Exploring counterpoints: Joshua Mundinger ‘18 presents his senior piano recital

in Artist Spotlight/Arts/Music in Spaces by

Last Friday, Joshua Mundinger ’18 gave his senior piano recital in Lang Concert Hall. The recital featured Preludes and Fugues of Bach and Shostakovich as well as the Chopin Sonata No. 3 in B minor. In addition to playing the piano, Mundinger also plays the oboe and has participated in chamber music throughout his Swarthmore career. From a young age, Mundinger has been aware of and pursued his innate passion for music.

“Before I came to Swarthmore, I did many of the same performance activities that I do now. I always knew I would play piano the whole time,” said Mundinger.

By taking academic courses while participating in various musical ensembles at Swarthmore, Mundinger has developed theoretical and historical lenses for examining music. Playing in chamber ensembles has also enabled him to channel his passion for music. But in contrast to collaborative and academic learning, the recital, for Mundinger, is a personal tradition.

“I wanted to give a recital at my senior year partly because I gave one in my high school senior year. The recital is not only a marker of achievement, but also, through the preparation, an opportunity to see how my understanding of music and piano playing has grown,” Mundinger explained.  

Mundinger began to plan for his recital this April, hoping to explore different possibilities of counterpoints in music from a new perspective.

“I wanted to incorporate Fugue and Sonata because they are monumental in the history of Western music, forms that composers have continually come back to. But I didn’t want to play just the standard piano repertoire. Even though Bach and Chopin definitely do fall into the standard piano repertoire, the Chopin Sonata is an unusual composition for Chopin,” Mundinger commented.

As the performance date approached, a second goal emerged for the recital: to vindicate Shostakovich.

“I think Shostakovich’s really underserved in a lot of ways — he has been put into narrow boxes by musicians and critics. I hope to show his relevance to modern piano music,” said Mundinger.

The recital began with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major from “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” followed by Shostakovich’s Prelude and Fugue in B-flat minor, Op. 87. The tension between the counterpoints in the beginning of the Shostakovich Fugue became palpable when the musician, as if holding back a half-spoken sentence, intentionally elongated the note and suspended the phrase. Throughout the piece, each repetition of the melody was performed with slight variation, subtly defying an audience’s expectation. Next came Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D Major, juxtaposed with Shostakovich’s Prelude and Fugue in E major. Both pieces illustrated the contrast between melodies. The latter in particular was marked by the quick buildup and release of tension, hidden in the “smallest of swells”, as described by Mundinger.

The recital’s unique theme coupled with Mundinger’s technique left the audiendce members satisfied with their experience:

“I think the performance was spectacular! Every piece was performed beautifully and each was a riveting example of Josh’s incredible talent. I especially loved the selection of pieces that were performed, covering different musical styles and themes. Josh’s innate knowledge of every nuance of each piece was very impressive,” said attendee Allyson Thrasher ’21.

In addition to classical music lovers in the community, many of Mundinger’s family members and friends attended the recital to show their support. The convivial atmosphere shaped by the audience members certainly lent the recital, a rite of passage for Mundinger, a personal touch.

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