Drake honors famous pianist
Story by Katie Ericson
In classical music, there are some musicians who have set themselves apart. Among these is Vladimir Horowitz — a romantic pianist considered to be one of the best pianists of the 20th century.
Born in Russia, he spent his life touring all over the world and eventually became an American citizen. Though his playing style was unusual and he often suffered from so much insecurity that he had to be physically pushed on stage. Horowitz’s expressive and exciting style made him a beloved musician. He won 25 Grammys, was an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Drake had an opportunity to honor this legendary player last Thursday night. Horowitz’s home piano — a Steinway & Sons nine-foot long Model D piano – is touring around the country and made a stop in Des Moines at the Civic Center.
Staged in the lobby of the center, the ushers had to find extra chairs to seat all in attendance.
“This is an even better turnout than I expected,” professor Nicholas Roth said.
Roth began the concert with his own performance — a Beethoven Sonata Opus 90. Six other Drake students played. There was Chopin, Mendelssohn and Schumann on the program, as well as a duet by Beethoven. The concert lasted for nearly two hours, but the packed crowd seemed happy to listen to the performance.
“One way to get your studio ready is to have a concert on the second week of school,” Roth said.
Most concerts are not held until after a full month of rehearsal and practice. It is rare to have a studio performance this early in the year. Indeed, students admitted that the rush to prepare for the concert was stressful.
Junior Daniel Scheetz started practicing his Beethoven Sonata in July. Once school started he picked up his practicing even more.
“I have been practicing the sonata every day for about an hour on top of my other practicing,” Scheetz said.
Combined with classes and the start of the Drake Marching Band, most performers were pressed for time.
Yet, they were still eager to perform on the famous piano.
“Horowitz is an absolute legend. It’s an amazing opportunity to get to play on his own piano,” said Brian Kalina, a senior who performed Listz’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3.
Though the piano may not have been featured on recordings, there are numerous videos of Horowitz playing on the exact same piano in his home.
This is not the only impressive piano that Drake has had a chance to work with, however. Professor Roth consulted with Yamaha last year and picked a CFX concert grand — one of Yamaha’s best pianos —for Drake. This year it is the centerpiece of the music program’s “Keys to Excellence” piano series.
The program has famous pianists visit and, through their concerts, gains donations toward furnishing the Fine Arts Center with Yamaha pianos. The next concert is Dec. 8 and features a Serbian pianist, Dorian Leljak, who will play at Sheslow Auditorium.