Leading pianists to celebrate rebirth of a Steinway

Published 30 September 2008

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Two of Australia’s leading pianists will join hands in Armidale next weekend for a concert to celebrate the rebirth of a great musical instrument.

On Saturday 4 October the international performers Stephanie McCallum and Robert Curry will give a recital at the keyboard of the University of New England’s newly-restored Steinway grand piano.

The concert, at 8 pm in UNE’s Lazenby Hall, will explore the full tonal and dynamic range of this exceptional instrument in a program of music spanning the eras of Romanticism and Impressionism. The program includes Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge for Piano Four Hands (Op. 134), Schumann’s Fantasie in C (Op. 17), Debussy’s Epigraphes antiques for piano duet, and Szymanowski’s Three Masques (Op. 34).

The piano, bought for the University in Germany in 1977, has remained in Lazenby Hall as a major asset for the musical life of UNE, Armidale, and the New England region. The recent restoration work, by the Steinway specialists “Theme & Variations”, is the first it has received.

“The total restoration of the piano – including a completely new action – cost just a fraction of the price of a new Steinway,” said Dr Terrence Hays, a Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Education who is himself an accomplished pianist. “Seeing it and playing it, you’d think it really was a new Steinway. We now have a first-class grand piano – a wonderful musical resource for the University and the wider community that will enable us to attract first-class performers to Armidale.”

Bringing such performers to Armidale while the piano was in need of restoration was difficult, and the recital by the world-renowned pianist Stephen Hough in Lazenby Hall in September 2007 (part of last year’s Musica Viva concert series) was made possible only by the loan of a concert piano from Kawai Australia.

Since its restoration, the piano has already been played in one of this year’s Musica Viva concerts: the performance on September 13 by the violinist Feng Ning and the pianist John Chen, winner of the Sydney International Piano Competition in 2004.

Stephanie McCallum, whose international career as a concert and recording artist spans more than 25 years, is especially noted for her performances of virtuosic music of the nineteenth century – particularly that of Liszt and Alkan. On her most recent CD – Fur Elise – she plays the complete Beethoven Bagatelles, including the first recordings of newly transcribed fragments from Beethoven’s sketchbooks. In conjunction with her career as a performer, she teaches at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as a Senior Lecturer in Keyboard.

Robert Curry, who studied piano in Warsaw and New York, has performed and lectured throughout the Middle East and South Asia. He was the pianist invited by Steinway & Sons to tour international capital cities earlier this year with four of the firm’s historic pianos, demonstrating their distinctive features in performance. He is the Principal of the Conservatorium High School, Sydney.

Entry to the Lazenby Hall concert on the 4th of October is $10 (adults) and $5 (children).