Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Piano concert hits the high notes


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Susan Spelius Dunning will perform at the nexStage Theatre. Photo by Kevin Syms

Sun Valley adores classical music. Witness the remarkable success of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, now in its 21st year. For classical pianist Susan Spelius Dunning inspiration is commonplace. Raised in Chicago, her first solo recital was at age 16. She was the recipient of the Amelita Galli Curci Foundation Award and received numerous scholarships from the Three Arts Club of Chicago.

Dunning is a two-plus-year resident of the Wood River Valley. Among her public appearances in the area, she played at the Steve Miller concert in September 2004 for the benefit of the Snake River Alliance, in Hailey.

Speaking at her producer's, local recording musician Bruce Innes', studio, she said, "My first image was a CD release party. Bruce's idea was to put together a formal concert. We're having a catered champagne reception and bringing in Steinway Grand from Boise."

Innes said, "I sweet talked her into doing the concert. She's the best piano player I've ever heard."

No slouch in the recording business, Innes has been in the music industry for over four decades. Among his hit songs are "One Tin Soldier," and "Mr. Monday," written in 1969.

The CD the duo produced at Innes' Hailey studio is called, simply, "Susan Spelius Dunning: Classical Piano." She said it includes "wonderful Schuman, Rachmaninov and Chopin piano, which is really the king of piano repertoire."

"At this age and stage of my career I play what I want to play," she said. "This music is so profound, and it blossomed because of the romantic era. I love the passion. It commands the stage and commands big instruments."

As well, Dunning said she is excited about the concert for another reason. Innes will be the opener for the classical concert. Only he will be playing some classical blues including "one of my favorites, 'One Tin soldier," Dunning said. "I love the program. His music relaxes me before I go on."

Dunning received her doctorate of musical arts from the University of Colorado. She studied with Hungarian pianist Sari Biro and her recent appearances have included lecture recitals at the American International School in Vienna and chamber concerts throughout the west and in Hawaii.

"To hear a solo piano concert is not a common event," Dunning said. "It's a bit of a leap. This kind of repertoire usually blows people away. I'm encouraging parents with older children to offer this kind of cultural experience. We have chamber music but we rarely have a solo classical concert. It doesn't often happen in this town."

An interesting note is that the piano she used to record her CD was originally owned by the founder of the Indiana School of Music, Thomas Binkley.

"He was a friend of my parents and (while touring) Rachmaninov played on that piano more than once. Oven the years, his daughter inherited the piano. She used to have me come over and play on it. For my 21st birthday present my parents bought the piano. The opening piece on the CD is a Rachmaninov. There's a little of his touch of the piano. I think that's kind of cool."

After the concert on Saturday the plan is for Dunning and Innes to go on tour to such locales as Aspen, Santa Fe, Jackson and a seven-city tour of Ireland.

Susan Spelius Dunning performs Saturday, July 15, 8-9:30 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre, Ketchum. Tickets are $50/$100 available from Chapter One, amedeusclassicalproductions.com, or 725-5807.




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