FRESNO — It may seem like an unlikely stop. For many internationally recognized piano and organ performers, their annual tours may include such world-class venues as Carnegie Hall, Wiener Musikverein, Walt Disney Hall, or the Oslo Opera House. Among such performances, eight artists every year have the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concert Series at the Fresno State Concert Hall on their schedule.
“The unique experience of watching a master perform live music is transformational: One feels the vibrations, feels the emotion and hears the vital energy of life, flowing from the heart through the fingertips,” Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said. “For 50 years, the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concert Series has brought us this gift that elevates and revitalizes the soul. Fresno State is honored to host this community and international treasure.”
Founded in 1972 by the late Professor Philip Lorenz, the Keyboard Concert Series will enter its 50th year this season. Fresno State Professor Andreas Werz is excited about this year’s lineup, which kicks off with Garrick Ohlsson at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19, at the Fresno State Concert Hall. Tickets are $25 general, $18 for seniors and $5 for students.
“People know about this series. If you talk to musicians in New York about Keyboard Concerts in Fresno, they would say, ‘yes, we know this.’ This is a nice thing for the University to have,” said Werz, president and artistic director for Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts.
Ohlsson is the only American to have achieved a gold medal in the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. The New York Times said Ohlsson is celebrated for his “tasteful virtuosity, elegant sense of proportion and the balance between intimacy and declamation.” As the COVID-19 restrictions have eased, Ohlsson has traveled worldwide, playing venues in Prague, Zurich, and South Korea. Following his concert at Fresno State, he will continue to tour the United States and Europe.
“By bringing renowned pianists from around the world to play in our Concert Hall at Fresno State, the Philip Lorenz Keyboard Concert Series builds a bridge between the campus and our Valley’s music lovers. The Keyboard Concerts also show our students that they can aspire to world-class greatness in anything they pursue through hard work,” said Dr. Honora Chapman, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.
Season tickets are available for $160 general, $120 for seniors and $30 for students and include admission to Garrick Ohlsson and the following performances at the Concert Hall:
● Ran Dank and Soyeon Kate Lee, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15.
● Alexander Malofeev, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5.
● Yefim Bronfman, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30.
● Jeremy Denk, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18.
● Natasha Paremski, 3 p.m. Sunday, March 13.
● Rafał Blechacz, 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 1.
● Jack Mitchener, 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24.
In addition, Keyboard Concerts will host the following special events at the Concert Hall:
● Masterclass with Ran Dank and Soyeon Kate Lee, 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.
● Aidan Purtell, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9.
● Komitas Trio, 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 4, with Michael Krikorian, piano; Aroussiak Baltaian, violin and Garik Terzian, cello.
The first keyboard concerts were at the now-defunct Stevenson Music store on Blackstone Avenue. Lorenz later partnered with the Fresno Free College Foundation which developed the series further. The series was held in several venues, including Northwest Church, the Tower Theatre and the Memorial Auditorium. After Werz took over in 1992 following the untimely death of Lorenz, the series partnered with Fresno State and moved to the Fresno State Concert Hall, where it has remained since.
For Werz, the concert series is an extension of his love for music, and especially the piano.
“Music is my life. I started playing the piano at age 5. Developed it throughout grade school, high school, eventually entered a conservatory to make it my primary occupation in life, [to] become a pianist,” Werz said. “Directing a series is just one other facet of it. By directing the series, I have a way of inviting guest artists to share this with other people, to share it with the University community and the community in general.”
It is this passion that drives the series and brings cultural value to the community.
“It enriches the cultural life of Fresno, particularly Fresno State, the University. It enhances the quality of life in our region, in the Valley. In some sense, puts it on the map. These artists play in the cultural centers of the world, and they also play in Fresno. That means something for Fresno.”
This year, Werz will retire from his role at Fresno State and become professor emeritus but said he will continue his role with the Keyboard Concert Series.