If you never got the chance to see one of the 20th century’s greatest pianists in concert, Missouri Western State University is offering a one-of-a-kind concert experience to make up for it.
The signature Steinway piano that toured around the world with Vladimir Horowitz will be the central instrument in an interactive concert being held at the college.
“(We’re) bringing a really famous instrument to our campus that our students are going to get to use and perform on. Which is, for many of them ... they’re going to remember this for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Nathanael May, the concert’s featured performer and chair for the Department of Music at Missouri Western, said.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, May and Dr. Matthew Edwards, a member of Missouri Western’s Department of Music faculty, will perform from Horowitz’s favorite repretoire. Following the concert, there will be time for the audience to play the piano.
The piano is a special part of May’s beginnings as a musician. Performing a series of concerts in Moscow in 1986, Horowitz had one of the shows broadcast on television.
“You just saw all of his compatriots weeping in the audience. Everyone was hanging on every single note he played. That concert really made an impression on me,” he said.
The piano Horowitz played at that show will be the same one gracing the Missouri Western stage. It also will be the one that anyone there is welcome to play.
“If people want to come up after the concerts, we are more than happy to have people sit down and just try out a few notes, and if they can play, actually play through something. I think Steinway will even have some certificates commemorating it,” May said.
Presented by Steinway pianos, the concert opens up the floor to how a classical concert can be presented, with interactive elements like the audience getting a hands-on experience and the addition of a second piano programmed to play exactly like Horowitz would.
“It’s a really special opportunity for audiences to feel more than an aural connection to the music that’s being performed. The ability for everyone to come up and look at this piano, touch it, play it, is really going to stick with them for a long time,” May said.
There’s an extra bit of fun knowing that Horowitz would not be a fan of those interactive elements.
“There was one time when Horowitz let someone play his piano and his skin just started to crawl. He kicked them off after only a few bars. He said ‘That’s it. I’m never letting anyone touch my piano again,’” May said, laughing.
For May, a seasoned pianist, to be able to deliver a concert on such a storied piano as a homage to one of his inspirations is an honor he doesn’t take lightly.
“It will be a really special experience, even for the audience, knowing that Horowitz had played these pieces on this instrument and we get a chance to do the same thing,” he said.
The concert is free and open to the public.