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Ross McKee Foundation Spring Season Opens With Tribute to Robin Sutherland

January 26, 2021

Under the aegis of its slogan, “supporting piano performances and education,” the Ross McKee Foundation begins its 2021 digital season by paying tribute to the man who was the paragon of that ideal for decades in the Bay Area.

The late pianist Robin Sutherland will be remembered by musicians who knew him and studied and performed with him at a tribute concert on Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. PT on the Foundation’s YouTube channel. The Foundation cites Sutherland’s importance in having served as “SF Symphony’s principal pianist for an astonishing 45 years and a larger-than-life figure whose passion for living touched nearly everyone in the Bay Area classical music scene.”

Performing on the program: Keisuke Nakagoshi, Jeffrey Kahane, Marc Shapiro, Jeffrey LaDeur, Christopher Basso, and Elizabeth Dorman, in works by Poulenc, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, and Bach. The event will be hosted by Ross McKee Foundation Executive Director Nicholas Pavkovic.

The Foundation’s two ongoing series, presented online, are Piano Talks and Piano Break; all events are streamed free on Fridays at 5 p.m. PT on the Ross McKee YouTube channel. Each event is followed by a live Zoom Green Room, allowing viewers to meet the artists and ask questions.

Highlights of Piano Talk include “An Introduction to Historical Piano Recordings,” premiering with Mark Ainley on Feb. 26, exploring the importance of older recordings and how they reveal the artistry of another age, such as Josef Hofmann’s palette of tonal colors, Ignaz Friedman’s pedal effects, Marcelle Meyer’s fluid phrasing, and Dinu Lipatti’s transparent voicing.

On March 26, Gilbert Kalish joins in a conversation with Elizabeth Dorman, a former student, as he shares stories from his 85 years of musicmaking and teaching and provides his take on music in a post-pandemic world. On April 30, Christina Dahl gives a talk entitled “In the Orbit of the Schumanns,” a look into how both Robert and Clara Schumann crafted a way of viewing German music that remains remarkably resilient today.

Among Piano Break debuts: Steinway Artist and documentarian Antonio Iturrioz; Marguerite Long Competition medalist Robert Schwartz; Christopher Basso, first-pize winner in the 2000 Van Cliburn Amateur Competition; local jazz star Joe Warner; Kate Campbell, a new-music champion and pianist for the SF Contemporary Music Players; Ken Iisaka, a three-time finalist in the Van Cliburn Amateur Competition; and Jenny Chai, who has combined performance and visuals in collaboration with NASA, using NASA data visualizations.

“The Bay Area is so fortunate to have such an astonishing amount of high-caliber talent,” says Pavkovic. “Being able to provide this talent with an outlet for performance and education — particularly during COVID — gives our Foundation so much energy. Our newly expanded board has risen to the challenge of providing support to artists during these unprecedented times.

“We’re also thrilled that our recorded events provide joy to music lovers stuck at home today. Although we look forward to a time when we can move these programs back into halls with live audiences, we hope this online format will become a new San Francisco tradition.”

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].