It was a rainy night on Jan. 17, but for the audience inside the Libby Gardner Concert Hall, there was an entirely different kind of thunder.
In his faculty recital, Department of Music visiting professor Viktor Valkov showed off his technical skill on a wide range of piano selections. Throughout the 100-minute performance, Valkov frequently surprised and wowed audience members with a selection including French Impressionism, Hungarian folk music and a Russian sonata.
Valkov was born in Bulgaria and earned a Bachelor of Music at the National Music Academy, a Master of Music at the Julliard School of Music and a Doctorate of Musical Arts at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He has enjoyed a long and successful career as a performer. He has performed recitals across North America, Europe and Asia, including at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He also has worked with several symphonies and often collaborates with cellist Lachezar Kostov. He is now working at the University of Utah as a visiting professor of piano.
Valkov’s recital began with four brooding, complex pieces by Claude Debussy that showed off his extensive technical abilities. He then played five Miniatures by Dimitar Nenov. This accessible set was a highlight of the night — the short, tonally diverse pieces rewarded even the shortest attention spans. The selection featured the blisteringly paced and aptly-named “Staccato” immediately followed by the gorgeous, deeply felt “Pastoral,” showing off Valkov’s dynamic range. The next suite, Bela Bartok’s “Out of Doors” was bookended by two dizzying pieces — the menacing “…with drums and pipes” and “The Chase,” a speedy crowd favorite.
“Giuoco Piano,” Valkov’s fourth selection, was inspired by chess — Giuoco Piano is a well-known chess opening, and the titles of individual sections of the piece reference well-known chess players or matches. The set of pieces was the most contemporary section of the night — the composer, Luke Dahn, wrote it in 2018. Dahn is also a professor at the U, and he was in attendance for Valkov’s recital. “Guioco Piano” was certainly the most strange music at the recital, featuring loud, punched notes that reverberated in isolation for several sections, schizophrenic changes in tempo and almost atonal chord progressions. Valkov fully committed to his performance — his whole body was engaged in every note, and he leaned into the pieces’ dramatic dynamic contrasts. The night concluded with “Sonata No. 8, Op. 84P” by Sergei Prokofiev, which was perhaps the most impressive performance that night. Valkov earned an appreciative standing ovation at its conclusion.
Students outside of the fine arts program often do not realize the many performances and events regularly offered on campus. Many of these events are both free to students with an ID card and open to the entire campus. Even for students with little knowledge of classical music, these events can be valuable ways to learn something new and experience art within the campus community. Upcoming events include a chamber music concert from the Paradigm Trio (Jan. 24) a performance by the Jazz Repertory Ensemble and Michie Jazz Quintet (Jan. 29) and regular lectures and educational events, including the Fridays with Faculty series, where faculty members give lectures that are open to campus on a special topic of their choosing. To learn more about upcoming events in the School of Music, visit music.utah.edu/events.