At half-way point the Southeastern Piano Festival has been a tremendous success – and there’s more to come

The 10th annual Southeastern Piano Festival has reached its half-way point and has been quite a celebration on every level with amazing music, tremendous performances and large and enthusiastic audiences.

The Piano Extravaganza concert kicked off the festival Sunday afternoon with the concert by 16 pianists, the S.C. Philharmonic and five Steinway concert grand pianos at the Koger Center for the Art. As performance time neared, the lines grew for those escaping the rainy day for this musical event of the year.  By the time the concert started about 1,600 people had taken their seats. The audience was quite varied with a big turnout of families with children.

The key to this concert was performances by multiple musicians on multiple pianos:  Festival Director Marina Lomazov, USC School of Music and Piano Festival faculty members Charles Fugo and Joseph Rackers, guest artist Phillip Bush, along with a dozen festival alumni and winners of the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition playing music by Mozart, Liszt, Bach, Poulenc and others.

The highlight as expected was the interplanetary extravaganza – “Mars: and “Jupiter” from Holst’s The Planets performed by Lomazov, Rackers, Fugo, Bush and Naomi Causby on five pianos.

The Monday night concert spanned 230 years of music, from a 1776 work by Haydn to several brand new works, performed by Leo Svirsky and Seah Yeh, alumni of the Southeastern Piano Festival and winners of the Arthur Concerto Competition.  Svirsky gave American premieres of several works written especially for him as well as one of his own compositions. Yeh  performed music by Haydn, and Ravel, and closed the concert with a bang and wowed the audience with Chopin’s Scherzo in C-sharp Minor, Op. 39.

Each year, the festival goes “on the road” and on Tuesday the road took it to the Columbia Museum of Art. Along with offering visual arts exhibitions and programing the museum has a healthy concert series and mounts a world-class chamber music series. This was the first time the festival had performed at the museum and it was a tremendous success. Nearly 100 people attended the hour-long midday concert by participants in this year’s festival.

After performing, the students had time for a quick stroll through the museum to view “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design” and take a look at the museum’s extensive collection spanning 2,500 years.  Then it was back to the practice rooms.

The midway point was also a zenith of sorts with the performance Tuesday night by the 16-year-old pianist George Li. Playing with a maturity that belied his youth, he performed works by Haydn, Bartok Chopin, Debussy, ending with Schubert’s Fantasie in C major, Op. 15, popularly known as the Wanderer Fantasy. The four-movement fantasy is considered Schubert’s most technically demanding composition for the piano. It was a fitting wrap up for a dazzling concert.

The festival continues with a Wednesday night concert by Boris Slutsky, Alessio Bax playing Thursday, the all-day and most-of-the-night Fraser Competition Friday, and the closing concert by competition winners Saturday.

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