Faculty pianist returns to stage

BY PARKER THOMAS – STAFF WRITER

On Nov. 17, Naomi Niskala performed a solo piano recital in Stretansky Concert Hall.

The evening’s performance lasted about an hour and ten minutes, consisting of three collections of works done by different composers.

Niskala began the program by playing Ludwig von Beethoven’s “11 Bagatelles, Op. 119,” which is a collection of eleven short piano pieces called Kleinigkeiten, or trifles. The first five pieces in the collection were written during the 1790s, the last five in 1820, and the sixth piece in 1823.

“The composers that I have a strong feeling and affinity for are Beethoven and Schubert, so I almost always have one of those in a program,” Niskala said about her selection of the recital’s music. “The Beethoven Bagatelles are really not played much at all, and so I have been tossing back and forth for quite a few years to do them and finally decided to do them.”

The second selection of music Niskala performed was Sergei Prokofiev’s “Sonata no. 3 in A minor, Op. 28.” The third of

four piano sonatas, Prokofiev’s dramatic and passionate third sonata was written in 1917 and was based on earlier sketches of compositions from 1907 and 1908. Niskala said that the reason she chose the sonata was to give herself a challenge since the piece is difficult, especially in terms of technique.

For the end of her performance, Niskala played the entire first book of Claude Debussy’s “Preludes.” Written between the months of December 1909 and February 1910, “Preludes, Book I” consists of twelve pieces with key relations. Niskala said that she picked out the entire work for the concert out of pure enjoyment for the music.

“Debussy is just a great and fun set to play,” she said.

“Some of it I played before back as a master’s student, so it’s been a while.”

Besides not performing some of the music for a long time, Niskala had several other issues getting the recital to the level she wanted it to be.

“I like to try and do a different solo program every year,” Niskala said. “It keeps me learning stuff. It gives me a chance to run stuff here on campus. I didn’t do one last year [because] my daughter was born. She’s about two, and so this was the first time I’ve played since she was born.”

Working at Susquehanna this year and trying to take care of her almost two-year-old daughter, Niskala expressed her difficulty in finding time to practice for the recital.

Niskala memorized the entire hour and ten minute concert of piano music, impressing the attending audience of students and outsiders. Niskala said that it required an extended amount of time to practice.

“Generally, if I do a solo recital I usually spend five, six months practicing the repertoire, trying to get it really solid, and I decided to play from memory tonight, which is also something I haven’t done in two years, so that was tough,” she said. “I’m very limited right now in practice time, [and] that makes a big difference, playing from memory. You have to start earlier to get it solid and just sit with it for quite a while to make sure as much of it is in your fingers and ears as possible.”

“It was a beautiful concert,” said junior John Leonard. “She played really well. She’s a wonderful musician and I really enjoyed all the pieces.”