Three free days of all-things-piano

UC Berkeley’s Department of Music is staging a series of lectures, master classes, performances and commentary combining scholarship with performance this Friday through Sunday (Nov. 14-16).

The Piano Institute, which began last year, also will include evening recitals and a Sunday workshop focusing on creative improvisation in piano performance and teaching. All programs are free and open to the public.

“From the beginning, the intention was to turn the Piano Institute into a showcase for pianos, pianists and music lovers on campus and beyond,” says James Q. Davies, an organizer of this year’s program along with fellow Berkeley pianist-professor Nicholas Mathew.

“With its unashamed education mission, it was decided early on that all institute events would be free and open to everyone,” says Davies.

French pianist Wilhem Latchoumia performed last year at the first Piano Institute. (Photo courtesy of the UC Berkeley Music Department.)

French pianist Wilhem Latchoumia performed last year at the first Piano Institute. (Photo courtesy of the UC Berkeley Department of Music)

Two legends, classical pianist Seymour Lipkin and musicologist/pianist Malcolm Bilson, will perform nighttime recitals. Lipkin will perform Beethoven’s final two piano sonatas in A-flat major and C minor. Bilson will perform works by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven.

The Friday and Saturday programs will take place in Hertz Hall on campus, near the intersection of Bancroft Way and College Avenue, while Sunday’s 1 p.m. workshop will be held in nearby Morrison Hall. For more details, visit the department calendar.

“The visit of these artists represents a unique educational opportunity for the talented undergraduates of the UC Berkeley music department’s piano program,” says Davies. “More and more, we see that gifted young pianists choose to become double majors at UC Berkeley rather than go the traditional conservatory route — as the openings for graduates from the large United States conservatories have diminished.”

“It is hoped that the active-learning Piano Institute will become an established part of UC Berkeley’s annual musical calendar,” says Davies.

Davies and Mathew recently joined the department already known for professor Davitt Moroney’s keyboards program for music majors. Institute organizers say the new program will expand the profile of piano playing for Berkeley students, and help to build a piano-playing community.

Davies notes that several Berkeley student pianists have won major international competitions, and have received prizes at prestigious European festivals; a handful among them spend their summers touring in Europe and America, performing with orchestras or playing solo recitals.

“We want to be sure that our recently revised undergraduate curriculum provides enough opportunities for these talented undergraduates,” says Davies, “collaborating closely with friends of the piano in the San Francisco Bay Area, local arts organizations and other engaged stakeholders.”