DISCOVERING world-class pianists | meet Drew Petersen | #TeamDrew

Exploration and discovery drive the mission of the American Pianists Association. Fittingly, those ideals also drive 2017 American Pianists Awards finalist Drew Petersen—though in unique ways.

Drew Petersen

Whereas the organization is focused on finding and promoting young, world-class American pianists, Drew is drawn toward vivid sensory experiences.

For the fourth article in our series covering the five Awards finalists, Drew joined us online for a short video call (our previously featured finalists were Steven Lin and Sam Hong). We discussed how he refreshes his musical artistry by exploring pieces off the beaten track, scoping out the nooks and crannies of New York City neighborhoods, treating meals like treasure hunts for distinctive cuisine and marveling at the “brilliant light in Greece that shatters all over the place.”

Drew was born in Oradell, New Jersey in 1993. He demonstrated an appreciation of beauty at a very early age:

(Drew’s fascination with church bells was also featured in Andrew Solomon’s book, “Far From the Tree,” which was excerpted in the New York Times Magazine)

This insistence on exploring music has been critical to Drew’s artistic development. At the age of 6, Drew’s mom, Sue Petersen, had him play for Manhattan School of Music’s Miyoko Lotto. He played Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata (see our primer on classical music names), and the shocked Ms. Lotto agreed to become a mentor. Through the years, Drew has had other fantastic teachers including Jerry Lowenthal, “a total inspiration—the kind of guy who would read French poetry in studio class just for fun” and his current teacher Robert McDonald (“phenomenal”). Yet he refers to Ms. Lotto as his “foundation” for making sure his technical skills were properly honed, and he continues to see her on occasion for technical “touch ups.”

Drew credits both parents for launching his piano studies by encouraging creative exploration. He explains:

My family is really, really happy and proud. They are so excited about all of this! I’ve been in a lot of competitions over the years, and a lot of them are not really so much fun, but my family realizes what this one means and all the opportunities it will afford me even before they announce any sort of winner.

My family has always been really supportive of me over the years. They have encouraged both me and my younger brother to pursue the arts even though they themselves are not artists. My brother is a theater major at Fordham, so if anything, I may look like a crazy artsy person, but it is nothing compared to what my brother does…he loves it, he is very passionate just like I am, and I’m really fortunate to have grown up in an environment where we are encouraged to follow our passions!

An important aspect of family life for the Petersen family is cooking: “My mom is half Armenian so we have a lot of Armenian and Middle Eastern foods in our family all the time, and I think it’s really, really cool this kind of food.” Here Drew discusses a family tradition centered around food:

Aside from his favorites, Drew has been discovering new foods:

I’ve been getting into a lot of obscure Asian foods recently. Normally I used to be a little more hesitant of things like jellyfish and shark fins, but now I’m trying this stuff and actually a lot of it is really good. Yet whenever I find something I really love I try to remember what it is and I can’t—it is kind of like the treasure hunt where you find the treasure and lose it again so I just have to keep trying and keep exploring.

Drew also feeds his thirst for discovery and exploration through travel:

Ever since I was a little kid I loved it! I thought being up in the air flying was so cool and then always arriving in some crazy destination which was so different from where I came from in only a matter of hours—it was so much fun!

In the following clip Drew talks about using those inspirational travel experiences to elevate his artistic production:

Diving deeper into his vivid descriptions, Drew talks about the “sensory overload” he felt in Greece:

Back in the States, Drew spends time at home in Oradell and exploring New York City. Apart from Juilliard or a performance, where might we find Drew? “I think it is really exciting to go to these small out of the way places that no one knows about on the map,” he says. Here are some possibilities:

For all the attractions of the city, Drew finds comfort at home in Oradell: “It is kind of nice to be based outside the city. I have my own piano to practice on and it is a lot of fun to be around my family. Sometimes I literally will wake up 7 in the morning, run out of the house and not be back until midnight.”

It was on a lazier day in March that Drew learned of his selection as an American Pianists Awards finalist:

It was a regular Sunday. [APA CEO Joel Harrison] emailed me and asked, ‘can you please call me? This call will be worth your time!’ And I was thinking, well there are only two options here: either I’m one of the five finalists or I’m one of the alternates that Joel had mentioned. But I thought that the note with an exclamation point was a little too positive so I called him. It was really cool and made my day!

Drew’s teacher, Robert McDonald, was excited:

Bob was proud to say that he nominated me and said, “This is a good opportunity for you to grow—no matter the result you grow as an artist and you grow as a person by doing all of these concerts. It is great experience to get out there and perform a lot of different music for a lot of different people.” He was very excited!

Drew continues, “But then very quickly he became very serious and said, ‘Well I guess this is the time for you. It’s a lot of work at a very high level—we need to think about music you are going to play.’ He wants me to do as well as possible. He knows the stakes are high, and we have a long road ahead of us.”

This “long road” of the American Pianists Awards fits very well with Drew’s vision of his professional future:

While Drew waits for his Premiere Series debut in Indianapolis (January 2017), he continues to practice and perform. Along the way, perhaps he will take small breaks to watch some of the Olympics (he was a swimmer and finds the efforts of Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte “inspiring”) or catch the performances of the other finalists (available via our YouTube channel).

Speaking of the finalists, Drew wraps up our interview with these words to his peers:

We agree it will be “really cool” to discover Drew’s talents along with those of the other finalists, and we cannot wait to see where Drew’s musical explorations take him!

The American Pianists Awards finalists were selected by jury from nominations of the top American classical pianists aged 18-30. Each pianist performs a Premiere Series concert in Indianapolis between September 2016 and February 2017. All five finalists return to Indianapolis for a week of juried performances next spring, culminating in the naming of a winner on April 8, 2017.

Drew Petersen’s Premiere Series concert will be Sunday, January 29, 2017 at the Indiana History Center (get tickets!). As part of the American Pianists Awards program, Drew will also complete a residency at Lawrence Central High School 1/30/17 to 2/1/17. Show your support for him on social media by mentioning #AmericanPianistsAwards #TeamDrew!


ADVANCING the mission | meet Wayne DeVeydt


Great Homes Great Music, the American Pianists Association’s signature fundraising event, is just around the corner! These exclusive events are held in beautiful private homes. A biennial highlight, the program includes home tours, cocktails, musical performances and more.

This year’s event will be hosted by Wayne DeVeydt and Michele Jackson DeVeydt at their beautiful estate in Fishers, Indiana. The evening will feature performances by 2013 American Pianists Awards winner Sean Chen and 2015 American Pianists Awards winner Sullivan Fortner with guest jazz vocalist Valerie Phelps.

Wayne, who spent nine years as CFO of Anthem Inc., retired in June to focus on family and philanthropy. Michelle is a practicing attorney and founder of Global Orphan Foundation. We recently visited Wayne at their home to discuss music, the value of hard work and the uniqueness of piano.

Great Homes Great Music happens Thursday August 25, 2016. VIP/Patron tickets are sold out and general tickets are selling quickly…get yours today!


BEAUTY of music | classical music catalogues

What’s in a name?


A lot, actually!

Op. 27, No. 2; K. 545; D. 960; S. 178; BWV 998; Hob.XVI:52; Wq. 55; Sz. 95; BB 101…there are seemingly endless letter and number combinations in classical music titles. Simply looking at a program page can be intimidating. What do these titles mean?

Before we talk about those strange numbers at the end of some composers’ works, let’s take a simpler example and break it apart: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 1.

Piano sonata is a generic title that refers to a type of multi-movement piece for solo piano. Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas, and each has a unique number, 1-32, which is chronological based on when the piece is published (which is also typically, but not always, the order of composition).

C minor is the key of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Sonata (see how I reversed the word order there?), which means the piece as a whole is considered to be “in C minor” (more on that another day).

So we have established that we are talking about the fifth piano sonata that Beethoven wrote, and C minor is the most important key in that piece–what does the rest of the title mean?

“Op. 10, No. 1” stands for opus 10, number 1. Opus is Latin for “work” or “piece,” as in a work of art or a piece of literature. An opus number is given to a work or group of similar works when it is published. If the opus is a group of works, each individual piece has a number. This numbering system is also chronological by publication date. The Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 10, No. 1 is the fifth sonata Beethoven published, but it is the first work in Opus 10. Beethoven’s Opus 10 is a set of three piano sonatas.

Some pieces are more commonly referred to by their opus number, while others are more often identified by the generic title number. In Beethoven’s catalogue, string quartets, sonatas, and other smaller works are more familiar by their opus number and keys, whereas the symphonies and concerti are more often identified by the generic title number. For instance, if I asked you to hum the beginning of Beethoven’s Op. 67, you might not be able to do so. But if I asked you to hum the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, you would probably say something like, “da-da-da-daaaaaa!”


Some works are given nicknames, though often by someone other than the composer. The “Moonlight Sonata,” “Ghost Trio,” and “Harp Quartet” are so called because of what the music evokes in the listener. The “Archduke Trio,” the “Kreutzer Sonata,” and the “Rasumovsky” quartets are all so called because of the works’ dedicatee. Beethoven did give nicknames to his “Eroica” and “Pastorale” symphonies.

If Beethoven’s opus catalogue is the rule, then there are many exceptions. Some composers whose significant works were largely unpublished in their lifetimes have other forms of identification. In these cases, a musicologist will create a system and assign numbers to each work. This is the case most notably with Bach (BWV), Mozart (K or KV), Haydn (Hob.), Schubert (D), and Liszt (S). While BWV stands for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, or Bach Works Catalogue, the others represent the person who catalogued the works (Ludwig von Köchel, Anthony van Hoboken, Erich Deutsch, and Humphrey Searle, respectively. Catalogues for Bach, Haydn, and Liszt are thematic, meaning they are grouped by composition type. Catalogues for Mozart and Schubert, however, are strictly chronological.

Once you get familiar with a composer’s output, the numbers become more meaningful. I can’t see the number 131 without hearing the melancholy fugue that opens that particular Beethoven quartet. These numbers become as familiar as a dear friend.

The American Pianists Awards are held every two years to discover the best aspiring young American jazz or classical pianists. The unique and innovative competitions span 13 months and provide a platform to deeply engage musical artists in a variety of creative formats and settings. Winners receive cash and two years of career advancement and support valued at over $100,000, making this one of the most coveted prizes in the music world and the largest for American jazz pianists.

The Premiere Series provides the first live juried performances of the five American Pianists Awards finalists. Over the course of five months, each finalist makes an initial appearance on stage in Indianapolis for solo and ensemble performance and completes a Concerto Curriculum residency.

The 2017 American Pianists Awards Premiere Series schedule (including catalogue numbered repertoire!) is as follows:

  • September 25, 2016: Henry Kramer performs Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • November 6th, 2016 : Steven Lin performs Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • December 4, 2016: Sam Hong performs Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • January 29, 2017: Drew Petersen performs Piano Concerto No. 5 in E♭ Major, Op. 73 (Emperor) by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • February 26, 2017: Alex Beyer performs Piano Concerto No. 2 in B♭ Major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven

DISCOVERING world-class pianists | meet Sam Hong | #TeamSam

Sam Hong was stirring up some fried rice when his phone buzzed.

His piano trio was in town for a week of rehearsals, and he was making food for the group. Checking the phone, he saw an email from American Pianists Association President and Artistic Director Joel Harrison asking for a call back ASAP. Sam did so and was thrilled to learn that he was a finalist for the 2017 American Pianists Awards!

Sahun Hong - SAHUNHONG_photo2
2017 American Pianists Awards finalist Sam Hong

This short anecdote serves as an illustration of two critical but somewhat contrasting things you need to know about Sam: first, he enjoys people. Whether spending time with family, making music with chamber groups or hosting fellow musicians and friends, there is a pronounced social aspect to Sam’s life.

Second, (and familiar to all of us who like to throw random ingredients into a hot pan) he likes to stir up conventions with a decidedly individualistic flair. At just 22 years old, Sam has led a very unique life to date and is unabashedly proud of his efforts to claim new ground.

Of course, we wouldn’t know either of these things had he not had that conversation with Joel Harrison. In order to be selected an American Pianists Awards finalist, Sam first had to master the keyboard. Let’s just say he had an early start:

Sam elaborates:

Piano was one of the things my mother really wanted to do but didn’t have a chance to pursue as a child so she encouraged me a lot. I loved it so much that there was a point in my childhood when I was 6 or 7 when she said to me, “well this is all good but you need to go outside and play. I’m going to make you quit for a year or take a break.” And so I did. And apparently at the end of that I said, “Okay mom so we’ve had a year and now I’m going to go back to playing the piano.”

Sahun Sam Hong was born in Seoul, Korea on July 18, 1994, making him the youngest finalist in this year’s competition. Sam’s family moved to the United States when he was 8 after his father decided to attend seminary school here. The family found its way to Fort Worth, Texas and got a teacher to help Sam continue following his passion for the keys. Amazed by the talented youngster, Sam’s piano teacher contacted Texas Christian University (TCU) piano chair John Owings to hear him play. With the support of Owings, at the age of 11 Sam enrolled at TCU. When his family decided to move on from Texas, eventually it was agreed that Sam would stay behind with his “second family”:

Growing up in the Lone Star State may have helped shape Sam’s independent sensibilities, as Sam recounts:

I remember when I was studying when I was younger I did feel a little like a musical lone ranger in the fact that I am working and I don’t have a lot of people near me who seem to be on a similar path. Texas has a sense of freedom to it for sure. It has a sense of being able to look into yourself and be free to experiment. Be free in the sense that we are really to develop our own voice, and I enjoyed that very much.

At the age of 16, Sam graduated magna cum laude from Texas Christian University (TCU) with a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance. He currently studies at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

As Sam has continued his studies, his attention has been drawn toward performing with others—particularly in chamber groups. Sam explains:

Well I think that working in chamber music requires you to develop an interpretation that is coherent and is understood by more people. So while it does make it more difficult to create an interpretation that has absolutely no compromise, I think at the same time it helps in understanding how other people understand your ideas and helps you find new colors with the encouragement from the other members or just inspiration from the sounds of their instruments.

And the instruments aside from piano that Sam enjoys most are strings, the sound of which he describes as “incomparable.” In addition to piano, he studied cello when he was young, before becoming dedicated to the piano. Recently, he began playing cello again, “just so that in rehearsal with a cellist I can say here is what I think it should sound like and then I can go to his cello and just do it!”

Given his love for piano and strings, Sam lists masters of both as inspiration: Jacqueline du Pré, Pierre Fournier, Arthur Rubinstein and William Primrose.

Fittingly, a chamber music festival introduced Sam to his favorite place to perform:

This group setting perfectly fits Sam’s sensibilities. Pressed for a dream venue he would like to play, he doesn’t hesitate: “I’d love to play [Hotel St. Bernard] again. I don’t really have a particular hall or anything like that. I think halls are really great–acoustically they’re perfect—but I think to reach the human part of us it requires an intimate setting. So for me the space or the legendary hall is not as important of a thing.”

As for the future, Sam shares the following:

Sam Hong is excited for his Premiere Series performance on December 4, 2016 with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra: “I’m going to love that! I’m looking forward to it so much!” Indeed, Sam is thrilled to participate in the American Pianists Awards and understands the uniqueness of the competition.

He also holds in high regard former Awards winners and his fellow competitors. Of 2013 American Pianists Awards winner Sean Chen he says, “I’m a really big fan of him and his Beethoven playing. I think he is one of few modern pianists who really get it right on Beethoven and I’m really happy to see that he is an alum.” And to the four other finalists for the 2017 Awards, Sam offers the following:

A warm message from a very social yet independent musician. We look forward to welcoming Sam to town this December. And to address Sam’s request, yes, those not able to attend performances of the American Pianists Awards will still have the opportunities to experience beautiful music through APA’s YouTube channel and website.

The American Pianists Awards finalists were selected by jury from nominations of the top American classical pianists aged 18-30. Each pianist performs a Premiere Series concert in Indianapolis between September 2016 and February 2017. All five finalists return to Indianapolis for a week of juried performances next spring, culminating in the naming of a winner on April 8, 2017.

Sam Hong’s Premiere Series concert will be Sunday, December 4 at the Indiana History Center. As part of the American Pianists Awards program, Sam will also complete a residency at Lawrence North High School 12/5 to 12/7. Show your support for him on social media by mentioning #AmericanPianistsAwards #TeamSam!

ADVANCING the mission | meet Virgil Chan & Bob Gowen

Yes is a powerful word.

Virgil Chan and Bob Gowen
Virgil Chan and Bob Gowen

Yes can take you places you have never been. It can land you in a dance competition. It can help aspiring artists reach their goals. And yes can help you meet new people, make great friends and get the most out of life. For proof, look no further than Indianapolis residents and American Pianists Association supporters Virgil Chan and Bob Gowen.

We recently visited Bob and Virgil at their downtown Indianapolis condo. In a beautifully decorated home with great views of the city under fading sunlight, we discussed how their inclination to saying yes led to their introduction to the American Pianists Association and so much more.

We will pick up the story in August 2004. Virgil had completed his medical residency in Chicago and said yes to an opportunity to relocate to Indianapolis to practice with OrthoIndy. After acclimating to the city, the couple saw it working out as their new home. Bob then wrapped up his business in Chicago and joined Virgil in Indianapolis full-time.

Not long after, Bob’s new best friend in the city, Izabela, called to ask what he was doing. As Bob recounts:

I said, “I have some time, why?”

And she said, “You have to come to this with me!’

I said, “What is it?”

She said, “Just put on a jacket and come!”

And Bob said yes:

As Bob mentioned he has no background in music:

I can’t even hum! I think that’s one of the nice things about it. My background has nothing to do with the arts. Now it’s pretty much the foundation of my life in Indianapolis. I’m involved on several arts boards and meet a lot of people through that. That’s how I became more involved with the APA. Izabela asked me to be co-chair of a fundraiser for the APA called Beethoven and Brew, and it was really enjoyable. This city has opened up their arms and welcomed us and we embraced it totally.

Virgil, meanwhile, has a much deeper music background:

Virgil has carried this appreciation for arts from the Philippines to Indianapolis. He also appreciates the arts community in the city:

One thing that is remarkable about Indianapolis is that the arts community is a tight community. If you get involved with one, it is hard not to be involved with other organizations. The friendships transcend organizations, and the organizations tend to work collaboratively. It is really a great feeling.

Virgil’s background in the arts and the closeness of the arts community led to another invitation. Dance Kaleidoscope, a professional contemporary dance company in town, held a Dancing with the Stars-themed fundraiser last fall and asked Virgil to participate. Of course he said yes: “I was so happy to participate. We probably rehearsed for five weeks.”

Bob was proud: “You could see the joy in his face. I think that’s the thing about any of the arts things we do.”

This sort of intimacy with art-making is a strength of the American Pianists Association. The Awards take place in a variety of venues, some of which are especially welcoming for small audiences. Then there are further opportunities to meet the aspiring musicians, and if desired, to actively shape APA programs that advance the careers of young pianists.

As Virgil explains:

One thing we love about Indianapolis you can really get close to the action. In Chicago, we had lots of things we could go see. Here, we have lots of things we can truly be a part of. We show interest in arts organizations and they involve us in any way they can. You are really part of the community that puts up the show.

Opportunities for involvement is a big part of their love for the APA. Getting so close to the organization led to another moment for yes: hosting judges for the American Pianists Awards. Bob shares the story of that experience:

While Bob kindly calls the APA an ambassador for the city, he and Virgil have become ambassadors for the organization. Bob explains, “We often bring guests and they always come back. We buy extra tickets and invite people and they come.”

With key fundraising events and the American Pianists Awards Premiere Series concerts on the horizon, Virgil plans to continue that practice: “We have a few neighbors in our building I don’t think have been introduced, so we would like to take them.”

Those taking Bob and Virgil up on their invitations have been treated to some magical moments over the years. Two of Bob’s favorites highlight the uniqueness of APA events. The first required saying yes to a location they had never before visited, Indy’s Jazz Kitchen:

A second “magical moment” showcases the American Pianists Awards competitive format which replicates nearly every kind of performance situation a professional pianist will encounter.

Clearly, the couple are smitten with the APA; as Bob says, “We get a lot of joy. It’s a great mission—discovering and helping support young American world class pianists—and we have seen the fruits of that; these are remarkable people, so talented you want to see them out in the world.”

And the heart of the organization, President and Artistic Director Joel Harrison, is paramount to Bob’s appreciation of APA’s efforts:

Virgil and Bob continue to demonstrate pride in the organization, having already subscribed to the 2017 American Pianists Awards Premiere Series. And, in addition to attending the events, Bob is taking part in the planning as co-chair of the Awards—yet another demonstration of his and Virgil’s willingness to try new things and be open to yes. This year, the American Pianists Association encourages everyone to emulate Bob and Virgil and say yes to the arts!

The 2017 American Pianists Awards have begun! Come witness world-class musicians in the intimate Basile Theater at the Indiana History Center. Five finalists aim to inspire with their first live juried performances of the Awards during the Premiere Series. This first round of the Awards consists of five performances, each split into a solo and a concerto with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. All performances are held Sundays at 3:30pm.

Save $50: individual concert tickets are available for $30; subscribe now to get your Early Bird subscription to all five concerts for $100 (33% savings).

Offer limited to the first 100 subscriptions. Offer ends 6/30/16.

BEAUTY of music | the classical cadenza

 APA Artistic Administrator Milner Fuller explains a unique feature of the classical concerto and prepares listeners for the American Pianists Awards Premiere Series.

Sean Chen at the 2013 American Pianists Awards
Sean Chen at the 2013 American Pianists Awards

You have no doubt recognized this section toward the end of a concerto movement by Mozart or Beethoven: the piece seems to be wrapping up, when suddenly the orchestra comes to a full stop on a chord that begs for resolution…

At this moment of tension, the orchestra drops out completely, and the soloist seems to go off the deep end, indulging in displays of virtuosity that can at times have little to do with the music preceding it.

The soloist then builds the tension back up, plays a big trill, and the orchestra resolves the chord it left hanging some 1-5 minutes ago and races to the end of the movement.

This section is called a cadenza and it has roots in opera. In this article we will explore first movement cadenzas, though they can appear in other movements.

The classical concerto is, by its very nature, a hybrid art form—part symphony, sonata, and opera. It inherits from its Baroque form the basic concept of an orchestral work wherein a soloist (or group of soloists) performs more virtuosic music surrounded by sections of music for the whole orchestra (tutti, Italian for all). The thematic and harmonic structure corresponds roughly with that of sonatas and symphonies.

Here is an example from Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B-Flat, K 595, as played during the 2013 American Pianists Awards by finalist Andrew Staupe with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra:

Unlike many of the other solos throughout a concerto, the cadenza gives the performer an unusual amount of freedom. All the score tells the pianist is the following (excerpt begins at measure 345):


It is at that point marked “Cadenza” that the soloist is free to embark on his own journey. At the time of their compositions, the composer would typically work out a cadenza in his head before performing, but may also improvise parts of it during the performance. Mozart later published cadenzas to many of his concerti, and Andrew Staupe, like most performers, chose to play Mozart’s cadenza.  (You can see all of Mozart’s cadenzas at the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library. The one in the excerpt is labeled No. 34).

The practice of cadenzas originated in vocal music where singers improvised at certain cadences within an aria. The general rule for vocal music was that the cadenza would last no longer than a breath. Composers preferred that performers keep their cadenzas short to prevent interference with the structure of the aria. Since Mozart and Beethoven were writing for their own performances, they felt no inclination to keep things and took this opportunity to show their flashy keyboard skills.

The character of the cadenza is quite unlike the rest of the work. Often some of the main themes will appear, but this is mostly a chance for the pianist to explore possibilities. The cadenza, unlike virtually all other music from this period, has sections that are performed out of meter. In fact, when written out, there may be sections without bar lines, instead just a stream of unmeasured notes. This kind of writing has more in common with keyboard music of the early Baroque than the late 18th century.

So what makes a good cadenza? Mozart offers one model:

  • The whole cadenza feels like a long suspension of the harmony set up by the cadence. This is accomplished through prolonged low notes that reinforce that harmony and few departures from the main key, making the eventual release of this tension more satisfying.
  • Mozart’s cadenzas are relatively short, lasting a few minutes at most.
  • Use thematic material from the concerto.
  • The whole cadenza should sound improvised and sporadic, even though Mozart has carefully worked it out ahead of time.
  • The final trill in the cadenza sets up the return of the orchestra, which then wraps up the movement.

Mozart himself wrote down cadenzas to most of his concerti. Rather than prescriptive instructions, though, his cadenzas were meant to serve as one possible option. They have since become part of the canon.

Beethoven approached cadenza writing somewhat differently, and he also published cadenzas to his concerti nos. 1-4 separate from the concerti themselves. While all of Mozart’s written cadenzas are similar in structure, Beethoven’s are far more experimental. In fact, Beethoven wrote three different cadenzas for his First Piano Concerto and two for his Fourth Piano Concerto.

Rather than serve as short interludes like Mozart’s, Beethoven’s cadenzas take on lives of their own. While the style is still improvisational, Beethoven is more inclined to visit distant keys and explore new possibilities. His cadenzas are at times twice or three times as long as was typical of Mozart. Because he releases harmonic tension within the cadenza, he must then work harder to build it back up for the return to the tutti section.

In his fifth and final piano concerto, Beethoven proposes a radical solution. At the point when the orchestra sets up the cadenza, Beethoven writes, “Do not make a cadenza here, but play immediately the following.” He then writes his own short cadenza, then more gently eases back into the tutti by accompanying the end of the “cadenza” with a horn theme. This solution integrates the cadenza into the structure of the work rather than serve as a hiatus from the form. 2013 American Pianists Awards winner Sean Chen performs this section in the following clip (“cadenza” starts at 18:59):

Throughout the years, cadenzas that are written by the composer have become canonic, and few of today’s artists depart from them when they exist. Two of Mozart’s most popular concerti, K 466 and 467, do not have written cadenzas by the composer. Beethoven wrote cadenzas for both of these works, which, despite sounding like Beethoven and not Mozart, have become very popular among pianists.

Composers after Beethoven were far less inclined to give the performer so much freedom. For instance, Schuman and Brahms wrote out cadenzas when they appear, which like Beethoven’s Fifth, are more integrated into the greater structure. Chopin’s concerti, which are heavily dominated by the piano, contain no cadenzas at all.

This season, you will hear four of Beethoven’s cadenzas:

  • Steven Lin will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on November 6th
  • Sam Hong will play No. 3 on December 4th
  • Drew Peterson will play No. 5 on January 29th
  • Alex Beyer will play No. 2 on February 26th (with a HUGE cadenza!)

Happy listening!

The 2017 American Pianists Awards have begun! The Awards are held every four years to discover the best aspiring young American classical pianists. The Premiere Series provides the first live juried performances of the five American Pianists Awards finalists. Between September 2016 and February 2017, each finalist makes an initial appearance on stage in Indianapolis for a solo and ensemble performance. Subscriptions are on sale now!


DISCOVERING world-class pianists | meet Steven Lin | #TeamSteven

FPerhaps you have seen the video…the young pianist is playing a beautiful sonata by Haydn, head down then arched back, fingers dancing, feet working the pedals, music flowing gracefully through his upper body. The video’s title on YouTube, however, fuels concern: “Steven Lin performs through earthquake in Japan.” What???

Pianist Steven Lin

At the 1:50 mark, the picture starts to shake. Steven Lin, the pianist, continues to play. The shaking intensifies, the mic pics up sounds of shuffling. Steven continues to play. A minute into the magnitude 6.1 earthquake, the shaking dissipates, and Steven smoothly transitions into the next section, completely focused and delightfully immersed in his music.

Would you believe someone who wouldn’t stop playing piano during an earthquake once avoided practice like the plague?

Steven joined us by video chat to discuss his selection as a finalist in the 2017 American Pianists Awards. We discussed his introduction to piano, his development as an artist, home and more. Throughout, we focused on the key inspirations for his passion which fueled the “earthquake performance” and continues to push Steven to greater creative heights.

It all started with his mom. It was the mid-1990s (“wow, yeah 90s,” recalls an amused Steven), and he and his family had moved from Los Angeles, where he was born, to Taiwan.

“So my mom first took me to these Yamaha group classes, and long story short for a half a year she said every class (it is a 30 minute class), I would be staring at the ceiling the entire time. She would do my homework every time right before the class, so we stopped going. My mom’s friend thought maybe I would be more interested if I was taking a one on one lesson with somebody, so she recommended this teacher she really liked. That’s how I got started.”

Steven responded well to individual lessons and developed a deep respect for his teacher’s approach to music:

Under Ms. Kim’s tutelage, Steven played his first competition at 7 years old. He recalls that experience:

“It was my first time on stage. At that time I think I had only been playing for six months. I remember going up on stage trying to play a Mozart sonata—the famous C Major [K. 545] that everybody plays when they are a kid. I felt like it was very exciting! I enjoyed that experience very much!”

Steven returned to live in the United States after three years of lessons with Ms. Kim, but he visits his parents in Taiwan occasionally and tries to visit Ms. Kim every time he goes back.

Having a close personal connection was inspiring for Steven and something that he would rely upon again as his studies advanced.

“For me to be interested in this field, the environment that you are in is super important. I’m not just talking about a conservatory but the people you hang out with. I think we can all be influenced by our friends.”

Here he discusses a turning point in his development as a world-class pianist:

In addition to the people in his life, Steven cites some music as especially inspiring:

Aside from Steven’s insightful commentary, viewers of that video could likely hear sounds of a city in the background. Is that LA? Taiwan? Somewhere else? Steven has lived in a few different places, and we asked how those places have shaped him:

Despite this love for New York, after completing his degree at Juilliard, Steven moved to Philadelphia to continue studies at the Curtis Institute of Music. Today, having graduated from Curtis, Steven still lives in Philly.

“Because piano requires so much time alone and when you are living in New York you can so easily get caught up in what is going around you. Back then it was getting too distracting; I was going through this time when I needed space to myself. That’s the biggest reason I wanted to go to Curtis—it’s more of an intimate place where I can explore the possibilities of music.”

Asked where we would go during a visit to his new home, he replies, “If you come down here I would take you to an ice cream place called Franklin Fountain. I love ice cream!”

Another love for Steven was gifted by his birthplace. Being born in LA and having many relatives in the area made Steven a fan of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers. In this clip, Steven discusses his affinity for the Lakers and his admiration of Kobe Bryant, the newly-retired former NBA champion and one of the game’s all-time greats:

And just like a basketball player who lives in the practice gym, Steven has dedicated himself to his musical craft. “In all honesty the last three years I’ve lived here have literally been all about music.” The one time unfocused student now practices 6 to 8 hours a day and has been called a “late-blooming rising star.”

Fittingly, when American Pianists Association President Joel Harrison called Steven to inform him of his selection as a finalist, Steven missed the call. Why? “I was practicing,” shares Steven. Once the two spoke and Steven learned he would be included in the 2017 American Pianists Awards, was it celebration time? “No, I just kind of kept practicing!”

Steven will continue practicing this summer in preparation for his Premiere Series concert in November and offers the following message to his fellow finalists: “I think the most important thing is music. Just try to do our best to be who we are on stage.”

Of the group he says he doesn’t really know the others. However, Steven looks forward to getting to know them throughout the 13-month-long competition:

Friends, teachers, 20th century music, basketball, fellow pianists and more—it is remarkable how Steven draws inspiration from so much in life. We look forward to learning more about this inspiring pianist during his time in Indianapolis this fall!

Oh and that earthquake video? Enjoy:


The American Pianists Awards finalists were selected by jury from nominations of the top American classical pianists aged 18-30. Each pianist performs a Premiere Series concert in Indianapolis between September 2016 and February 2017. All five finalists return to Indianapolis for a week of juried performances next spring, culminating in the naming of a winner on April 8, 2017.

Steven Lin’s Premiere Series concert will be Sunday, November 6 at the Indiana History Center. As part of the American Pianists Awards program, Steven will also complete a residency at Warren Central High School 11/7 to 11/9. Show your support for him on social media by mentioning #AmericanPianistsAwards #TeamSteven!