WIPAC’s 15th Anniversary Brings the Wonderful World of Piano Performance to the Austrian Embassy

Fifteen years and still the music continues!!!! The Washington International Piano Arts Council has for a decade and a half brought the best of piano performances to the DC area and last week two exceptional artists proved that WIPAC’s tradition will continue for many years to come.
Held at the Austrian Embassy, WIPAC’s Grand Prix Concert presented two distinguished prize winners of their annual amateur pianists competition in a joint recital. Dr. Michael Slavin, WIPAC’s first prize winner in 2014 as well as the first prize winner of the Paris Concours des Grand Amateurs de Piano, and the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw was joined by Michael Cheung, first prize winner of WIPAC’s 2015 Competition and the 2015 Boston International Piano Competition for Talented Pianists.
Beginning the recital with Maurice Ravel, Dr. Michael Slavin captured the shimmering and glistening sounds of the cascading water of the fountain of the Jeux d’Eau with his beautifully sculpted pianistic style. As is well known, this was Ravel’s homage to one of his favorite composers, Franz Liszt, who composed the Jeux d’Eau a la Ville d’Este in 1870. The Ravel Jeux d’Eau is one of the finest musical examples of the impressionist-symbolist movement in France at the turn of the 19th century that evoked “making the visible invisible …. the impression of the moment …. suggesting or evoking …not describing…..”  Slavin’s interpretation captured that “moment.”
In his second selection, Slavin performed Beethoven’s Sonata Opus 57, “The Appassionata.” One of the great works of the piano repertoire, “The Appassionata” is a monumental composition which the pianist approached with a beautiful and unusually lyrical and introspective style.
Michael Cheung continued the second part of the program. He is a master of spontaneity, taking his listeners to the edge of the musical cliff, and leaving his audience to await the next musical gem that he will create. Indeed, the contrasts of both pianists on the same program heightened the musical drama of the recital.
His program consisted of Serenade by Franz Schubert-Liszt; Schubert’s Impromptu in E-flat Op. 90 no.2; the Chopin Nocturne in C-sharp minor and the Barcarolle Op 60. He completed the recital with pieces by Sergei Rachmaninov, 5 Selections from Preludes Op. 23, and the Etudes-tableaux Op. 39.
His Schubert revealed a varied palette of musical color and an intensive sense of melody, whilst his interpretive gifts for the Chopin works demonstrated his ability to naturally allow the unfolding of musical-story-telling with an intuitive pensive sense of tempo and great musical insight. His performance of the Chopin Nocturne was devoid of ego allowing the pure flow of music. The Rachmaninov group similarly revealed another perspective of a multifaceted pianist. Even in his performance of the Prelude in E-flat, a piece that is often heard in recital, the audience was feted with yet another fresh and beautiful interpretation.
The very talented Robin Phillips, Mistress of Ceremonies, delighted the audience with her star-quality and her poetic commentaries about the artists and the musical selections. She captured the unique temperament of each artist, making the evening an even more special event.
John Gardecki, artistic director of WIPAC and co-founder with the grand lady Chateau Gardecki, shared his thoughts on the significance of the 15th anniversary of WIPAC. “This is what we do. It all emanates from the pianists. They are an amazing group of people. We are part of creating a movement, and it seems to be growing. It becomes very personal to want to be sure that people share the meaning of the music. Giving the pianists the opportunity to perform, they grow with it and get better and better.”
The event was chaired by Cynthia and Pat Fehr, who thanked Clayton and Susie Eisinger for their contribution as Presidents of WIPAC and His Excellency Dr. Wolfgang Waldner, Ambassador of Austria to the US for hosting the event.

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