Pinkas and Mellinger to perform duets in Hop concert

by Trevelyan Wing | 11/22/09 11:00pm

Hopkins Center pianist-in-residence and music professor Sally Pinkas will be joined by mezzo soprano Erma Mellinger, a lecturer in music, for a performance about the vicissitudes of love on Monday in Spaulding Auditorium.

Beginning with Felix Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words," the concert will move into two cycles written by Romantic composers Robert Schumann and Gabriel Faure at the height of their respective musical careers.

The performance brings Pinkas and Mellinger together for their first ever joint recital.

"In recent years I've been very involved with the music of Faure, performing works by him in Boston," Pinkas said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "Erma looked over this piece by Faure this past summer and fell in love with it. Both pieces, the Schumann and the Faure, really complement each other."

Pinkas, who was born in Israel, is also on the faculty of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass. She has a broad repertoire, has performed widely in Europe and in other parts of the world, and has released numerous albums.

Mellinger has performed with major opera companies and orchestras across the United States. In the first cycle, "A Woman's Life and Loves" ("Frauenliebe und-Leben, Op 42"), Pinkas and Mellinger will perform a set of eight poems by the German poet Adalbert von Chamisso set to music by Schumann.

"The story begins at the moment when the woman first meets the man and falls in love." Pinkas said, adding that the couple marries and has a child before the man passes away. "If you read the poetry from a woman's point of view, it's anachronistic because the woman worships the ground beneath her husband. The music, however, is just divine."

The second cycle, "La bonne chanson, Op. 61 (1892-4)" by Faure, is told from the point of view of a man.

"The poetry is of a different tone [from the first cycle], though it still relates to love," Pinkas said.

In this piece, a cycle of poems by the French poet Paul Verlaine set to Faure's music celebrates the poet's happy marriage.

Faure dedicated the piece, however, to his mistress.

These two cycles, the centerpiece of the performance, will be preceded by a four-part opus by Mendelssohn.

"We didn't want to delve right into very serious cycles, so we decided to begin the recital with Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words,'" Pinkas said. "The music is short, charming and sets the stage for the cycles of Faure and Schumann. It sets the spirit of the time. It's heartfelt, sweet, and sad, and warms up the air into the right atmosphere for the following pieces."

Pinkas said music has been a lifelong passion.

"I started piano at seven and started composing in my teens," Pinkas said. "Upon arriving in this country, I went to a liberal arts college, Brandeis [University]."

Pinkas said she is "very, very fortunate" to have landed at Dartmouth.

"The path I'm following is the path that combines teaching and performing," she said, adding later, "[At Dartmouth], I can teach but also practice, and my students can see me do both; the two things complement each other, and it's good that the students can see that."

Over the course of her tenure at Dartmouth, Pinkas said she has changed her outlook on teaching.

"Much of us were not taught how to teach," Pinkas said. "We were taught that pedagogy was boring. As I've gotten older, however, I've been able to analyze a lot, including myself. I like to think I'm a better teacher now than when I started."

Pinkas said that she has found Dartmouth to be very supportive of the arts.

"I like my environment very much. It's nurturing, and it encourages curiosity," Pinkas said. "I have colleagues who are involved in many different kinds of music; we're not locked into one type of music, or one period of music for that matter."

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!