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Art Song is the Focus of Duquesne University Pittsburgh Song Collaborative

"Art song" is the musical setting of a poem for piano and voice-and the focus of the Pittsburgh Song Collaborative, an ensemble now based in Duquesne University's Mary Pappert School of Music.

The collaborative will present its inaugural concert as a Duquesne ensemble on Saturday, Sept. 14, with Hugo Wolf's Italian Songbook at 7:30 p.m. in the PNC Recital Hall. The performance will feature Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Benjamin Binder on piano and two singers, Adjunct Professor of Voice Sari Gruber and guest artist Daniel Teadt.

Art song relies on the interplay between piano and voice, explained Binder. "The composer interprets the poem in the way he writes both parts. In this context, the piano can do all kinds of things. It musically evokes the imagery found in the poem, and it creates the mood of the scene. It can even tell you what the singer is thinking even if the poem being sung doesn't state it outright."

The Italian Songbook, described by Binder as a masterpiece of the 19th-century art song repertoire, is based on Italian folk poems translated into German by poet Paul Heyse. "These are poems about love and lovers in a folk village-they're ribald, sentimental, temperamental, hilarious, and everything in between. They don't form a drama per se, but they give us little variations on the theme of the relationship between the sexes."

English translations of the lyrics will be projected onto the stage during the performance.

Through the Pittsburgh Song Collaborative, which he founded in 2010, Binder has performed classical art song in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. He incorporates his scholarly study of art song into the concert. "I often lecture during the concert, presenting my recent musicological research to help the audience get deeper into the music," he said. "The Pittsburgh Song Collaborative, in a sense, also 'collaborates' across the discipline of music, because music performance and musicology are woven together in the concerts.  And art song is itself collaborative and interdisciplinary, since it involves music and poetry."

The organization's performances, Binder emphasized, do not simply involve getting up on a stage to play and sing art songs. "I'm trying to find creative ways of collaborating with artists in other disciplines to bring the poetry and music to life for the audience, to make these songs more accessible," said Binder, who has worked with curators at the Carnegie Museum of Art in performances there and played a concert that involved newly commissioned works of photography.

A $10 donation is suggested for admission. More information is available from the music school at 412.396.6083.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.