Penka Syzygy – pianist, educator, composer & founder of the Bay Area School of Music, LLC – represents a new generation of international musicians. With both European conservatory and American university training, Penka embodies the musical strengths of the two continents.
As a pianist Penka has performed solo recitals and chamber music concerts throughout Eastern Europe the United States and Canada. Her performances have aired on television and radio in Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, and Austria. She has won numerous national (Bulgarian) and international competitions, including the Carl Filtch competition in Romania, and the International Piano Competition of the Academy of Music and Dance Arts, Bulgaria. In 1998 Penka debuted as a concerto soloist with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra as the winner of the Plovdiv Philharmonic Concerto Competition. Currently, she is working with the renawned jazz pianist Debbie Poryes.
Piano performance is just one of Penka’s musical passions. Penka devotes the same energy and attention she gives to her performances to the teaching studio. As a certified Yamaha and Music Together teacher, Bachelors of Music in Music Pedagogy, and Masters in Piano Performance, Penka is equipped with creative and innovative approaches individualized for every student, class or school. At present, Penka runs the Bay Area School of Music, LLC and teaches music to all ages (2 to adults) and levels (pre-beginning to advanced) in group classes and in private lessons, in several Bay Area locations.
Although she is mainly active as a performer and educator, Penka’s interest extends into musical composition. She has studied composition with Nikolay Stoykov (Bulgaria), Spud Murphey and David Blumberg (US). Some of her compositions have been performed in Bulgaria, Romania, and Germany. In 1998, Penka’s composition Preludio No. 1 received both the First prize and the Premium Sigismund Toduta Foundation Prize in the composition category of the Carl Filtch competition.
Penka’s musical training began with Rumena Garvalova in Bulgaria and culminates in a Masters degree in Piano Performance from San Jose Sate University. Her primary piano teachers include Dr. Jeremy Dittus (CSU), Dr. Daniel Harrison (SCU), Dr. Gwendolyn Mok (SJSU), Julie Bees (US), and George Petrov (Bulgaria). Penka also holds a Bachelors of Music in Music Pedagogy, with emphasis on piano performance and music composition, from the Academy of Music and Dance Art (Plovdiv, Bulgaria).
Penka is a member and an adjudicator of the Music Teacher Association of California and the Dalcroze Society of America and prepares students on a regular basis for auditions and competitions along with the Certificate of Merit, the Music Development and the ABRSM piano evaluations. Penka is currently working towards finishing her Dalcroze Certification.
Planed to be a multi-movement sonata, by the time Haydn (the father of the symphony and the string quartet) completed it, he changed his mind. Some consider this to be one of the finest works that Haydn ever wrote for solo piano. It was dedicated to two different people in two different years. The first dedication was in 1793 to Barbara von Ployer, who was a student of Mozart and one of the finest pianists at that time. When the variations were published, in 1799, Haydn dedicated this work to another well0known pianist, Baroness Josephine von Braun, who was the wife of the director of the court theaters in Vienna. This composition has a double theme - grievous and somber minor theme and uplifting and delightful major theme. Each theme has two variations followed by a beginning of a recapitulation. Unexpectedly, the variations end with a lengthy coda that caries small cadenza in it.
Written in 1879 for a solo piano forte, the rhapsody represents the most substantial of the Brahms’ mature works. It was dedicated to Eliisabet von Herzogenberg, who was a great admirer and formal pupil of Brahms. The manuscript she received and the program of Brahms’ first performance in 1880 had the unique name Capriccio [Caprices]. Eliisabet marked that “the clearly defined form of the piece seems some what at variance with one’s concept of rhapsody.” According the New Harvard Dictionary no particular form, content, or compositional method is implied. However, this work with its modified rondo-like form differs from the traditional understanding about rhapsody of the 19th century. The piece clearly mirrors the contradicting emotions of Brahms. The feeling of painful, unforgiving anger, followed by intense quite thinking is released into a contrasting beautiful middle section, where Brahms emotions are headed towards his happy memories. Suddenly, a storm of dark and gloomy thoughts disturb Brahms’ mind again, bringing pessimistic memories and leading to a feeling of hopelessness in the coda.
Stoykov, a prominent Bulgarian composer from the third generation of composers who was a student of P. Vladigerov and specialized at the Moscow Conservatory with A. Khatchaturian and D. Schostakovich, composed Charlie the Great between the years of 1980 and 1990. This composition is a Prelude No. 7 from the second book of preludes for piano. Dedicated to Charlie Chaplin, one of the greatest screen actors of all time, this composition contains famous musical motives from Chaplin's movies. The comicality of Chaplin's movies is found in every sound produced by the performer. Almost as if a silent movie was projected and the pianist would accompany it.
Prelude No. 9 for piano from the second book of preludes was written between 1980 and 1990. The composition is inspired by a story from Yordan Yovkov, one of the greatest Bulgarian writers in the 20th century. The tragic story is about the agony of a father looking for ways to brighten the last days of his only daughter who is melting away from unknown illness. She will not live longer, but the hope is with her, the belief that only a glimpse of the little white swallow is enough to bring her wellness back, to comfort her painful sufferings. It is late fall and the road-side cables are heavy of birds preparing to fly away to the South. On the empty streets only father and a daughter walk restlessly from town to town, in search of their last hope of the little white swallow; and they will not take a break until all birds have flown away.
While it’s true that Schubert composed Valses Nobles Op. 77 and Valses Sentimentales Op. 50, and Ravel might have been inspired by these piece, there seems to be no distinct link between Schubert’s works and this piece other than the title. Upon hearing the word valse one would expect to hear the typical “oom-pa-pa” rhythm. Instead, the listener is forced to hear rhythms that suggest duple meter, which are very complex, varied, and often conflicting. The melodic and harmonic language of the piece is rather unclear, square, and unexpected. Dedicated to Louis Albert, a talented pianist who first performed the Valses, this composition is built of seven waltzes and anEpilogue which summarizes the previous material. The first performance of this composition was furiously criticized by the audience, professional musicians and critics who were unimpressed by the Valses. As the work was presented anonymously with other composers pieces, no one could guess who the composer of the work was. When the critics found out that Ravel was the composer, suddenly they discovered qualities to the piece, which they missed before.
Composed in 1942, Vladigerov (one of the most important representatives of second generation Bulgarian composers, who wrote the first instrumental concerto in Bulgarian music) combines colorful melodic and rhythmic patterns derived from native folk dance with stark modern harmonies. Embodying the flavors and colors of Eastern European, Arabic and Greek music, this piece requires an electrifying technique and show dazzling energy and spirit. In a toccata like compositional style, this work, with its rapid 9/8 rhythm (2+2+2+3) reminds folk dance music which implies that dancers from both genders restlessly would follow the unique, rapid beat. Vladigerov kpt the improvisatory character of this piece although using the Western language of notation and piano instead of Bulgarian folk instruments.