Parkland Press

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Stefano Greco hopes to inspire audiences

Sunday, October 20, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

Stefano Greco hopes to inspire the audiences who come to his concerts by helping them get to know composers.

“Understanding music goes together with understanding the composer and the meaning behind his music,” says the renowned Italian concert pianist.

Greco returns to the Lehigh Valley, bringing his unique approach and style to Miller Symphony Hall for the first performance in the Allentown Symphony Orchestra’s “Chamber On Stage,” 2 p.m. Oct. 20.

For the series, Greco will play near the edge of the stage, but with his back to the orchestra seats in the hall in which the audience usually sits. Audience members will be seated at the back of the stage facing the performers and the hall seats.

The set-up creates the feeling of an intimate space, while still taking full advantage of the acoustics and grandeur of Miller Symphony Hall.

It’s a perfect way in which to experience Greco’s piano performance of pieces from Beethoven and Liszt, which he says represent totally different styles.

For the first half of the program, he will perform Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 32 C Minor Variations” and “Sonata No. 17.”

“Beethoven is very recognizable,” Greco says. “He had a very peculiar personality. He was so disruptive and you can hear that in his music.”

He adds that in “Sonata No. 17,” which was inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” there is a visceral theatricality to the work.

“The opening arpeggio is like the opening of the curtain on the stage,” he says.

For the second half of the program, he is playing Liszt’s “Vallée d’Obermann,” “Les Jeux d’eaux à la Villa” and “Rigoletto Paraphrase.”

He says that Liszt was both a spectacular composer and one of the most cultivated men in Europe, which is evident in his compositions.

“Vallée d’Obermann” was inspired by the poems Byron and Sénancour.

“He really lets you feel those emotions,” Greco says.

In “Les Jeux d’eaux à la Villa,” Liszt describes an Italian villa that has marvelous gardens with incredible fountains so well that when Greco visited the villa he could recognize the fountains.

“He describes the water with sound,” Greco says.

In “Rigoletto Paraphrase,” Liszt transposed the vocal parts of the opera into music.

“He was part very intimate poet but also a very consummate pianist and knew how to be spectacular,” Greco says.

Greco has always felt a connection to music.

“Since I was born, I wanted to be a concert pianist and tour all over the world,” he says.

He was drawn to the piano because it is the “instrument that gives you the most power.”

“I enjoy playing very much,” he says. “It’s like a journey. I research pieces and try to get inside them. Every piece of music for me is a continuous discovery.”

Greco’s goal is to produce music, as alive as if it was conceived in the same moment of the performance.

As a Bach specialist, Greco has been invited to perform worldwide. He performed Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on a tour of the United States, Canada and Japan, which brought him to prestigious venues such as the Opera City Concert Hall in Tokyo and Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in New York.

Greco’s involvement with Bach’s unfinished “The Art of Fugue” produced several discoveries, resulting in conferences and concerts in Brussels, Rome and London. It also led to him writing a book, “The Language of J.S. Bach: Enigmas and Their Resolution,” as well as giving lectures and master classes.

Greco played in the “Chamber on Stage” series last year and has previously performed with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra for a concert in the “Arts at St John’s” series at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Allentown.

Also performing in the “Chamber on Stage” series at Miller Symphony Hall is The Dover Quartet, Nov. 24.

The Philadelphia string quartet catapulted to international stardom following a sweep of the 2013 Banff Competition and has become one of the most in-demand ensembles in the world.

The four quartet members are accomplished solo artists: first violinist Joel Link took first prize at the Menuhin Competition; violinist Bryan Lee and violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt have appeared as soloists with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Tokyo Philharmonic, and cellist Camden Shaw released a solo album debut on the Unipheye Music label.

The Dover Quartet program includes Mozart’s “Adagio and Fugue, K. 546,” Hindemuth’s “Quartet No. 3 in C Major, Op. 16” and Brahm’s “Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major, Op. 67.”

Next up in the “Chamber on Stage” series March 15 is the Akropolis Reed Quintet.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Akropolis Reed Quintet is the first reed quintet in history to win a Fischoff Gold Medal, as well as the Grand Prize at the Plowman and MTNA national competitions, and six national chamber music prizes.

Winner of the coveted Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant, Akropolis has premiered more than 50 works from composers in seven countries. The Quintet has created the Akropolis Collection and have sold more than 400 original and arranged sheet music works for reed quintets.

The Quintet concert includes Marc Mellits’ “Splinter,” Theo Chandler’s “Seed to Snag,” J. Fred Coots and Sam M. Lewis’ arrangment of Nina Simone’s “For All We Know,” Stacey Garrop’s “Rites for the Afterlife” and Raaf Hekkema’s arrangement of George Gershwin’s “An American In Paris.”

The final performer in the “Chamber on Stage” series in Hector Olivera on organ, April 20.

Olivera is a Buenos Aires native, studying music from the age of three and composing his first suite at nine years old. Olivera continues to dazzle audiences with his performances on the organ.

Throughout his concert career, Olivera has performed in prestigious venues, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris; Grace Cathedral, San Francisco; Carnegie Hall, New York City; Royal Albert Hall, London, and Melbourne Town Hall and Brisbane City Hall, Australia. Olivera continues to astound audiences with solo classical and orchestral compositions, now available on DVD.

His program includes Driffill’s “Toccata from Sonata No 1,” Handel’s “Largo” from the opera “Xerxes,” Stanley and Purcell’s “Trumpet Tune, Air and Voluntary,” Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in E Flat,” Jongen’s “Improvisation Caprice Op. 37, No 2,” Vierne’s “Carillon of Westminster,” Dupre’s “Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, Op.7, No 3,” Freddie Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Godard’s

“Berceuse” from the opera “Jocelyn,” and Olivera’s “Improvisation on a Submitted Theme.”

Seating for the chamber series is general admission. Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715