With the release of her new CD, Butler University Associate Professor of Piano Kate Boyd is finishing one project and starting another.
The disc, John Cage: Sonatas and Interludes/In a Landscape, which was just released by Navona Records, is the culmination of two years of work that included performances and presentations at Butler and all over the world.
Boyd’s next chapter is a program of Schubert, Berg, Chopin, and Prokofiev, which she will perform January 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall, as part of the “Piano at Butler” series. The event is free and open to the public without tickets.
“The John Cage project was very gratifying and took on a life of its own, with many opportunities to work with students, present at conferences, and perform this unique work,” she said. “Now that this project is complete, I am looking forward to turning my attention back to more standard piano literature and to the voices of composers from other time periods and nationalities.”
On her Navona Records debut, Boyd performs two pieces by Cage (1912-1992) that show his range. “Sonatas and Interludes” makes use of prepared piano, a concept created by Cage, that includes using screws, nuts, bolts, pieces of rubber and other items to make the piano sound more like a percussion ensemble than a standard instrument.
By contrast, “In a Landscape” is a minimalist piece with light, ethereal, and recurring themes.
“I’d always been interested in ‘Sonatas and Interludes,’ and I thought it would be a good time to learn it for the occasion of his centenary,” Boyd said. “You have to prepare 45 of the 88 notes on the piano, so it takes about two hours to prepare. He’s very specific about how to do that, and included a detailed chart in the music. He invented the concept of prepared piano—even the name ‘prepared piano.’”
Boyd started work on the Cage project while she was on sabbatical in 2012. She performed it more than 15 times in England, Canada, and throughout the United States, and also presented talks at various conferences, including in Malaysia and Germany.
The release of the CD, which was the culmination of the project, earned a rave review from the blog Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, which said: “Anyone serious about 20th century modern music needs to have a recording of the “Sonatas and Interludes” in her or his collection. Ideally one might have two, one for a more percussive interpretation and then this one by Kate Boyd.”
Now Boyd has turned her attention to her upcoming recital, which will include a performance of the rarely heard Piano Sonata by Alban Berg, a single-movement work written while the composer was under the tutelage of Arnold Schoenberg. The recital will also feature Prokofiev’s seventh piano sonata, a virtuosic tour de force written in 1943, later to become known as one of the composer’s three “War Sonatas.”
“While Sonatas and Interludes was an exploration of the percussive qualities of the piano, the music in my upcoming solo program will exploit the lyrical, singing capabilities of the instrument,” she said.
Boyd holds performance degrees from Stony Brook University, the Oberlin Conservatory, and the Hannover Academy of Music in Germany. In addition to being a Butler faculty member for nine years, she is on the faculty of the internationally renowned Interlochen Arts Camp in Northern Michigan.
In 2013, Boyd received an Indiana Arts Commission Grant; four years earlier, she earned an Arts Council of Indianapolis Creative Arts Renewal Fellowship. Her other awards and prizes include a Fulbright scholarship to Cologne, Germany, and fellowships at the Tanglewood Center, Blossom Music Center, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Prussia Cove.
“I am grateful to the Butler Awards Committee and the Indiana Arts Commission for funding this recording project,” Boyd said. “It is very rewarding to have had the opportunity to add my interpretation of these two works by John Cage to the body of recordings that represent his work.”