Preview: 30th Chicago Duo Piano Festival Opens With a Russian Flair This Sunday

Two pianos set the stage at the Chicago Duo Piano Festival. Photo courtesy of the Music Institute of Chicago. The Chicago Duo Piano Festival opens this Sunday with Russian Masterpieces, a concert of Russian music performed by Russian pianists Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, 3:00 pm. The program includes Scriabin’s Fantasy for Two Pianos and Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 1 for Piano duo, op. 5. The second half of the concert will be devoted to a two-piano transcription of Tchaikovsky’s excellent Symphony No. 6 in b-minor, op. 74, an intensely emotional work that the composer himself entitled Pathetique. This is the 30th installment of the festival that the Music Institute of Chicago founded in 1988. It offers concerts, lectures, and a master class by international musicians and Institute faculty—all geared toward celebrating the rich, though under performed, piano duo repertoire. This year’s festival recognizes the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with Music Institute of Chicago faculty performing his work on Tuesday, July 10, 7:30 pm. In addition to transcriptions of the Candide overture and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, the concert includes music by modern American composers Aaron Copeland and John Adams Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primakov perform Russian masterworks. Photo courtesy of the artists. On the following Friday, July 13, the Liang-He Piano Duo, made up of Chinese born Xiaomin Liang and Jue He, will be performing a mixed genre program of music spanning the last few centuries. Their program includes Gershwin, Schoenfield, Mozart, Yi, and Bizet at the Nichols Concert Hall, 7:30 pm. Great piano duo sonatas by Bartok and Brahms will be the focus of a concert on Sunday, July 15. Pianists Fiona Queen and Louise Chan will be joined by percussionists Josh Graham and John Corkill for Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. This will be followed by husband wife duo Matthew Hagle and Mio Isoda performing Brahms’ Sonata in f-minor for two pianos, op. 34b. Shortly after writing this piece, Brahms transformed it into one of his greatest masterpieces, Quintet for Piano and Strings, op. 34. A performance of the 2-piano arrangement is a treat. The festival’s final concert, Liszt’s Symphonic Vision, will feature the Italian Duo of Vincenzo Maxia and Giuseppe Bruno playing two-piano transcriptions of symphonic music by Liszt, including the Faust Symphony and the tone poem Les Preludes on Friday, July 20, 7:30. On the following day, they’ll be offering a free master class. All concerts and the master class take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave, Evanston.  $30 adults, $20 seniors, $10 students. 3-concert passes are available. For more information, visit  
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Louis Harris

A lover of music his whole life, Louis Harris has written extensively from the early days of punk and alternative rock. More recently he has focused on classical music, especially chamber ensembles. He has reviewed concerts, festivals, and recordings and has interviewed composers and performers. He has paid special attention to Chicago’s rich and robust contemporary art music scene. He occasionally writes poetry and has a published novel to his credit, 32 Variations on a Theme by Basil II in the Key of Washington, DC. He now lives on the north side of Chicago, which he considers to be the greatest city in the country, if not the world. Member of the Music Critics Association of North America.