Piano Extravaganza! Festival starts April 8

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 24, 2011 – The 2011 Piano Extravaganza! Festival at the University of Rhode Island, with two stellar piano concerts and two piano competitions, will be held Friday to Sunday, April 8-10 in the URI Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Rd., Kingston. Admission to each of the evening concerts is $10 general public, $5 students. The day-time competitions are free.

Featured guest artists the Belsky-Maxwell Piano Duo will lead off the festival on Friday night at 8 p.m., featuring a repertoire ranging from the great masters to newly commissioned works. Based out of Chicago, they have toured throughout the Midwest and have a reputation as a unique and exciting new ensemble with particular audience rapport. Russian-born and Chicago-raised Svetlana Belsky concertizes throughout the United States and abroad, and is the coordinator of piano studies at the University of Chicago Department of Music. Jennifer Maxwell is an avid performer and educator currently working on a doctorate of musical arts degree at Boston University. This is a rare opportunity to hear a professional piano duo in a full concert program. They invite audiences to “come see –and hear –what two women can do with one piano!”

New to the festival is a competition for adult amateur pianists, which will be held on Saturday, April 9, from 12-5 p.m. Similar to the festival’s well-established young pianists competition, the competition will feature several categories and levels of experience, with winners rated or selected in the various divisions and awards given at the end. This portion of the festival is free and open to the public.

The second festival concert will be on Saturday at 8 p.m., featuring URI Piano Studio students chosen by audition and faculty/staff members. Manabu Takasawa, Grace Urrico, and Jean Maxon-Carpenter will offer “A Night at the Symphony: A Concert of Symphonic Music Transcribed for Piano,” including both piano arrangements of orchestral works and piano concertos originally written for piano and orchestra. The program will include movements of: Beethoven’s Symphony No.6 and 7, plus Piano Concerto No.3; Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2; Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.1; and Schumann’s Piano Quintet. In addition, students will perform solo works by Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Kapustin and others. In keeping with the festival tradition, the concert will end with an ensemble for eight hands: four of Takasawa’s students will play Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens.

The last portion of the festival is the Young Pianists Competition on Sunday, April 10 from 12-5 p.m. Designed for pre-college aged participants, it has three divisions by age and school grade through high school featuring some of the best young pianists in the northeast. Most of the competition auditions are held in the concert hall and rehearsal hall of the Fine Arts Center, and the public is invited as space allows. Awards are given at the end of the afternoon.

About 50 young pianists from all over New England participated in the 2010 competition and received acclaim from both judges and guests. A number of the participants also compete at regional and national levels. The competition is recognized as a great opportunity for younger pianists who are looking for more than simple recitals and adjudications. An “Honors Recital” concert will be offered to top-rated pianists in the piano competition at a later date. It will be sponsored by the Jamestown Piano Association and held in Jamestown, RI, open to the public. Details will be announced when available.

The Piano Extravaganza festival and competition are coordinated by award-winning concert pianist and director of URI’s piano program, Manabu Takasawa. He conceived and organized the first competition in 2004, and has seen it grow in size and quality each year since then.

More information about the Piano Extravaganza! Festival is available on the event’s website: www.pianoextravaganza.org, or from the URI Department of Music at (401) 874-2431.

The URI Concert Hall is handicap-accessible, and parking is available in the lot behind the Fine Arts Center, off Bills Road. Concert tickets are available at the box office on a first-come basis starting 45 minutes before the concert