“Les yeux clos” by Nicky Purser

Since her time as a resident and Harriet Hale Woolley scholar, Nicky Purser’s involvement in the FEU’s cultural program has continued to grow. She regularly returns to perform in the Grand Salon and often collaborates with the current musicians in residence, this time performing a composition by Harriet Hale Woolley alumnus (2018-19) Sergio Herrera. In this program of contemporary music, I chose composers who have ties of varying degrees to the United States, but who draw inspiration from a range of cultural influences. In acquainting myself with the scores, the concept of dreaming stood out as a frequently recurring theme, thus the title Les yeux clos (“eyes closed”). Some of these works are quite ethereal and evocative of the dream state. Others project a certain vivacious and ambitious character that could be linked with the oft-used term “American dream.” The preparation of this program has allowed me to explore the musical representation of dreaming: that which may be fleeting, imaginary, anticipated, possible, frightening, nostalgic, untouchable. I selected certain pieces due to their similarities in musical content or based on complementary elements. The music of Takemitsu is vaguely echoed in the melodic opening of Montgomery’s Dreamscapes and in the bell-like timbres of Barbosa’s Strata. Barbosa in turn draws inspiration from the spectral music of Murail. Chiba and Montgomery have written multi-movement works that evoke dreams. Aspects of the music by Matsui and Goldford represent a certain big-city energy incorporating rhythmic motives and virtuosic gestures. Of course these are only generalized descriptions that only serve to loosely associate these pieces together. They are all so much richer once heard. I have the great pleasure of presenting world premieres of pieces written for me by two young composers: Sergio Herrera and Luciano Leite Barbosa. ~ Nicky Purser

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Toru Takemitsu
Les yeux clos (1979)

William Montgomery
Dreamscapes (2016)

Louis Goldford
Di Yu de Qian (Hell Money) (2010)

Tristan Murail
Cailloux dans l’eau (2018)

Sergio Herrera
Where Are You (2015)

Luciano Leite Barbosa
Strata (2019) Première mondiale

Maiko Chiba
The Gates of Dreams (1997/2008) with violin

About Nicky 

American pianist Nicky Purser holds a bachelor’s, master’s, and performer diploma from Indiana University Bloomington, the Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), the diplôme supérieur d’enseignement and diplôme supérieur de musique de chambre from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, and the diplôme d’études musicales (D.E.M) from the Conservatoire of Boulogne-Billancourt. Her primary teachers have been Edmund Battersby, Jean-Louis Haguenauer, Erik Berchot, Pavlos Yallourakis, Valerica Maican, and Julien LePape.  She studied counterpoint with Isabelle Duha, earning the prix supérieur at the Conservatoire d’Issy-les- Moulineaux by unanimous vote and special recognition by the jury. During her studies at Indiana University, she was an assistant instructor for the Department of Music Theory. Her studies in Paris were generously supported by the Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship and a scholarship from the Ecole Normale in Paris. In 2015 she received the accompanist prize by a unanimous jury at the Young Soloists Competition of the Sorbonne in Paris. In 2016 she completed a one-year residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts of Paris dedicated to an exploration of the piano music by Toru Takemitsu. Recent concert appearances include the Ensemble Linea summer festival, the Philomuses Association, the International Chamber Orchestra of Washington, and the Festival Impromptu in Chambon-sur-Lignon. She has collaborated with members of TM+, the National Orchestra of France, and the Radio France choir. She has also worked with composers Don Freund, Carlos Grätzer, Alexandros Markeas, Simone Movio, François Rossé, Betsy Jolas, and Denis Levaillant. She is currently on faculty at the Koenig American Conservatory and the association La Leçon de Piano.

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