Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lessons in the parlor

Piano fest reminiscent of age of Romanticism

Express Staff Writer

Performers: Performers include left to right: Susan Spelius Gannon, Tara Kamangar,Norman Kriger, Johnandrew SlominskiDr. Fang-Fang Shi Inouye, and Andrea Lam.
Courtesy photo

    The 19th century was a time of creativity, from the Industrial Revolution to shifts in social strata. One area of undisputed influence was in music.
    It was a time when musicians moved from servants performing in aristocratic lairs, the church or court, to having a voice in the creation of, instrumentation for, education about, and venue to, classical music.
    According to the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, it was at this juncture in history that two distinct paths formed for musicians and composers: large theaters and parlors.
    In the spirit of the latter, the Sun Valley Artist Series has gathered some fine pianists to play in the valley from Friday, April 11, through Sunday, April 13, to revisit the age of Romanticism with nationally known performers in a private home.
    The free, three-day piano festival is already filling up fast, and reservations are required, as space is limited.
    The Sun Valley Artist Series, a nonprofit led by Artistic Director Susan Spelius Gannon and Executive Director Steve Gannon, had invited pianists from both coasts to entertain in an intimate venue with both solo repertoire and piano concerti.
    Promised solo music will feature many of the world’s greatest composers, including Haydn, Brahms, Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin and Mozart. (Here’s a fun fact from pianist, teacher and author David Dubal: Every great composer of the Romantic era was also a great pianist.)
    In contrast to the larger venues, the salon and parlor were the center of family life and musical performances for small groups were popular, and children were often included. As the parlor’s use gained popularity, music education became increasingly important to a well-rounded child’s education.
    “For girls, playing an instrument was more important than learning to read,” reads the art history source. “When guests and potential suitors visited, the children and teenagers would entertain with performances of the latest popular works.”
    It was through parlor engagements that Chopin secured the wealthy patrons who would support his genius.
    While the harp, guitar and a few other instruments made occasional appearances, “the most important musical instrument in the home was the piano, because it was useful as both a solo instrument and as accompaniment to a group of singers or instrumentalists,” according to Heilbrunn’s Timeline. “To accommodate home use, smaller pianos were created, first square pianos and later uprights. Small pianos took up less space and, although they were not as powerful as larger types, they were also less expensive.
    “With the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, the mass manufacturing of musical instruments—especially pianos—provided a seemingly endless supply of musical instruments for the huge markets of both the United States and Europe. The piano would remain a central component of domestic life until it was replaced by the phonograph, radio and television in the 20th century.”
    In the Artist Series festival, the two pianos used will both be 9-foot concert grands, powerful and elegant instruments that command attention standing alone and electrify once matched with the right hands. A second pianist will accompany the soloist for each piano concerto, filling the collaborative role usually assumed by the orchestra.
    Each of the evening solo performances will be preceded by an informal “Meet the Artist” interview hosted by Spelius Gannon.
    Continuing in the theme of the Romanticism’s motive to educate, the series is
further accomplishing that ideal with a special performance for Sage School students. Some local students will join in with the visiting performers as well on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
     And for all with good intentions who fail to secure a seat, or simply prefer music at home, the event will be live-streamed on the Sun Valley Artist Series website,
    Here’s a glimpse of what each artist brings to the keys (in no particular order).
Norman Kriger:Kriger is the founding artistic director of the Prince Albert Music Festival in Hawaii. In the spring of 1997, he was appointed associate professor of the distinguished faculty of the University of Southern California. The Los Angeles resident is an artist admired for his depth, sensitivity and flair. He regularly appears with major orchestras of North America. He has also been heard as guest soloist with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Prague’s Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Turkey’s Presidential Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand’s Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Taiwan’s National Symphony Orchestra. Krieger favors contemporary music and regularly features the music of John Adams, Leonard Bernstein, John Corigliano, Daniel Brewbaker, Judith St. Croix, Lukas Foss and Lowell Liebermann among his active repertoire. He has four albums on the Artisie 4 label.
Tara Kamangar: The Gulf News described Harvard grad Kamangar—who studied the piano and violin from age 3—as a “world-class musician who excels at blending the best of Western and Middle Eastern compositions.” The San Francisco Chronicle praised her “nimble technique and lustrous phrasing.” Kamangar has premiered works by Iranian composers of the past century to standing ovations in venues such as London’s Cadogan Hall, the Whitehall Palace, New York City’s Skirball Auditorium, San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium, Oakland’s Paramount Theatre, and Disney Hall in Los Angeles. A versatile artist, she has collaborated with musicians across several genres, from Spanish classical guitarist Angel Romero to multi-platinum R&B producer James Poyser. She is the pianist and violinist for the classical crossover trio “Triptyq,” whose first single recently debuted at No. 2 on the classical iTunes chart. An avid composer with a background in ethnomusicology, Kamangar wrote the original score for the prize-winning documentary “Fifi Howls from Happiness” (France/Iran), named one of the best films of 2013 by Le Monde newspaper, and has incorporated Kurdish folk music into her classical compositions.
Andrea Lam: Lauded by The Australian for her “melting lyricism, filigree touch and spirited eloquence” and pronounced a “real talent” by The Wall Street Journal, Australian pianist Lam is gaining recognition for her great style and thrilling virtuosity. In recent years, she has given more than 70 performances with orchestras in Australia, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong. She has worked with renowned conductors including Alan Gilbert, Edo de Waart, Michael Christie, Marcus Stenz and Christopher Hogwood. Lam was a semifinalist in the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition, where she was praised for her inventive programming, musicianship, color and personality. The Van Cliburn blog wrote, “Andrea Lam has it all: great looks, audience savvy, superb technique and innate musical instincts ... with breath-taking pianissimos and phrasing, she found colors and depths in the music I never knew existed.” The Dallas Morning News wrote, “She had probing and sophisticated things to say about the music.” The Sydney native was featured in two nationally televised programs, including “Andrea’s Concerto,” documenting her life as a young pianist and ending with her performance of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Johnandrew Slominski: An international award-winning pianist, teacher and scholar, Slominski’s work in historical performance practice, analysis and performance, pedagogy and improvisation is receiving increasing recognition. By 21, Slominski earned three degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., including a Master of Music in Performance and Literature, a Master of Arts in Pedagogy of Music Theory, and a Bachelor of Music in Performance; his first professorship followed two years later. Slominski is a frequent solo performer, collaborative pianist, master-class clinician and lecturer. Praised for his virtuosity, innovative programming and broad repertoire, he performs throughout the United States and abroad. Slominski has held teaching positions at the University of Rochester, the Sunderman Conservatory at Gettysburg College and Virginia Commonwealth University. His students have been accepted to prestigious undergraduate and graduate programs with scholarship at schools including the Eastman School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, and the North Carolina School for the Arts. Slominski teaches during the summer months at the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival at the University of South Florida, and serves as an assistant professor of music theory at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester.
Dr. Fang-Fang Shi Inouye: Born in Beijing, China, she started her piano study with her mother at the age of 5. She immigrated to the United States in 1991. Subsequently, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, majoring in piano performance from USC Thornton School of Music. After placing in the 2006 Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, Dr. Shi decided to pursue her Doctor of Music Art degree. She completed her doctorate study on a scholarship at the Thornton School, majoring in piano performance under the tutelage of professor Norman Krieger. Also during the doctorate program, Shi studied her minor fields in music theory analysis, music education and conducting. In August 2010, her paper on “Realizing Goals in Memorization” was published by the International Society of Music Education and was invited to give a presentation at the ISME conference in Beijing. Shi’s live performance has been broadcast on KUSC radio station. Among many accolades and honors during her study, Dr. Shi was the Phi Beta Piano Scholarship award winner and the William H. Phillips and Beatrice C Music Scholarship award winner. In 2012, Shi won the USC Thornton School of Music Concerto Competition. As a result of that, Dr. Shi had the honor to collaborate with Thornton Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Carl St. Clair. On the basis of the superior professional and scholastic achievements, Dr. Shi has been invited to the membership of the PI KAPPA LAMBDA National Music Honor Society. Shi has been a faculty member at Cerritos College since 1999.
Susan Spelius Gannon: Gannon is an exciting pianist who combines dramatic virtuosity with sensitive poetic musicianship. She lives in Perugia, Italy, and in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she is artistic director of Sun Valley Artist Series. 


Piano festival is free
Who: Sun Valley Artist Series.
What: Piano Festival.
Where: Private residence.
When: Friday, April 11, through Sunday, April 13.
Time: For specific times, visit or call 725-5807.
Details: Contact Steve Gannon at or
Susan Spelius Gannon at


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