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A Grand Piano Marathon Re-Opens Kaufman Center's Merkin Concert Hall
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A Grand Piano Marathon Re-Opens Kaufman Center's Merkin Concert Hall

- Classical and Cultural Connections: Special Events

Vincent Izzo's Piano Gallery

249-74 Jericho Turnpike
Floral Park, NY 11001

Elegantly Restored Pianos,
Piano Tuning, Restoration, and Lessonss

Kaufman Center
Merkin Concert Hall
Re-Opening – Grand Piano Marathon
Kaufman Center
(Kaufman Center Website)

Press: Cohn Dutcher Associates
Kim Smith Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 21, 2008

(See Grand Re-Opening Concert at Kaufman Center)

For more than seven hours this afternoon, evening, and what seemed beyond, the lines snaked around and through the new Kaufman Center for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Holiday, Piano Marathon, complimentary and virtuosic. This one-time event appeared to draw from the New York classical and jazz community, with the audience representing not only music aficionados, but also musical performers, composers, and producers. The pianists, taking turns, with barely a break, on the solo or duo Steinways, were Michael Riesman, Ursula Oppens, John Medeski, Anat Fort, Vijay Iyer, Jonathan Batiste, Stephen Flaherty, Jimmy Roberts, Lisa Moore, Lee Musiker, Orli Shaham, Igal Kesselman, and the duo students, Farrah Dupoux and Brian Ge. Face The Music was represented with upstairs tables of 100 Metronomes, appropriately playing Poème Symphonique for 100 Metronomes (1962).

Stephen Flaherty performed music from his composition for the animated film, Anastasia, with melodic sumptuousness and evocations of scintillating vocalizations. He played from “The Glorious One”, a Lincoln Center Theatre production, with strong, repetitive chords, and added Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin”. He was followed in the classical genre by Igal Kesselman, who presented Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2, Op. 36 in B-flat minor. Mr. Kesselman is Director of the Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Center and has performed around the globe. He played with sweeping inspiration and impressionistic style, as waterfalls of notes filled the packed Kaufman Center. Mr. Kesselman added tiny, soft effects amidst racing rapture. In contrast, Jonathan Batiste brought the jazz motif, with casual flair and audience rapport. He played a work by Miles Davis, and each passage was woven with improvisational enhancements. Mr. Batiste has spark and a sense of quality to his performance.

Michael Riesman introduced Philip Glass’Suite from Dracula (1998), that he arranged. Mr. Riesman is Music Director of the Philip Glass Ensemble and has conducted many Glass recordings. Philip Glass was in the audience, but not visible. Dramatic staccatos were evident in the Philip Glass iconic rhythms, and “Nina on the Terrace” ended the Dracula excerpts with romance in advance of the Epilogue. Vijay Iyer followed and recognized Dr. King with “It Bends Toward Justice” and a melancholy piece, “I’m All Smiles”. He preceded a youthful duo, Farrah Dupoux and Brian Ge, who drew numerous audience accolades for Hallelujah Junction for Two Pianos (1998) by John Adams. Syncopated rhythms built to crescendos with vivacious intonations. These young artists to watch were poised and focused, confident and collaborative, as they anticipated each and every dissonant passage.

Lee Musiker, a seasoned performer of piano ballads, added a jazzy, contemporary mood with the 1931 standard, “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”. Jimmy Roberts followed, and one can see why his shows, The Thing about Men and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, have been so immensely popular, with the latter show being staged around the globe. Mr. Roberts matched a melodic, contemporary composer to a classical composer, and created a merged work for each duo. Thus, Edward Elgar was matched with Paul Simon, in the merging of “Enigma Variations” and “Bridge over Troubled Water”. Then, miraculously, Rodgers and Hart were matched to Beethoven, in the merging of “My Funny Valentine” and “Moonlight Sonata”. The third connection merged Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with The Beatles’"With a Little Help from My Friends". The multiple connections and seamless phrasing could only have been created by such a versatile and skillful musician.

This endless Marathon had few intermissions, and fewer as the day progressed, with musicians appearing sometimes over one hour later than planned. Seats were in demand, and this was truly a labor of love for both performers and audience. Late in the afternoon, John Medeski appeared with his own works, in abruptly loud and atonal dissonance, even “preparing” the piano for tininess and starkness. Lisa Moore, also a contemporary music interpreter, played Martin Bresnick’s The Dream of the Lost Traveler (1997) and Frederic Rzewski’s Piano Piece No. 4 from Four Pieces for Piano (1977). The latter work had political implications (protests against Pinochet), with tiny raindrops of notes in the upper registers. During the performance of Mr. Bresnick’s work, he beamed from the audience, as his composition was well received. High notes struck against melting chords and eerie tones. Ms. Moore sung a poem, while playing, and an exotic tonality was created.

Orli Shaham was next, and I had waited expressly for this selection of Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp minor, Nocturne in Db major, Mazurka in B-flat major, Valse Brilliant in F major, Mazurka in F minor, Mazurka in A minor, and Grand Valse in A-flat major. This selection, of lesser known and renowned Chopin works, found Ms. Shaham in a black elegant dress, performing with rapture, resonance, and nuance. The Nocturne was especially impassioned, and the seven pieces were presented fluidly, with just a hand in the air to signal the pause. Anat Fort followed with contemporary jazz, and a lullaby with depth and detail served as her finale. Speaking of finales, Ursula Oppens ended this Kaufman Center Piano Marathon with a world premiere by William Bolcom. Ballade took Ms. Oppens to the second Steinway (as the first was clearly tired), and this soft, atonal work built to a dynamic dance in high treble notes, infusing Satie-like playfulness.

Kudos to all of today’s tireless and talented performers.

Stephen Flaherty
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Igal Kesselman
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Jonathan Batiste
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Face the Music
100 Metronomes
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Vijay Iyer
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Farrah Dupoux and Brian Ge
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Farrah Dupoux and Brian Ge
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Lee Musiker
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Jimmy Roberts
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

John Medeski
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Lisa Moore
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Orli Shaham
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Anat Fort
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Ursula Oppens
Photo Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

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