Artistic Director of the Steinway Piano Series in Tampa, Svetozar Ivanov captivated the Ashmore Auditorium audience on January 12th with his novel take on the ordinary piano recital.
The program was part of the ongoing Kamerman Piano Series to be held at PSC. Unlike the other featured pianists, Ivanov included media elements to his performance; between the works of Bach, he played modern, 19th century pieces.
Ivanov started off by explaining the history behind the title and theme of the program, Black Ten.
Originally written for a brochure for an art exhibit, the unpublished poem by Argentinian artist, Julio Cortazar, Black Ten was translated specifically for this recital by Peter Standish; the poem is just as its title suggests: ten stanzas about the color black. The stanzas of the poem are interspersed with images of black shapes, and videos of black holes. Due to their incredible amount of gravity, Ivanov told patrons, no light can escape.
Ivanov hopes to see more concerts like this in the future. He’s afraid that this area of music is “losing more of the audience,” but with the addition of media, perhaps that can be avoided.
As he played movements from “Overture in the French Style, BWV 831,” by Bach, the stanzas of Black Ten were displayed on the projected wall above him. Each revealed a new way to think of the connotations of the color black—from birth, physics, sleep, poetry, and death— and Ivanov played with absolute conviction. As the first lines poetry described black as nothingness and chaos, they faded away just as quickly.
The modern pieces, “Radiance,” by Robert Helps, “Five Pieces for Piano,” by George Crumb, “My Loss,” by David Del Tredici, and “Vers la flamme,” by Alexander Scriabin, were accompanied by videos of black holes and colliding galaxies.
During “Five Pieces for Piano,” the pianist stood from his bench and plucked the strings of the piano, along with striking the keys, giving the piece a syncopated, anxious feel. The dissonance felt from the combination of the all-consuming astronomical phenomenon and the provocative music left the viewer clamoring for resolution during the modern pieces. This yielded to relief during the following Bach movements, yet audiences remained absorbed by the stanza in stark white on the black wall.
The recital ended with a video of Ivanov in the same set up as what the audience were viewing, but dressed in all white as opposed to full black.
As Ivanov stopped playing, the spotlight receded, casting the entire auditorium in shadow, aside from the now-brighter, on-screen pianist—who began to play. As the video played, a sense of déjà vu descended—it was the same song, even the same videos of galaxies and black holes were playing above the small Ivanov on the projection.
The song ended, and the blackness falls on him, too. The last stanza of the poem appears, the white text the only light in the room: Your shadow lurks behind all light.
“It touched my heart,” PSC student Conrad Peralta stated after the recital. He said that this was one of his first concerts of this type, and the way Ivanov played with conviction genuinely moved him.
While Ivanov wishes to see more concerts like this in the future due to a waning audience, he also believes that people would not otherwise hear the modern artists that he features. He knows that people will go see something about space—he himself is an astronomy fan, along with his five-year-old-son—but they’d probably be less inclined to just come to an ordinary recital.
Ivanov serves as the Artist Faculty at Green Mountain Chamber of Music Festival in Vermont, and is an Associate Professor of Piano at the University of South Florida.