“After my living a long life with the Rachmaninoff 3rd, it took this youthful musician to show me
the most imaginative and compelling performance of the work I have ever heard.
His lyrical approach throughout did not rule out heights of passion of enormous proportion.
His colors were limitless. The cadenza in the first movement was a revelation. The inner voices brought new light to structures. One could go on and on. Watch this award-winning performer.”
Henry Upper, The Republic
Allegheny RiverStone for the Arts is proud to present to its classical audience the extraordinary keyboard artistry of the Van Cliburn Award winner, Sean Chen, on Sunday, July 30, 2023 at 2 PM. Enjoy a beautiful summer afternoon in the air conditioned comfort of Lincoln Hall for what will be a truly unforgettable experience of exquisite lyricism and spectacular virtuosity in a program of Schubert Impromptus with improvised interludes by Sean Chen, Rachmaninoff’s arrangement of Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesleid and Liebesfreud, Schumann’s Arabesque, and Sean Chen’s arrangement of the Finale.Presto of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Link to the blog regarding his extraordinary performance here.
From the fiery pyrotechnics of Rachmaninoff to the delicate filigree of Nikolai Medtner, critics have been unanimous: “Los Angeles native Sean Chen has the rare ability to combine poetic musical sensibilities and dazzling technical prowess... coaxing subtle and surprising colors and textures from each work.”
— Paula Edelstein, LA Music Examiner (April 23, 2014)
The reviews have been superlative and unequaled in the biggest virtuosic repertoire: “… he delivered the most original and likely the best live performance I have ever experienced among the many such performances I have heard in my professional life.
(Brahms Piano Concerto #2).” (The Republic)
Chantal Incandela of Nuvo wrote, “There aren’t enough superlatives for this young man. Moments of bold intensity gave way to those of a gentle tenderness that was breathtaking at times…”
American conductor, Gerard Schwarz, who guest conducted Chen with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra said, “The Bartók Concerto No. 2 that he played in the finals was stupendous. He brought this piece to life in a totally convincing way, and for me it was the best performance of this concerto that I have ever heard.”
ARCA is grateful for the very generous donation of ARCA Board members Dan and Karen Mortland, sponsoring the debut of Sean Chen on the Lincoln Hall Steinway.
Tickets are Adults $30, Members $25 and Students $5. Call 724 659-3153 to reserve and pay by cash or check at the door – or buy online here.
Following the concert, Meet the Artist and enjoy a Wine & Cheese Reception Opening from 4 to 6 PM in the Upstairs Gallery at the Red Brick Gallery for the exhibit of ARCA Board member and RBG Cooperative Member, photographer Dennis Keyes, and painter Jannick Wildberg.
PROGRAM for Lincoln Hall-July 30
A multifaceted musician, Sean. Chen also transcribes, composes, and improvises. He recently premiered his composition, Daydream No. 1 – Steps, commissioned as a gift for the retirement of American Pianists Association’s President/CEO. His transcriptions of such orchestral works as Ravel’s La Valse, Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, and the Adagio from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, have been received with glowing acclaim and enthusiasm, and his encore improvisations are lauded as “genuinely brilliant” (Dallas Morning News).
In his dazzling program for the July 30 concert in Lincoln Hall, Sean will not only perform works by Schubert and Kreisler/Rachmaninoff, but also improvise interludes between the Schubert Impromptus and dazzle the audience with his arrangement of the triumphant Finale.Presto to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Sean Chen has written this note regarding the thematic connections and resonances of his concert program.
This year is Rachmaninoff’s 150th anniversary. Rachmaninoff has been a big part of my musical life, so it isn’t hard for me to put together a program that features Rachmaninoff. However, I also wanted to showcase in this recital my own musical identity, while connecting it to that great pianist-composer.
This afternoon, I will end the first half of the program with Rachmaninoff’s wonderfully colorful and evocative arrangements of Liebesleid and Liebesfreud, pieces by his friend and frequent recital partner Fritz Kreisler. These gems are not only a delight to listen to, but a joy to perform!
I have always enjoyed orchestral music, starting from my time as a violinist in youth orchestra. But I always wanted to play the works on the piano, ironically, and so I’ve built up a collection of my own arrangements throughout the years. In this program, mirroring the Rachmaninoff arrangements is my own arrangement of the finale of Beethoven’s 9thSymphony. This project came about right before the pandemic shut down the live-performance world; I was to play this for Beethoven’s 250th. As concerts have been coming back, I have been playing this finger-busting arrangement wherever I can. Though I was initially inspired by Liszt’s arrangement of the same work, I have completely reworked the entire arrangement to better match what I hear in my head when I think of the glorious Beethoven 9. In the context of this program, it is also an homage to Rachmaninoff’s pianism and emphasizes how important arrangement and transcription have been throughout history – and continues to be!
Another big part of my musicianship is improvisation, and I had the idea to use Schubert’s Impromptus Op. 90. This came to me after hearing my former teacher, Jerome Lowenthal, incorporate little modulations between each impromptu. Instead of the small modulations, I’ll be improvising interludes that will take me from one to the next, letting my ears and fingers guide me where they will. The impromptus themselves are wonderful and need no introduction.
That leaves us with Schumann’s Arabeske, Op. 18, a precious and almost ephemeral piece. It’s a pallet cleanser right before the Beethoven finale, but also serves to anchor the program around the key of C – the first Schubert Impromptu, the Liebesfreud, and the Arabeske are all in C. And so, the pieces in this program are all interconnected, especially for me, in multiple ways. It is a program that is rich for the listener, and so much fun for me to perform, and I know it will be a great afternoon in Foxburg!
4 Impromptus, Op. 90, with improvised interludes Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
1- Impromptu in C minor
2- Impromptu in E♭ major
3- Impromptu in G♭ major
4- Impromptu in A♭ major
Liebesleid & Liebesfreud Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Arr. by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
— intermission –
Arabeske in C Major, Op. 18 Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
IV. Finale. Presto Arr. by Sean Chen (b. 1988)
ABOUT THE ARTIST
A “thoughtful musician well beyond his years” (The Republic), pianist Sean Chen shares his “alluring, colorfully shaded renditions” (New York Times) and “genuinely sensitive” (LA Times) playing with audiences around the world in solo and chamber recitals, concerto performances, and masterclasses. After winning the 2013 American Pianists Awards, winning the Bronze at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and being named a 2015 Annenberg Fellow, Mr. Chen is now a Millsap Artist in Residence at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory.
Mr. Chen has performed with many prominent orchestras, including the Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Diego, Knoxville, Hartford, Louisiana Philharmonic, Milwaukee, North Carolina, Pasadena, Phoenix, Santa Fe, and New West Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Chamber Orchestras of Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and South Bay. He has collaborated with such esteemed conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Michael Stern, Gerard Schwarz, Nicholas McGegan, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Marcelo Lehninger, and James Judd. Solo recitals have brought him to major venues worldwide, including Jordan Hall in Boston, Subculture in New York City, the American Art Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the National Concert Hall in Taipei, Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and the Salle Cortot in Paris.
Mr. Chen has served on the juries of notable piano competitions, including the American Pianists Awards, Thailand International Piano Competition, West Virginia International Piano Competition, Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists, and Steinway competitions around the country. Given his natural inclination for teaching and approachable personality, Mr. Chen is particularly in demand for residencies that combine performances with master classes, school concerts, and artist conversations, which have brought him to such institutions as the Cleveland Institute of Music, Indiana University, University of British Columbia, University of Houston Moores School, Spotlight Awards at the Los Angeles Music Center, Young Artist World Piano Festival, and several Music Teachers’ Associations throughout the country.
Mr. Chen has been featured in both live and recorded performances on radio – WQXR (New York), WFMT (Chicago), WGBH (Boston), WFYI (Indianapolis), KCUR (Kansas City), KPR (Kansas), NPR’s From the Top, and American Public Media’s Performance Today. Additional media coverage includes a profile featured on the cover of Clavier Companion in May 2015, recognition as “One to Watch” by International Piano Magazine in March 2014, and inclusion in WFMT’s “30 Under 30.”
His CD releases include the 2021 all-Ravel digital album on the Steinway & Sons label, featuring Sonatineand Le Tombeau de Couperin; La Valse, another solo recording on the Steinway label, featuring Mr. Chen’s own arrangement of La Valse and hailed for “penetrating artistic intellect” (Audiophile Audition); a live recording from the Cliburn Competition released by harmonia mundi, praised for his “ravishing tone and cogently contoured lines” (Gramophone); an album of Michael Williams’s solo piano works on the Parma label; and an album of Flute, Oboe, and Piano repertoire titled KaleidosCoping with colleagues Michael Gordon and Celeste Johnson. Mr. Chen has also contributed to the catalog of Steinway’s new Spirio system.
A multifaceted musician, Mr. Chen also transcribes, composes, and improvises. He recently premiered his composition, Daydream No. 1 – Steps, commissioned as a gift for the retirement of American Pianists Association’s President/CEO. His transcriptions of such orchestral works as Ravel’s La Valse, Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, and the Adagio from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, have been received with glowing acclaim and enthusiasm, and his encore improvisations are lauded as “genuinely brilliant” (Dallas Morning News). His Prelude in F# was commissioned by fellow pianist Eric Zuber, and subsequently performed in New York. An advocate of new music, he has also collaborated with several composers and performed their works, including Lisa Bielawa, Jennifer Higdon, Michael Williams, Nicco Athens, Michael Gilbertson, and Reinaldo Moya.
Born in Florida, Mr. Chen grew up in the Los Angeles area of Oak Park, California. His impressive achievements before college include the NFAA ARTSweek, Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight, and 2006 Presidential Scholars awards. These honors combined with diligent schoolwork facilitated offers of acceptance by MIT, Harvard, and The Juilliard School. Choosing to study music, Mr. Chen earned his Bachelor and Master of Music from Juilliard, meanwhile garnering several awards, most notably the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. He received his Artist Diploma in 2014 at the Yale School of Music as a George W. Miles Fellow. His teachers include Hung-Kuan Chen, Edward Francis, Jerome Lowenthal, and Matti Raekallio.
Mr. Chen resides in the suburbs of Kansas City with his wife, Betty, a violinist in the Kansas City Symphony, and their daughters Ella and Maeve. When not at the piano, Mr. Chen enjoys tinkering with computers, and exploring math, science, and programming. Mr. Chen is a Steinway Artist and is managed by Jonathan Wentworth Associates, Ltd.
SEAN CHEN REVIEWS
“… he delivered the most original and likely the best live performance I have ever experienced among the many such performances I have heard in my professional life (Brahms Piano Concerto #2). This young pianist plays as a very thoughtful musician well beyond his years and seems to find no technical difficulty a real challenge. It was truly a remarkable performance in every respect.
— Henry Upper, The Republic (May 04, 2018)
“…his interpretation of Rachmaninoff’s classic was one to remember (Third Piano concerto).
— Hannah Edgar, Chicago Classical Review (January 22, 2017)
“After my living a long life with the Rachmaninoff 3rd, it took this youthful musician to show me the most imaginative and compelling performance of the work I have ever heard. His lyrical approach throughout did not rule out heights of passion of enormous proportion. His colors were limitless. The cadenza in the first movement was a revelation. The inner voices brought new light to structures. One could go on and on. Watch this award-winning performer.”
— Henry Upper, The Republic (September 2016)
“There aren’t enough superlatives for this young man. Moments of bold intensity gave way to those of a gentle tenderness that was breathtaking at times…”
— Chantal Incandela, nuvo.net (September 30, 2014)
“Los Angeles native Sean Chen has the rare ability to combine poetic musical sensibilities and dazzling technical prowess… coaxing subtle and surprising colors and textures from each work.”
— Paula Edelstein, LA Music Examiner (April 23, 2014)
The Bartók Concerto No. 2 that he played in the finals was stupendous. He brought this piece to life in a totally convincing way, and for me it was the best performance of this concerto that I have ever heard.
— Gerard Schwarz, guest conductor, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (April 21, 2013)
Enjoy Foxburg & RBG Reception – 4 to 6 PM
After the 2 PM concert of Sean Chen in Lincoln Hall, Meet the Artist at the wine & cheese opening reception at the Red Brick Gallery and Gift Shop from 4 to 6 PM featuring the evocative photography of ARCA Board member and RBG Cooperative Artist Dennis Keyes and the luminous paintings of Jannick Wildberg in the Upstairs Gallery – and save time to shop for that special gift from the first floor offerings of talented Cooperative Artists from the region.
Plan to Make a Day of it in beautiful Foxburg!
Enjoy a walk along the Allegheny River trail or rent bicycles with Foxburg Tours in the morning or early afternoon! Have lunch at the Allegheny Grille with seating overlooking the Allegheny River, or for more casual fare, at Foxburg Pizza with salads, sandwiches and pizza. Save time to savor a gourmet coffee and hand made chocolate at Divani Chocolatier and Barrista, and to enjoy a wine tasting or glass of wine on the beautifully remodeled patio at Foxburg Wine Cellars
Plan to enjoy to make a weekend of it – and extend your visit in Foxburg and spend the night in the elegantly remodeled Foxburg Inn.
And, if the Foxburg Inn is sold out – stay up the river in Emlenton at the historic Bed and Breakfast, The Barnard House.