Piano Festival Packs Potent Lineup

Many top musicians, plus actors and a top choreographer featured in three-day festival.

By - Jun 12th, 2019 03:50 pm
Christopher Taylor. Photo courtesy of PianoArts.

Christopher Taylor. Photo courtesy of PianoArts.

Perhaps better known beyond its hometown Milwaukee, PianoArts sponsors piano competitions each year for emerging piano virtuosos. In even years, the North American Piano Competition reaches continent-wide featuring youth ages 16-21 who demonstrate amazing skill at the threshold of their professional careers. In 2019, an odd year, the Wisconsin Youth Piano Competition focuses on younger players, ages 10-16; only for those who reside in Wisconsin.

Sue Medford. Photo from PianoArts.

Sue Medford. Photo from PianoArts.

In addition to showcasing young talent, Founder and Artistic Director Sue Medford has created a Piano Personalities Festival featuring innovative programming of broader interest. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the organization, a full plate of performances from local and internationally-renowned performers fills this weekend, June 14-17. Only the highlights of an extensive program are highlighted here. Each primary performance is preceded by lectures and performances – often including previous competition winners, who are invited back to perform in Milwaukee throughout the year.

Focusing on the collaborative arts, the festival will open Friday, June 14 at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music with a 7:00 p.m. lecture, Story Telling in Music. An 8:00 p.m. program will feature actors Linda Stephens and Norman Moses with pianist Jacob Ertl performing Igor Stravinsky‘s Firebird.

Throughout the day on Saturday, June 15, Concerts with Personality will present a master class, a chamber music concert, a concert featuring opera and musical theater, ending with a jazz event.

The 3:00 p.m. chamber music program includes pianists Yaniv Dinur and Stefanie Jacob as a duo as well as pianist Sasha Kasman with cellist Scott Tisdel with music by Dvořák and Debussy. Pianists Aaron Wunsch and Jacob perform Franz Schubert‘s Fantasy in F minor for 4 hands.

At 8:00 p.m. that evening, Soprano Kathryn Henry, tenor Timothy Rebers and pianist Maggie Rebers perform art songs and music from Leonard Bernstein‘s West Side Story.

Jazz pianist Mark Davis and friends offer a free concert at 9:15 p.m.

On Sunday, June 16 at 8:00 p.m. (pre-talk at 7:00 p.m.), the Stanislava Varshavski and Diano Shapiro Piano Duo perform their arrangement of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. Frederick Chopin Piano Études find a new vision when choreographed by the Milwaukee Ballet’s Timothy O’Donnell, with pianist Aleksandra Kasman joined by a dancer, to complete this vision. Virtuoso pianist Christopher Taylor closes the Festival with Liszt’s dramatic transcription of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Those who are personally committed piano players may wish to sit in on the competitive events themselves. Others should consider the culminating events when the best players compete in final events. On Monday, June 17 at 2:00 p.m., three finalists will perform the first movement of a concerto with Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Associate Conductor Dinur and an MSO Chamber Music Ensemble.

The young pianists qualifying for competitions have impressive skills. The best are also growing into an understanding of the music, its interpretation, and audience performance.

Friday and Saturday events are held at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N. Prospect Ave. The Sunday concert and pre-talk take place at the Wilson Theater (Vogel Hall) at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, 929 N. Water St.

Generally, an afternoon or evening set of programs may be purchased for $25. Discounts mount rapidly with ticket packages. Student pricing is substantially lower. Sort out your options for tickets on this page.
Tickets may also be purchased at the Marcus Center box office, 414-273-7121. Tickets will also be available at each event. Lectures, receptions, and after-hours jazz are free events.

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