A conversation with Jerry Wong | Kent Keyboard Series | Jan. 27
Recently we sat down with pianist, Steinway Artist and Kent State University faculty member Jerry Wong to talk about his upcoming Kent Keyboard Series concert on Sun., Jan. 27, at 5 p.m. Titled “Franz and Franz,” the performance will feature collaborative and solo works by Liszt and Schubert. He will be joined by wife and fellow Kent State faculty member soprano Melissa Davis, and Kent State faculty violinist Cathy Meng Robinson, also of the renowned Miami String Quartet.
Q1: Why did you choose to title the program “Franz and Franz”?
A: The program pairs works by two of my favorite composers: Franz Schubert (1797 to 1828) and Franz Liszt (1811-1886). The two have many distinctions from one another. Schubert’s life span was incredibly short. Liszt, on the other hand, lived a very long life - expanding throughout many significant developments in the 19th century. Their compositional output differed, and pianists often note that Schubert was considered an amateur pianist who played informal lieder recitals from home while Liszt was a touring virtuoso who was remembered as having total wizardry at the instrument. Still, though, the two have certain similarities as well. They were each masters of transforming a musical idea, had a fascinating harmonic language, and explored themes of nature, isolation, loss and redemption.
Q2: What are some of the musical highlights of the program?
A: I’m excited to present both solo and collaborative works on the program. In my early years at KSU, my faculty recitals were always entire solo repertoire. Recently, however, I’ve enjoyed presenting a broader spectrum of works. It’s also fascinating to take a particular composer and explore several dimensions of their writing in one sitting.
Q3: Your wife and fellow Kent State University School of Music faculty member soprano Melissa Davis will be joining you. What’s it like to work with each other on musical projects?
Well - of course, it’s a great pleasure! Melissa and I have two young sons who are both as wildly rambunctious as they are charming. Building legos and playing “hide and seek” are lofty tasks indeed, but it is refreshing to switch gears and dive into a rehearsal. I feel really fortunate to share my life with someone who wants to explore this wonderful repertoire. The treasured literature for soprano and piano is enough to last several lifetimes!
Q4: Violinist and KSU faculty member Cathy Meng Robinson will also be joining you for Schubert. Are there differences in working with a violinist vs. a vocalist?
A: Interesting - the differences are as numerous and varied as the similarities. I should start first by saying that Cathy is the dream colleague! She is so thoughtful in her preparation, kind in rehearsal and of course, such an amazing player. We first collaborated together on the Cesar Franck Sonata in 2004 and here are we are again these many years later.
I suppose the most obvious distinction between instrumental chamber music and vocal is the absence or presence of text. It’s one thing to say “we should change the feeling here because of this interesting harmony.” It’s another to say “we HAVE to change the feeling here because the text says pain or sunlight.”
Q5: This is your last solo performance at Kent State, where will you be going and what will you be doing?
A: Oh, you’ve heard those rumors too?! After 15 years here at KSU, I’m departing for a new position at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in Australia. I’ll join the faculty there in June of 2019 and in February of 2020 assume the role of Head of Keyboard. Melbourne has a thriving piano program - the largest in Australia and I’m very enthusiastic about its future.
These days I’m full of reflection, in part because I’m practicing Schubert, but also of course because of this major upcoming life change. I’ve seen so much growth at KSU. Many amazing things have occurred and many more await. The School of Music is indeed a special place, and I’m honored to have been a part of its journey!
Tickets are available NOW through the Performing Arts Box Office for this not to be missed performance of the Kent Keyboard Series. The PABO is open M-F, 12-5 PM.
$13 seniors and Kent State University faculty and staff*
$10 groups of 10 or more patrons
$8 non-Kent State students and Kent State students ineligible for the Fee for Free
FREE full-time Kent State undergraduate students and those 18 & under
*Only adult and senior tickets can be purchased online. Please call or visit the PABO for all other tickets.
Three ways to get tickets:
Call 330-672-2787 (ARTS).
We encourage patrons to purchase tickets in advance to avoid long lines and wait times, but they will be available starting one hour before the performance outside of Ludwig Recital Hall in the Center for the Performing Arts.