Riera, piano
November 12, 2019, at 6:30pm
The Graduate Center - CUNY
365 Fifth Ave, New York
Free and open to the public.
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