New Works by Sean Chen and Dan Tepfer
The first concert of American Pianists Association's Grand Encounters 2021-22 season advertised performances by five stars of past Awards seasons: Kenny Banks Jr., Kenny Broberg, Frederic Chiu, Spencer Myer and Dan Tepfer. Those performances were everything the audience had hoped for! The excitement didn't end after Kenny Broberg's final piece, however. As part of a ceremony honoring recently retired CEO Joel Harrison, it was revealed that two new works had been commissioned in his honor--fittingly from two pianists with long histories with Joel: Sean Chen and Dan Tepfer.
During his winning 2013 American Pianists Awards season, Sean Chen performed his own transcription of Ravel’s La Valse to high acclaim. He then recorded the piece on the Steinway & Sons label, and has continued to transcribe and compose new works over the years. When asked to compose a new piece for Joel, he could not resist:
"When APA came to me with this request my first thought was to merge the two focuses of the organization, which is classical and jazz piano. Now I’m not a jazz pianist, but I do a bit of improvising. So I sat down, turned on the recorder and improvised for an hour. I took out parts I liked and fleshed them into a piece. This piece is called Daydream: Steps and you will see why it is called Steps. For me there is a certain emotion in this piece but I do not want to prescribe what you hear. It’s a journey for me. I hope you enjoy."
A few years after winning the 2007 American Pianists Awards, Dan Tepfer also explored a merging of classical and jazz piano with his groundbreaking Goldberg Variations / Variations in which he followed each of Bach's variations with an improvisation of his own.
Dan introduced his latest composition with some discussion at the keyboard: "When I started thinking about this piece, I laid out the letters of his name on a keyboard. It may not be surprising because Joel is so passionate about music, but it turns out that his name is incredibly musical. The first seven notes are the major scale—I think statistically that s very unlikely!"
Watch the full concert with complete remarks by the artists and Joel: