Cello and piano join for dynamic duet

MaryAnne Shults

The noon concert didn’t require an enormous music hall, for the ambiance in the multi-level practice room in the Fine Arts building suited the marriage of classical and jazzy, legato and staccato, and young music students and community seniors.

Last Thursday, in FA 101, Saddleback College’s department of music presented an intimate chamber music performance showcasing the guest cellist Sarah Fiene and pianist Norman Weston, the college’s music department chairman.

The room was filled standing-room-only capacity, many students taking a music appreciation course, or who came to have the chance to see one of their professors in a performance setting.

“I’ve taken a few classes from Dr. Weston,” said Ruben Puebla, 19, music. “I didn’t know he could play that well, so I thought [the concert] was really cool.”

The hour-long program began with the duet performing Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt. This enchanting minimalistic piece set a triadic staccato arpeggio on piano against the legato and melancholy tone on cello that captured the composer’s definition of “tintinnabuli,” an allusion to bells and their tolling melodies.

It is not surprising that this modern composer is known for his quote, “I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played.”

Both artists showed flair in their performance of the quirky Five Pieces in Folk Style, Op. 102 by Robert Schumann. One is captured in the upbeat eastern European traditional music at the beginning, envisioning gypsies dancing around a campfire a century ago.

However, the eccentric 15- minute piece was also full of soft, smooth sound that seemed to tell a story where the character’s emotions run the gauntlet from exuberance to confusion and finally to contentment.

Weston then played a solo of Sonata for Piano, one of his own compositions, followed by the world premiere of his Aria for unaccompanied cello, performed by Fiene.

Sarah Fiene seemed to thoroughly enjoy playing this piece. She held her instrument as a mother lovingly holds and rocks her young child, and often a one-sided smile would appear on her face as she glanced down at the notes in front of her. The piece was sensual and played with a beautiful vibrato coming from her strings.

Both musicians concluded the concert playing Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango, a song that reminds the listener of lovers in a French movie, strolling the romantic streets of Paris and ending in a seductive tango on a dance floor.

Sarah Fiene is a chamber and orchestral musician from San Francisco. She has performed throughout the world and has played with ensembles and orchestras including the Brooklyn Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, among others. Fiene received her bachelor’s degree in cello performance from Indiana University and her master’s degree from the University of Illinois.

Norman Weston studied music composition at both Indiana University and Northwestern University. He has received numerous commissions and awards, and his music has been performed throughout the U.S.

As a pianist, he is known for his performance of contemporary music, and has premiered many new works, several which were written expressly for him.

Weston has been a member of the Saddleback College faculty since 1989 as an instructor of music composition and music theory.

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