Daniel Hope, Concertmaster
Vanessa Perez, Piano
March 21-24, 2019
Felix Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 13 in C minor, “Sinfoniesatz”
Hans Krasa: Tanec
Erwin Schulhoff: Double Concerto
Felix Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 10 in B Mino
Dmitri Shostakovich: Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a
Thursday, March 21, 2019 -- 7:30pm -- First Congregational Church Berkeley, Berkeley
Friday, March 22, 2019 -- 7:30pm -- Oshman JCC, Palo Alto
Saturday, March 23, 2019 -- 7:30pm -- Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Sunday, March 24, 2019 -- 3:00pm -- Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael
ABOUT THE CONCERT
Daniel Hope leads a program of music written in the shadow of oppressive regimes, featuring New Century debut artist Venezulean-American pianist Vanessa Perez. At the center of this fascinating program is the Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra by the Jewish Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff whose music was banned by the Nazis before the start of World War II.
About Vanessa Perez
About Venezuelan-American pianist, The Washington Post called it right, saying, “Vanessa Perez is not to be taken lightly.” The newspaper’s critic added: “She stormed through some beautiful works at the Venezuelan Embassy, her fiery impetuosity proving her technical prowess in works by Villa-Lobos, Albéniz, Ravel and Rachmaninoff… Even Mozart's Sonata in F, K. 332, had muscular energy as she raced through the Allegros. The Adagio was pure grace.” She is praised for a bold, passionate performing style allied to musicianship of keen sensitivity. Perez has been championed by iconic keyboard performers, from the great Claudio Arrau to Lazar Berman and Tamàs Vàsàry.
Perez was recently seen performing during an episode of Amazon’s hit TV series Mozart in the Jungle. Alongside star Gael García Bernal, and ondist Suzanne Farrin, she was filmed at the piano during a concert of Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony for inmates at New York’s Rikers Island prison. She was also seen in front of broad audiences playing Chopin’s mazurkas with the Limon Dance Company for performances in Manhattan’s Bryant Park and Joyce Theatre. One of Perez’s latest projects will find the pianist in the “ New Worlds” project, with Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and violinist. Led by the beloved American comedian and the star German cellist, this group presents a program exploring core American values in literature and music (as represented by the likes of Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein), as well as the inspirations bridging the New World and Europe. The project has its premiere in June 2017 at the Dresden Music Festival, and its US premiere in Napa on July 20th, 2017. The ensemble will tour the United States, including an October 16 performance at Carnegie Hall. Also in October, Perez will give a special concert with Gabriela Montero in Girona, Spain, with the two pianists – close friends since childhood – alternating solo and duo performances.
Perez’s most recent recording is Spain, released by the Steinway & Sons label in 2016. On this beautifully atmospheric album, the pianist performs music by Manuel de Falla, a Spanish composer with an attraction to French culture, and by his friend and mentor Claude Debussy, a Frenchman with an affinity for Spain. Perez plays evocative piano suites taken from three stage works by Falla: La Vida Breve, El Sombrero de Tres Picos, and El Amor Brujo, with the latter of which including the famous “Ritual Fire Dance.” Also by Falla are Homenaje, an homage to Debussy, and the Fantasía Bética, commissioned by Arthur Rubinstein. The album’s Debussy works include “La soirée de Grenade” (the second movement of Estampes), “La Puerto del Vino” (from the second book of his Préludes) and “Lindaraja” (his first piece in a Spanish style).
About her Iberian musical adventure, Perez says: “Like many South Americans, my family has roots in Spain, but Spanish music was only a small part of what I would play. Three important experiences drew me more deeply into this repertoire. First was traveling throughout Spain for several years. Then I collaborated with renowned Spanish soprano Isabel Rey. Finally, it was having lessons with pianist Luis Galvé, a friend of Falla. These were not postcard experiences of Spain – I was bewitched by the true daily atmosphere of Spain, its rhythms, its dance, its music.” Critics were suitably beguiled by Spain, with the review in International Piano declaring: “The Venezuelan pianist Vanessa Perez could hardly have given us a more vivacious view of Spain: castanets click, guitars strum and bodies whirl in the true spirit of Andalusian flamenco.” All Music Guide seconded that view, hailing the album as “strong… exciting.”
Perez’s previous recording, released in 2012 by Telarc, was Chopin: The Complete Preludes – an acclaimed milestone in her discography. The Washington Post reviewed a release concert for the album, marveling over her way with the 24 Preludes, Op. 28: “Perez dove into the Preludes as if discovering them for the first time, flinging them out into the hall with a kind of wild intensity that was often breathtaking, as if she were forcing these delicate hothouse flowers into the fresh air for the first time.” Reviewing the album, American Record Guide extolled the virtues of her approach: “This is exceptional Chopin playing… [with] a keen sense of cumulative buildup and an awareness of the work’s overall architecture… This is emotionally bold yet finely nuanced playing, the combination you need in this repertoire. Personal as these readings are, they don’t seem self-indulgent; rather, they make you aware of the originality of Chopin’s music.” Gramophone agreed, praising her album as brimming with “real depth and poetry.”
Perez’s debut solo album, released by VAI in 2005, featured the pianist in Chopin’s four dramatic Ballades, pieces from Isaac Albéniz’s landmark Ibería, and a work by contemporary composer Suzanne Farrin. Reviewing her VAI release, International Piano said: “Perez can hold her head up high in the most distinguished company in Chopin’s Ballades. If anything, her Albéniz is even more impressive – impassioned, rich-toned and seductively coquettish where appropriate.” Chiming in, American Record Guide called Perez a “spirited, hot-blooded pianist. Her wide-ranging expression can go inward, and she can unleash a torrent of passion.” In addition to her solo albums, Perez has been a featured guest on hit recordings by other high-profile artists. Superstar violinist Joshua Bell invited the pianist to record Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” with him for his At Home with Friends album, released by Sony Classical in 2009. She also teamed with Jan Vogler to duet on Piazzolla’s “Le Grand Tango” and more for his 2008 Sony album, Tango.
With her recordings and many concerts, Perez has developed a significant international profile, playing some of the most prestigious venues across the U.S., Latin America and Europe. The pianist has performed not only with Dudamel and Montero, but also with such top musicians as violinist Daniel Hope, pianist Ingrid Fliter, violinist Colin Jacobsen and conductors James Judd, Enrique Batiz, John Axelrod, Gustav Meier, David Gimenez Carreras and Diego Matheuz, as well as the Dalí Quartet. Reviewing a Perez performance of Mozart’s D Minor Concerto in Germany, the Dortmunder Zeitung called her “a virtuosa wild at heart and with a gentle touch,” combining “spontaneous freshness and poetic expression.” The Miami Herald, witnessing Perez in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, marveled at her “youthful fire” and “rapt lyricism.”
Perez was raised to her pre-teen years in Venezuela, where she began her studies with Luminita Duca. At age 11, she was invited to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to make her concert debut performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Orquesta Sinfonica Municipal for a sold-out 2,500-seat auditorium. “People connect to each other in Venezuela through a sense of community, and music is a special sort of community,” she explains. “I was used to playing for big crowds since I was a little girl.” In the U.S., she studied with noted Claudio Arrau pupils Ena Bronstein and Rosalina Sackstein; at 17, she won a full scholarship for London’s Royal Academy of Music to study with Christopher Elton. She continued her studies with pianists Lazar Berman and Franco Scala in Italy at the renowned Accademia Pianistica Incontri Col Maestro in Imola; she then completed post-graduate studies with Peter Frankl at Yale University and pianist Daniel Epstein in New York City. In 1998, the president of Venezuela Rafael Caldera, awarded Perez the José Felix Ribas Prize, the highest honor accorded a young performer for contributing to the artistic enhancement of the country. Since then, Perez has performed in concert halls and festivals the world over, a draw for both her rich musicality and her alluring stage personality. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2004, but her first performance in New York wasn’t in an uptown classical concert hall – it was at the downtown jazz shrine of the Blue Note, where Latin jazz star Arturo Sandoval had her perform his “Sureña,” a piece laced with Venezuelan folk melodies.
A frequent performer throughout the Americas, Perez has performed in the cultural capitals of Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina, including at the famed Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. The El Clarín newspaper of Buenos Aires wrote about Perez’s concert appearances in the Argentinean capital: “To watch Perez play is an amazing show in itself… Each phrase finishes in something similar to a caress of the keyboard, in a fast or slow gesture as suggested by the music's momentum but always harmonious and beautiful… Many pianists of her generation and hereafter who achieve an extremely high technical level do not have the capacity to communicate and move that this outstanding pianist possesses.”
In recent years, Perez’s performance highlights have ranged from an appearance in the International Keyboard Institute & Festival in New York and a collaboration with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra under John Axelrod in Germany to concerts with the Orquesta de la Juventud Simón Bolívar under Gustavo Dudamel in Caracas and with the Orquesta under Diego Matheuz in Puerto Rico’s Casals Festival. She played at the Chopin Festival of Majorca, Spain, and toured Central America with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas under Carlos Miguel Prieto and Jean Philippe Tremblay. Most recently, Perez performed in a duo with Daniel Hope, touring from Quebec to Arizona. She has played with symphony orchestras in the U.S. from Miami to Minnesota to Vermont and in solo recitals from Manhattan to Miami to San Diego. In Europe, Perez has performed at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Montpellier Festival in France, the Beethoven-Haus in Germany, the Wigmore Hall in London and the Gothic Hall in Belgium.
In addition to recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Berlin Symphony and Mozart’s D Minor Concerto with Venezuelan conductor Eduardo Marturet, Perez has been featured performing on such popular radio stations as WQXR New York, WFMT Chicago and WGBH Boston, as well as on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” American Public Media’s “Performance Today,” Minnesota Public Radio and Texas Public Radio. Actively involved in performing contemporary music, Perez has collaborated not only with Suzanne Farrin but also with such composers as Paul Moravec, Lowell Liebermann and Paul Desenne. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Venezuela, Perez currently resides in Manhattan, with her husband, pianist-arranger Stephen Buck with whom she gives duo concerts, and their children. Their duo performances of Debussy and Falla pieces also feature on her Spain recording.