The Sembrich
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Simon Mulligan at The Sembrich. Photo credit: YM Photography

Piano Virtuoso Christopher Johnson Returns to The Sembrich

Piano Virtuoso Christopher Johnson Returns to The Sembrich

—Set to perform works of Brahms, Ravel, Elgar and Barber—


BOLTON LANDING, NY — The Sembrich summer theme A WORLD IN HARMONY comes to the fore on Saturday, August 18th at 7:30 pm with an Armistice commemorative recital by piano virtuoso Christopher Johnson, featuring music from England, France and Germany, the three signatory nations of the treaty that brought World War I to a close. Tickets are $50.  Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling (518) 644-2431.

Germany is represented on the program by two works of Johannes Brahms, Rhapsody Op. 79, No. 2 in G Minor (a work described by pianist Johnson as “hauntingly bellicose”) and Intermezzo Op. 118, No. 2 in A Major (which he calls “beautifully tranquil.”)

The centerpiece of the program is a piano suite by French composer Maurice Ravel entitled Le tombeau de Couperin, composed between 1914 and 1917.  Six movements comprise the work, patterned after those of a traditional Baroque suite, with each movement dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer who died fighting during the war.  The opus is a tour de force for piano and virtuoso Christopher Johnson has taken on the challenge of learning the work specifically for this August 18th recital.

“I’m absolutely loving it — even more than I thought I would!” says Johnson, taking a break from his intensive preparation of the piece.  “I am beyond impressed with the piano writing in each movement.  Of all the works I’ve played, this work — the whole set — is something new and different in a very positive way.”

The second half of the program begins with two works by the quintessentially English composer Sir Edward Elgar, Love’s Greeting, Op. 12 (“a beautiful romantic gem,” says Johnson, “ideal for the salon setting of the Sembrich studio”) and Pomp and Circumstance March, Op. 39, No. 1.

The United States joined the war effort on April 6, 1917 and is represented on the program by two works of Samuel Barber, Pas de deux and Hesitation-Tango.  Johnson closes out the commemorative concert with his own Rhapsody on America the Beautiful and the Horowitz virtuosic arrangement of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, a piece which he performed to great acclaim at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. at the 2001 Presidential All-Star Gala for President George W. Bush.

A graduate of both the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music, Johnson has been teaching privately in New York City for the past 14 years, hosting annual student recitals exclusively at Steinway Hall.  He also served on the piano faculty of the United Nations International School.

This upcoming recital marks Johnson’s twelfth appearance at the Sembrich studio.