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Soheil Nasseri Introduces Haskell Small's "Renoir's Feast" at Weill Hall
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Soheil Nasseri Introduces Haskell Small's "Renoir's Feast" at Weill Hall

- Classical and Cultural Connections

Soheil Nasseri, Piano
(Nasseri Website)
Presented by 21st Century Classical and Greta Katzauer
(21st Century Link)

New York Premiere of Haskell Small’s Renoir’s Feast
(Haskell Small Website)

At Weill Recital Hall
Carnegie Hall
(Carnegie Hall Website)


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 13, 2006

(See March 19, 2005 Review)


Schubert (1797-1828)
Sonata in A minor, D. 845, Op. 42 (1825)
Andante, poco mosso
Scherzo: Allegro vivace – Trio: Un poco più lento
Rondo: Allegro vivace

Haskell Small (b. 1948)
Renoir’s Feast (2005, New York Premiere)
The River, Alphonse Fournaise, The River, Charles Ephrussi, Jules Laforgue, The River, Jeanne Samary – Paul Lhote - Eugene – Pierre Lestringuez, Renoir, Ellen Andrée, The River, Baron Raoul Barbier – Alphonsine Fournaise, The River, Maggiolo – Angèle – Gustave Caillebotte, The River, Aline Charigot - Aline’s Dog, The Party, The River

Schumann (1810-1856)
Concerto without Orchestra, Op. 14 (1836)
Allegro Brillante
Scherzo: Molto comodo
Quasi Variazioni (7)
Prestissimo possible

Haskell Small was commissioned by the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. to create “Renoir’s Feast”, to bring to life, through music, the various characters in the renowned Renoir paining, “Dejeuner des Canotiers”, also known as “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. The work was written for Soheil Nasseri, as performer on solo piano, with “river music” as the constant, in between the musical character portraits. Renoir’s Feast had its debut in April 2006, at the Phillips Collection, to notable acclaim. Mr. Small studied piano with Leon Fleisher, among other renowned virtuosos, and he has performed in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He has recorded Bach’s Goldberg Variations, in addition to other self-composed works. (Assisted by Press Notes)

The high point of today’s solo piano concert at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall was the New York premiere of Renoir’ Feast, a 17-part composition, composed by Haskell Small for Soheil Nasseri, commissioned by the Phillips Collection, as homage to Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”. This painting, and, in fact, the Phillips Collection, itself, have long been favorites of mine, and the warmth and joviality of the 13 person, Parisian and suburban grouping, wining and dining at Maison Fournaise, is captivating. The figures are comprised of artists (Renoir, Caillebotte, Lhote), Renoir’s future wife, Aline Charigot, a news editor, Charles Ephrussi, a poet and critic, Jules Laforgue, the actresses, Angèle, Ellen Andrée, and Jeanne Samary, two children of the restaurateur, Alphonse Fournaise, Baron Raoul Barbier, “bureaucrat”, Eugène Pierre Lestringuez, and Italian journalist, Maggiolo. (Phillips Collection notes).

Mr. Small has obviously studied the painting and its actual characters well, as he captures the perceived revelry and camaraderie, as well as current and future relationships among the energized ensemble. He uses classical, jazz, and fused musical motifs as impressions of each luncheon guest or proprietor and even adds one for Renoir, in a possible cameo portrait within his own work. Dejeuner des Canotiers, this artistic masterpiece of Impressionism, bought by the Phillips Collection in 1923, for a then unheard of amount of $125,000.00, now has its Impressionist musical counterpart in Mr. Small’s unique vision. Initially, I heard elements of Satie and Poulenc, playful and dissonant, while the River themes took on new cadences and intonations on each re-appearance. Low and high meandering notes were mixed with fragmented staccatos. There was bluesy jazz and contemporary jazz, interspersed with a dizzying dervish, prior to a contrasting, innocent, childlike theme.

The flirtations and conversations of the characters were nuanced in like-minded artistic interpretations. Haskell Small notes that Renoir lived “like a cork floating on water, letting the current carry him along with only an occasional adjustment of the tiller”. Thus, the River theme, and the Boating Party includes boatman and restaurateur, Alphonse Fournaise, who hosts these engaged and eclectic merrymakers and intellectuals. Mr. Small notes that “drunken blues” are ascribed to an actress, while “a tender melody” is ascribed to Renoir’s object of desire. Soheil Nasseri managed to animate the characters in Mr. Small’s musical imagery, with confidence and astounding focus. Using no prompts, he memorized the 17 parts of this complicated composition with aplomb. Mr. Nasseri is an intense artist with incredible presence, and his aesthetic mastery of such a challenging work is indicative of a bright future in commissioned performance pieces, as well as in playing the standards.

One of those standards, Franz Schubert’s Sonata in A minor, began in relaxed, melodic fashion, with long, pregnant pauses. Again, there were slow deliberate pauses, before Moderato turned to Andante…. Nasseri played with exactness and rapid fingering, shifting between a light or stronger touch. The Scherzo… was forceful and staccato, while the Rondo… was racing and repetitious, with echoing waterfalls of a brief, beautiful theme. Mr. Nasseri ended tonight’s concert at Weill with Robert Schumann’s Concerto without Orchestra, in four movements, with seven Variations in the third. I found this piece rapturous and impassioned, played with painstaking precision. The second movement Scherzo rippled up and down the scale, while the long fourth movement Prestissimo possibile included moments of majesty and mystery in its dervish-driven theme. Yet, it was the Quasi Variazioni that truly tested the artist, as Soheil Nasseri interpreted Clara Schumann’s re-structured theme (composed by Robert Schumann) in its seven incarnations.

Kudos to Soheil Nasseri, and kudos to Haskell Small.

Soheil Nasseri
Photo courtesy of Publicity

Haskell Small and Soheil Nasseri, Post-Concert
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Print of Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" (1881)

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at