Fresno State’s music department brings internationally-renowned classical pianists to perform in the department each year through a special concert series.
The “Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts” began its 42nd season yesterday at Fresno State’s concert hall. Pianists Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson, well known in the music world, performed together at the first concert.
“Leon Fleisher himself has had a lifelong career as a pianist, as a conductor, as a mentor and as a teacher,” Fresno State piano professor Andreas Werz said. “It’s just a privilege for Fresno to have someone like him come to our campus here.”
The nonprofit organization responsible for the concerts was named after its founder Philip Lorenz, a Fresno State piano professor, in 1992 after he passed away. Lorenz founded the keyboard concerts back in 1972.
Today, Werz continues Lorenz’s legacy as artistic director for the keyboard concerts. Werz said the department recruits famous pianists from all over the world, from Romania to Israel.
“Some of the famous pianists that have performed in the past are Emanuel Ax, Richard Goode and Radu Lupu,” Werz said.
Two other pianists are playing later this semester.
“The next pianist is Vadym Kholodenko,” Werz said. “He’s from Ukraine and is the most recent gold medalist of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Texas.
“That’s the biggest, or most important, competition in the piano world.”
Kholodenko is playing at Fresno State’s concert hall on Oct. 16 at 8 p.m.
“Then the next pianist is Shai Wosner, an Israeli pianist who is based is New York,” Werz said. “It will be his first time on the series.”
Wosner is a protégé of internationally prominent pianist Emanuel Ax and is playing at Fresno State’s concert hall on Nov. 22 at 8 p.m.
Six other pianists are also set to play in spring 2014.
Werz said the keyboard concerts are completely funded by supporters.
“The series is basically funded by the community and by individuals who give donations,” Werz said. “We’re lucky to use the piano in the hall for free, so that’s a wonderful contribution by Fresno State.
“But the rest is really coming from the community.”
Werz said he has noticed a decline in the audience the past three or four years and would like to see more attendees.
“I think we’ve noticed a little of a decline in the last three or four years, as all art organizations have across the country,” Werz said. “And that’s a bad development. I must say I’m a little bit concerned.”
Irina Smolyakova, a Fresno State piano major, has attended keyboard concerts over the past few years. She said it is important for piano students to attend the concerts so they can observe the professional pianists.
“For us, it’s important for piano majors because we have to observe the pianists and learn many things,” Smolyakova said. “We see how their can be such a huge range of sound on one piano and how we can produce so many different tones on a piano.”
Smolyakova said it’s helpful to see how professional musicians act when they perform.
“It might seem that it just comes to you automatically, but it doesn’t,” Smolyakova said. “It’s very helpful to see other pianists perform for that reason.”
Smolyakova also said that she and others want to see more young people, such as Fresno State students, attend the concerts.
“It would be great to see younger people because most of the audience in the keyboard concerts are older people,” Smolyakova said. “It seems like there is a lack of interest in the younger audience.”
In the future, Werz said his goal is to continue the high professionalism of pianists and to gain a bigger followership and audience.
Individual tickets for the concerts are $18 for general, $12 for seniors and $5 for students. Season tickets are also available. For more information about the keyboard concerts, visit www.keyboardconcerts.com.