Barnes pays tribute to Philip Glass in NYC performance

Paul Barnes. Photo by Don Hunstein.
Paul Barnes. Photo by Don Hunstein.

Hixson-Lied Professor of Piano Paul Barnes continues his collaboration with American composer Philip Glass with his performance “A Retrospective on Philip Glass at 75” at 2:30 p.m., March 31 in the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center in New York City.

In honor of Glass’ 75th birthday, Barnes will be performing a recital featuring his transcriptions of Glass’s music. The program includes “Trilogy Sonata” (2000), Orphée Suite for Piano” (2000), “Epilogue” (from “Monsters of Grace,” unpublished) and “Piano Concerto No. 2 (After Lewis and Clark)” (2004).

Transcriptions are the rewriting of a piece of music.

“I take a piece that’s written for something else besides solo piano, and I convert it into something that works for solo piano,” Barnes said. “So for pieces that are written for zillions of instruments, like the orchestral pieces, I have 10 fingers. I have to figure out a way to get as much of the music as I can in these 10 fingers as possible. The really challenging one has been the Concerto because you already have a piano part. And then you want to try to incorporate the orchestra part on top of the piano part, and the piano part wasn’t exactly easy. The Concerto transcription was the most difficult by far. Right now, they’re not published, so I’m the only pianist on the planet that can play them.”

In addition, on April 2, Barnes will perform the world premiere of N. Lincoln Hanks’ “Monstre sacre” in the Cutting Edge Concerts Series at Symphony Space in New York City.

Barnes and Glass met in 1995 on an airplane heading from Lincoln to Chicago. Barnes was in Lincoln to interview for his position at the UNL’s School of Music. They developed a professional relationship that has included 11 solo transcriptions, plus the Piano Concerto No. 2 (After Lewis and Clark) commissioned for the Nebraska Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission. In addition, Glass produced three of Barnes’ CDs, and they have published two — soon to be four — editions of the sheet music of the transcriptions.

“I’m especially proud of the Concerto because all of the money for it came from Nebraska, and it was premiered here,” Barnes said. “So I love telling that story, especially when I go to New York and play it, because people understand this is something that wouldn’t have happened without the support of the state and the School and the College.”

One of his graduate students, Jeffrey Manchur (M.M. 2011) played the Concerto on his master’s recital last year. And his undergraduate student and UCARE Assistant Elizabeth Christensen is performing the third movement, “The Land,” on her junior recital this spring.

“I love this project because I have been able to incorporate it into my teaching,” Barnes said. “My students have benefited from it. I, of course, have benefited tremendously, and the School has benefited just because of the notoriety.”

His performance of the Hanks piece, “Monstre sacre” or “the holy monster” on April 2 is timely due to its concept of being about self-destructive artists. Barnes typically plays in Victoria Bond’s Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival at Symphony Space every other year and is pleased to present the world premiere of the piece, composed by his friend Hanks, whom he studied with at Indiana University when he was pursuing his doctorate in piano performance.

“These people we desperately need because of their talent and their art, but yet, they end up self destructing,” Barnes said of the concept of the piece.

These New York performances are just part of a full slate of performances scheduled for Barnes, who performs nationally and internationally throughout the year.

In September, Barnes is scheduled to perform a concert in Lincoln in which he performs all four of the world premieres that he has done in the last five years, including a piano quintet, “Nocturne of Light” by Ivan Moody with the Chiara String Quartet, which they premiered at Symphony Space two years ago.

He also plans to return to Vienna in the summer of 2013 to the Vienna International Piano Academy.