“Edmund Barton Bullock is a pianist’s pianist.
In a concert Monday at the French Embassy, Bullock appeared with violinist Sheng-Tsung Wang, soprano Michelle Kunz and cellist Benjamin Myers.
Bullock can immerse himself deeply in piano sound, transmuting the keys into a diversity of styles from Beethovenian gestures and Bullock’s own whispered impressionist sallies to Rachmaninoff’s visceral harmonies.”
The Washington Post, September 29, 1999
“Appalachian Concerto” for Piano and Orchestra by Edmund Barton Bullock (b. 1956), with the composer as the piano soloist, completed the first half of the program. A North Carolina native, Mr. Bullock divides his time between Toulouse, France, and the United States. The world premiere was performed by the Appalachian State University Symphony Orchestra in 2005 as part of the inaugural celebration for Chancellor Kenneth Peacock. This was the first American performance with the composer at the piano.
The original sketches for the concerto were begun at Beech Mountain in North Carolina. The first movement depicts the birth of spring on the mountain. The second movement, “Largo,” reflects the death of winter and a sadness for the failures of mankind in the twenty-first century to resolve its problems without resorting to war. The final movement is very joyous, an expression of victory and re-birth.
The concerto flows thematically as a whole from start to finish – indeed, there is no break between the first and second movements. The piano part requires virtuosic skill, exhibited quite well by Mr. Bullock. The orchestra provided its own expert collaboration.
Classical Voice of North Carolina, by W. Gerald Cochran, February 7, 2009
“Bullock’s rendering envelops the voice with a piano-trio, thus adding a rich instrumental palette to the poetry of the texts. With rare sensitivity, Hyunah Yu knew how to communicate the emotion of these poems. A revelation…”
France La Dépêche, on soprano Hyunah Yu’s performance of Songs of the Night, for Soprano and Piano-Trio, Toulouse, France
The longest work on the program was the Quintet for Piano and Strings by Edmund Bullock (b. 1956), a NC expatriate currently living in France. Commissioned by the Catawba Valley United Arts Council, this piano quintet is in four movements and was played by Kevin Lawrence (UNCSA faculty) and Janet Orenstein (UNCG faculty), violins, Sheila Browne (UNCSA faculty), viola, Whitehouse, cello, and composer Bullock at the piano. Bullock is a fine pianist and his quintet reflects this by giving the piano a predominant voice.
Opening with an expressive and somewhat romantic “Theme and Variations” which alternated parts between the string quartet and the piano, the style (but certainly not the mood) is reminiscent of the Janáček second string quartet where harmonic accompaniments are given rapid repeated figures, enlivening the whole textural quality. I imagine it might be what Gabriel Fauré would have sounded like had he used the minimalist style!
The second movement is a Scherzo in a duple (instead of the usual triple) meter, with rapid 16th notes in a sort of perpetual motion, followed by a calmer contrasting section (trio?). The third movement, “Nocturne,” evoked the memory of Chopin in the opening rising piano figure. Later in this lush movement, a series of slow trills ushered in a beautiful passage of violins in octaves over a pizzicato accompaniment. Sudden key changes (which Dvořák used in the last movement of his 8th Symphony) down a half-step prepared us for the contrapuntal “Finale,” accompanied by the piano playing a Czerny-like figure. Long extended piano solos, centered on single themes with very rhythmic string accompaniment, abound throughout this lush and uplifting work. The audience gave the composer and performers an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Classical Voice of North Carolina, by Peter Perret, February 17, 2009