Smith Pianist to Perform Schubert’s Works on
Replica of Composer’s Piano
Editor’s note: Photographers are invited to take pictures of Monica Jakuc’s specially-built fortepiano in her home. To make arrangements, contact Marti Hobbes at (413) 585-2190 or Jakuc by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- In the early 19th century when the young Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797–1828) was rapidly gaining fame as a masterful writer of songs and piano music, the instrument on which he wrote was distinct from today’s pianos. With a narrower keyboard and a smaller soundboard, his fortepiano, as it is now called, embodied a more intimate, sweeter sound that clarified his exquisite melodies and harmonies while also providing a range of tone color unmatched by any pianos designed before or since.
It is somewhat unusual today to hear Schubert’s works performed on the instrument for which they were composed.
On September 25, 27 and 28, pianist Monica Jakuc will present “Schubert Times Three,” a series of concerts celebrating the composer’s music and featuring a specially built piano that replicates the one preferred by Schubert.
The three concerts, which are free, open to the public and wheelchair-accessible, will take place in Sweeney Concert Hall at Sage Hall, Smith College. Jakuc is the Elsie Irwin Sweeney Professor of Music at Smith.
Jakuc’s fortepiano, a 6 1/2-octave replica of Scubert’s 1819 Conrad Graf fortepiano, was created specially for her last year by Paul McNulty, an American instrument maker in Divisov, Czech Republic. Jakuc performed Schubert’s “Winterreise” on the instrument last March in an Arcadia Players concert with tenor Peter W. Shea.
“My new fortepiano is an absolute revelation for playing Schubert,” says Jakuc. “It has four pedals, which can change the color of its sound, and these make possible a much greater expressive range. Nothing even remotely close to this piano’s effects can be achieved on modern piano.”
The first concert of the series, on Saturday, September 25, at 8 p.m., is titled “Schubert’s Last Works.” It will include Schubert’s Heinrich Heine settings from his last set of songs, “Schwanengesang,” with tenor Shea, as well as Schubert’s final piano sonata, in B-flat Major.
On Monday, September 27, at 7:30 p.m., Jakuc will give a lecture/demonstration titled “Three Viennese Pianos.” For this presentation, in addition to her 6 1/2-octave fortepiano, she will use Smith College’s 5 1/2-octave fortepiano, as well as the college’s modern Bösendorfer Imperial concert piano, to demonstrate the unique features of each instrument.
Finally, on Tuesday, September 28, at 12:30 p.m., Jakuc will present a “Lieder and Ländler” recital with Smith soprano Jane Bryden as part of the college’s Music in the Noon Hour series. Six Schubert songs, including his famous “Die Forelle (The Trout),” will be interspersed with short German dances (ländler) in a program resembling the Schubertiad evenings beloved by the composer and his friends.
Jakuc has taught piano at Smith for the past 35 years. Her solo and chamber music career has spanned three continents and 300 years of music, with a special interest in historical pianos, women composers, and living composers in general. She has recorded two CDs on fortepiano, and has a third recording being prepared for release later this year.
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