On December 14th 2012 at Steinert Hall, six young pianists performed an unforgettable program of Rachmaninoff, Schumann, Saint-Saens, Liszt and Chopin, reminding everyone that music heals, talent inspires, and great artistry is transcendent.  Steinway Artist Yoshie Akimoto presented her students in their Boston debut, and the performances that followed will live in the memory of the audience for years to come.  To read the biographies of these gifted pianists, click here.
Steinway Artists are legendary.  They represent some of the greatest pianists of all time, and the roster grows with every new generation of pianists.  This night was a demonstration of what could be the next generation of Steinway Artists, and they are students of Steinway Artist Yoshie Akimoto.
Yoshie Akimoto began her concert career as a pianist at the age of 10 when she won first prize in the All-Japan Student Competition.  At age 13 she made her debut with the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra and has since toured the world as a concert pianist of great acclaim.  She is a graduate of The Julliard School and has been a faculty member of the Killington, Foulger and Vianden, Luxembourg International Music Festivals for the past 9 years.  She directs the Akimoto Piano Studio in Southern California, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, from which her students have won top National and International piano competitions and have gone on to study at Julliard, Curtis Harvard, Yale and Stanford.  She has earned the prodigious status of Steinway Artist and in so is joined by some of the most legendary pianists of our time.
The program opened with a few words from our own Vivian Handis, who welcomed the audience and spoke of Steinert Hall’s incredible history.   She introduced Steinway Artist Yoshie Akimoto who took the stage to offer opening remarks as well, speaking of her students and their debut, and also of the power of music.  As we now know December 14th was a day of tragedy in Newtown, CT and Yoshie dedicated the night of music to the children affected, saying “many children have passed away…so [let’s] make this night a special night for them, for the souls of the beautiful children through our music, and these young people will play their hearts out with the beautiful spirit[s] that they have.”  It was extraordinarily touching, and added a sense of meaning and healing to the night that could be felt throughout.  The program began with Gita Abhiraman and her performance of C. Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22.
Gita Abhiraman took the stage and began the first movement (I. Andante Sostenuto) of Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2, and it set the tone beautifully for the rest of the night.  A wonderful piece, extraordinarily executed by Gita (with Yoshie Akimoto accompanying), that captivated the audience and concluded with a powerful ending and great applause.  Gita’s talent was on display, and she set the bar for the following performances.

Next up was Amber Wolf performing the first movement (I. Allegro Affettuoso) of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54.  The beauty of this piece was immediately evident in the first minute of the performance.  Amber beautifully articulated the melody of the theme, and both her and Yoshie’s accompaniment was spot on.  As soon as the last chord was struck the audience broke out in applause, marking yet another powerful performance.

The third act was George Teng, performing the first movement (I. Moderato) of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18.  A beloved piece, he rang out the first notes with conviction, and tackled the technicality of the piece with ease and nuance.  Yoshie was again on accompaniment and did a wonderful job of allowing George to shine.  The audience broke out in a thunderous applause that signaled their eagerness to hear more; so the night continued.

George’s piece was the last of the two piano performances.  Lisa Iwaki’s was the first of the solo portion of the night, performing Rachmaninoff’s Etude-tableaux, Op. 39 No. 3 in F-sharp minor and No. 9 in D Major.  Rachmaninoff is no easy composer to tackle, but from the moment Lisa began, it was clear that she had the talent to master the pieces.  Her rendition of Etude No. 3 was electrifying, and Etude No. 9 was equally exhilarating.  Lisa’s powerful performance concluded and the audience broke out in excited applause.

The next performance was one by Jeremy Jordan, performing his own transcription of Liszt’s Reminiscence of Opera Norma.  It was an absolutely riveting performance, one that flaunted Jeremy’s technical prowess and innate talent.  His control of the piano was extraordinary and his use of dynamic was brilliant.  It was a truly masterful performance and the audience responded with a standing ovation.  Again, the display of talent can’t be noted enough; these are pianists who are sure to join the ranks of the worlds finest.

The last of the performers was Alex Beyer.  Though he intended to play Chopin’s twenty-four Preludes, Op. 28, he decided to play the latter half of the preludes in an effort to save us from being there “verging on all night”.   The set took about 25 minutes to complete, and his attention to detail was astounding.  Each prelude was performed with poise, and the control and nuance he exhibited was of virtuosity.  His performance marked the end of an amazing night of talent, and the audience showed no sign of being tired.

After the program concluded, both Yoshie and Vivian Handis took the stage to invite the performers back for a collective applause, and to offer some final words.  On how music heals, Vivian had this to say:

“Music works in extraordinary ways.  There could be no more perfect ambassador for our art to show why this legacy needs to continue, because in the face of tragedy and in the face of what is ugly in the world, we have art.  And art reminds us that there is beauty in the world, there is good, and there is hope.”

In light of the tragic shootings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary just hours before the event, this sentiment touched the hearts of everyone in attendance.
Later the guests and performers met in the Steinway room of the second floor for a wine and cheese reception that allowed the audience members the chance to sing the praises of the performers.  Yoshie Akimoto also attended the reception and had nothing but wonderful things to say of her students and of M. Steinert & Sons.  To be in the presence of a Steinway Artist as reputable as Yoshie Akimoto was invigorating, and she was incredibly gracious and welcoming.
A big thank you to Steinway Artist Yoshie Akimoto for debuting her talented students at M. Steinert & Sons in Boston!

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