It was a thrill when on June 29, 2020 I entered the Sinquefield Music Center Choir Hall to perform two pieces by Frederic Chopin. On this video performance, I’ve included performances of Chopin’s lyrical Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 55, No. 2, and the virtuosic Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 39. Chopin’s music has always been close to my heart, and these works are among my favorite.
Even though this was to be a no-audience video performance (unless you count David Myers, SOM Director of Audio/Visual Services, and three cameras), it was exciting to be back in the space, and to finally spend some time on the grand piano I had travelled to the Steinway Factory in New York to choose the previous December. It was also nice to make music in our newly built Sinquefield Music Center, since it has been mostly silent since Covid-19 closed our campus in March.
The video performance was to be part of the Curtis Young Artist Summer Program’s Faculty Performances Series, Curtis Is Here. For the past four years I have taught at this summer festival that usually takes place on the campus of my alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The festival (nicknamed Summerfest) usually encompasses an enrollment of about 110 students from all over the world, but with the required pivot to an exclusively online program this summer, was able to accept over 230 students, from all over the world (and in multiple time zones).
The 45 piano students this year were some of the most talented aged 13-22 pianists on the planet. The Zoom lessons seemed to be a non-stop series of explorations of some of the hardest piano repertoire from in the literature, from Liszt Etudes to Kapustin Toccatinas. They were at once absolutely exhilarating and exhausting, and certainly kept me on my toes. I also presented several studio classes that focused on the genre of preludes, and will include a complete performance by the students of the Chopin 24 Preludes as well as preludes by Bach, Debussy, Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger, Gershwin, Shostakovich, Scriabin, Lyapunov and Rachmaninoff. My activities at the festival are dual in nature, and in addition to working with piano students, I also work with some of the over 50 composition students, workshopping any piano pieces they write, and eventually performing their pieces in world-premiere, one-take videos that will premiere after the festival is completed.
My thanks go out to David Myers for his time and effort in making this video, also to the School of Music's extraordinary piano technician, Lucy Urlacher. The recording session also included a piece by Debussy as an encore, so please look for that posted on the SOM website in the coming weeks.