Musical Magic

Italian beauty brings classics to Rim Country

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The Tonto Community Concert Association opens the second half of its 2010-2011 season with an Italian beauty and the piano classics.

Hailed by The New York Times as “an artist of the highest caliber,” Italian-born pianist Cristiana Pegoraro has performed in some of the greatest concert halls in Europe, United States, South America, Asia, Middle East and Australia.

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Courtesy photo

Cristiana Pegoraro

She will be featured in a TCCA program at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 26. Earlier in the day Pegoraro will present a program specially designed for students of Payson schools.

Pegoraro embarked on the path of a classical pianist at an early age.

She devoted the years of her artistic development to perfecting her technique and developing her execution of the works of the great composers. Meanwhile she earned recognition from the music world and consolidated her craft and expertise.

Her passion, personality and creativity push her beyond classical music. Critics recognize her as one of the best interpreters of Latin American composers and one of the most interesting composers of the newer generations.

Pegoraro graduated from the Conservatory of Terni, her birth city, at 16 with the highest grades and honors. She continued her studies with Jörg Demus in Vienna and Hans Leygraf at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin.

Subsequently she perfected her art with Nina Svetlanova at the Manhattan School of Music in New York.

Her skills displayed great technical and interpretive abilities, and she won various international competitions. In Prague, 1989, she won the Best of the Year for Classical Music Award “for her natural talent, great personality, mastery of phrasing and expressive maturity.” The New York Times defined her as “an artist of the highest caliber” following her stunning 1996 debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

Since childhood Pegoraro has performed consistently as a soloist and with orchestras for some of the most important organizations and concert halls around the world. Her tours in the Gulf countries made her the first Italian female pianist to perform classical concerts in Bahrain, Yemen and Oman.

She played for Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, president of Italy; the president of the General Assembly of the United Nations; and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg.

In 2008 she was the only European representative at the Spring Festival at the United Nations in New York, and she performed in the hall of the General Assembly. That same year she debuted at the Musikverein in Vienna and at the 16th edition of Umbria Jazz, with two sold-out concerts.

Along with her concert activity, Pegoraro is a composer. Among her compositions used for films and documentaries is the soundtrack to the video “For whom the Sirens Toll,” produced by the UN Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and presented at the UN on Sept. 11, 2004, in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack.

Her vast discography counts 22 CDs recorded for Decision Products, Nuova Era, Dynamic and Diva. It includes three albums with her original compositions: “A Musical Journey,” “Ithaka” and “La mia Umbria”; numerous recordings of classical composers; new interpretations of Astor Piazzolla’s tangos, which Pegoraro arranges for solo piano; and performances of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona.

In 2005 at her 10th concert at Lincoln Center, she received the “World Peace Award” from the Circolo Culturale Italiano of the UN for her effort in advancing peace in the world.

In 2007, along with other important artists including Maestro Claudio Abbado, Pegoraro received the Sebetia Ter — President of Italy Award for her activity as a performer and composer.

Pegoraro regularly presents master classes at universities and colleges in the United States (Juilliard School, New York; Pennsylvania; New Jersey; Texas; Oklahoma; Arkansas; Oregon; Washington and South Dakota), as well as in Italy, Portugal, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

She is the author of “Ithaka,” a book of poems, and a series of children’s books based on Italian operas.

Pegoraro supports various international organizations such as UNICEF, Amnesty International, World Food Programme and Emergency in their humanitarian efforts. She is Ambassador of the Right to Music and a supporter of the Umbrian tourist campaign throughout the world.

Currently, Pegoraro is performing all 32 Sonatas for piano by Ludwig van Beethoven in Italy, Germany and Austria, the first female Italian pianist to do so. It is an ambitious project of eight concerts, which will see not only the execution of the pieces grouped according to Pegoraro’s personal criteria, but also the establishment of an innovative and stimulating rapport with the audiences.

The ticket price for the entire 2010-2011 TCCA season is $80 — only $10 per concert; and students accompanied by a ticketed adult are admitted free. A limited number of single tickets may be available at the door. The performance will be at the Payson High School auditorium; doors open 30 minutes before show time.

“The association brings world-class performers from around the globe to Payson,” said TCCA president Marilyn Wolfe.

“We also work to bring in artists who are not just exceptional musicians, but those who give the audience a complete musical experience. Many of the performers also enjoy meeting with attendees after the show, answering questions and signing autographs.”

As a special service to the youth of the community, the TCCA works with several of the artists to host special outreach performances just for Payson area students.

The Tonto Community Concert Association is a nonprofit organization that brings high quality concerts to Rim Country at an affordable price. The all-volunteer board also supports other performing arts activities in the region.

For subscriptions or other information, call (928) 474-6115 or (928) 478-4363 or go online to www.tccarim.org.

The remainder of the season:

Celtic Blaze – 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 14

Celtic Blaze! Exciting! New! Fast-paced! A show featuring a contemporary take on Canada’s music and dance heritage told through dance, story telling and (of course) music. The production features the talents of world-champion tap dancer/fiddle/singer Stephanie Cadman. Stephanie has more than 20 years of vast performance experience, including Ottawa Valley step dancing, classical and Celtic fiddling and international tap, jazz and musical theatre performances. She blends her considerable talent with a quintet of piano, guitar, violin/mandolin, bass and percussion to bring audiences, young and old, a thrilling musical experience.

Jim Witter – The Piano Men – 7 p.m., Monday,

March 21

Jim Witter has been entertaining for more than 20 years. Whether it is country music, contemporary Christian, or the music of Billy Joel and Elton John, Jim’s versatility as an artist has allowed him the opportunity to reach out and share his music and his infectious personality with audiences of all ages across Canada and the United States. Supported by bass, guitar, keyboards and drums, you’ll see and hear the soundtrack of your life during this multi-media “rockumentary.” This, along with his rich, powerful voice and ease of manner at the piano, makes him a favorite with theatregoers everywhere. He is the talented creator and performer of The Piano Men. Jim’s music and songwriting has earned him many awards and nominations from the Canadian Country Music Association, the Juno Awards and others.

Paul McDermand, percussionist – 7 p.m., Friday, April 15

Paul McDermand began his musical career as a freelance percussionist in the Chicago area. At the age of 19, he assumed the percussion duties in The Music Man playing in a downtown Chicago theater, starring David Copperfield. In 1981, Paul moved to the Phoenix area, lending his artistry to film scores, commercial jingles, symphonic productions and stage shows of every description. In 1993 he received an invitation from New York to join a revival tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ, Superstar. Upon his return to Scottsdale, Paul began to develop an assortment of instrumental arrangements built around the steel drums and marimba. For 19 continuous years he has proudly performed at the elegant Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa.

Dallas Brass – 7 p.m., Friday, May 13

Since its founding in 1983 by Michael Levine, the Dallas Brass has become one of America’s foremost musical ensembles. The group has established a unique blend of traditional brass instruments with a full complement of drums and percussion, which creates a performing entity of extraordinary range and musical challenges. The Dallas Brass’ repertoire includes classical masterpieces, Dixieland, swing, Broadway, Hollywood and patriotic music. According to Mr. Levine, “A Dallas Brass concert is intended for the entire family. Our ideal audience has a range in ages from 5 to 95. Our goal is to entertain and enrich by playing great music, while showing our audience how much we enjoy what we do.”

Also providing special concerts to students will be Celtic Blaze, Paul McDermand, and Dallas Brass.

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