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New UI piano faculty member will perform Bach's 'Well-Tempered Clavier'
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Pianist Sergey Schepkin, a new member of the University
of Iowa School of Music faculty who is earning comparison to legendary
Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, will perform Bach's complete "Well-Tempered
Clavier" in two recitals, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 28 and Nov.
18, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
Schepkin play will Book I of the "Well-Tempered Clavier" (WTC)
on Oct. 28 and Book II on Nov. 18. Both performances will be free and open
to the public.
Schepkin recently played the entire WTC for the Brooklyn Friends of
Music. These performances, in April and September of this year, and Schepkin's
earlier recordings of Bach's music have elicited comparisons to Gould,
a highly individualistic pianist whose Bach performances and recordings
ignited the musical world in the 1950s and '60s
Writing in the New York Times, Allan Kozinn reported, "Certainly
there are associations to be made between two thoughtfully individualistic
pianists who regard the modern piano as the perfect medium for Bach's keyboard
music." But Schepkin's recent New York performances of the WTC, Kozinn
concluded, "made it clear that he follows his own interpretative compass."
Schepkin's CD recording of the "Goldberg" Variations and Partitas
also won rave reviews. Bernard Jacobson wrote in Fanfare magazine, "The
arrival of Sergey Schepkin on the recording scene seems to me to have .
. . raised the stakes for every player who essays Bach. So extraordinary
are the achievements of this young man . . . that they set a new standard."
Jacobson concluded, "We are, in other words, face-to-face with music
history in the making."
Widely regarded as one of the greatest musical collections ever composed,
the WTC is also a supreme challenge to any keyboard artist. It consists
of two books, each containing 24 preludes and fugues -- one in each of
the 12 major and 12 minor keys. Each pair links a piece in the style of
a free fantasy -- the prelude -- with a fugue, representing the most strict
form of composition of Bach's time.
In spite of the structural similarities of these prelude-fugue pairs,
each piece has its own character, so that players must not only handle
the technical demands of each key, they must also express the individuality
of the succeeding pieces. Taken together, the two books of the WTC represent
a complete test of a performer's technical and expressive abilities.
The term "well-tempered" of the title refers to the system
of tuning that was required. Well-tempered, or equal-tempered tuning, which
is standard for pianos and other keyboard instruments today, was one of
several possibilities in Bach's lifetime. In equal tempered tuning the
steps of the chromatic scale are exactly equal, so that every key sounds
the same. In contrast, some of the older systems had certain intervals
perfectly in tune but others less so, with the result that the key of C
had a pure intonation, while other keys were less in tune and some were
The term "Clavier" in the title is a neutral term for keyboard,
not implying any instrument over another. Thus, in Bach's time the WTC
could have been played on the harpsichord, the clavichord or the organ,
and only slightly later the early piano could also have been used. Today
it is just as likely to be played on the modern concert grand piano, as
in Schepkin's performances, as on an historical instrument.
Schepkin was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he began playing
the piano at the age of five and later studied with some of Russia's leading
teachers at the
St. Petersburg Conservatory. He won First Prize in the International
Competition for Young Musicians in Prague at the age of 16 and later won
the 1985 All-Russia Competition and the 1988 Queen Sonja Competition in
After coming to the United States Schepkin earned an Artist Diploma
New England Conservatory, where he is currently completing a doctorate.
He received the 1992/93 Presser Foundation Award, the 1993 Harvard Musical
Association Award and the 1996 Samuel Chester Award.
As a soloist Schepkin has appeared with the St. Petersburg (formerly
the Leningrad) Philharmonic, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Norwegian Broadcasting
Symphony and other orchestras. He has performed throughout Russia, Europe
and the United States, including appearances at St. John's College, Oxford
University, in England; the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland; the
Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C; and Jordan Hall in Boston.
Schepkin's performances during the 1996-97 season included a performance
of the "Goldberg" Variations at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard,
appearances at the Monadnock Music Festival in New Hampshire, and two performances
of Rachmaninoff's popular "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" with
the Boston Pops. The 1997-98 season will see appearances in all-Bach recitals
in Dayton, Ohio, and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
In addition to numerous solo performances, Schepkin has performed chamber
music with many leading artists, including Julius Baker, James Buswell,
Walter Trampler and Masuko Ushioda.