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Sole Nero with Jessica Johnson and Anthony DiSanza

April 1, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Sole Nero is a piano and percussion duo with Anthony DiSanza, percussion and Jessica Johnson, piano, based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sole Nero is committed to exploring and programming new and existing works for piano and percussion duo. In an effort to contribute to the repertoire of this diverse medium, the duo has engaged in an extensive commissioning/premiering project resulting in ten new works since 2002.  Sole Nero has performed extensively in the United States and has appeared in Shenyang and Beijing, China. In addition, the duo has performed at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, the Society of Composers National Conference, and the MTNA National Conference.

Sole Nero’s repertoire has explored works involving multi-media, including Across a Distance, a theatre production for soprano, deaf actor and video images with piano & percussion duo.  The music for this production was composed for Sole Nero by Scott Gendel. In 2004 the duo released its first compact disc recording on the Equilibrium label titled Music per Due and is currently recording newly commissioned works for their second release.


Unsafe (At Any Speed) (2001)                                                       Roshanne Etezady


lead (2003)                                                                                       Dave Hollinden

Platinum (2001)

Sojourn (2004/2005)                                                                      Serra Hwang


Children’s Songs (1971-1980)                                                       Chick Corea

No. 1

No. 5

No.  17

No. 3  (Space Circus Part 1)

No. 6  (Song to the Pharaoh Kings)


Super Power (2005)                                                                                    David Cutler

Program Notes

Unsafe (At Any Speed) (2001)                                          Roseanne Etezady

Unsafe (At Any Speed) bursts with kinetic energy and drive in its outer sections, while magically transforming this jittery material into warm, pulsating, atmospheric music in its middle section. Featuring re-imagined drum set and extensive use of syncopation, Etezady clearly draws inspiration from rock and funk music. Through the use of driving rhythmic motives, the piano writing unfolds from the lowest register, exploring angular leaps and hard-edged rhythmic turns, making this piece truly unsafe to perform at any speed.

lead (2003)                                                                                       Dave Hollinden

Platinum (2001)

Platinum was a breath of fresh air.  It came out as an extended burst of restless, rhythmic energy. It was the first piece I wrote after working for two years on a concerto for percussion. The title represents images of bright, polished surfaces; hard, crisp edges; and the clear, ringing sound of metal that came to mind when reflecting on the music.

lead was written a year later. In contrast to the rhythmic vitality of Platinum, I asked myself what would happen if I wrote music without relying on rhythm and counting as my primary devices. This led to a great deal of brooding and questioning, and resulted in music with an inert heaviness; slow and pondering, at times tense, at times meditative.  Both works were composed for the piano and percussion duo Sole Nero.  (DH)

Sojourn (2004)                                                                                Serra Hwang

Composed for Sole Nero piano and percussion duo in 2004, Sojourn is a Korean folk drumming inspired piece. The rhythmic cycles used for the piece, such as 8+9+10+10+9 or 10+6+10+10 are combinations of patterns that are common in folk drumming, especially folk ritual music of traditional Korea. Within each cycle, groupings between 2 and 3 are constantly changing to create an active and evolving energy flow. The large recurring rhythmic cycle produces a distinctive groove. Above this groove of percussion, the piano flows more freely, singing, telling, and chanting a story. It is to give the listeners a chance to sojourn into rural Korea. (SH)

Children’s Songs (1971-1980)                                                     Chick Corea

Chick Corea’s Children’s Songs were the first set of pieces he wrote specifically for solo piano. In these twenty miniatures he sought to convey “simplicity as beauty, as represented in the spirit of a child.” The usual performance instructions – dynamics and the like – have been kept to a minimum, as the nature of the music (given the composer’s background in improvisation) allows the performer a greater degree of interpretive flexibility than would be expected in the standard classical repertoire. For today’s performance, Sole Nero has arranged five of Corea’s songs for piano and percussion.  (Forbes Henderson)

Super Power (2005)                                                                                   David Cutler

Super Power is an aggressive, rhythmic, virtuosic episode inspired (naturally) by comic strip super heroes. This version of the piece is for piano four hands, performed by a pianist and a percussionist, encouraged to portray their favorite super hero or villain (or create their own!). The pianist plays primarily on the keys, while the drummer treats the grand piano as a combination of hand percussion instruments, producing an array of sounds by striking, plucking, scraping, rubbing, and knocking on various parts of the instrument. Though playing inside the piano may not be common, the techniques requested pose no threat of damage to the instrument. (DC)


Jessica Johnson serves on the piano faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy, where in 2006, she was the recipient of UW-Madison’s prestigious Emil Steiger Distinguished Teaching Award for excellence in teaching.  Johnson frequently commissions and programs contemporary solo and chamber works, regularly performing with Sole Nero, a piano and percussion duo with Anthony Di Sanza, percussion. An advocate for the adoption of the Donison-Steinbuhler (DS) Standard, offering alternatively sized piano keyboards, her upcoming recording project features new works by American women performed on the DS5.5™ (“7/8”) keyboard.

An active clinician, she has given workshops and presentations at the European Piano Teachers Association International Conference, World Piano Pedagogy Conference, ISME, MTNA, Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA), National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (NCKP), Portland International Piano Festival, as well as held residencies at major universities and colleges throughout North America, Europe and China. Johnson has articles published in American Music Teacher, Piano Journal of the European Piano Teachers Association, Clavier Companion, Piano Pedagogy Forum and Piano Adventures Teacher Newsletter. She is a two-time winner of American Music Teacher’s Article of the Year Award for “Feeling the Sound: Reflections on Claiming One’s Own Musical Voice” (2014) and “The Art of Listening with Depth, Understanding, Flow and Imagery” (2007).

A devoted teacher, Johnson’s students have secured teaching positions in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. Passionate about community engagement and arts outreach, she serves as Director of Piano Pioneers, a program that brings high quality piano instruction to low-income community members and high-risk youth in Wisconsin.

Anthony Di Sanza has performed and presented master classes throughout North America, Europe and Asia. He has appeared as a visiting artist at over 45 colleges, universities, and conservatories and has performed internationally as a soloist and chamber musician in some of the world’s most important concert halls. Active in a variety of Western and non-Western percussive styles, he can be heard over 15 internationally distributed CD recordings with various artists. In review of his 2011 solo CD release, On the nature of…, All Music Guide writes; “Di Sanza dazzles not only in the assurance and polish of his playing but in his tremendous vitality and spontaneity.”

Di Sanza has performed with numerous orchestras as timpanist or percussionist and currently serves as principal percussionist with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.  Also a percussion composer, Di Sanza’s 1st concerto for darabukka (Middle Eastern goblet drum) and percussion quartet has been performed internationally and his second concerto, titled Time’s Arc, was premiered at the 2013 Percussive Arts Society International Convention.  He has works published with Alfred and HoneyRock and his book Improvisational Practice Techniques is published by RGM music. Additionally, Encore Mallets recently released his signature line of marimba mallets and he has collaborated with Black Swamp Percussion on the Di Sanza Triangle Trigger.

Currently Professor of Percussion at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Anthony endorses Sabian Cymbals, Black Swamp Percussion, Remo Drumheads and Encore Mallets, and is an educational endorser for Pro-Mark Drumsticks.






April 1, 2017
8:00 pm
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Mills Concert Hall
455 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706 United States
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