Few periods in history offer such captivating complexity as Europe in the 19th century, when a continental awakening emphasized national identity and propagated a romantic view of cultural self-expression through music. Revolutionary in the move away from rigid convention, symmetry, and form, composers celebrated and embodied the Romantic flowering of the period. Bohemian music came into its own, symphonic and chamber music flourished under French composers, and authentic Russian music was born. Brian Connelly will perform music from the second half of the 19th century, featuring great composers who are beloved for their orchestral and operatic works, but whose masterpieces for solo piano are rarely heard. Each session will focus on a particular city, with discussion of the composers, their music, and the cultural life of the region during the late Romantic era.
October 18: PRAGUE: Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák. In a city of growing industry, population, and nationalism, these Czech masters wrote copious, brilliant, and soulful evocations of East-European folk idioms.
November 1: PARIS: César Franck and Gabriel Fauré. In Paris, which played an important role as a center of high culture, two foremost composers delighted in opulent, glittering keyboard virtuosity from the pinnacle of French Romanticism.
November 15: ST. PETERSBURG: Peter Tchaikovsky, Mikhail Glinka, and Modest Mussorgsky. In the Imperial capital, culture flourished in spite of an oppressive regime. Composers invented sublime Russian music, turning to folk music and to the history and everyday life of the common people for inspiration.
Brian Connelly teaches piano performance and chamber music in the Shepherd School of Music at Rice and is the artistic director of the renowned chamber ensemble Context, now in its twelfth season. His career embraces a broad range of historical and modern repertoires and styles. Mr. Connelly has premiered works by a host of contemporary composers, and is widely known for his performances of the music of modern master Olivier Messiaen. Respected as a scholar and performer of historical instruments, he has appeared throughout the U.S. and Europe.