The Miami International Piano Festival opens its Discovery Series tonight with five concerts featuring eight pianists and a teenage violinist from Seattle.
Not to mention five of the Beethoven symphonies, as transcribed for one and two pianos by Franz Liszt.
The festival, founded 15 years ago by Giselle Brodsky, offers fans of the piano a good opportunity to hear young pianists just making their careers, and well as some more established artists who are doing standout work but whose profile is not as high as the most celebrated pianists.
“We try to give the spotlight to new and individual artists. We’ve kept it that way, and we try to bring at least two new emerging pianists, wonderful pianists, every year, to Florida audiences,” said the Bolivia-born Brodsky, a pianist and teacher with degrees from the Manhattan School of Music.
The first pianist will be Germany’s Joseph Moog, winner of the International Classical Music Awards’ Artist of the Year designation. His program tonight includes two Scarlatti sonatas as arranged by Carl Tausig, the Mozart Sonata in A minor (K. 310) and nine of the Concert Etudes after Paganini by Schumann (Op. 3, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6; Op. 10, Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5).
Moog’s second half includes four vocal and operatic transcriptions by Liszt, starting with the Beethoven’s song, “Adelaide.” That’s followed by a paraphrase on music from Verdi’s opera, “Ernani;” a series of variations on Schubert’s “Trauerwalzer;” and the “Reminiscences de Norma,” based on music from Bellini’s opera, “Norma.”
“He would send me CDs, and I was not that interested in the CDs, so I said to him, ‘Why don’t you send me a live recording of a recital?’ And when he sent me the live recording of the recital, that’s when I really got very interested in him,” Brodsky said.
Friday night, France’s David Kadouch performs rarely heard Russian music with the “Sonata Reminiscenza“ (in A minor, Op. 38) of Nikolai Medtner and the “Prelude and Fugue” (in G-sharp minor, Op. 29) of Sergei Taneyev. He’ll also play Mussorgsky’s epic “Pictures at an Exhibition,” two of the Preludes of Claude Debussy and the “Andante and Variations” (in F minor, Hob. XVII: 6) of Haydn.
Brodsky said Kadouch is a student of the fine Spanish pianist Claudio Martinez, who has appeared in the festival and who suggested Kadouch for this season’s Discovery series.
He told me, ‘There is one I would recommend for you. I know your taste, and that would be David Kadouch,” she said. “So he comes highly recommended.”
The 15-year-old Seattle violin prodigy Simone Porter plays Saturday afternoon, accompanied by pianist Luis Urbina, a recent winner of the Florida International University concerto competition.
“She is fantastic,” Brodsky said, adding that Porter was featured in the festival’s Prodigies and Masters of Tomorrow program three years ago. “Her development from 2009 to now is just unbelievable.”
Porter’s program also looks imaginative, with Arvo Part’s “Fratres“ sharing the bill the infrequently heard “Nigun” of Ernest Bloch. Two works by Sarasate – “Zapateado” and “Malaguena” – plus an ambitious piece by Fritz Kreisler (“Corelli Variations“) provide some more dazzle, and the “Sonata No. 3″ (in C minor, Op. 45) of Grieg is the repertory standard on the program.
That same night, the young Brazilian pianist Fabio Martino takes the stage with the “Sonata No. 5″ (Op. 53) of Alexander Scriabin, the Beethoven “Fantasia“ (in G minor, Op. 77) and the same composer’s beloved “Appassionata Sonata” (No, 23 in F minor, Op. 57). Martino also will tackle a towering work of French music in the “Miroirs” suite of Ravel.
Brodsky said she first heard Martino on a DVD brought to her by a friend who promotes a music festival in Brazil. “When I put it on – oh! There was no question in my mind that I wanted him right away.”
The series closes Sunday with two concerts featuring four pianists and five Beethoven symphonies as transcribed for piano by Liszt, which Brodsky notes was part of a 32-year effort to distill these orchestral works into solo piano pieces. At 3 p.m., Italian pianist Francesco Libetta plays the Fourth Symphony, Croatia’s Kemal Gekic plays the Fifth and the French pianist Eric Ferrand-N’Kaoua performs the Sixth Symphony (“Pastoral”).
At 8 p.m., Serbian pianist Misha Dacic plays the Seventh Symphony, and then he and Gekic, frequent musical partners here in South Florida, play the two-piano version of the Ninth Symphony. No, neither man will be singing in the choral finale, but it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the audience hummed along.
“They are some of the hardest pieces in the repertoire, because they are full of octaves, and the texture is very orchestral,” Brodsky said. “I heard Francesco do the Fourth and Kemal do the Fifth [Wednesday]. It’s just amazing. People are really going to enjoy that.”
Brodsky is a firm believer in the importance of promotion and marketing to fully develop a young pianist’s career.
“You need to people that are going to believe in you. You need patrons that are going to invest, you need managers that are with you not just because you’re going to bring them a lot of money,” she said. “We need managers like in the old times, like [Sol] Hurok, who promoted the careers of all the great pianists of the past.”
Next season, the festival’s spring concerts will concentrate on French Impressionist music, on J.S. Bach the year after that, and in the 2015 season, on the music of Scriabin, in honor of the centenary of the Russian composer’s death. She’s planning to program all 10 of the sonatas as well as the fantasies, but not the preludes or etudes.
And while she relishes her role as a finder of excellent pianists whose work is not widely known, she says it’s very difficult to find the kind of mature, distinctive artist she’s looking for.
“It’s very hard to find those kinds of pianists. Because there are many pianists who can play very fast and they are great technicians, but it’s not about that,” Brodsky said. “So those are difficult to find. I have a very hard time every year finding the right kind of pianist, a true individual, a true thinker, with a special vision.”
But this year, she’s got plenty of them, and this four-day stretch of concerts will doubtless present audiences with some names worth watching. (Here’s a promotional video. )
All the concerts take place at the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach1040 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach. Programs start at 8 p.m. today and Friday, and at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $20-$45 and are available through Ticketmaster.