Piano Spheres supports and encourages the composition and performance of major new works for the piano. It expands the piano repertoire by commissioning new music and sustaining a concert series of the highest artistic quality which focuses primarily on pieces by contemporary composers. In its concerts, Piano Spheres provides a context for these new works by including lesser-known music by established composers whose compositions influenced the course of piano music.
In 2004 Leonard Stein, founder of Piano Spheres, wrote the following words in the forward of the 10th Anniversary commemorative book, Piano Spheres: the first ten years 1994-2004.
“As we conclude our tenth year, we can look back with great pride and satisfaction on our first nine, both as to the quality of the music performed and also to the adventurous spirit of the audiences that have come to the concerts of Piano Spheres. What started as a cooperative venture between four – later five – of the most interesting pianists of Los Angeles in 1994 soon grew into an annual series of five programs featuring new and unusual works, some of them special commissions given their world premieres.
Throughout all ten seasons, each of the pianists has chosen his or her own repertoire and, although all agreed on the types of music to be performed, each program turned out to be very distinctive, according to the temperament of the individual artist. The pianists of Piano Spheres are Gloria Cheng, Vicki Ray, Mark Robson, Susan Svrcek, and Leonard Stein.
Great master works of the 20th century have been presented, including compositions by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Shostakovich, and many others. The first concert took place on September 13, 1994, appropriately an all-Schoenberg program performed by Leonard Stein, a former assistant to Schoenberg and later Director of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute of the University of Southern California. This was almost exactly sixty years after Schoenberg’s arrival in Los Angeles, and also honored Schoenberg’s 120th birthday. This first program was held in Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church, where all Piano Spheres concerts were presented for the next eight years. Year by year the concerts grew until attendance of 100 or more made it necessary to find a larger space to accommodate our growing audience…
The range of the works performed during our nine years is very extensive, and a tenth anniversary is a very special occasion… We hope to welcome you as dedicated listeners to future exceptional events, as participants in the unusual musical adventures they provide. The Piano Spheres series, so far as we know, is the only one of its kind in the world, a real American ‘original.’”
Leonard Stein didn’t live to see the Piano Spheres Tenth Anniversary celebration, but his mark on Piano Spheres is indelible: make great programs, stretch yourself, help create new works. Now in its 16th season in 2009-10, under the direction of Catherine Uniack, Executive Director, the four pianists and board of directors, Sally Mosher, President, have continued the series, each year inviting a guest pianist to fill the special spot left by Leonard Stein. Guests have included Ursula Oppens, Thomas Schultz, Christopher O’Riley, Liam Viney, Eric Huebner and Thomas Adès, among others.
Piano Spheres has commissioned composers and given world, US and local premieres over the course of its sixteen years including works by John Harbison, Don Davis, Stephen Hartke, Julie Wolfe, Shaun Naidoo, and many others. It has also collaborated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in performances by all four pianists in Disney Hall at the LA Phil Minimalist Jukebox (March 2006) and West Coast/Left Coast (November 2009) festivals.
The series is located in Zipper Concert Hall of the Colburn School where Piano Spheres moved after its eighth season in the Pasadena Neighborhood Church. Piano Spheres continues to receive critical acclaim for the artistic excellence of its pianists and for its adventurous programming, drawing audiences from all over the Southland.