With a panoramic view of Lake Lucerne, the young US pianists Avery Gagliano, 19, and Amir Siraj, 21, delivered a thrilling opening concert on Wednesday evening at the 5th Swiss Alps Classics. The Pühringer family, which remains committed to promoting young musicians, once again offered two scholarship holders of the "Lang Lang International Music Foundation" the opportunity to give a special performance on Lake Lucerne in the Verlinde Hall of the Park Hotel Vitznau. Words of introduction were provided by the exceptional violinist and conductor Emmanuel Tjeknavorian. The motto of this year’s Swiss Alps Classics is “Variations on the Theme of Music.”
Tjeknavorian, just 26 years old himself, is passionate about nurturing new talent: "I think it's essential that young musicians are given a platform. Ideally, they should be able to play in front of an audience and gain experience, to tell a story through music. Today was truly special." The Viennese Tjeknavorian was blown away by Vitznau's natural splendor: "Nature is a great source of inspiration for artists. Today, we heard works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, composers who themselves enjoyed finding inspiration in nature."
The two scholarship holders were impressed by the area’s natural surroundings. "The scenery is breathtaking. It’s very inspiring to performing in such a setting and in such a beautiful country. It was amazing," Avery Gagliano said. She is the first-prize winner of the 10th National Chopin Piano Competition 2020, hails from Washington, and studies in Philadelphia at the Curtis Institute of Music. Amir Siraj from Brookline, Massachusetts, is studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. He also studies astrophysics at Harvard University and was the youngest scientist in this year's "Forbes 30 Under 30" list. The multi-talented artist elaborated on his performance in Vitznau: "I dedicated my program to Beethoven. During the 2020 Beethoven anniversary year, all of the concerts were cancelled, so I wanted to celebrate him now. I started to explore how he was a source of inspiration for other composers. The Liszt piece 'Fantasia on Motifs from Beethoven's Ruins of Athens' is a tribute to Beethoven."
To round out the opening concert, Gagliano and Siraj played two works for piano with four hands. After Franz Schubert’s "Introduction, 4 Variations on an Original Theme and Finale in B- Flat Major,” his Marches militaires, Op. 51, No. 3 in E-Flat Major, was played as an encore, which prompted enthusiastic cries of "bravo" and hearty applause in the Verlinde Hall. “The two young artists wowed the audience with their virtuosity and exhilarating playing together. Watching how they collaborated on the four-hand works was remarkable," observed Clemens Hellsberg, Artistic Director of the Swiss Alps Classics.
The 5th anniversary festival, which runs until Saturday (June 5), will continue Thursday evening (The Chedi Andermatt/ 6:45pm) with a concert by the multi-award-winning Austrian-Romanian pianist Maria Radutu. Radutu will present her solo program "PHOENIX," the musical interpretation of a rebirth, with works from four centuries with Franz Liszt's "Mephisto Waltz No. 1" as the musical highlight. As in Vitznau, masks are compulsory during the concert and distance rules apply for the guests; the health of everyone involved is the organizers’ highest priority.