Mazullo, Charney present collaboration on love, life and loss

By Mariana Roa Oliva

Last semester, the Music Department’s Chair and Associate Professor at Macalester, Mark Mazullo, performed John Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano” at the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center. This Saturday, Mazullo will take the Center’s Concert Hall to present a quite contrasting, but equally interesting program: a German Romantic music recital in collaboration with the soprano Allison Charney.For the performance of Cage’s piece, Mazullo himself prepared a piano following the detailed instructions of the score, which requires manipulating the strings using materials such as screws, bolts, pieces of rubber and plastic. The atypical sounds produced on the piano were combined with original dance choreography by professional and student dancers directed by Macalester’s dance program director Becky Heist.

This time, Mazullo teams up with another musician, Charney, a soprano who has performed with leading opera companies of the United States.

Mazullo and Charney were classmates at the Peabody Conservatory, but this is the first time they work together in a recital. The program, which they have titled “Love, Life and Loss,” will include Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 101 in A Major, and the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss.

Frauenliebe und -leben, traduced as “A Woman’s life and love,” was Schumann’s setting for German poet Adelbert von Chamisso’s cycle of lyrical poems. The poems, indeed, tell a story about love, and more specifically about a woman’s thoughts on her relationship with a man for whom she experienced “love at first sight.” Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 101 is one of Beethoven’s later sonatas, in which he does a more takes a more introspective look at his own personal life.

And dealing rather with loss, the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss are a moving setting of four poems about death. “Im Abendrot” (At Sunset) by Joseph von Eichendorff, and Frühling (Spring), September, and Beim Schlafengehen (Going to Sleep) by Hermann Hesse express a sense of calm reflection and acceptance about the “sunset” of life. Strauss composed the songs just one year before his death at 84 years in 1948. His discovery of von Eichendorff and Hermann’s poems was an event that resonated with Strauss’ understanding of his own imminent death.

Among many other roles, Allison Charney has played The First Lady in “The Magic Flute” and Musette in “La Boheme” with the New York City Opera; Nedda in Pagliacci with Metro Lyric Opera; and the title role of “Madame Butterfly” with Annapolis Opera.

Charney’s personification of several operatic leading characters and Mazullo’s academic engagement with music and its intersection with the humanities might be what brought these artists together in a project that passionately expresses and explores human emotions through music.

The recital “Love, life and loss, Music for Voice and Piano” starts at 8 p.m. at the Concert Hall of Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center. Saturday April 17 is the only day of the performance, and it is a free event.