The brainchild of pianist, impresario, scholar and teacher, Leonard Stein, Piano Spheres was conceived to provide professional performance opportunities for four, emerging pianists plus Leonard himself. He chose from his best students: Gloria Cheng, Vicki Ray, Mark Robson, and Susan Svrcek. The first recital was held on September 13, 1994, marking Arnold Schoenberg’s 120th birthday. Now, 23 years later, these outstanding pianists performing as Piano Spheres artists have achieved an astounding record for the organization: over 700 works by 302 composers with 66 world premieres, 11 US premieres, and 30 Piano Spheres commissions. In addition, the artists perform in different series in Los Angeles including the LA Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella, Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Jacaranda-Music at the Edge, and at UCLA.
Nearly all the works performed are composed in the 20th and 21st centuries, but an occasional performance of works by Bach, Schumann, Chopin, Beethoven, Couperin, Liszt, and Brahms reminds us of a great keyboard lineage for which the rich repertoire and practice of our time is grateful.
In our 21st season, Piano Spheres headed out to some new territory: just as Leonard Stein mentored these four gifted pianists, they themselves chose to mentor four young pianists, Nic Gerpe, Aron Kallay, Richard Valitutto, and Steven Vanhauwaert within the Piano Spheres season, and has continued this “Satellite Series” with Danny Holt, Nadia Shpachenko, and HOCKET Piano Duo.
2015 saw the commissions of two major works by Steven Stucky and Thomas Adès – “Sonata” and “Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face” (for two pianos) premiered by Gloria Cheng and Gloria with Thomas Adès respectively. From 2015 to 2017 Piano Spheres has added commissions and first performances from Lewis Spratlan, Annie Gosfield, Mu-Xuan Lin, Dominique Schafer, Hugh Levick, Daniel Rothman, Ian Dicke, A.J. McCaffrey, and Laura Karpman; world premieres from Monroe Golden, Frederick Lesemann, Dylan Mattingly, Julie Wolfe, David Lang, Michael Gordon, David Werfelmann, and Sarah Gibson.
Piano Spheres is thrilled to be a collaborator on two NMUSA proposals this year: Piano Spheres artist Mark Robson will partner with composer Augusta Read Thomas, the proposal author, in the commission and premiere of a large-scale work for solo piano. This exciting project includes working with inner city youth to unleash their “inner composer,” as well as outreach programs in the community exploring the process of bringing the notes on the page to the audience’s ear.
And composer Ben Phelps has proposed to NMUSA a commission for Piano Spheres pianist Vicki Ray in the Piano Spheres 1917-18 season for an hour-long work.
Truly exhilarating times ahead!
Piano Spheres Season Brochure 2016-17
VIcki Ray performs Amy Beth Kirsten’s Speak to Me
Piano Spheres Recital 11/13/2011: A short clip of 2:17 at the beginning of the piece, performed by Vicki Ray, a Piano Spheres artist. Pianistic gestures mimic the pianist-speaker — or is it the other way around? World premiere performance. This sample illustrates the versatility of the artists and repertoire connected to Piano Spheres.
Mark Robson performs Anne LeBaron’s work for speaking pianist: Los Murmullos
Referencing spectral murmurs filtering through the streets of Comala, whisperings of dreams, and groanings in the ghost town cemetery of Juan Rulfo’s seminal and only novel Pedro Páramo, this composition for solo piano requires the pianist to whisper, speak, shout, intone, and perform with a special seed rattle.