Shafer Auditorium sets the stage for a historic event tonight at 8 p.m. as Allegheny Professor of Music and Artist–in–Residence Alec Chien performs a free concert on the 500,000th commemorative piano built by Steinway.
This particular Steinway piano took 20 months to craft. It was constructed from East Indian ebony and dyed Swiss pear, and trimmed with South American Bublinga wood and Gaboon brass and ebony.
The piano was designed by renowned craftsman Wendell Castle in 1987 and it is named “Grand of Artists” because of the 800–plus Steinway artists’ signatures engraved on it, including Sir Elton John’s.
“Overall, Steinway quality is the one that sets the standard,” Chien said. “Some other makers have prestigious reputations, but for me, the Steinway really speaks like a concert pianist likes to project. It has romance tones, and a deep, rich timbre.”
As a Steinway artist, Chien is devoted to the Steinway Company and has agreed to only play on Steinway pianos for any public performance.
This will be his 30th year at Allegheny and his second time playing the 500,000th Steinway piano here.
At tonight’s concert, Chien will perform Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major by Franz Schubert and “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky.
Chien explained that the latter describes Mussorgsky’s experience as he walked through painter and architect Viktor Hartmann’s painting gallery.
“It opens with a promenade theme as Mussorgsky is proudly walking into the gallery, moving from one painting to the next,” Chien said. “The music is governed by the mood he felt looking at the paintings, ending with the Great Gate of Kiev.”
While Hartmann’s paintings are quite good, Chien admits that he loves Mussorgsky’s interpretation upon seeing the gallery better than the paintings themselves.
“I did not get what Mussorgsky got out of the paintings, because I think the music is far greater than the paintings,” Chien said.
Chien’s performance is open to not only Allegheny students, but the Meadville community as well.
“During intermission, whoever in the audience wants to come see the piano up close can walk up to the stage and look at it,” Chien said.
“The Meadville community loves Alec,” said Assistant Director of Conference and Event Services, Rebecca Wiler, who is part of the committee in charge of the performance’s logistics, including parking, student ushers and making sure everything flows correctly.
“This office is thrilled to be a part of this performance because it is good for the college and the community,” Wiler said.
Kyle Kruse, ’13, is a piano student of Chien’s who truly admires him and is excited about the upcoming performance.
“What I like most about Professor Chien’s playing style is he’s not afraid to play rambunctiously,” Kruse said. “He’s taught me a lot about how to play confidently and how to be more of a passionate pianist.”
Another of Chien’s students who looks forward to the concert is Ashley Payseure, ’13. “Dr. Chien’s playing style is extremely impressive,” Payseure said. “He’s deeply expressive and rarely, if ever, misses a note.”
Chien’s performance on this historic and truly unique instrument will be quite a treat for students and the surrounding community members.
Considering that the piano has traveled around the world five times, Allegheny College is honored to host its second concert right here in Meadville.