It was quite a night in the South Loop Saturday night. Especially for fans of classical piano.
The famous pianist Ursula Oppens celebrated her 70th birthday in the very Gilded Age atmosphere of Ganz Hall at Roosevelt University at Congress and Michigan. She celebrated with outstanding and very moving performances by 13 of her former students playing "New Music." Two hands, four hands, six hands and even eight hands. Oppens was all smiles all night.
From 1994 to 2008 Oppens taught at Northwestern University in Evanston. And she taught many who turned out to be extremely prominent Chicago pianists. And composers.
Like Lisa Kaplan, who can play a forearm cluster like nobody's business, and who is a member of the thrice-Grammy Award winning group, "eighth blackbird." And George Lepauw, who has been the Chicago Tribune's Chicagoan of the Year for classical music and on the Chicago Magazine classical music Power List. He founded the illustrious Beethoven Festival in Chicago, which is a very big deal in the music world.
Another big piano star who played Saturday night was Amy Briggs, all dressed in red, who is the Director of Chamber Music at the University of Chicago, where she is also Artist-in-Residence. And she's also a member of the Chicago Symphony's MusicNow ensemble.
Winston Choi played as well; he is Head of Piano at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts. And he maintains a packed performance calendar as a soloist and as part of a number of local ensembles. Anthony Molinaro, known as "one of the most versatile pianists of his generation" and for "edge-of-the-seat-brilliance" was also one of the 13.
There were Chicago pianists in the audience who were prominent, too: Daniel Schlosberg, Larry Axelrod, Mabel Kwan, Sebastian Huydts and others who I have seen at classical keyboards all over town, but whose names escape me.
If this wasn't enough on Saturday, the Pianoforte Foundation celebrated another big musical birthday party--just a few blocks south at 13th and Michigan. It hosted an all day Schubertiade in honor of Franz Schubert's 117th. The music lasted for seven hours and included prominent Chicago pianists such as Svetlana Belsky and Irina Feoktistova.
Many South Loopers made it to both celebrations. And were as tickled as the ivories.
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