So declared the Northern Bavarian Courier in review of eight pianists from Pasadena City College who traveled to Marktoberdorf, Germany to participate in the 8th International Competition for Six and Eight Hands.
The competition aims to encourage ensemble playing at one or two pianos; the conservation and propagation of the 19th & 20th century tradition of piano music for several hands; different generations of pianists playing together; the pleasure of playing together; and the international exchange of musical ideas and experience.
The Ivory Rose Quartet and La Majeur Quartet both won 3rd place competing against ensembles from Croatia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Germany, and Lithuania.
The students of this PCC group are quite diverse themselves. Left to right in the picture above is Sarine Kalechian (Armenian from Lebanon), Knarik Petrosyan (Armenian), Sunny Kim (Korea), Yi-ping Chen (Taiwan), Jinglan Ma (China), Adrian Trevino (Mexican-American), Sally Emilia (Indonesian), and Johann Sun (China). One member is a high school senior, having begun his study of piano at PCC just last year.
The two quartets began working with piano instructor Dr. Phillip Young only last September. Since January, they’ve worked like crazy, spending over 200 hours being coached and rehearsing.
The competition consisted of two rounds. The first round was a 15-20 minutes of music of required pieces. The Ivory Rose Quartet played Petite Suite by Gèza Horvàth, Invitation to the Dance by Carl Maria von Weber, and Champagne Toccata by William Gillock. The Majeur Quartet played Serenade by Cornelius Gurlitt and Ride the Valkyries by Richard Wagner.
The second round’s required that one piece had to be from the 20th or 21st century. The Ivory Quartet chose to play Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens and Jambalaya: A Portrait of Old New Orleans by Eugenie Rocherolle. La Majeur Quartet chose Sonata in One Movement by Bedrich Smetana, Perpetual Commotion by Kevin Olson, and “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo by Aaron Copland.
This experience was a “trip of a lifetime”: traveling overseas, meeting people, competing, and visiting the places where such luminaries as Mozart, Weber, Wagner, and Liszt lived and died.
One student said the all-encompassing adventure gave him “courage, confidence, and patience.”
“A highlight for many of the students was the opportunity to play on a piano built by Steingraeber and Sons that Liszt played on.”
Young says it’s been amazing that with so few resources to work with, but with a whole lot of hard work, they’ve been able to make this trip and this inclusion at the competition happen. “It’s not quite like the Olympics, but I don’t know of any other school (2-year, 4-year, or graduate piano departments) that have tried doing this.”
Receiving praise, again from the Northern Bavarian Courier, for their “locomotive energy,” “high sense of fun and delight,” and their “groove,” seems to confirm that all the rehearsals, studying, fundraising, and logistics were well worth their prodigious efforts.
Congratulations to the Ivory Rose and La Majeur quartets.