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SF International Piano Festival Plows Ahead

August 11, 2020

The fourth annual San Francisco International Piano Festival will be virtual and somewhat retrospective, like all of the Bay Area’s summer festivals in the year of the virus. But the critical point for the festival’s principal architect and founder Jeffrey LaDeur is that it’s going forward. “I think it essential for people to have access to the healing power of music especially during this time,” he wrote us, echoing the thoughts of many musicians who are finding ways to get their music out there.

If you’ve followed the festival from the beginning, as SFCV has, you are aware of the basic cast of characters, seven excellent pianists, including LaDeur, graduates of the Eastman School of Music, who form the New Piano Collective. LaDeur is joined on the opening concert, which will be livestreamed on Aug. 20, by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich, in a Schubertiade that includes lieder interspersed with movements of the Piano Sonata in G Major, D. 894.

But the current schedule invites pianists from beyond the collective as well: Nicholas Phillips, for example, who appears Aug. 25 with a collection of pieces he commissioned under the title the #45 Miniatures Project, a group of short pieces “centered around musical protests of the Trump presidency and its effects on the country. I heard Nick do a version of this live at the Center for New Music and knew immediately that it had to be part of our season,” LaDeur says.

On Aug. 28, the festival celebrates Beethoven in a concert featuring Gwendolyn Mok, Stephen Harrison (on cello), Allegra Chapman, “and emerging artists from Young Chamber Musicians, Burlingame with whom the festival has established an annual collaboration.” Phillips returns on Aug. 29 with a Piano Sonata by Florence Price, while Collective member Owen Zhou “concludes the evening with selections from Bach’s Art of Fugue, ending with the unfinished contrapunctus, hence the program title and symbol of underrepresented voices that have been silenced prematurely.”

The grand finale, Aug. 30. is partly a rebroadcast of a concert that LaDeur did for the Ross McKee Foundation and partly a livestream with Scharich again singing Ravel’s Histoires naturelles, followed by chamber music by Mozart. It’s good to see a small, local gem surviving the 2020 tsunami, especially when they’ve got the artistic goods.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.

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