Igor Lipinski preview: Magician at the Piano

Igor Lipinski performs Friday at Polish Hall. Photo:  By Jiyang Chen Photography

Igor Lipinski performs Friday at Polish Hall. Photo: Jiyang Chen Photography

by JANA HANCHETT

In his Northwest debut on Friday, pianist Igor Lipinski will bring with him a love of Polish composers, of theater and magic — and of surprises. “I don’t reveal the repertoire until the night of the concert,” he says. “I value the element of surprise. I’m always introducing pieces from the stage in fashion of Franz Liszt’s first piano recitals, especially his 1839 Monologues Pianistique in Rome.”

While audience members at Portland’s Polish Hall will be kept guessing what particular pieces by Chopin, Paderewski, Stojowski, Leschetizky, Godowsky, and Friedman he will play next, Lipinski indicates that all of them were composed for a salon-type atmosphere in which people gathered for drinks, conversation, and pleasantries.

“As musicians we sometimes forget about the most important aspect of performing in front of people: making a meaningful, lasting connection with the audience, creating a sense of wonder,” Lipinski explains. “Leonard Bernstein said that the best way to ‘know’ a thing is in the context of another discipline. My piano career, my background in theatre, and my lifetime interest in magic performance are all connected. I’m inspired by the sheer human interaction that the world of theatre provides, hence — I hope — this makes my own performances more accessible and breaks that fourth wall of superficiality so often attached to the piano recital format of recent years.”

The evening would not be complete without some actual Lipinski magic. Along with majoring in piano performance at New York’s Eastman School of Music, Lipinski also enrolled in an innovative, one-of-a-kind honors program that culminated in a senior project: incorporating magic into a classical music concert.

“I wanted to tell a story hidden behind a piece of music with a visual aspect of an interactive magic,” he recalls. “It does sound crazy, I agree. Over two years, I participated in a series of independent studies with a theatre director, I researched performance techniques of the 19th century artists, conceived the script for the 75-minute concert and premiered it to the sold-out house. The DVD of the performance was forwarded to Teller (of the brilliant Las Vegas magician duo Penn & Teller) by my friend Hal Weller, conductor emeritus of Las Vegas Philharmonic. Teller was kind enough to call me and invite me to Las Vegas. It turned out that he loves Bach, so we worked together on a routine that involves a Bach fugue, a deck of cards and a random spectator from the audience. It won the 2011 WQXR Classical Comedy Contest at Caroline’s on Broadway. You may even see it on Friday at the Polish Hall.” But you never know; Lipinski likes surprises.

Igor Lipinski performs Friday, March 14 at 7:30pm at Polish Hall 3832 N. Interstate, Portland. Tickets available at the door or online. Senior, Student $15 ($16.52 w/service fee), General $20 ($21.69 w/service fee),  $10 for PLBA members.

Jana Hanchett is a Portland pianist, teacher and writer.

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