Swedish pianist Helge Antoni explored musical passion and emotion in his concert program “Romantissima” when he visited Baylor University and Waco two years ago.
For his current visit, he’ll examine — well, his listeners will through his playing — tone color and silence in “Impressionism and Beyond,” performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Roxy Grove Hall.
His program spans the Baroque era to the contemporary, with works by François Couperin, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Edvard Grieg, Maurice Ravel, Arvo Pärt and Peter Feuchtwanger.
In thinking about his program, Antoni started with Debussy, whose death’s centennial was marked last year, then moved earlier to the French composer’s influences, which included Couperin, Satie and Grieg. The pianist next looked at those after Debussy such as Ravel.
Then, as he says sometimes happens, composers speak to him. “Arvo Pärt said, ‘Why have you forgotten me?’” he said with a laugh. So Antoni added the Estonian composer’s “Für Alina” and its moments of silence, capping his program with a piece that his London piano teacher Feuchtwanger composed for him, Tariqa No. 2 (“Prelude in Arabic Modes”).
As he did his 2017 Baylor concert of Chopin and Grieg, Antoni will perform without an intermission. “Each piece grows into the next, like a relay,” he said. The program is heavy with tonal color that at times replicates bells and chimes, silent spaces and touches of introspection, a tonal contrast to his 2017 concert’s more exuberant, emotional works. “It’s almost a mysterious, mind-altering state,” Antoni said. “I think people need to think.”
This month marks the third Baylor visit for the world-traveling pianist and music educator, who has built a four-decade musical career in Europe, the United States and South America. Roxy Grove Hall has added a new Steinway piano since his last visit and he’s eager to try it out. His current American visit winds up six months of travel and he’ll return to his home and wife in Barcelona, Spain, for three weeks of rest and recharging, he said.
His program finale, he said, exemplifies music’s ability to unite in a divided world: a work written by a Jewish composer, but drawn from music in Arabic culture. “How much wonderful music has been written by composers influenced by a foreign culture?” he said. “When things are darkest, music has that capacity of giving us hope. And what more beautiful to hear in this divided world?”