Mission/Purpose —Piano Spheres supports and encourages the composition and performance of major new works for the piano. It enlarges the piano repertoire by commissioning new works and sustaining a concert series that focuses primarily on works by contemporary composers.
Piano Spheres was founded in 1994 by pianist Leonard Stein to present the best of contemporary piano music as well as rarely heard treasures from centuries past. Stein, a protégé of Arnold Schoenberg and founding Director of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, was a champion of new music for more than sixty years, both in Los Angeles and abroad, as pianist, scholar, teacher, and presenter. He selected a group of four of his most adventuresome, new-music-minded former students from the University of Southern California – Gloria Cheng, Vicki Ray, Mark Robson, and Susan Svrček – to mentor as his colleagues in a unique cooperative venture: a concert series presenting five solo piano recitals programmed by each of the five pianists, all of whom share a fierce dedication to new and unusual music. Each pianist has continued to present a yearly Piano Spheres recital since that time.
On September 13, 1994, marking the 120th anniversary of Schoenberg’s birth, Piano Spheres presented its first concert. Since then, Piano Spheres has continued to combine the highest musical standards with a passionate commitment to exploring and creating the piano repertoire of the future. Critics have called Piano Spheres “a nourishing, lasting LA invention” and one of “our most imaginative, best-planned, courageous and stimulating concert series.” Perhaps the LA Times’ Joseph Woodard said it best: “Clearly, Piano Spheres is intent on promoting new musical piano culture, not only by affording a handful of L.A.’s finest [pianists] a regular showcase, but also helping to expand and update the existing solo piano repertoire and offer needed encouragement to young composers.
To date, Piano Spheres has presented 688 works for piano, with over 80 premieres of which 64 were world premieres and 13 were US premieres.
Following Stein’s death in 2004, Piano Spheres established the Leonard Stein Memorial Fund to honor and advance his shared vision of commissioning new works for solo piano. The Fund has enabled Piano Spheres to commission a total of 23 works to date.
The passing of Leonard Stein led to a decision to invite a distinguished guest pianist each season to program and perform one concert of the five-concert series, which draws audiences from throughout the region. Among the guest pianists have been composer-pianist Thomas Adès, Kathleen Supové, Christopher O’Riley, Ursula Oppens, Eric Huebner, Joanne Pearce Martin, Liam Viney, the Bugallo-Williams Duo and the Viney-Grinberg Duo.
Piano Spheres artists have performed in Minimalist Jukebox at the LA Philharmonic as part of the LA Philharmonic’s “California Project” festival; in a series of four yearly recitals at Boston Court Theater, Pasadena; and for the UCLA Music Library Tribute to Leonard Stein in Schoenberg Hall.
In its 2014-15 season, in addition to its regular recital series, Piano Spheres introduced the Satellite Series, a set of workshops and recitals by emerging pianists playing works by recent masters and emerging composers. The Satellite Series is a central component of Piano Spheres’ season and offers a direct tie to the spirit of the organization’s founding: When the late Leonard Stein launched Piano Spheres in 1993, he did so with four young pianists whom he had mentored at USC. Much as Stein mentored them, they now mentor the next generation of pianists, and the Satellite Series is the next step in the process of introducing this generation of artists to a broader audience. In 2014-15 the Satellite artists included Aron Kallay, Richard Valitutto, Nicolas Gerpe and Stephen Vanhauwaert. The 2015-16 season Satellite artists will include Nadia Shpachenko and Danny Holt.