GV presents collaborative performance of French chamber music

Performers taking a bow at French and Friends.  GVL / Andrew Nyhof

Performers taking a bow at French and Friends.  GVL / Andrew Nyhof

Arie Nienhuis

Grand Valley State University is considered a haven for the fine arts — especially music — and consistently presents a wide variety of concerts and performances for the public to enjoy. The most recent of the university’s offerings was Sunday’s collaborative performance of French chamber music, featuring a number of musicians from other schools in the area.

“Friends & French Chamber Music” was a performance featuring a variety of pieces from renowned French composers Darius Milhaud, Maurice Ravel and Ernest Chausson. Each piece involved a number of instruments and sections, with performers providing a varied performance for all concert-goers. One of these performers was GVSU’s Associate Professor of Piano Sookkyung Cho who said she enjoyed the opportunity to perform these classic works.

“I think these are great pieces,” Cho said. “Ravel is the most famous, I suppose. It’s extremely fun to listen to, and very difficult. Chausson is not very well known, [however] his piano writing is amazing. His chords are so lush and full…it’s great music.”

One of the primary tenets of the performance was the extensive collaboration of musicians and professors from schools around the area. Performers included Hope College’s Mihai Craioveanu and Calvin College’s John Varineau, who also performs as the conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony. 

“Alicia Eppinga is a principal cellist for the Grand Rapids Symphony, and she also teaches at Hope College, we’re actually doing this program at Hope and Calvin as well,” Cho said.

The concert mainly featured a collection of French chamber music from many celebrated composers. Cho said that the preparation for these pieces differed greatly from usual piano performance.

“You have to know your part very well before the rehearsal,” Cho said. “[The other performers and I] don’t get a lot of time together, so we have to listen to the recording a lot to know how the other part sounds. When we get together, you just have to listen to each other like crazy. You can’t just focus on your part.”

Seeing classical music performed by a small group is very different than seeing an orchestra or a solo performance, and this concert was no exception. She considers seeing multiple performers on stage and how they interact is one of the most fascinating and engaging aspects of this type of performance. 

“In a solo performance, there is a direct connection with the audience,” Cho said. “With chamber music, there is a bigger circle. Seeing the people on stage breathe together is a completely different universe.”

Cho said that all students should look out for future performances of chamber music at GVSU, and those who attended considered it a very good introduction to the chamber music style.