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Wassermann Festival Concert Series at USU Continues with two Performances

Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014

program cover for 2014 USU Wassermann Festival and Concert Series
pianist Sean Chen is featured in USU's 2014 Wassermann Festival

Sean Chen is featured in a solo recital Thursday, March 20, 7:30 p.m., USU Performance Hall, Logan.

pianist Vadym Kholodenko performs at USU's Wassermann Festival

Cliburn Festival gold medal winner Vadym Kholodenko performs a solo recital March 21 and USU's Wassermann Festival and Concert Series.

The next two solo recitals at Utah State University’s Wassermann Festival and Concert Series provide a rare opportunity. Audiences will have the chance to hear not one but two of the prize-winning pianists from the most recent Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, recognized by many as one of the world’s most important competitions.

Performing in Logan in back-to-back solo recitals are two of the top three finishers from the 2013 Cliburn, crystal award winner Sean Chen and the gold-medal winner Vadym Kholodenko. Both recitals begin at 7:30 p.m. at USU’s Manon Caine Russell Kathryn Caine Wanlass Performance Hall.

Members of USU’s piano faculty were in Texas for the competition and heard both pianists compete. Dennis Hirst, director of USU’s Wassermann Festival, said the response to the top winners was strong from the start.

“Both Sean Chen and Vadym Kholodenko stood out from the other Cliburn competitors from the preliminary round,” Hirst said. “Throughout the competition, their performances continued to display extraordinary musicianship and technical ability. I’m extremely pleased to be able to feature both of them at Utah State University as part of the Wassermann Festival this season.”

Performing first is Chen, who is featured Thursday, March 20.

“I was able to hear Sean twice in the preliminary rounds and I was impressed by his fresh approach to works that many of us know,” Hirst said. “Sean’s program is perfectly suited to what he does best. It will be a diverse aural experience for the audience.”

The program includes works by Alexander Scriabin, Frederic Chopin, Maurice Ravel and Sergei Prokofiev.

Chen’s reviews from the Cliburn competition, and beyond, are impressive. Phrases like “exceptional ability to connect with an audience” and “easy virtuosity” are used. According to the competition’s website, Chen is the first American since 1997 to achieve a Cliburn prize.

He was born in Florida and grew up in California and has earned a bachelor’s degree at the Julliard School. He now resides in New Haven, Conn., where he is pursuing an artist diploma at the Yale School of Music.

Chen’s program is about color, timbre and sonic effect.

Kholodenko, the next performer, has a program that is built on harmonic and melodic integration and the aural tapestries that result, Hirst said. The second half of his program features works with rhythmic drive and “virtuosic elements.”

Kholodenko’s solo recital is Friday, March 21, and includes works by Henry Purcell, Handel, Brahms, Nikolai Medtner and concludes with Igor Stravinsky’s “Trios Mouvements de Petrouchka.”  This concluding work, which is often performed in its symphonic version, makes great technical demands of the pianist.

“Stravinsky created the piano version in a very orchestral manner,” Hirst said, “and much of it requires the solo pianist to elicit the same sounds that are more reasonably distributed out among multiple musicians and instruments in the symphonic version. It is a popular competition piece, and Kholodenko brought the house down in Fort Worth last May when he performed it during the Cliburn competition.”

Critical response to Kholodenko’s Cliburn performances is equally impressive, where it was noted that he captured the attention of jury, audience and critics alike for “mesmerizing and exhilarating” performances that brought the crowd to its feet, “cheering him like a rock star.”

Born in Kiev, Kholodenko has performed across the globe. He made his first appearances in the United States, China, Hungary and Croatia at the age of 13. He now lives in Moscow with his wife and 3-year old daughter. He holds a teaching position at the Moscow P.I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory.

While at USU both pianists will offer master classes at the Wassermann Festival. The first is provided by Kholodenko Thursday, March 20, from 3-5 p.m. at the USU Performance Hall. Chen’s class is the following day, Friday, March 21, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the same location. The public is welcome at the master classes and tickets are available at the door.

Tickets for the solo recitals are available at the Caine College of the Arts Box Office located in the Chase Fine Arts Center, Room 139-B. Reserved seat tickets are $24 for adults, $20 for USU faculty and staff and $12 for students ages 8 and older. Call the box office with questions, (435) 797-8022, or purchase tickets online via the college’s Production Services website.

Detailed information about the Wassermann Festival and Concert Series can be found on the festival’s website.

Related links:

Contact: Dennis Hirst, (435) 797-3257

Writer: Patrick Williams, (435) 797-1354

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