St. Louis pianist Timothy Jansen carries a great tradition forward at Peace Lutheran Church
By Gary Liam Scott
Since the early 1800s the power of the solo piano recital has thrilled audiences everywhere. And small wonder when you consider the power of the piano as an instrument that provides its own percussion and harmony, possesses the largest range of any musical instrument and yet still sings with a voice whose expression is unmatched when placed in the hands of a competent performer. St. Louis pianist Timothy Jansen is one of the committed performers who carries this great musical heritage forward.
The tradition of outstanding pianists in the St. Louis region is long and distinguished. Jansen was taught by the legendary Jane Allen, who produced a legion of brilliant young pianists who have performed all over the world. Jane Allen taught her students to bring the piano to life and take full advantage of the instrument's full range of resources. Although her students never lost their own individuality, Allen cultivated a boldness and confidence in each one, which was more than evident in Jansen's performance.
Leading off with the almost iconic Sonata in E-flat Major of Franz Joseph Haydn, Jansen's program culled works from the long list of masterworks created for the piano. Springing from the nimbleness required of Haydn to the florid expressiveness of the Consolation No. 3 of Franz Liszt and then to the thunderous power required for Liszt's Grande Etude No. 1 after Paganini and the Polonaise No. 2 demonstrated the scope and power of Jansen's technique.
Jansen's carefully assembled program continued with additional works from the Romantic period, but which displayed introspection and lyricism as well as heroic fireworks. The Ballade No. 2 in F Major by Chopin, leading off the set, made an excellent example of a work that moves from deep introspection to rugged leaps and soaring flights. The Intermezzo in E-flat Major, Opus 117, No. 1 by Johannes Brahms, which followed, is a deeply meditative piece inspired by a Scottish ballad, much like a lullaby or deep reverie. Tim brought the program to a close with Book I of Brahms' "Variations on a Theme by Paganini," a rousing yet intellectual treatment of the Paganini caprice that has haunted composers for generations.
Tim's finger articulation was always distinct, yet not brash. Overall, his tempos were on the brisk side. Some listeners might prefer slower tempos, but the quicker pace added an extra infusion of energy to the program. Particularly in the Brahms Intermezzo this was a welcome change, since many players often opt for an almost dirge-like tempo. Careful phrasing from the performer further ensured that the composers' meaning was not lost, regardless of tempo.
The fact that even during a time of pandemic this program attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd shows that American audiences, and audiences everywhere, still respect and yearn for music that demonstrates talent and substance. Particularly at a time like this, churches such as Peace Lutheran perform a vital work in maintaining and nurturing the cultural fabric of our world's shared musical heritage. Music is spiritual, and at this time we need spirit.
Timothy Jansen's recital took place on Friday, April 9, 2021. More information about the Music Ministry at Peace Lutheran Church is available at their web site.