Sunday, September 28, 2014

Season 24 opens with pianist Beatrice Rana

My spirits are always lifted when regular concerts resume at Spivey Hall in the fall.  This afternoon at 3 PM, Italian pianist Beatrice Rana takes the stage to open Spivey Hall's 2014-2015 season.  Season 24 thus begins with an artist making her Atlanta debut -- a new artist for a new season.  And off we go!

I first encountered Beatrice Rana during the chamber music round of the 2013 Cliburn Competition, which I attended in Fort Worth, Texas.  Very taken by her playing, I extended an invitation to her before the Competition had completed, so convinced I was of musicianship, her fidelity to the score, and the ideas she brought to them.  Ms. Rana ended up winning the Silver Prize and the Audience Prize, and her career (already strong in Europe) has continued to flourish.

Today she'll perform Bach's First Partita, Chopin's Second Sonata, and Prokofiex's Sixth Sonata, which will give Spivey Hall's audience a telling overview of her skills, strengths, personality, and artistry at the piano.  

It's been a pleasure once again to welcome Ulrich Gerhartz, director of concerts and artists for Steinway & Sons in London, to Atlanta for his regular visit to check up on our Hamburg Steinway concert grand, "Clara."  Mr. Gerhartz took part in our selection of this piano at the factory in Hamburg and continues to look after her well-being with tremendous care and expertise.  Ms. Rana's debut coincides with his visit, thus "Clara" is in tip-top shape, and today begins another chapter of our understanding of how "she" continues to settle in at Spivey Hall.

This afternoon's concert is our Season Opening Celebration.   Thus the entire audience is invited to a post-concert reception, hosted by our donors, the Friends of Spivey Hall, in honor of Beatrice Rana, and our generous  Friends of Spivey Hall Concert Sponsor,  Michael Koch, MD, himself a passionate fan of pianos and pianists, and proud owner of a beautiful Hamburg Steinway of his own, who goes by "Hans." We talk about having a "play date" sometime with "Clara" and "Hans" at Spivey Hall -- which in time, I do believe, we could indeed make happen.

Even though the lockout of the Atlanta Symphony musicians continues, and Jeremy Denk (another Spivey Hall favorite) was unable to perform with them as planned, it's been a good weekend in Atlanta for fans of piano music.  Garrick Ohlsson, well known to Atlanta audiences, and the only American to win first place at the prestigious Chopin Competition, played the Third Sonata of Chopin at Emory University's Schwartz Center on Friday night, and treated us also to a truly amazing second-half of works by Scriabin, which he discussed from the stage with his characteristic intelligence, enthusiasm, and wit.  A fine number of Spivey Hall patrons attended, and I'm delighted that so many of them are making it a double-header weekend and showing up this afternoon for more solo piano as well.  

Also new this season:  the first of 18 exhibitions in the lobby that begins our countdown to Season 25 in 2015-16.  The first exhibition focuses on how Emilie Spivey led the effort to create Spivey Hall, beginning with her major challenge gift, the founding of The Walter and Emilie Spivey Foundation, and the series of dedication concerts in 1991 (violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Andre Watts, and bass-baritone Samuel Ramey) and again in 1992, after our magnificent Fratelli Ruffatti was installed, an occasion celebrated with two brilliant recitals by organist Gillian Weir and a program (given twice) by the legendary Robert Shaw, his Festival Singers, organist Norman Mackenzie, and vocal and instrumental soloists.  I attended Ramey's recital as well as one of Weir's recitals; both were splendid and memorable.  (Little did I know at that time what the future would hold for me and Spivey Hall!)  It's rather astounding to recognize that we're coming up on major anniversaries of these events.  The musical legacy of Walter and Emilie Spivey continues to pay tremendous dividends with the concerts given in Spivey Hall which are also broadcast on public radio locally on WABE 90.1 FM and nationally on American Public Media's Performance Today. 

Another innovation:  we've added Music Notes to our website -- program notes with clickable music examples chosen to illustrate the points being made in the note.  Look for them on event pages for most concerts in the Spivey Series -- they're up now for Beatrice Rana's program.  We will continue to publish unabridged program notes in our program books as well.  Comments/feedback all welcome.

There are still great seats for today's recital, so don't hesitate -- come, and you will be rewarded.