By Chloe Lindeman, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Michal Schmidt is not your run-of-the-mill professional cellist: she has studied music all over the world, and she has held a number of impressive posts as cellist. She also just happens to be an incredible pianist. In a “Music and Conversation” concert at Haverford College’s Marshall Auditorium on Sunday, Feb. 12, alongside pianist Christine Debleau, Schmidt treated the audience to a performance that showcased her talent on both instruments.
The concert’s theme was “From Beethoven to the Romantics: A Perfect Progression.”
Schmidt was quick to note that planning the performance was like a dream come true.
“When I was a teenager, I fell in love with Beethoven,” she told the audience. “I knew nothing except that he touched my heart very deeply.”
The concert opened with Beethoven’s Seven Variations on an Aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and ended with his Cello Sonata in C Major, forming what Schmidt called a “Beethoven sandwich.” In-between were other romantic gems composed by Schubert, Chopin, and Schumann.
Although Beethoven’s later works tended toward the romantic, his Seven Variations remained more on the classical side. For Schmidt and Debleau, this required clean and exposed playing. Both were more than up to the task, though the piano occasionally overpowered Schmidt’s cello, despite the latter’s full sound.
The second piece on the program, Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor for piano four hands, placed Schmidt and Debleau side-by-side at the piano. A single, constantly evolving movement that was decidedly stormier than the opening Beethoven, the work fell firmly under the label of ‘romantic.’ It highlighted the more dramatic and technically challenging playing of both artists.
Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor followed. Schmidt prefaced the piece with a note about the equal roles of piano and cello — an uncommon feat for Chopin, who strongly favored the piano in most compositions — which are “literally finishing each others’ sentences” throughout.
In Robert Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces, the duo maintained their excellent musical communication, an especially impressive achievement given that Schmidt’s placement left her unable to see Debleau without turning around completely. Despite consistently well-coordinated tempos and expression, the cello was once again occasionally dominated by the piano.
The final piece allowed a return to Beethoven — but not the same Beethoven that began the program. The composer’s Cello Sonata in C Major was written almost 15 years after the Seven Variations, and the more mature compositional style came through clearly.
Though by no means the most romantic piece on the program, the final sonata offered insight into how even a single composer might evolve throughout his life and brought the concert full cycle.