Keyboard Concerts prepares for a new season with a stellar lineup of international stars
Andreas Werz, artistic director of the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts series, gives yet another example that the world is smaller than you think.
The first pianist to perform in the world-class series in this new season is Adam Golka, the Polish-American pianist who first found fame by performing all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas when he was 18 years old. (The concert is 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Fresno State Concert Hall.) Golka lives in a New York apartment building and practices there. Werz knows someone who lives several floors away.
Who is that person? None other than Philip Lorenz Jr., son of the former Fresno State professor and acclaimed pianist for whom the series is named.
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“Philip hears Adam practicing all the time,” Werz tells me.
Golka – who has appeared with dozens of orchestras, including the BBC Scottish Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, Shanghai Philharmonic, as well as the San Francisco and Atlanta symphonies – might be the only performer in this season’s lineup who actually has a neighborly connection to the Lorenz name.
But the list of performers is impressive nonetheless.
“It’s a nice landscape of artists, of nationalities, of ages,” Werz says.
The most eagerly anticipated is the Korean pianist Yunchan Lim, who in 2022 won the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at age 18, becoming the youngest person to ever win the top prize. (“He’s considered a rock star by his Korean countryment,” Werz says.) Lim performs Oct. 14 for Keyboard Concerts.
Lim has only two other concerts scheduled in California this season – in San Jose and San Diego – making the Fresno engagement a magnet for out-of-town visitors.
“I’m getting all these calls from Koreans all across the state to try to secure a ticket for it,” Werz says.
Speaking of Van Cliburn gold medalists, Keyboard this season is boasting two of them back-to-back. Following Lim’s performance, the series on Nov. 4 features Vadym Kholodenko, the 2013 Van Cliburn gold-medal winner.
Another big name is planned for spring. Marc-Andre Hamelin, the star Canadian pianist, is playing this season as a soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic. (In the orchestra world, you really don’t get any bigger than that.) He performs solo in Fresno on Feb. 24.
Other keyboardists in the season lineup are Anne-Marie McDermott (Jan. 8), organist Nicole Keller (Feb. 5), Roman Rabinovich (March 17) and Andrea Lucchesini (April 28).
A highlight of the season is rapidly approaching: The Alexander String Quartet, an acclaimed chamber ensemble based in San Francisco, performs Oct. 9.
For the first concert of the season, Golka’s program features two monumental works of the literature: Beethoven’s Sonata in C major, Op. 53 (“Waldstein”); and Brahms’ Sonata in F minor, Op. 5, along with Chopin’s Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27 No. 2. To those three well-known pieces, Golka is adding a contemporary piece by Jan Swafford titled “Music Like Steel and Like Fire” (1983).
Werz, who officially retired as piano professor at Fresno State in May, will continue teaching private students as well as leading Keyboard Concerts. No major changes in format or pricing will greet patrons this season. After a season of dealing with Covid restrictions, he hopes to increase ticket sales – in particular to season-ticket holders. Sales were “not that great” last year and if the series is to be able to attract the top-caliber of talent as evidenced with this season, sales will need to increase.
“My biggest goal now is to bring people back to the hall,” he says.