By Sue Wade
Milana Strezeva, president and artistic director of Naples’ Grand Piano Series, loves to include chamber music performances in the series’ seasonal repertoire. This season she’s excited to present the series’ first week-long, venue-hopping ChamberFest, devoted to an introductory lecture, four days of audience-friendly performances, and a celebratory season-ending gala with the ChamberFest’s renowned musicians.
Mike Cheng-Yu Lee, Lecture
Mike Cheng-Yu Lee, artist-in-residence at Cornell University’s Center for Historical Keyboards, is one of a new generation of pianists equally at home performing on pianos spanning the early 18th to the late 20th century.
Accompanying him to Naples are two Cornell Center fortepianos of the late-18th and early-19th-century Viennese tradition. Though performing music on the instrument for which it was written might seem a given, Lee’s lecture uses the instruments to explore the many philosophical difficulties in the so-called “early music movement.” Lee’s lecture will be April 15 from 11 a.m. to noon at Trinity-by-the-Cove, 553 Galleon Drive, Naples. Admission is free, but reservations are required as seating is limited. For reservations, visit www.grandpianoseries.org or call 469-333-3231.
Mike Cheng-Yu Lee on the fortepiano
Mike Cheng-Yu Lee launches Grand Piano Series’ ChamberFest by performing the lyrical masterpieces of Schumann and Schubert exactly as the composers would have—on the fortepiano. This 19th-century instrument will beguile you with its tender sound, inviting you into the intimate chamber settings of Germany’s beloved Romantics. Lee’s performance will be April 18 at 3 p.m. at Trinity-by-the-Cove, 553 Galleon Drive, Naples.
Tickets at www.grandpianoseries.org or call 469-333-3231.
Lee, Fullana and Strezeva
Spanish-born violinist Francisco Fullana joins Mike Cheng-Yu Lee and the Grand Piano Series’ own Milana Strezeva, a Moldovan-American pianist and founding member of the award-winning Manhattan Piano Trio, to treat you to the authentic sound of Bach and Mozart classics played on a 1735 “Mary Portman” ex-Kreisler Guarneri del Gesù violin with gut strings. The concert culminates with Turina and Ravel sonatas played on the violin’s modern descendant and Fazioli piano. Lee, Fullana and Strezeva perform on April 19 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Leo Auditorium, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. Tickets at www.grandpianoseries.org or 469-333-3231.
Ying Li: Virtuoso plays virtuosos
Virtuosic 24-year-old Chinese pianist Ying Li was the first prize winner of the 2021 Young Concert Artists Susan Wadsworth International Auditions. For the ChamberFest, she puts 200 years’ evolution of piano repertoire on full display. Each composer—Haydn, Schumann, Liszt, Grainger and Stravinsky—was a star virtuoso of his era. Stravinsky’s instant classic “The Firebird” is sure to amaze with its keyboard fireworks. Ying Li performs on April 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Moorings Presbyterian Church, 791 Harbour Drive, Naples. Tickets at www.grandpianoseries.org or 469-333-3231.
Grand Piano Series will also partner with Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra on April 22 at 7:30 p.m., sharing guest artist Ying Li for the symphony’s Masterworks 4 performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. Order at swflso.org/tickets or 239-418-1500.
Balourdet Quartet and Fabio Bidini
Italian pianist Fabio Bidini, currently teaching at the Colburn School, is one of this generation’s top-flight pianists. He joins the Boston-based Balourdet Quartet, currently in residence at the New England Conservatory’s Professional String Quartet Program, to close the ChamberFest with two Romantic chamber music masterpieces by Mendelssohn and Brahms—juxtaposed with arguably the most popular piano works of Chopin and Debussy.
The Balourdet Quartet and Fabio Bidini perform on April 21 at 3 p.m. at St. Leo Auditorium, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. Tickets at www.grandpianoseries.org or 469-333-3231.
Season Closing Celebration Dinner
After the final performance on April 21, come mingle with all the ChamberFest artists and Grand Piano Series directors as they celebrate the closing of their seventh season and the resilience of their community. Join them for an evening of friendship and good food at the elegant Audubon Country Club April 21 at 5 p.m. at 625 Audubon Blvd., Naples. Buy dinner tickets by April 14, at www.grandpianoseries.org or 469-333-3231.
By Sue Wade