On Nov. 4, 2023, piano professor, Dr. Kent Lyman gave a faculty recital in Carswell Auditorium. He performed four works, including the Rachmaninoff “Cello Sonata in G Minor,” in which he was accompanied by his daughter, Jocelyn Francis, on the cello. He also performed the Beethoven “Piano Sonata in D Major,” a set of five Rachmaninoff Etudes-Tableaux, and Boulanger’s “Trois Morceaux pour piano.” The recital was the third part of Meredith College’s “RachFest” series, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
The first selection, “Piano Sonata in D Major” by Beethoven, was comprised of four movements, which allowed Dr. Lyman to highlight his technical ability and his understanding of Beethoven’s unique style, particularly in the fourth movement. Dr. Lyman’s performance of the more mournful and slower second movement showed the audience the more dramatic, operatic side of Beethoven’s compositions. Dr. Lyman called the second movement “one of the most tragic pieces,” with its dark, rolling arpeggios and references to tolling bells.
The Etudes-Tableaux, meaning “study pictures” in French, are often composed with specific scenes or works of art in the composer's mind. While the modern audience likely does not know what Rachmaninoff was picturing, the pieces still help paint vivid scenes in the listener’s mind. Dr. Lyman’s interpretation of the selections helped to demonstrate Rachmaninoff’s characteristic angst and drama, often bringing to mind images of rainfall and longing.
The third set of pieces, “Trois Morceaux pour Piano” by Lili Boulanger, showed Dr. Lyman’s appreciation of Boulanger’s impressive contributions to the impressionist movement of the 20th century. He explained how despite only living to 24, Boulanger wrote some of the defining pieces of this era, and her impressive understanding of composition at a young age made her pieces that much more important. The first piece in the selection, “D’un Jardin Vieux,” creates a whimsical and explorative picture, which Dr. Lyman’s exacting technical skill brought to life.
The final piece of the night, the Cello Sonata in G minor, once again emphasized Rachmaninoff’s style. The sonata is not simply cello accompanied by piano, but a true duet between the two. The cello and piano parts are beautiful in their own right, but together they were truly fantastic. Francis’ performance did not overpower Dr. Lyman’s, with the cello just soaring over the piano. The pair followed up the sonata with a surprise performance of Rachmaninoff’s incredibly popular “Vocalise,” which while written for a vocalist with piano, has been adapted for almost every instrument accompanied by piano.
As one of Dr. Lyman’s students, I’ve had the immense privilege of learning to understand music at a higher level and learning about how it has been shaped by time. Dr. Lyman’s immense interpretive knowledge combined with decades of experience comes together for the first time in six years in this recital. A beloved professor among his students, he was also recently inducted into the Steinway Teacher Hall of Fame on Oct. 5 in New York City. Dr. Lyman’s contributions to Meredith’s Music Department and future generations of musicians are broad and commendable, but this concert allowed Dr. Lyman to demonstrate his musicianship and what a truly great pianist can do.
By Lola Mestas, Copy Editor
Photo courtesy of Dan Harlan and Peyton Flory