Dr. Victoria Neve was new to the sonatas she performed at a recital this Friday, but her performance did not feel novice when she began to play the keys of the exact piano for which the songs were composed.
At a recital hosted by SF State’s music department, Neve, a professor in the department for 40 years, played the compositions on the 200-year-old instrument made by the composer during a weekly recital Friday.
The Sonatas by Muzio Clementi recital was part of the course requirements of MUS 150, a concert music introductory course. Neve’s performance included two sonatas, one composed in 1802 and the other in 1821. Although Neve has been a music professor for many years, she said the Clementi sonatas are new to her.
“I just learned them this summer,” Neve said. “It was hard. I usually practice on my Steinway at home. I’ve done some work on a forte piano before, in grad school – the twin to this (piano). They were made in the same factory in London.”
The performance in the J. Paul Leonard library was part of the de Bellis Collection, which features the Clementi fortepiano, originally built in 1807 and donated by Frank V. de Bellis, whom the collection is named after.
The recital was set on the fourth floor of the library due to the piano’s fragility – the room is temperature-controlled to keep the wood healthy. The weekly recitals for the class are usually held in Knuth Hall, in the Creative Arts Building.
Neve said that the recitals vary to introduce the class to variety of live performance.
“We have singers, jazz, classical, world music – we want students to really get the breadth of performance,” she said. “(The performance are) free—anyone can come in.”
Neve’s biggest focus for the pieces was to try to replicate their original compositions.
“I was trying to make them sound as good as I could,” she said.
One student, Julian Shipp, said it sounded better than “good.”
“The performance was amazing,” said the jazz major and recent transfer student enrolled in MUS 150. “The tuning is different. (The piano has) got 66 keys instead of 88. It’s almost like a different instrument. We’re very lucky to have faculty access to it. This is really something else.”
Mali Carter, a fellow music major and MUS 150 student, had similar reverence for the fortepiano.
“I’m a piano nerd,” Carter said. “This is the first time I’ve seen a fortepiano in real life. It’s like sitting down at a harpsichord.”
Meredith Eliassen, the de Bellis collection’s curator, said many SF State students are not aware of the collection, which has a range of historical Italian artifacts. The collection includes a terracotta sarcophagus from the 5th century B.C.E, original manuscripts of Gregorian chants and Italian opera vinyl records from the early 19th century.
“When the library was renovated, all of this was stored away,” Eliassen said. “So now there’s a whole generation of students that doesn’t know this is here.”
The de Bellis collection is available for viewing on the fourth floor of the library and is open to the public.