Last year, soprano Laura Strickling and pianist Liza Stepanova won the Franz Liszt Award for Exceptional Performance and first prize in the collaborative artists' division at the Liszt-Garrison Festival and International Piano Competition, held annually at Notre Dame of Maryland University. To celebrate their achievement, as well as honor the works of Franz Liszt, Chamber Music on the Hill is hosting a performance of Liszt's music by the two artists as the third concert of its 25th anniversary concert series.
According to Chamber Music on the Hill publicity chair MaryEllen Jackle, the concert will be preceded by an authentic Hungarian dinner in honor of Liszt's cultural heritage. The meal will feature chicken paprikash, anise-crusted pork loin and leek soup.
The concert will feature works by Liszt as well as Richard Strauss, who was born 150 years ago.
The duo will perform the pieces in the style of art songs, consisting of written poems set to the music. Strickling said the unique format of the songs allows her to take center stage in a way chamber music doesn't always allow for.
"Instrumental music has a lot of advantages, but it doesn't have the power of word," Strickling said. "There's something wonderfully concrete about being able to say something to an audience through the selection of songs and the selection of text in those songs."
Strickling said one of the most interesting pieces they will perform is "Try Me, Good King" by Libby Larsen. The song, in five movements, details the final words of the first five wives of King Henry VIII.
"She's a powerful writer. She writes a lot of songs that come from historical texts that tell their stories in the first person from the female perspective," Strickling said. "It's very emotional and dramatic, and the music is very intense. It's illuminating to see it in this sense, because we know what's going to happen to them."
Despite both growing up ten minutes away from each other in Chicago, Strickling said she and Stepanova met in 2011 at a festival in California where they began working together.
"We only did one or two songs, but we felt this immediate bond and friendship," Strickling said. "It's been really great to have that relationship where we work together and study together and get to travel together as great friends."
Strickling said Stepanova encouraged them to enter the Liszt-Garrison Festival and International Piano Competition as a duo. The competition began in 2004, honoring both Liszt and Baltimore musician William Garrison. Strickling said winning the contest has opened a number of performance doors for the duo, including performing for the Hungarian Embassy.
"They truly want to support young artists," Strickling said. "There's an aspect where they're giving you this immediate assistance by awarding you a prize, but they continue giving their support and cheerleading. They want to find ways to help you perform and spread the works of Liszt."
Strickling said it's vital to keep the tradition of live performance alive.
"I think there's something about classical music that speaks to the human soul that possibly more contemporary styles don't," Strickling said. "It's a part of our history, and we need to embrace excellence in music and whatever we do, whether it's pop or classical music. Having people who have devoted their lives to making music at a high level makes me happy that's a pursuit that people are able to embark on."
Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or email@example.com.
If You Go
What: Chamber Music on the Hill concert and Hungarian dinner
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 2
Where: The Forum, Decker Student Center, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster
Cost: Concert $15 general admission, $10 seniors older than 60 and veterans, free for children and students with valid ID. Dinner $30 per person.
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For more information: Visit http://www.mcdaniel.edu/CMOTH or call 410-596-1022. To reserve dinner tickets, call 410-857-2244; organizers advise making dinner reservations early.