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Looking Into the Dark

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Date: Sun October 2, 2011 4:00pm

Darkness is ever present in life. The weight and severity of that darkness is dependent entirely on each individual, and can seem more present at different times in his or her life. Pianist Inon Barnatan was struckInon Barnatan with this sense of darkness through Schubert’s Sonata in A Major. “I suddenly heard deception in the middle,” he said. “Basically, Schubert descends into madness, total madness.”

Barnatan was fascinated by this madness and quickly found the same themes racing through other pieces. “We always get a first impression, but there is always something underneath it, especially in great music. There are layers and layers and layers underneath.” His [email protected] program on Oct. 2, which will include an array of great music by Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Benjamin Britten, explores these layers at length. “So many of them had a dark core which wasn’t always apparent when you listen to it.”

Barnatan dove into this darkness while working on his new recording with several pieces that will be heard at his performance. “There’s so much in common between all of these pieces. It is so fascinating to me to put them next to each other,” he remarked. One of the most talked about is the namesake of the program, Darknesse Visible, by Thomas Adès. “It is an amazing piece,” Barnatan noted, and the timing of his performance couldn’t be more appropriate, as the San Francisco Symphony performs an Adès program that weekend. “It was a coincidence, but it’s nice to have that connection.”

Barnatan has performed before at [email protected] and said he’s thrilled to return for the 2011–2012 Winter Series. “I love [email protected],” he said. “I’ve been at the festival a couple of times and it is just such a magical place.” To Barnatan, one of the best aspects of the series is the emphasis that has been placed on the music. But, of course, it doesn’t hurt that “they always have the best pianos.”

Bay Area audiences are in for a unique experience bursting with gorgeous music, tremendous talent, and a little bit of the devil. “Even in the most charming, beguiling places, there is always this dark element. The devilish quality can be a positive thing as well. ... No one is charming like the devil,” he concluded.

Trista Bernstein studied voice at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and earned her Master of Nonprofit Administration degree from the University of San Francisco. Trista is currently the Development Director at Broadway by the Bay.