It may seem like an unlikely stop. For many internationally recognized piano and organ performers, their annual tours may include such world-class venues as Carnegie Hall, Wiener Musikverein, Walt Disney Hall, or the Oslo Opera House. Among such performances, eight artists every year have the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concert Series at the Fresno State Concert Hall on their schedule.
“The unique experience of watching a master perform live music is transformational: One feels the vibrations, feels the emotion and hears the vital energy of life, flowing from the heart through the fingertips,” Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said. “For 50 years, the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concert Series has brought us this gift that elevates and revitalizes the soul. Fresno State is honored to host this community and international treasure.”
Founded in 1972 by the late Professor Philip Lorenz, the Keyboard Concert Series will enter its 50th year this season. Fresno State Professor Andreas Werz is excited about this year’s lineup, which kicks off with Garrick Ohlsson at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, at the Fresno State Concert Hall. Tickets are $25 general, $18 for seniors and $5 for students.
“People know about this series. If you talk to musicians in New York about Keyboard Concerts in Fresno, they would say, ‘yes, we know this.’ This is a nice thing for the University to have,” said Werz, president and artistic director for Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts.
Ohlsson is the only American to have achieved a gold medal in the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. The New York Times said Ohlsson is celebrated for his “tasteful virtuosity, elegant sense of proportion and the balance between intimacy and declamation.” As the COVID-19 restrictions have eased, Ohlsson has traveled worldwide, playing venues in Prague, Zurich and South Korea. Following his concert at Fresno State, he will continue to tour the United States and Europe.
“By bringing renowned pianists from around the world to play in our Concert Hall at Fresno State, the Philip Lorenz Keyboard Concert Series builds a bridge between the campus and our Valley’s music lovers. The Keyboard Concerts also show our students that they can aspire to world-class greatness in anything they pursue through hard work,” said Dr. Honora Chapman, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. Season tickets are available for $160 general, $120 for seniors and $30 for students and include admission to Garrick Ohlsson and the following performances at the Concert Hall:
7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15
Israeli born pianist Ran Dank returns to the series together with his wife, Korean born pianist Soyeon Kate Lee, both prize winners at numerous prestigious competitions including the Naumburg International Piano Competition and the Sydney International Piano Competition. The combination of Ran Dank’s “impeccable technical surety, explosive force, and triumphant exultation” (The Washington Post) and Soyeon Kate Lee’s “huge, richly varied sound, lively imagination, and firm sense of style” (The New York Times) results in a most exhilarating experience.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5
“The latest phenomenon of the Russian piano school” (Corriere della Sera, Italy), Alexander Malofeev came to international prominence when, in 2014, he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians at age thirteen. His unequalled technical mastery and interpretive maturity far beyond his age have already led to celebrated performances at prestigious venues such as the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Herkulessaal in Munich, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, and the Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo.
3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30
Grammy Award winner and lauded as “a marvel of digital dexterity, warmly romantic sentiment, and jaw-dropping bravura” (Chicago Tribune), Yefim Bronfman is firmly established as one of the leading pianists of our time. This Russian-Israeli-American artist “stands out from the crowd” (The Boston Globe) and is a “virtuoso whose musicality surpasses mere brilliance” (The New York Times), regularly performing under the world’s foremost conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Blomstedt, Christoph von Dohnányi, Charles Dutoit, Valery Gergiev, Christoph Eschenbach, Zubin Mehta, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and David Zinman.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18
Known for the freshness and originality of his musical interpretations, American pianist Jeremy Denk has steadily built a reputation as one of today’s most compelling and persuasive artists with an unusually broad repertoire. Winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year award, he was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “Jeremy Denk, clearly, is a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs, in whatever combination – both for his penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and for the generosity of his playing.” (The New York Times).
3 p.m. Sunday, March 13
With her consistently striking and dynamic performances, Natasha Paremski reveals astounding virtuosity and voracious interpretive abilities. Born in Moscow, she came to the United States at a young age winning numerous awards including the 2006 Gilmore Young Artist Prize. Lauded for her “fiery and widely dynamic playing” (London Classical Source), she enjoys a flourishing career that has included performances as soloist with such noted orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, and the Moscow Philharmonic.
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 1
Since winning all prizes at the 2005 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, pianist Rafał Blechacz has established himself firmly on the international concert scene and is celebrated by both the audience and the press worldwide for his profound and virtuosic interpretations. Described by the great Martha Argerich as an “honest, extraordinary, and sensitive artist,” he is only the second Polish pianist, after Krystian Zimerman, to have enlisted under the Deutsche Grammophon label. Most recently, he was awarded a prestigious Gilmore Artist Award in recognition of his brilliant achievements and passionate commitment to his art.
3 p.m. Sunday, April 24
Jack Mitchener has established himself as one of America’s leading concert organists bringing “music to life with supple rhythmic control, clear phrasing, energy, and sensitivity” (The American Organist). He enjoys a thriving international performance career that includes appearances in such notable venues as St. Thomas Church in New York City, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, the Church of St. Augustine in Vienna, Jacobikirche in Lübeck, Germany, and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Co-sponsored with the San Joaquin Valley Chapter, American Guild of Organists.
In addition, Keyboard Concerts will host the following special events at the Concert Hall:
● Masterclass with Ran Dank and Soyeon Kate Lee, 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.
● Aidan Purtell, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9.
The first keyboard concerts were at the now-defunct Stevenson Music store on Blackstone Avenue. Lorenz later partnered with the Fresno Free College Foundation which developed the series further. The series was held in several venues, including Northwest Church, the Tower Theatre and the Memorial Auditorium. After Werz took over in 1992 following the untimely death of Lorenz, the series partnered with Fresno State and moved to the Fresno State Concert Hall, where it has remained since.
For Werz, the concert series is an extension of his love for music, and especially the piano.
“Music is my life. I started playing the piano at age 5. Developed it throughout grade school, high school, eventually entered a conservatory to make it my primary occupation in life, [to] become a pianist,” Werz said. “Directing a series is just one other facet of it. By directing the series, I have a way of inviting guest artists to share this with other people, to share it with the University community and the community in general.”
It is this passion that drives the series and brings cultural value to the community.
“It enriches the cultural life of Fresno, particularly Fresno State, the University. It enhances the quality of life in our region, in the Valley. In some sense, puts it on the map. These artists play in the cultural centers of the world, and they also play in Fresno. That means something for Fresno.”
This year, Werz will retire from his role at Fresno State and become professor emeritus but said he will continue his role with the Keyboard Concert Series.