Professor David Berry to perform ‘one of the most virtuosic pieces in the piano literature’

Professor David Berry, pianist and director of the music department at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), will finish out the semester’s Music Faculty Artist Series with a performance of  Franz Liszt’s “Sonata in B Minor” and an original arrangement on March 20 at 7 p.m. 

Members of the public can view the free livestream on Facebook Live from our EMU Facebook page. (You do not need a Facebook account or page to access Facebook Live, nor does clicking on the link obligate you in any way to Facebook.)

The Liszt sonata, published in 1854, is considered one of the most difficult pieces of piano literature in existence, both because of its technical demands and its emotional depth. It is one of the Hungarian composer’s most famous works.

“It is written as one continuous 30-minute long movement, and is a world unto itself. It is vast, with music representing the depths and the heavens and everything in between. Probably more than any other piece I know, it is like a life journey,” Berry said. “The dramatic nature and emotional power of the piece has made it something I have wanted to play for a long time. It has always had a folkloric status among pianists.”

The complexity of this piece cannot be overstated. 

According to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, “in the matter of keyboard technique, Liszt extended the existing possibilities immeasurably, demanding of ten fingers that which would have been unthinkable without the inherited traditions, but which would have been deemed unplayable by that tradition’s highest exponents.”

Berry will then play a new, original arrangement of an African American spiritual. Like the sonata, it ushers the listener on a soulful journey. 

“As I have been living in the world of the Liszt sonata for some months, it has definitely influenced the style and language of my arrangement as well, which seems to live somewhere between Liszt and the blues,” Berry explained. “Spirituals are deeply expressive songs, and also lend themselves to lots of possibilities for creativity in arranging. I think my goal for any arrangement is to always stay true to the soul, spirit, and meaning of the original song.”

David Berry’s performances have been featured in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, as well as live radio broadcasts of New York City-based WQXR. Berry was the Grand Prize Winner of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition and a prize winner in the Thousand Islands International Piano Competition. He has collaborated with members of the nation’s leading orchestra’s including the New Jersey, Houston, Dallas and Seattle symphonies. Berry has also toured regularly as a member of the Ritz Chamber Players, Harlem Chamber Players, and Core Ensemble.

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