Russian pianist Anna Geniushene, a rising star, kicks off Keyboard Concerts’ impressive new season

Andreas Werz gets nervous this time of year.

With the season opener for the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts series rapidly approaching, Werz is counting tickets sold and trying to get the word out. The longtime artistic director probably wouldn’t be sweating it as much in a larger market such as New York or Chicago. In those cities, the caliber of artists on the season lineup is enough to pack houses.

To be clear: Fresno’s Keyboard series features the same artists on the international touring circuit of world-class pianists. In classical music circles, mention a name like Emanuel Ax (who is coming to Fresno on Oct. 6) or Richard Goode (who comes Feb. 16) and you’ll get instant recognition. The same goes for artists such as the Russian pianist Anna Geniushene, who is kicking off the series with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, at the Fresno State Concert Hall. People might not immediately know her name, but they certainly recognize the prestige of the competition she recently won – in this case a Silver Medal in the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

The Van Cliburn is among the three most prestigious piano competitions in the world, Werz says. “The other two, in my view, are the Tchaikovsky in Moscow and the Chopin in Warsaw.”

Not only does Fresno offer the same caliber of artists, but it does it at a much less expensive price point and in a much more intimate venue.

But Werz and the series are facing some of the same artistic headwinds that are impacting cultural arts organizations across the country post-Covid. In particular, groups that rely on season-ticket sales as a stable income stream are struggling.


“People just don’t seem to want to commit to season tickets, and that’s a global trend,” he says.

A general season ticket to Keyboard is $250, which gets you into eight concerts throughout the year. (For seniors it’s $200, and for students it’s just $30).

You can also buy individual tickets, of course, which this year are $40 general, $30 for seniors. Though this represents a price increase from last season, the costs are still much lower than what you’d pay to see comparable artists in bigger cities.

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As for this season’s lineup, Werz is particularly proud of the mix of artists he’s enticed to come to Fresno. Along with such superstars as Ax, Goode and Joyce Yang (a favorite among Valley audiences; she performs April 5), Werz enjoys balancing the season with younger rising stars as George Li (who performs Jan. 7), winner of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.

For Friday’s concert featuring Geniushene, Werz is drawing upon the 30-year relationship he has with the Van Cliburn competition.

“Following the seasons after the competition (which takes place every four years), we feature the top prize winners,” he says. “Last season we presented Yunchan Lim, who had won the Gold Medal at the 2022 competition. Now we have Anna Geniushene, the Silver Medalist of that competition. Also on the program is Joyce Yang, who had won the SIlver Medal at the 2005 competition. The list of winners we have featured in the past 30 or so years is quite extensive.”

Werz is looking forward to Geniushene’s program, which include two pieces by Prokofiev (his Sonata in C Major, Op. 38 and his Sonata in C minor, Op. 29) and Chopin’s Rondo in C minor, Op.1.

“She also includes several rarely performed pieces, which is refreshing,” he says.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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