Music doesn’t exist on the page. The notes are like a blueprint for a house. But the house of music exists in the moment. And its foundation is built on air.
Pianist Grigorios Zamparas and soprano Hein Jung delight in creating musical castles in the sky. Both live in the area and teach at the University of Tampa as associate professors. He’s the head of the piano program; she’s the director of vocal studies. Both perform extensively at concerts across America and Europe. But they especially love making music close to home. They’ll be doing just that at the Sarasota Concert Association’s next Music Matinee concert April 10.
They’re a true dynamic duo. And they didn’t join forces overnight.
Jung and Zamparas met at the University of Tampa about 10 years ago. They quickly began performing and recording together. “We had our first concert at the university, and discovered a natural musical chemistry,” says Hein. “Everything just clicked—and we’ve been performing together ever since.”
Their collaboration doesn’t feel like work. And that’s why it works.
“Hein is a true artist,” Zamparas says. “That makes the collaborative process very easy. We feel the music in the same way — and we’re really on the same wavelength. Sometimes we’ll talk about it. But we usually don’t have to talk too much, we just do it.”
For both of these artists, creating music is more than a performance. They’re bringing a musical truth into the world. How do they find the inner meaning of each song?
“It’s a process of discovery,” says Jung. “We hear the truth of a song in the act of singing and playing it.”
It’s a natural collaboration. And they don’t overthink it. You can see this spontaneous approach in their choice of programming. Intuition guides their song selections. And perhaps a kind of magic. Zamparas and Jung often discover a profound underlying thread once their decisions have been made. Their next Music Matinee concert is no exception.
Songs for piano and voice is the theme. Of course, with Jung and Zamparas, that’s always the theme.
More than that obvious criterion, they want to delight a diverse audience. Creating a musical box of chocolates is the usual way to do it. Don’t hit the same note. Obvious, right? Or so it seems …
For this concert, the duo selected pieces by Chopin, Gershwin, Handel, Herbert and Rachmaninoff. There were lighthearted oratorios from operas and operettas. There were art songs — the lyrics of a poem set to a bravura piano accompaniment. Other pieces offered wordless celebrations of the power of the keyboard. Something for everybody — that’s easy to see. But with the advantage of hindsight, they could also see the common thread.
The songs all speak of yearning and time. They reach out to an inexpressible loss in this world. Or an ineffable hope beyond it.
One example is George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess — the lullaby of a poor African-American woman, offering her child an impossible hope in this world or the next.
Others are selections from the transcendent preludes of Chopin’s Op. 28 where the pianist strives to express the inexpressible.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Oh, never sing to me again”—a flowing, harmonic piece based on a poem by Pushkin—the lament of a homesick refugee from Georgia begging a beautiful singer not to remind him of his lost homeland.
The heavenly “Rejoice Greatly” from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. An aria of joy from beyond this earth.
Zamparas and Jung didn’t start out to express this theme. But they were delighted to discover that they had.
“Music is always a journey — a process of discovery,” says Zamparas. “Hein and I take it together, and it’s always a new experience. We’re so happy to invite the Sarasota audience to join us.”
Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.