Soo’s passionate serenade

Valley’s music department introduces the fall concert series with a piano concert.

By Aimee Martinez, Valley life editor

Soo Biancalana stepped out onto the illuminated stage and bowed to a small audience in the dark. She sat on the black cushioned piano seat, took a moment to close her eyes and breathed. With her right hand as melody and her left hand as accompaniment, her hands danced to the keys of Bach’s Allemande and Sarabande from French Suite in G major.

This is the first performance of the Fall concert series presented by the Music Department. A couple years after her last performance at Valley College, Professor and Chair of the Music Department Christian Nova invited the Korean pianist to play again. The pieces spanned the works of composers Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy and Samuel Barber.

It was a peaceful and joyful beginning. Her mien and body movements expressed the changing moods and rhythms from piece to piece. In the dramatic high trills she smiled and in the calm sweet notes she swayed with bliss — eyes closed. In the slow deep notes she frowned, at times hunching over her shoulders and furrowing her brows. At the culmination of some compositions, she would linger demurely, letting the last note ring; while for others, she would finish powerfully, springing up to a stand.

After the first piece, she took off her sandal pumps, noticing how they squeaked against the pedals and proceeded barefoot. Bowing at the end of each piece, she recounted stories of the composition’s history along with her own interpretations. For Bach, it was a french dance. For Chopin, it was Paris, his illness and a yearning for his hometown. Debussy’s “Serenade” pictured the streets of Spain emanating from the serenades of a guitar. Barber’s “Cowboy Lament” was an anecdote of when Biancalana mistakenly played this story of dead cowboys at her best friend’s wedding. 

Unconventional and animated, she played her notes from memory. The group — consisting mostly of students taking a music class — listened so intently, even the slightest bit of noise would have ruined the moment. 

After the performance, the floor was opened to questions. There she divulged her secrets and offered her guidance. For example, technicality — being able to play the instrument — and the ability to be comfortable with the style are certain components necessary for performance. A great deal of research must be poured into the background of these composers. A musician must inquire into who they were and how that person might have felt. 

“You have to dissect the piece,” said Biancalana. “Find the theme.”

Biancalana’s musicality began in her early teens as she left Seoul, Korea to come to America and pursue classical music. She has since received a Doctorate in piano music at USC Thornton School of Music and has studied under notable instructors John Perry and Norman Krieger. Biancalana has performed all over the world, including Los Angeles at the Zipper Hall with Ronald Leonard and London Soloists Chamber Orchestra at Saint Martin in the Fields. She has taught master classes, private students and is a faculty member and judge for the Eum-Ak Journal's Summer Festival and International Competition in Korea.

Considering her extensive musical career and exquisite performance, it was a shame so few people attended. Those who did, took time to greet her afterwards to praise her beautiful performance.

The next concert in the Music Recital Hall will feature Natalia Lipnitskaya on the guitar, on Saturday, October 19.