Piano Texas International Festival & Academy, founded and directed by the great Hungarian pianist, Tamas Ungar, just celebrated its 41st anniversary. Under his visionary leadership, Piano Texas - hosted by Texas Christian University (TCU) School of Music in Fort Worth - has become one of the foremost summer piano festivals in the world today.
In the Junior Division, age 17 and below, only 24 applicants were accepted to the Festival/Academy from an international wealth of talent. Our Will Gannon (age 16) and Andre Peck (age 12) were accepted for the 2nd year in a row. Both of our young men had private lessons and masterclasses with some of the most notable pianists in the world, and had numerous performances in TCU's 3 concert halls on magnificent pianos. Will had a private lesson and performed in the Master Class of Asaf Zohar, Chair of Piano at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel-Aviv University. Will also studied with the famed Hung-Kuan Chen of the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Andre also studied privately with Zohar and with TCU's Tamas Ungar, as well as performed in the Master Class of Pascal Nemirovski. Nemirovski holds the International Chair of Piano at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in the UK.
Will gave an astounding performance of Scriabin's ecstatic 5th Sonata in the new, ravishing Van Cliburn Concert Hall. He followed that up later in the festival with the 1st movement of Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy, and a jaw-dropping performance of movements III & IV of the Gargoyles of Liebermann. Andre gave wildly uninhibited performances of Chopin, Liszt and Prokofiev. This was courageous, edge of your seat, no holds-barred piano playing!
But perhaps most thrilling of all - for both young men - was the result of the concerto competition and the subsequent performances with orchestra. 21 of the 24 Juniors in residence competed in the competition with piano accompaniment. 7 were selected to perform a major concerto movement with orchestra. Both Will and Andre were selected!!
The orchestral partner was the Las Calinas Symphony Orchestra, a superb regional orchestra representing the metro-plex of Dallas - Fort Worth. It was led by the great Geoffrey Simon. It was fitting that this incredible concert of 7 concerto movements (which comprised 2 hours of music) was the crowning glory of this great academy/festival. The level of playing was sky-high. Andre was selected to be the penultimate performer with the 1st movement of Grieg's Concerto in A minor, and Will was selected to close the program with the 1st movement of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3 in C Major.
Andre's and Will's concerto performances were mature way beyond their years. Andre's Grieg was deeply romantic and fresh as a carpet of sunflowers. He played with a gorgeous, powerful, and natural singing sound that filled the glorious new Van Cliburn Concert Hall. The cadenza was poetic and mysterious before exploding into a cascade of electrifying octaves. When the score called for it, Andre accompanied the orchestra as a consummate chamber player, barely watching his own hands as he yielded to the orchestra.
Will swallowed whole the 1st movement of the Prokofiev. Believe me, it is as difficult, complex, and challenging as it sounds, feels, and looks. Will has an amazing grasp of the motivic, harmonic, lyrical, percussive, and motoric elements of this score and of contemporary Russian works in general. He played with electrifying energy and took us right to the edge without ever going over. Such incredible control for one so young!
Both boys are home now, but I believe they will be forever changed by
this potent and intoxicating experience.
Yours in Music -
Joe & Jo Anne