Frost program offers music of Sleeper with contemporary Greeks bearing gifts

By Lawrence Budmen

Pianist Zoe Zeniodi performed music of Thomas Sleeper and contemporary Greek and Italian composers Saturday night at Gusman Concert Hall.

Pianist Zoe Zeniodi was the protagonist of a recent University of Miami program of music by Thomas Sleeper. Zeniodi returned to the stage of Gusman Concert Hall Saturday night to continue her in-depth exploration of Sleeper’s keyboard oeuvre which she is also recording.

She interspersed the longtime Frost School of Music faculty member’s scores with works by  contemporary Greek and Italian composers. A lively Sleeper creation for an offbeat instrumental ensemble completed the program.

Marina, presented in Sleeper’s 2012 revised version, is almost Lisztian. Big boned, virtuosic, and replete with surging romantic themes, the score packs a sonic wallop. Sleeper’s writing demands flawless technical acumen and Zeniodi swirled through its intricacies with aplomb and flair.

Sleeper’s Phaedra (1981) is a large-scale pianistic portrait. Broadly rhapsodic thematic material turns to climactic strophes of fierce power and intensity.

Turning to her native Greek heritage, Zeniodi offered three scores by Giorgos Koumendakis, a prolific composer of works in multiple genres.

The Silk Road, the ancient trade route between Europe and the East, has been fertile ground for creative artists over the past several decades. Koumendakis’ soulful 2002 piece of the same name was more in the vein of Turkish pianist-composer Fazil Say’s Bartok-tinged concerto than the crossover fusions of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Koumendakis’ Couple was a charming melodic vignette. More modernist in tone and substance, Three Mediterranean Herbs alternates spare, fragmentary themes with rippling pianistic figures.

The Amsterdam-based Aspasia Nasopoulou’s Olinda & Eudoxia bursts forth with moody, softly spun contemporary lyricism. Nasopoulou’s delicate writing gave Zeniodi an opportunity to display the more subtle, nuanced side of her pianistic persona. All of the Greek pieces were receiving their first U.S. performances.

During the 2011 edition of Festival Miami, Italian composer Alessandra Salvati’s impressive String Quartet was premiered during a concert of student works. Salvati is now a lecturer in the Frost School’s theory and composition department and was on hand to acknowledge the audience’s warm applause.

Her keyboard solo Not Here was heard in its premiere. Alternating poetic rumination and boogie-woogie jazz panache, the intimately scaled work often veers to the high and low ends of the keyboard. Strongly projected by Zeniodi, the piece merges tradition with contemporary musical currents.

Sleeper’s Concerto for Flute and Flute Orchestra (2012) is certainly a unique piece. Scored for soloist and nine-member flute ensemble, the score was created for the formidable talents of Trudy Kane, Frost faculty member and former Metropolitan Opera principal flutist.

Trudy Kane

Sleeper’s concerto manages to exploit the instrument’s highest reaches without ever turning harsh or piercing. An opening Con spirito channels neo-Classicism in fast, pulsating rhythms. The Arioso-threnody weaves long spun thematic fragments through an aura of sadness. A final jaunty Ritmo spans the full range of the instruments, challenging the players’ technique and speed.

Kane’s agility and silver tone were altogether dazzling. The nine student members of her flute studio were no less precise and brightly energetic. Conducted with spirit and vigor by Sleeper protégé Andres Jaime, this eclectic score is a crowd pleaser and made a sparking finale to the evening.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Frost program offers music of Sleeper with contemporary Greeks bearing gifts”

  1. Posted Apr 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm by David Samuels


    I’m glad to see you’re performing. I am very impressed that a concerto was written for you. I was wondering if you could get it to me online so I could hear it.

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Sun Apr 14, 2013
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