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University Relations

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Jan. 30, 2006
Contact: John C. Tibbetts, associate professor of theatre and film, (785) 864-1352, or Phil Wilke, KPR media manager, (785) 864-5016.

Kansas Public Radio begins second series of ‘Piano Portraits’ profiles

LAWRENCE — The lives and influences of people making music are as complex and fascinating as the music they make. To explore this musical connection, Kansas Public Radio will begin a second series of “Piano Portraits” hosted by John Tibbetts, associate professor of theatre and film at the University of Kansas.

The shows will air 8 to 9 p.m. Mondays, beginning Feb. 6, for nine weeks.

“Piano Portraits” began with six programs in 2005. This second series features informal conversations with world-class pianists Richard Goode, Rudolf Firkusny, George Shearing, Mischa Dichter and others who discuss their careers and repertoire.

“I’m drawing upon more than 25 years of interviews with great pianists associated with the fields of classical music, ragtime and jazz,” said Tibbetts, the series host and producer. “I’ve found that, like movie stars, the bigger they are, the more forthright and honest they are about their lives and work.”

Tibbetts has had extensive experience as a radio and television producer and broadcaster. He has written many books and articles on the subject of film and music, including Composers in the Movies: Studies in Musical Biography (Yale University Press, 2005) and Dvorak in America (Amadeus Press, 1993).

“You might call me a sort of ‘piano groupie.’ I’ve spent many happy hours seeking out and talking with the likes of Eugene Istomin, Garrick Ohlsson, Richard Goode, Ruth Laredo, Claude Frank, George Shearing and many others. I hope listeners will find that ‘Piano Portraits’ allows these artists to speak in their own words about the composers and repertoire they know best. Along the way, we’ll hear some of their finest performances.”

This set of “Piano Portraits” will feature:

— Fortepianist Malcolm Bilson talks about the Mozart Piano Concerti and performing them on period instruments.

— Richard Goode and Claude Frank discuss their complete recordings of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Music historian Robert Winter of UCLA also is on hand.

— Pianist Leslie Howard and biographer Alan Walker examine the life and work of the legendary Franz Liszt. Howard has recorded 100 discs in his series of the complete Liszt piano works, and Walker recounts his adventures writing his three-volume definitive “life” of Liszt. Both projects must be counted as landmarks in the history of recording and scholarship.

— Rudolf Firkusny discusses his long association with and advocacy of the piano music of his homeland, the former Czechoslovakia. He discusses the music of Smetana and Dvorak and recalls his associations with Leos Janacek and Bohuslav Martinu. Music historian Michael Beckerman of New York University, a Janacek specialist, contributes.

— Gyorgy Sandor recalls his association with his countryman, Bela Bartok, and demonstrates at the keyboard Bartok’s tonal language and his activities as a proto-ethnomusicologist. On hand is Bartok’s biographer, Elliott Antokoletz.

— Arnaldo Cohen talks about his advocacy of the music of his Brazilian countrymen, Villa-Lobos, Nazareth and others. On hand is Brazilian music specialist and record producer Paul Myers.

— A portrait of the Steinway piano and of Franz Mohr, chief technician at Steinway Pianos in New York City. Mohr shares his experiences of more than 35 years working with Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, Van Cliburn and Emil Gilels. He also gives a lesson in the mechanics and the spiritual aspects of piano tuning. On hand for comments are John and Henry Steinway.

— Robert Schumann: A Symposium of Pianists. Many of today’s greatest pianists weigh in on piano music of the great Romantic visionary, Schumann. Contributors include Mischa Dichter, Charles Rosen, Eugene Istomin, Joerg Demus, Claude Frank and Peter Frankl.

— Pianists George Shearing and Ahmad Jamal talk about their careers in jazz.

KPR, licensed to the University of Kansas, broadcasts on KANU 91.5 FM in Lawrence, KANH 89.7 FM in Emporia, KANV 91.3 FM in Olsburg-Junction City and K210CR 89.9 FM in Atchison. KPR also can be heard on the Web at kpr.ku.edu.

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