PIANOFEST IN THE HAMPTONS celebrates 30 golden years in support of its collective talent
With Rites of Spring 30th Anniversary Concert at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery, Pianofest honors its founder Paul Schenly, and kicks off its new season with performances by Tomer Gewirtzman, Fei-Fei and Konstantin Soukhovetski
If you are a budding concert pianist, what better way to escape lonely hours spent at the piano and retreat to summer night dreams and harmonies with conservatory buddies and delighted concert audiences in the Hamptons?
Some of Pianofest alumni attended the catered gallery’s reception and concert, paying homage to its mission and catching up with their mentor. “Pianofest is just truly exceptional,” says Pianist Rixiang Huang, a former student of Paul Schenly in Cleveland and currently studying with Jerome Loventhal and Matti Raekallio, at Juilliard. I did not know anyone when I arrived to the US; it was a great opportunity to make new friends. It is so different when you live together in this social setting; you really get to know each other and connect on many levels. Pianofest offers also great opportunities to prepare for competitions in a friendly and open minded environment and perform for supportive audiences. They were so engaged with each performance, which builds great confidence; something not to be underestimated in building the career of a concert pianist.”
Famed alumni Sergej Babayan recently shared his in-depth impressions on the Pianofest blog: “Warm friends defined Pianofest for me—it was always an absolute pleasure. I was practicing all day and preparing concerti for competitions—this was the perfect place for it, and it was also an amazing learning experience for my musical future. I became acquainted with many aspects of America—for example even playing on American Steinways, very different from the instruments I knew in Moscow. I loved the audiences at Pianofest—these audiences are extremely attentive and gave me a very special feeling. They are very devoted, very cultured, and with good taste. They have developed good ears because of their experiences at our Pianofest concerts with Paul’s commentary, and their proximity to New York City. I love these people. They are here to support music and young musicians, and they are here to support Paul.”
Besides weekly performances at donor’s house parties and formal concerts at Avram Theater in South Hampton, Levitas Center for the Arts and St.Luke’s Episcopal Church, it is the collective spirit of the ‘artist colony’ that attracts young musicians to Paul Schenly’s Pianofest.
An eminent pedagogue from Cleveland’s Institute of Music, Schenly’s vision to nurture talent in the spirit of the Golden Age of the piano, connects performers and audiences by creating community.
In its 30th season, Pianofest has greatly impacted some of its participants and inspired by now more than three hundred eighty pianists, season after season.
In an East Hampton home equipped with 8 pianos, 12 pianists are hosted under Schenly’s tutelage (Photo middle) during two four-week sessions,
each year. “This creates a real experience, unlike any other,” says Konstantin Soukhovetski, artist in residence at Pianofest and the Gala’s MC.
”I was a student there for 6 years in the early 2000’ and experienced the exceptional atmosphere firsthand,” which he captures in his Pianists in the Hamptons Reality Show episodes that take “a glimpse into the day-to-day life and the real people that make up Pianofest; the artists off-duty,” says Soukhovetski. Under Schenly’s tutelage, each of the musicians comes away with essential lessons learned; both musical and personal. “Paul has been a tremendous influence and mentor for me over the years,” says Soukhovetski. “For a young musician it is so important to have someone who sees you as a unique artist and nourishes you, sharing their insights and experiences without “changing you,” he explains. Pianofest was always a safe place for me to musically experiment, and dare to try out things I would be too timid to try anywhere else. I felt encouraged to just be the best ‘me’ that I can be.”
Pianofest performers are chosen from the talent pool of the international competition circle, constantly preparing new programs and ready to perform – sometimes on a whim’s notice – generously.
Next to Konstantin Soukhovetski, (photo right) who performed one of his own Song-Transcriptions, the evening featured virtuoso performances by Fei-Fei, (photo left) winner of the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competitionand Tomer Gewirtzman, (photo left) winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions.
Pianofest is also a staple in the Hamptons’ summerscape and its local supporters are enthusiastic about the upcoming season.
A special perk: Dede Gotthelf, a passionate supporter and owner of Southampton Inn, spontaneously offered a free overnight stay, in attendance of any of the Pianofest concerts. I might just take her up on it…