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Speaking of Pianists

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    Master of Sounds

    May 29th, 2012


    If you haven’t been following the new recording by violinist Hilary Hahn and Volker Bertelmann, AKA Hauschka, here’s a video in preparation for their new album “SILFRA”.


    Hauschka will appear, courtesy of Portland Piano, at the Doug Fir Lounge on June 7. More information at our website –


    A genius at producing sounds at the piano, Hauschka achieves such variety by using everything from dental floss to ping pong balls to modify the instrument.


    A master of sounds!







    The World of Piano This Weekend in Portland

    April 10th, 2012

    Two Great Events this Weekend


    PIANISTS OF THE AMERICAS –Friday, Saturday and Sunday


    Pianists This festival features recitals by pianists Dr. Ann Chang, Nicholas Reynolds, and Marcelo Lian and a series of master classes for young pianists. Attendance at all events is free of charge. The festival will be held at Classic Pianos.

    Friday, April 13, 2012
    7.30 PM: Recital by Dr. Chang

    Saturday, April 14, 2012
    10.00 AM - 12.30 PM: Master Classes by Dr. Chang
    12.30 PM - 3.30 PM: Master Classes by Lian and Reynolds
    7.30 PM: Recital by Lian and Reynolds

    Sunday, April 15, 2012:
    10.00 AM - 12.00 PM: Master Classes by Lian and Reynolds




    CELEBRATION of MAZURKAS — April 14th 2012 @ 7:00 PM


    Saturday, April 14, 2012 @ 7:00pm  $10
    Polish Hall (PLBA)  
    3832 N. Interstate Avenue
    Portland, Oregon 97227


    More information at

    Darkness and Light

    October 24th, 2011


    Portland Piano recently presented pianist Inon Barnatan as the opening artist of the 2011-2012 season, featuring works by Debussy, Ravel, Adés, Stevenson and ending with the sublime Schubert A Major Sonata, D. 959.


    As John Stege of the Santa Fe Reporter said, “This is not a light diversion for a summery afternoon.”


    Mr. Barnatan admitted to the dark programming in his opening remarks.  Ronald Stevenson’s Fantasy on Peter Grimes, although based on a tragic story was almost cheerier than Thomas Adés’ mysterious Darkness Visible.


    Ending the first half of the program was Maurice Ravel’s gargantuan Gaspard de la Nuit, a musical masterpiece that happens to be one of the most difficult works in the pianists’ repertoire. The range of textures and colors in Barnatan’s performance was mesmerizing, and the ease with which he played this thorny work was remarkable. The closing movement fully captured the mischievous Scarbo flitting in and out of the darkness, enhanced by a moth capturing the overhead lights in the Newmark Theater.


    It brought to mind a recent article featuring British pianist Steven Osborne, who has recently completed recording the complete piano works of Ravel. He shared his practice diary with The Guardian as he began work on Gaspard,  a piece he had never played. It’s rare for an artist such as Mr. Osborne to reveal his working process, and especially with such a frank admission of just how difficult the piece was for him.  It’s entertaining and instructional for all of us as pianists to see that even the greatest artists have to struggle at times in the learning process. I’ll look forward to hearing his finished CD.


    Follow this link to the Guardian story of Osborne’s Gaspard voyage.


    Osborne performs the Britten Piano Concerto with the Oregon Symphony on November  5th and 7th.






    Roman Rabinovich at the International Keyboard Institute and Festival

    August 1st, 2011


    July 29th, 2011

    Bach: English Suite No. 5 in E minor, BWV 810
    Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe (arr. Rabinovich)
    Brahms: Intermezzi Op. 119, No. 1 and 3
    Stravinsky: Petrushka Suite


    Roman Rabinovich is a young Uzbekistan-born Israeli pianist who studied at the Rubin Academy in Tel Aviv as well as in this country at the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School. He already has a busy international career and is also a gifted painter who has won awards for his artwork.

    One noticed several things as soon as he began his program with the Fifth English Suite of Bach. He played with very fine nuancing which, together with terrific fingers, made for wonderful clarity in multi-voice writing. He took rather fast tempi for some of the movements and used a bit more Romantic freedom than usual with the beat (some people might feel, a bit too much), but it was always interesting. He also had some nice creative ideas, such as playing the repeat of the theme in the second Passepied an octave higher.

    In 1988, when Mr. Rabinovich was three years old I heard the almost 96 year old Mieczyslaw Horszowski play this English Suite at Town Hall. I wonder what Mr. Rabinovich would think of that performance? Horszowski obviously didn’t have the energy (or tempi!) of a young man at that point in his life but there was a wisdom and a dignity and a calm in his playing that were wonderful.

    In the first movement of Mr. Rabinovich’s impressive arrangement of Daphnis and Chloe I first heard the repose I had occasionally wished for in the Bach. It was wonderful, and one especially couldn’t help but notice the exotic beauty of the second movement. The fast movements were exhilarating, especially the fiendishly difficult concluding Danse générale.

    Mr. Rabinovich’s technique is strong, indeed. One never worries for him. I was reminded of Abram Chasins’ comment to the exceptionally reliable Wilhelm Backhaus after the latter gave a recital: “But you never play wrong notes!” Replied Backhaus: “I don’t practice the wrong notes!”

    After the intermission Mr. Rabinovich played the slow Brahms Intermezzo in B minor and the jaunty C major Intermezzo with affection, and then launched into a blockbuster performance of Petrushka, which was hugely impressive! He caught all the changes of mood wonderfully from sprightly to ironic to coy to forceful. The clarity of voicing referred to before, plus his wonderful rhythmic sense (especially with syncopation) and his terrific imagination all worked to great effect.

    Mr. Rabinovich played three encores, the first two by Scarlatti. He gave a lovely perfumed performance of the slow C minor Sonata, and then a lively, bouncy reading of the Sonata in D minor. After which, for a change of pace, he played the Rachmaninoff G Sharp minor Prelude, which was also very good.

    A very impressive recital.

    Donald Isler, pianist, reviewing for The Classical Music Guide



    Roman Rabinovich will perform on Portland Piano’s “Close Up” Series on November 21, 2011 in Lincoln Recital Hall at Portland State University. For more information, visit



    Christopher O’Riley announces his Portland program

    July 9th, 2011


    This is the program posted by Christopher O’Riley on a Facebook page devoted to his Portland appearance. What an combination!


    as part of the Portland International Piano Festival, i’m presenting one of my mixed recital programs.

    in light of the event taking place in Elliott Smith’s hometown, the program will be devoted exclusively to the music of Robert Schumann and Elliott Smith (in my arrangement).

    i’m pretty excited about the setlist:


           Robert Schumann: Arabeske, Op. 18

           Elliott Smith: Roman Candle

           Robert Schumann: Kreisleriana, Op. 17, I: Ausserst bewegt

           Elliott Smith: Between the Bars

           Robert Schumann: II: Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch

           Elliott Smith: Waltz #1

           Robert Schumann: III: Sehr aufgeregt

           Elliott Smith: Coast to Coast


           Elliott Smith: True Love

           Robert Schumann: IV: Sehr langsam

           Elliott Smith: I Better Be Quiet Now

           Robert Schumann: V: Sehr lebhaft

           Elliott Smith: Cupid’s Trick

           Robert Schumann: VI: Sehr langsam

           Elliott Smith: Not Half Right

           Robert Schumann: VII: Sehr rasch

                                           VIII: Schnell und spielend


          encores by each




    XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition

    June 27th, 2011


    Tom Service, music critic of the says “the best thing about the competition in both Moscow and St Petersburg is the audience, one of the most interactive, involved and opinionated groups of music lovers anywhere.”

    He’s correct; the audience has remained engaged throughout the competition. I’m impressed not only with that, but by the age of the audience. While I want music lovers of every age group to be turned on by classical music, I have noticed the relatively youthful look of this group. So many young people are here, and you don’t generally see that at classical music concerts in the U.S.


    Three more days of this great competition remain, reinvigorated this year by conductor Valery Gergiev and Richard Rodzinski, formerly of the Cliburn Competition.  You can view the live performances at:  Click on the “Watch online” button on the right-hand side of the page. The downside: Five Tchaikovsky First Concerto performances!



    Bend Resident Judy Darst Succeeds at the Cliburn

    May 25th, 2011



    Yesterday (Monday) it was Brad Arington and Valentina Radov, and today (Tuesday) Judy Darst and Dominic Piers Smith. Ms. Darst chose her repertoire carefully but imaginatively, the selections emphasizing strengths rather than weaknesses. Seldom heard selections by Granados, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert seemed tailor-made for her temperament and style of pianism, and while she will never send audiences into wild frenzies with hammer-and-tongs potboilers, she will always demonstrate what it’s like to play from the heart and soul with pieces which she is completely comfortable with.


    Quoted from David Yeomans’ Cliburn Foundation blog.



    Cliburn Competition for Outstanding Amateurs

    May 23rd, 2011


    -and some great news from the blogs about Portland pianist, Darlene Cusick.


    “Pianists who only play one piece in the first round take a chance but she was on safe ground with her assay of Barber’s Sonata, Op. 26. She had a firm grasp of the piece and gave it an impressive performance. She was especially good in the fugue as she kept all of the independent lines clear and the fugal subject on top of the texture every time it appeared. She deserves to move on.”

    I’ll second that opinion, having heard her performance thanks to the streamed and archived performances at


    Although I only listened to Cusick’s performance today, blogger Gregory Sullivan Isaacs take on the day concludes with this review of Chicago pianist Janet Underhill:  “…Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas that was possibly the most impressive performance of the day. The program bio said that she played in a big band and that background really came through in the jazzy Latin dances rhythms of this piece. We all cheered when it was over.”


    Stay tuned tomorrow for another Oregon resident – and her son – play the Preliminary Round at the Cliburn tomorrow.




    Mother and son competing against each other.

    May 18th, 2011


    In addition to Portland pianists Darlene Cusick and John DeRuntz, Bend resident Judy Darst will also compete in the sixth Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. The competition begins next week in Ft. Worth, Texas, and includes doctors, lawyers and even a Formula One race car designer.


    A first for the competition will be the mother and son competitors Judy and Seth Darst. Judy is a retired piano teacher from Bend, Oregon, and her son Seth is a professor of molecular biophysics at The Rockefeller University in Manhattan.


    The competition will be live-streamed beginning Monday, May 23rd.


    For details about several of the 70 plus contestants, and information about the dates of the competition, check here.




    Portland Pianist Honored by Cliburn Competition

    April 7th, 2011


    Darlene Cusick was surprised when I called to congratulate her on her acceptance as one of the entrants in the Van Cliburn Sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs.  She said she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.  Well, it is indeed a big deal.


    Only seventy-seven pianists from all over the world have been chosen to take part in the May competition, a group representing 11 different countries and a variety of professions, including attorneys, physicians, business executives, and architects, as well as by a retired dancer, a jeweler, a screenwriter, a kindergarten teacher, and a Formula One racecar designer, among others.


    In addition to the United States, competitors from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom will be performing during the week of May 23 through 29 in Ft. Worth, Texas, home of the Van Cliburn Foundation.


    Cusick is a well-known Portland pianist and teacher with a reputation for a wide-ranging repertoire.  Look for more details here as we follow her progress during the week.


    The competition is open to pianists age 35 and older who do not derive their principal source of income through piano performance or instruction. Over the course of the week, these talented musicians will compete in three elimination rounds, have opportunities to explore chamber music works with professional musicians, and participate in symposia and other social events.


    In addition to Cusick, Oregon residents Judy Darst, retired piano teacher from Bend, and Dr. John A. DeRuntz, mathematician, scientist, and retired professor from Tigard were chosen for the competition.