Noted Japanese pianist is guest for Piano Extravaganza! at URI March 30-31

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 22, 2012 – For the tenth anniversary of the Piano Extravaganza! Festival at the University of Rhode Island, festival Director Manabu Takasawa is bringing in Noriko Ohtake, a noted pianist from Japan, as featured guest artist. She will perform on Friday, March 30, at 8 p.m. and will also perform in the festival’s finale concert on Saturday, March 31. The second concert features performances by selected students in the URI piano program.

Both festival concerts will be held in the URI Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston. Admission for each is $10 general public, $5 students, with tickets available at the box office on a first-come basis starting 45-minutes before the concert.

Topping off a busy music weekend at the university, in the evening on Sunday, April 1, the Radiance Woodwind Quintet will offer a University Artist Series concert at 8 p.m. with Laura Hibbard, pianist, which is not part of the piano festival. Admission costs for that concert are the same as above.

The first half of Ohtake’s Friday concert program will feature a diverse collection of ten short preludes from widely varying composers including J. S. Bach, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Grieg, Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Ravel and Debussy. Preludes, which originally served to lead in to longer works such as an overture, have evolved more recently into stand-alone pieces.

The second half of the concert will feature the U.S. premieres of two piano works by Japanese composers, and a final piece performed by Ohtake with URI’s Professor Takasawa. The premieres are A Particle of Light for piano and Nambu bells, by Yoshihiro Kanno, and An Eccentric Paradise by Hirohisa Shono. Takasawa says, “Especially interesting is the work by Kanno—Noriko Ohtake will be playing Nambu bells while playing the piano. These bells are small, but their incredible resonance competes with the 9-ft concert grand piano just fine.”

He adds, “Nambu is a region of northern Japan in which unimaginable destruction and tragedy have created hardships for the people since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami hit the area last March. The performance will symbolize the renewed hope for the region and its people. The Shono composition is a jazzy piece preparing for the finale.” Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm, performed as variations for two pianos by Ohtake and Takasawa, will complete what promises to be a memorable concert.

Ohtake came to this country at the age of 15 and studied piano at the Juilliard School in New York. After graduating from Juilliard with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Music, she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Maryland. Her main teachers include Martin Canin and Thomas Schumacher. She won first prizes in the Enrico Fermi Foundation Competition, the Brooklyn Arts and Culture Association Competition and the Homer Ulrich Award at U. Maryland, and gave recitals in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF. After returning to Japan, she has performed in numerous recitals and chamber music concerts, performed on a BBC television special, toured in Chile, and authored a number of musical publications. She is an Associate Professor of Music at Sagami Women’s University and a lecturer at the Open University of Japan.

The Saturday evening concert, which also begins at 8 p.m., will feature nine pianists chosen by audition from the students in the URI piano program, who will play a variety of solo and piano ensemble music. Performers are expected to include: Alexander Breault, music education major, West Warwick; Alyssa Dagenais, music education major, Douglas, MA; Ian Otenti, music major, Providence; Alexander Gorelick, music performance major, Jamestown; Katherine Williams, music education major, Coventry; Jonathan Audette, music performance major, Lincoln; William Johnson, music major, Wakefield; Justin Kisch, graduate music education, Narragansett; and Ian Turner, pharmaceutical sciences major, Neptune, NJ.

The Piano Extravaganza! Festival also includes performances Saturday afternoon 1-5 p.m. for the Adult Amateur piano competition, and performances on Sunday afternoon, April 1, from 1-5 p.m. for the Young Pianists competition. The competition performances are open to the public for free. A recital concert by top-rated performers from the competitions will be offered later in the spring at a date and location to be announced, sponsored by the Jamestown Piano Association.

The URI Concert Hall is handicap-accessible, and parking is available in the lot behind the Fine Arts Center, off Bills Road.

For more information, please contact the URI Department of Music, 874-2431, or check the website: