Piano Faculty Put Practiced Hands to Carnegie Hall Recital

By Jake Weber

Lia Jensen-Abbott rehearsing on the Weill Hall stage.Lia Jensen-Abbott rehearses on Weill Hall's stage.



The Abbotts with students Nicholas Laban, '11 (left) and Dan Willenberg, '11, both of whom took time away from their graduate studies in music to attend the Abbotts' performance.The Abbotts caught up with former students Nicholas Laban, '11 (left), and Dan Willenberg, '11, both of whom took time away from their graduate studies in music to attend the Abbotts' performance.


Albion-based groupies on a tour at the Juilliard School, where they received a tour from Emily Regas, a member of Juilliard's development staff and niece of Bill, '70, and Barb, '72, Rafaill.Albion-based fans visited the Juilliard School, where they received a tour from Emily Regas, a member of Juilliard's development staff and niece of Bill, '70, and Barb, '72, Rafaill.

Alumni and friends reveled in the outstanding talent of Albion's piano faculty, as David Abbott and Lia Jensen-Abbott performed a Carnegie Hall recital earlier this month. A number of Albion residents traveled to New York City for the concert in Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall, joining area alumni and New York City residents looking for an evening of piano music.

The recital was part of Abbott's sabbatical activity, an "extension of the international concerts I gave last year in the Republic of China, Switzerland, and France," said Abbott. "Carnegie is one of the premier halls in the country if not the world for classical music, and it was wonderful performing there."

Abbott and Jensen-Abbott chose a program of Romantic music that provided new opportunities for the performers as well as their audience. Jensen-Abbott played "Das Jahr" ("The Year") by Fannie Mendelssohn-Hensel, sister of Felix Mendelssohn, a virtuoso piece attempted by few pianists. Abbott performed works by Mendelssohn contemporaries Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann.

"The score for Schumann's 'Fantasie' is nearly 35 feet long and one of the major blockbusters of the Romantic piano repertoire," said Abbott. "It is a notoriously difficult work but I was fortunate to have a sabbatical which allowed me to practice more intensively at the end of last semester. My wife, however, has been teaching throughout the entire year, even teaching an overload, and still played the recital at the same time."

Along with three carloads of fans from Albion, several of the pair's current and former music students flew in for the concert. "Their performances took the audience on a profound emotional journey," said Nicholas Laban, '11, a graduate piano student at Western Michigan University. "I am so proud to have learned from them and to have each of them now as a mentor and friend."

Abbott noted that the performance was equally satisfying for himself and Jensen-Abbott. "The presence of so many friends and colleagues resulted in an unusually supportive atmosphere that an artist truly senses from the stage," he said. "Playing a classical concert is always a two-way street. You project to the audience but you must also sense something in the energy that travels from the audience back to the stage. It was a remarkable feeling of warmth that perhaps contributed to why I felt less nervous than normal when stepping onto that imposing and famous stage!"