Austin Piano Festival

Austin Piano Festival
University United Methodist
Austin, Texas

Classical music enthusiasts flocked to the University United Methodist Church recently to witness the grand finale of the First Annual Austin Piano Festival.

The Festival's closing celebration featured diverse and satisfying performances. Young talents, such as Jeana Chun (1st prize, Div. I) and Simone Feng (2nd Prize, Div. II), shared the stage with established concert pianists, while seasoned performers shared a single keyboard with two—even three—other pianists at a time.

The extravaganza marked the end of a fruitful two-week run filled with master classes and solo recitals, complete with a young artist competition.

Festival judges handpicked skilled youths to play in the closing celebration. Winners of the competition did not disappoint. These talented youths conquered demanding works such as Liszt's Waldesrauschen, Glinka's The Lark (transcribed by Balikirev) and Beethoven's famous “Waldstein” Sonata.

Not to be outdone, the founders of the festival, Matt McLaughlin, Michael Schneider and Johan Botes, performed in several pianistic ensembles—some rather unconventional.

The final piece of the program aptly reflected the cheerful communal spirit of the gala. Lavignac’s theatrical Galop-Marche calls for eight hands on a single piano. Manic, harried sections comically transition into melodramatic, romantic ones.

The founders, joined by pianist Kris Pineda, embraced the tongue-in-cheek absurdity of the piece—literally. A few of the lyrical sections forced the musicians to put their arms around their colleagues’ backs to make room on the cramped keyboard. The audience laughed as the founders bobbed their heads in unison.

Plans are currently underway to continue the Austin Piano Festival for next year. Given the positive response from young and professional pianists alike, the founders are looking forward to bigger and better festivals to come.

by Jacqueline Perrin

Editor’s note: At the time of this review, Ms. Perrin was an educational intern/volunteer for the Austin Chamber Music Center.