Denison's Vail Series Plans Gala To Dedicate New Grand Piano
Posted: September 6, 2004
GRANVILLE -- The Vail Series at Denison University will celebrate the acquisition of a new Steinway concert grand piano and dedicate it to the memory of James D. Vail III at 8 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 18) in Swasey Chapel. The gala concert will feature performances by Gary Graffman, Kit Armstrong, Yujia Wang, The Miro Quartet and AndrÃ©-Michel Schub. A limited number of tickets will be available to the public at $15 each, general admission. Contact (740) 587-6557 to obtain information on ticket availability.
"The majestic 9-foot Vail Steinway "D" concert grand piano represents the finest musical instrument of its kind," says Lorraine Wales, director of the Vail Series. "The custom work entailed in producing these concert grand pianos is one of the reasons that only 200 are produced by Steinway each year." In April of 2004, representatives of Denison's Vail Series were invited to tour the 2Â½ miles of Steinway's factory in Queens, N.Y., and in the end were brought to a room where five finished Model "D" pianos stood waiting to be chosen.
Emmanuel Ax, the world-renowned pianist and frequent Vail guest artist, graciously offered to donate his time and expertise to help with the decision. Ax played various pieces on each instrument, finally selecting No. K1107 as the very best choice for the Swasey Chapel space. "I'm so happy to have been able to help in picking this wonderful instrument for Denison University," said Ax. "I am sure that every pianist who has a chance to work at Denison will love it."
The new piano will replace a 1916 Steinway Model "D" that has served the college for more than 50 years; the older instrument will be moved to Denison's Burke Recital Hall. Both pianos will be used on the Swasey stage for this special performance.
Graffman began his musical training at age three with a small fiddle, but when the instrument proved too cumbersome piano lessons were substituted. At the age of seven he was accepted by the renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; 50 years later he would become its director. In 1995 he was appointed president of the Institute and remains active as a teacher and coach of piano and chamber music students.
Graffman has been a major figure in the music world since winning the prestigious Leventritt Award in 1949. In 1979 an injury to his right hand curtailed his performing career and his performances are now limited to the small but brilliant repertoire of concertos written for the left hand alone. In 1993, Graffman played the world-premiere performances of Ned Rorem's "Piano Concerto No. 4 (for the left hand)," which was dedicated to him by the Pulitizer Prize-winning composer. At the Vail concert he will play Bach's "Chaconne," arranged by Brahms, on the "retiring" piano.
Armstrong, born in 1992, taught himself arithmetic by playing with LEGO blocks at the age of 18 months and by age four was adding Russian and German to his language repertoire of English, Chinese and Taiwanese. His talent in music also emerged at age four when he started composing on a near-daily basis. Steinway & Sons invited him to perform at its 150th Anniversary Concert at Carnegie Hall in June 2003. He won a $10,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development for his "Five Elements" composition; his first symphony, "Celebration," was performed by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra; and in 2002 he was awarded the Morton Gould Young Composer Award sponsored by ASCAP. Armstrong will play Mozart's "Sonata in A minor" K.310 on the new piano.
Wang was born in Beijing in 1987 and made her debut recording in 1995. She has been highly praised by world-renowned pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and the German press acclaimed her poetic interpretation of Franz Liszt in 1998. Her recent performances include the Young Musician's Forum in New York, the Seattle Chamber Music Society Emerging Artist Concert, and a concert with Maestro David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich. In March 2004 she was selected as one of four participants in Leon Fleisher's Carnegie Hall masterclasses on Schubert's late sonatas. Wang will play Chopin's "Sonata for Piano No. 2 in B flat minor."
Following intermission, The Miro Quartet and Schub will play DvorÃ¡k's "Piano Quintet." The Miro Quartet was founded in the fall of 1995 and won first prize at the 1998 Banff International String Quartet Competition and, in 2000, the prestigious Naumburg Chamber Music Award. They now serve as the Faculty String Quartet at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, they were the resident string quartet at the Kent/Blossom Music festival in cooperation with the Cleveland Orchestra and served on the faculty at Kent State.
Schub is a native of France but has lived in the United States since he was eight months old. He also studied at the Curtis Institute -- with Rudolf Serken -- and was the 1974 winner of the Naumberg International Piano Competition. In addition, he was the winner of the 1977 Avery Fisher Recital Award and the 1981 Grand Prize winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He has performed with prestigious orchestras (the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic), with world famous conductors (James Levine, Eugene Ormandy, Seiji Ozawa), and at numerous music festivals, including the Mostly Mozart, Tanglewood, Ravinia and Wolf Trap. Schub has been artistic director of the Virginia Waterfront International Arts Festival since 1997 and in 1998 was named artistic director of the Eastern Music Festival held each summer in Greensboro, N.C.
The concert will close with all performers on stage for a festive arrangement of Leonard Bernstein's "America" from "West Side Story" using both grand pianos.
Denison's Vail Series, made possible by a generous gift from the late Foster and Mary McGaw in memory of Jeanne Vail, a 1946 alumna, is part of the Vail Program that provides the University with a range of support for fine arts activities, including art history, cinema, dance, music, studio art and theatre. Each year the program underwrites performances by major artists through the Vail Series and provides for one or more Vail artists-in-residence who work with faculty and students to expand and enrich the cultural opportunities at Denison. The late James Vail III, Jeanne's brother, and his wife, Margaret, continued the family's support of the arts at Denison. Margaret and their sons, James IV and John, provided the new Steinway Grand for Swasey Chapel as a memorial to him.
For press inquiries:
- Barbara Stambaugh
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- (740) 587-8575