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The Front Row: William Westney

William Westney
Kaysie Ellingson
William Westney

One of Lubbock’s most respected pianists, Dr. William Westney, comes to the Front Row to talk about this weekend’s upcoming performance.

Everyone looks forward to the Bill Westney recital. Tell us about it.

I often build my performances around one major piece, which many pianists do, then kind of see what goes with that. So, this year the major piece is something I’m returning to. It’s a very special piece to me, which is the Chopin B minor sonata. Often times when you’re a pianist, people tend to ask you, “Do you have a favorite composer, do you have a favorite piece.” I always say, “no, it’s whatever I’m working on in the moment, and there’s so many wonderful things to explore.” And that’s true.

However, it’s not entirely true because I kind of have a favorite piece and it’s pretty much the Chopin B minor sonata. It’s the only big work like that that I’ve returned to throughout my decades of playing…the reason is it’s just this majestic expression of so many feelings and the whole four movements are just so satisfying to me.

What’s it like to play a big work by Chopin?

Well, all the romantic composers struggled I think with the sonata form. The enshrined major thing that composers address themselves to and try to see where can I take it. It worked beautifully with Beethoven and even Brahms, who was a master of those forms, couldn’t write very many sonatas. He wrote them very early and he abandoned that entirely for piano solo. He continued to write sonata forms for every other combination. So it was something very daunting I think.

What romantic composers did best, I will say, is the character pieces you described, these shorter characteristic pieces—just brilliant. You can hear in the Chopin sonata, just sort of hear him working through it in the first movement. How will I do this extended form and make this work? It’s an engrossing and gorgeous movement, full of material. But it’s notoriously difficult to organize it.

But what’s it like to play? Playing any extended piece like that is, as I say, very engrossing, like delivering a one act play or a whole entire drama onto itself as it progresses from one movement to another.

Listen to the full interview at the top of the article.

Clinton Barrick is the Director of Programming for the network of stations that comprise Texas Tech Public Radio. He has served in this capacity for over twenty-five years, providing Classical Music to the airwaves of the South Plains and expanding Texas Tech Public Radio’s offering of news and cultural programs in response to station and network growth.