Saturday, February 11, 2012

Leif Ove Andsnes debuts Spivey Hall's new Hamburg Steinway TONIGHT

Update to my earlier post this morning:  Leif Ove Andsnes had glowing words of praise for our new Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano, and has chosen it to perform his recital this evening at 8:15 PM.

This will be a tremendously exciting evening for Spivey Hall music lovers.  Leif Ove Andnes' program includes works by Haydn, Bartok, and Debussy, plus a second half of Waltzes and Ballades by Chopin -- a program that will surely give us an excellent first impression of our marvelous new piano.   A few tickets are still available online and from the Spivey Hall Box Office, (678) 466-4200.

Spivey Hall's new Hamburg Steinway is here!

Yesterday Spivey Hall took delivery of a magnificent new Steinway & Sons model D-274 concert grand piano made in Hamburg, Germany.  Acclaimed British pianist Paul Lewis (who opened our season) was the artistic advisor to Spivey Hall for this selection.  It arrived in a very large crate in the wee hours of the morning, and was released from US Customs at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at about 11:30 AM.  This was one heavy crate...probably upward of 900 pounds.  It took some careful maneuvering to get it over the narrow ramp between the delivery truck and Spivey Hall's loading dock (Friends of Spivey Hall generously provided some weight by standing on one side of the ramp to help steady it) but the crew organized by Steinway Piano Galleries led by David did a fantastic job getting it safely on stage and unpacking it..

The piano arrived in perfect condition.  After some introductory remarks of thanks to the many people who made this acquisition possible (videotaped for posterity), I had the honor of announcing the name of this piano.  Since our two New York Steinways have names (Walter and Emilie, after Dr. & Mrs. Spivey, the civic leaders, philanthropists, and visionary founders of Spivey Hall), this new one needed one, too -- and she is Clara.  We chose this name to reflect the beautiful clarity of tone and transparency of texture that the best Hamburg Steinways possess, and as a tribute to Clara Schumann, the wife of German composer Robert Schumann and a composer in her own right, who was among the foremost piano virtuosos of the 19th century, and certainly the first woman to have achieved this distinction and recognition as an international concert pianist.

I also had the honor of playing Clara a bit (as did others of the people gathered).  We were all astonishied by how well she had held her tune, the long trip via Lufthansa cargo plane  notwithstanding!  I'd met Clara at the Steinway factory showroom in Hamburg, but was delighted to make her better acquaintance in her new home.  She felt and sound even better than I had remembered!  Others played, too, as we listened in the hall.  Her sound is already very beautiful. As she is played in and gets settled, and her voicing is refined to make best use of Spivey Hall's superb acoustics, we will come to know and appreciate her true nature even better, which will require time.

Our piano quest is over, but Clara's story at Spivey Hall is just beginning.  I cannot be sure which of our guest or faculty pianists will be the first to perform on Clara in concert, but I'm heading over to the hall in just a few minutes.  The outstanding Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes has arrived in Atlanta, and this morning will select a piano for his recital this evening.  Walter, Emilie, and Clara await him.  I rather seriuosly doubt he will find Clara ready for concertizing (though I'm keen to get his opinion) -- she really needs to played in a bit and tuned more times before she'll respond reliably in meeting the demands of a professional pianist's full recital program.  But if he wishes to give her debut performance at Spivey Hall tonight,  I know he will have made his choice for artistic reasons.  This is the real purpose of offering a choice of pianos -- so that the pianist's needs and those of the music will all be well served, to the benefit of composer, performer, and audience alike.

Spivey Hall's abundant and lasting thanks go to the Chaparral Foundation, Clayton State University, The Coca-Cola Company, the Friends of Spivey Hall who gave to the Piano F'und and have supported Spivey Hall for a decade now, and Steinway Piano Galleries for making this acquistion possible.  I'm personally grateful to Dr. Michael Koch, a generous Friend of Spivey Hall with an immense interest in and knowledge of pianos who steadfastly urged us to explore, learn, and find a piano truly worthy of Spivey Hall; Dr. Tim Hynes, Clayton State University's President, for his unwavering support though this process; to the Friends of Spivey Hall Council, chaired by Susan Hunter, for its encouragement and leadership which led us to undertake the Piano Fund Campaign; to all of Spivey Hall's loyal donors over the past ten years who sustain the artistic excellence of everything we do; and to Ulrich Gerhartz, our technical advisor in this search, who is Director of Concert and Artist Services for Steinway & Sons in London, and whose wisdom helped us finalize our choice. 

I also owe thanks to several highly distinguished pianists:  Paul Lewis, for his gracious cooperation and astute discernment in selecting Clara, and making not one but two trips to Hamburg, to ensure we'd really found "the one"; Julius Drake, who helped distill my thinking about why we might acquire a Hamburg Steinway; Warren Jones, who made three piano-evaluation trips on behalf of Spivey Hall (including one to Italy) that so deeply informed my own education in the course of our search; and Imogen Cooper, who was a guiding spirit as we pursued our quest, and whose encouragement to collaborate with Ulrich made a pivotal difference. Ultimately, I am deeply grateful to Steinway & Sons, in New York, London, and Hamburg, for making what I consider to be the world's best pianos, and especially to Chris Syllaba and Ike Van Meter of Steinway Piano Galleries in Atlanta, for their cooperation and assistance at every step.

That these many people care so much, and have given so generously of their time, talents, resources and expertise, is why we now have this marvelous piano, which will give us tremendous pleasure for years to come.

More about the arrival of the piano can be seen on -- music journalist and composer Mark Gresham was with us for Clara's arrival, and even got a chance to tickle her ivories himself!

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Met Opera National Council Southeast Region Final Auditions winners

This afternoon (Sunday, February 5, 2012), 12 young singers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia sang at Spivey Hall, each seeking to be the winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Southeast Region finals, and to be advanced to the national semi-finals in New York City.

Suffice it to say, Florida had an excellent showing this year.

Soprano Samantha Barnes from Florida won the Ryan Smith First Place Award of $5,500 and will represent the Southeast Region at the semi-finals.  She closed the first half of the contestants' program, singing "Qual fiamma...Stridono lassu" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, followed by "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's Rusalka.

The second place award of $2,500 went to baritone R. Kenneth Stavert from Florida, who sang "E fra quest' ansie in eterno vivrai" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, followed by "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Barbiere di Siviglia; he appeared second on the program.

The third place award of $1,500 was given to soprano Emily Duncan-Brown of Florida, who sang "Ah, fors'e' lui...Sempre libera" from Verdi's Traviata, followed by "Padre, germani, addio!" from Mozart's Idomeneo; she sang in the second half of the contestants' program.

Three $500 encouragement awards went to tenor David Blalock of North Carolina, Sidney Mancasola of North Carolina, and Melinda Whittington of South Carolina.

The pianist for all the award-winners was Walter Huff, choral director of The Atlanta Opera. 

The judges this year were Brad Woolbright, Artistic Administrator of the Santa Fe Opera; internationally renowned soprano Gianni Rolandi, who is Director of the Ryan Center for Young Artists at Lyric Opera  Chicago; and George Darden, a celebrated collaborative pianist and vocal coach, for many years at the Metropolitan Opera.

Mrs. John E. (Margaret) Talmadge is Regional Chairman of the Southeast Region Auditions.

A fine afternoon of music.  Congratulations to all!

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