Acclaimed Pianist to Perform in Concert

April 30, 2009
By Esther Pak '09

Guest Artist and pianist John Milbauer will perform in concert on Saturday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Carleton College Concert Hall. Exploring the possibilities for timbre on the piano, his performance will feature the music of George Crumb, Mario Davidovsky, Claude Debussy, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Béla Bartók. This event is free and open to the public.

The program will feature compositions that demonstrate the almost limitless tonal language of the piano. Bartók’s pieces borrow heavily from the sounds of nature, and of peasant life with the evocation of drums, pipes, frogs, crickets, and the lapping of water on the side of a riverboat. Debussey’s compositions convey his fascination with Asian sonority and imagery. Pieces for piano and tape (synthesized sounds) became popular in the 1960s and 70s, and Davidovsky's Synchronisms #6 marks a milestone in the genre; it is a seven-minute tour-de-force that plays with the listener’s expectations of piano tones and sounds. Crumb also plays demonstrates various sounds made by the piano in A Little Suite for Christmas—the performer is asked to strum the strings inside the piano, play harmonics, pluck pizzicato, and make other extended uses of the piano, in addition to playing from the keyboard.

The Six Bagatelles Opus 126 by Beethoven may have been his very last composition for the piano. While the storm and stress of his earlier works are still apparent, there is also a pronounced return to folk influence in these Bagatelles. The work was not universally well received, and public reaction to late Beethoven was not so different from current reaction to the contemporary pieces of Davidovsky or even Bartók and Debussy today. “The juxtaposition of all of these works questions what is 'new,’ and what is 'beautiful,'” says Milbauer.

Milbauer has been a frequent guest at music festivals such as the Banff Centre, Ernen Musikdorf, the Chautauqua Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, the Sierra Summer Festival, and the Escuela Moderna de Musica in Santiago de Chile. Concerts in 2009 will take him across the U.S. as well as to Europe, Asia, and South America. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras across North America and has collaborated with members of the Metropolitan Opera, National Symphony, the L.A. Philharmonic, and the Royal Philharmonic in London. He has recorded for Eroica and Universal Records, and is currently working on a CD of solo piano music of Debussy, Crumb, and Bartok. Having won prizes from the Institute for International Education, the Hungarian Ministry of Culture, and The Juilliard School, Milbauer was also awarded the Laird National Leader in Arts Award in 2001 and the Wolodarsky prize from the Banff Centre in 2006. An enthusiastic performer of contemporary music, he was a semi-finalist and recipient of a prize at the 2006 Orléans Concours for piano music of the 20th Century.

Milbauer has studied at Harvard College, Eastman School of Music, The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and the Liszt Academy in Budapest as the recipient of a Fulbright grant. He is currently on the faculty of The University of Arizona School of Music. He also teaches and performs at the Chautauqua Festival in New York each summer.

The Carleton College Concert Hall is located at First Street and Winona Street in Northfield. For more information or disability accommodations, contact the music department at (507) 222-4475.