Pianist’s Performance Celebrates Brenau Musical Legacy from the Early 20th Century

Aug 26, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Originally published on 4/21/10

Brenau University celebrates its musical lineage and legacy with a performance by internationally acclaimed author, lecturer, and accompanist Vicki King on Monday, April 26, at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts, 429 Academy Street, in Gainesville. The 7:30 p.m. concert, which also features a performance by soprano Barbara Steinhaus, chair of the music department at the university, is free and open to the public.

Proving the “six degrees of separation” concept of human connectivity, but in much fewer steps, King, assistant professor of piano at Tennessee State University, will perform works of two Brenau music mainstays from the early 20th century – former professors Orlando Mansfield and Otto Pfefferkorn. To tighten the web, however, King also studied piano in Atlanta with the renowned concert pianist and teacher Powell Everhart, who for many years studied composition under Dr. Mansfield during his days at Brenau, and actually provided King with Mansfield scores that she will perform. .

“Brenau University has a rich history of highly respected music professors who in turn influenced musicians and teachers who have carried that legacy forward through generations,” said Steinhaus. “Vicki King is a perfect choice to help us celebrate that legacy because she is part of the circle.”

British-born Mansfield migrated to Georgia following studies in Canada and a distinguished career as a concert pianist and organist. He was also a gifted composer and arranger. In his life he composed and arranged many musical works, his best known being “The Students Harmony,” a teaching book which ran for several editions. Indeed, some of his arrangements of Bach compositions for the organ still can be found in use today. He retired from Brenau and retired to his home in Cheltenham, Gloustershire, England, where he died in 1936.

German-born Pfefferkorn already was something of a wunderkind of the classical keyboard before he arrived in the United States in the 1880s as a student at Boston University. In his first “job” after graduating from college (although he was a conservatory student, he insisted on pursuing a liberal arts degree at Boston University) was as music director at Denver University. During the three years he was in the Mile High City, he also earned a law degree as was admitted to the Colorado bar. Before he arrived at Brenau as head of the music program in 1902, he also headed the program at the Armour Institute Conservatory of Music in Chicago and, in the year before, met more than 50 concerts dates in North America and abroad. And, in addition to his work as a performer, he was highly regarded as a composer and arranger. He remained at Brenau until 1939.”

King says while she was studying with Everhart, she recalls her teacher would reminisce about his days as a teenage student, getting on a train in Atlanta and riding to Gainesville for his lessons with Mansfield. Coincidentally, Steinhaus’s son acquired some of the Pfefferkorn music during a serendipitous journey through a Homer’ Ga., antique store last summer, and King will include selections from that collection in the performance as well.

In addition to the works of the Brenau composers, King will perform compositions by Robert Schumann, Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig von Beethoven and Johann Baptist Cramer. “We’re also celebrating,” Steinhaus said, “the 200th anniversary of the births of Chopin and Schumann.”

King has made a lifetime study of piano technique – the way to play naturally, effortlessly, and without pain. She is the author of the book, “Playing the Piano Naturally.”

Steinhaus, a lyric mezzo-soprano who has performed throughout the United States and abroad, joined the Brenau faculty in 2008. She is professor of music and chair of the music department with a specialization in vocal performance.