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<<  -- 2 --  John Bell Young    SUMMER PIANO IN THE BIG APPLE


In one ingeniously designed event after another, the IKIF offers two weeks of intensive music making as it brings in internationally renowned concert artists to perform and teach. Afternoon masterclasses and lectures gave way to evening recitals in an astonishing variety of programs. Students -- mostly professional, but with a smattering of amateurs as well -- fly in from all over the world, and are provided with the opportunity to play, in both private and public settings, for the participating artists of their choice. (Mr Rose wisely refuses to pigeonhole anyone into studying with a single teacher, as some piano festivals do.) The centerpiece of the festival in its closing days was a piano competition, sponsored by Dorothy Mackenzie, offering a US$ 10,000 prize to be shared by the winners.

The Beaux Arts Trio. Photo © 2004 Eugenia Ames
The Beaux Arts Trio. Photo © 2004 Eugenia Ames

In spite of the festival's emphasis on piano repertoire, Mr Rose is hardly one to forsake the value of chamber music, which was prominently featured as the focus of several concerts. The Beaux Arts Trio, now going into its fiftieth year as the most celebrated ensemble of its kind in the world, was led in impeccable performances by its founder, pianist Menahem Pressler. In an unusual program of solo piano and chamber works, Mr Pressler's account of Debussy's Estampes shimmered sotto voce, just as it should. Just after, violinist Daniel Hope offered a gutsy, eloquent reading of the Fauré Sonata. Elsewhere, the subtlety of interplay between cellist Antonio Meneses and Mr Pressler in Beethoven's A major Sonata rescued the work from any hint of the rhetorical overload that inferior artists so often see fit to indulge in. In a nod to the techniques of television, a post-concert interview with Mr Pressler, conducted by David Dubal, revealed the pianist as an individual of enormous good will and good humor who embraces his 'good fortune' to be an itinerant concert musician. 'The stage is my home,' he confessed to Mr Dubal with a kind of wistful deference.

Menahem Pressler. Photo © 2004 Eugenia Ames
Menahem Pressler. Photo © 2004 Eugenia Ames

Recitals by such pianistic luminaries as Peter Frankl, Earl Wild, Michael Oelbaum, Eduard Zilberkrant, Jerome Rose, Fabio Bidini, Marc-André Hamelin, and Jeffrey Swann were duly complimented by lectures by classical music radio's favorite broadcasters, Robert Sherman and David Dubal. Occasionally accompanying Mr Dubal's engrossing survey of the life of Sergey Rachmaninoff was his unreleased film Hollywood Loves the Piano, a charming and often amusing souvenir of happier times when classical music stood on its own in the market place, and was not compelled to compete with either technology or the needs of popular culture. A pot-pourri concert featuring several faculty members, including the always fascinating Mordecai Shehori, the remarkable Russian Vladimir Shakin, and the breathtaking José Ramos Santana, left one wishing the festival were twice as long, if only to accommodate each of these artists in a recital of his own.

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Copyright © 5 August 2004 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA


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