Ernest Barretta was born in McKeesport, Pa., and was a winner of the Pittsburgh Concert Society Young Artists Competition and the Pittsburgh Musician’s Club Competition. Among his prizes are the Rudolph Serkin Prize (Oberlin), Strine Award (University of Arts), and Zierler Award (Peabody). He has had extensive performance experience as a soloist and chamber musician in the U.S. and abroad. Among his recent appearances are performances with the National Gallery Orchestra, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony, and the St. Petersburg Symphony. He has recorded as solo artist and with chamber groups on the MRC and Musician’s Showcase labels. He is also active as a composer and conductor in the Baltimore area. He joined the Juilliard Pre-College faculty in 2001 and was formerly a member of the faculty at Peabody Conservatory and Towson University (Maryland). He holds a BM from Oberlin Conservatory, a MM from University of Arts, and a DMA from Peabody Conservatory. He had early studies in piano, organ, and composition in the Pittsburgh area, and later studies with Sanford Margolis, Jonathan Shames, and Yoheved Kaplinsky.
The critics have praised Vladimir Valjarevic for his “caressing legato,” “silk-on-velvet seductiveness” (Fanfare Magazine), “beautiful lyricism and . . . wide variety of tones and colorings, perceptively applied with care” (All Music Guide). He has also been called “an outstandingly responsive partner and superb tonalist” (The Strad). Some of Valjarevic’s solo and chamber performances include appearances at the National Center for the Performing Arts and Tsinghua University in Beijing, Sumida Triphony Chamber Hall in Tokyo, Leiszhalle in Hamburg, Conservatory Hall in Geneva, Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche in Berlin, Concert Hall “Bulgaria” in Sofia, Conservatory of Music in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Manchester Music Festival in Vermont, Southwest Virginia Festival for the Arts, and the French and Swiss Embassies in Washington, D.C. In New York, he has performed at Bargemusic, “Concerts at One” at Trinity Church, “Meet the Virtuoso” at the 92nd Street Y, the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Steinway Hall, Yamaha Salon, The United Nations, and the New School’s Tishman Auditorium, among others. Committed to exploration of the contemporary repertoire, Valjarevic has worked under the direction of various composers and taken part in many premieres. In addition, he performed in the European premiere of Cage’s dance drama “Four Walls” in Berlin and then Hamburg. As a soloist and chamber musician, he won numerous prizes at National Competitions in the former Yugoslavia as well as at the “Citta di Stresa” and “Citta di Marsala” International Competitions for the Young in Italy. He has recorded for Labor Records, Romeo Records, Centaur Records, Blue Griffin, and MSR Classics. Valjarevic has performed extensively as a member of critically acclaimed Kaleidos Duo, with violinist Miroslav Hristov.
Vladimir Valjarevic teaches piano at Mannes School of Music (College and Prep) and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He was the teaching assistant to Pavlina Dokovska for over a decade and still continues close collaboration with her, in teaching and performance. In addition, Valjarevic lectures on piano literature and piano pedagogy at Mannes. In the summers, he serves on the piano and the chamber music faculties at the Beijing International Music Festival and Academy in China, where he is the coordinator of the chamber music program. He also teaches at the Round Top Festival in Texas and International Institute for Young Musicians in Kansas. He has given piano masterclasses and lectures on piano pedagogy in the US and China, including a presentation at the Music China World Fair in Shanghai.
Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valjarevic received his early music education in Tuzla as a student of Planinka Jurisic-Atic. After initial studies at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad and the Conservatory of Music in Belgrade (Serbia), he continued to learn at Mannes, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees with honors (Marian Marcus Wahl Performance Award). His principal teachers were Pavlina Dokovska and Vladimir Feltsman. Valjarevic received a doctoral degree from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, where he was a student of Susan Starr and the recipient of the Saldarini Scholarship Award. Upon graduation, he was presented with the Elizabeth Wyckoff Durham Award for Excellence in Keyboard Studies. After winning a Fulbright Scholarship and Swiss Arts Government Grant, Valjarevic studied at the Geneva Conservatory in Switzerland under the tutelage of Pascal Devoyon. While in Geneva, he received clavichord lessons from Nicole Hostettler at the Centre de Musique Ancienne. He has attended the Kneisel Hall, Round Top, and IKIF festivals in the USA, the Apeldoorn Festival in The Netherlands, the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France, and Prussia Cove in the U.K.
Dr.JOANNE POLK was catapulted into the public eye with her recordings of the complete piano works of American composer Amy Beach (1867–1944) on the Arabesque Recordings label. She celebrated the centennial of Beach’s Piano Concerto by giving the work its London premiere with the English Chamber Orchestra at the Barbican Center, under the baton of Paul Goodwin, and subsequently performed it with the Women’s Philharmonic in San Francisco, under conductor Apo Hsu, in a performance described as “brilliant” by critic Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle. He lauded her performance as “an enormously vital, imaginative reading. Her playing was expansive in the opening movement, brittle and keen in the delightful scherzo. She brought a light touch to the foreshortened slow movement and fearless technical panache to the showy conclusion.”
As a result of her work to date, promoting the music of women composers, she was named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year (2014) in an article titled, “Profiles in Courage.” In September 2014, Ms. Polk’s most recent CD, The Flatterer, solo piano music of French Romantic composer Cécile Chaminade, was released on the Steinway and Sons Label. The CD was a “Pick of the Week” on New York’s classical radio station, WQXR, and debuted at Number 1 on the Classical Billboard Chart.
Her first recording in the Amy Beach series, by the still waters, received the 1998 INDIE award for best solo recording. Empress of Night, the fifth volume of Ms. Polk’s survey of Beach’s piano works, includes the Piano Concerto with the English Chamber Orchestra, Paul Goodwin conducting. The sixth volume, Morning Glories, partners Ms. Polk with the Lark Quartet in three of Amy Beach’s chamber music works. Two all-Beach performances at Merkin Concert Hall, also with the Lark Quartet, were applauded by the New York Times, which praised Polk’s “polished and assured” performances. The American Record Guide reported, “Polk and the Larks played their hearts out. We in the audience shouted ourselves hoarse with gratitude.” Her 2007 CD titled Songs of Amy Beach, recorded with baritone Patrick Mason for Bridge Records, was nominated for a 2007 Grammy Award.
In 2010, Ms. Polk’s two-CD set of solo piano music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Songs for Pianoforte, was released on the Newport Classic label. Her solo CD, Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, was released in 2012 on the Bridge Records label. Completely Clara: Lieder by Clara Wieck Schumann, her debut CD for Arabesque Recording, featuring Metropolitan Opera soprano Korliss Uecker, was selected as a “Best of the Year” recording by the Seattle Times and featured on New York Public Radio’s Performance Today. Ms. Polk’s CD for Albany Records, Callisto, features the solo piano music of Judith Lang Zaimont.
Joanne Polk received her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School, and her Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Manhattan School of Music. She has given master classes at many summer festivals and universities across the country, including Summit Music Festival, New York Summer Music Festival, Montclair State University, Kutztown University, and the University of Minnesota. In August 2012, Ms. Polk was one of four directors who launched Manhattan in the Mountains, a three-week summer music festival in the Catskill Mountains, devoted to chamber music, solo performing, and community engagement. Ms. Polk is an exclusive Steinway artist.
American pianist VICTOR ROSENBAUM has performed widely as soloist and chamber music performer in the United States, Europe, Asia, Israel, and Russia in such prestigious halls as Tully Hall in New York and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia and in such cities as New York, Chicago, Tokyo, St. Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Vienna. He has collaborated with such artists as Leonard Rose, Arnold Steinhardt, Robert Mann, Joseph Silverstein, Malcolm Lowe, and the Brentano and Cleveland String Quartets, among others. Festival appearances have included Tanglewood, the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Kfar Blum and Tel Hai (in Israel), Yellow Barn, Kneisel Hall (Blue Hill), Musicorda, Masters de Pontlevoy (France), the Heifetz Institute, the International Keyboard Institute and Festival in New York, the International Musik Seminar in Vienna, and the Bowdoin International Music Festival.
A faculty member at New England Conservatory since 1967, he is past Chair of both the Piano and Chamber Music departments. Rosenbaum also teaches at the Mannes College of Music in New York and has given master classes at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School, the conservatories of St. Petersburg and Moscow, and such other institutions as the Menuhin School, the Toho School in Tokyo, Beijing Central Conservatory and the Jerusalem Music Center. He was Visiting Professor of Piano at the Eastman School, a guest teacher at Juilliard, and gives lectures, workshops, and master classes for teachers’ groups and schools both in the U. S. and abroad. During his tenure as Director and President of the Longy School of Music from 1985 to 2001, the school established an internationally known degree-granting Conservatory division and greatly expanded its community and performance programs.
A student of Elizabeth Brock and Martin Marks in his hometown of Indianapolis, Rosenbaum later studied with Rosina Lhevinne at the Aspen Festival and with Leonard Shure while earning degrees at Brandeis and Princeton Universities, where he studied theory and composition. His highly praised recording of Schubert is on Bridge Records and a recording of the last three Beethoven sonatas on the same label was named by American Record Guide critic Alan Becker as one of the top ten classical recordings of 2005. Three discs on the Fleur de Son label feature music of Schubert and a Mozart.
DAN FRANKLIN SMITH is a resident of New York City and peforms at concert venues throughout the US. He made his European recital debut in 1997 in Sweden. The following year he made his European orchestral debut in Stockholm at Sofia Kyrkan and was later featured on Swedish TV. A debut recording with the Gävle Symfoniorkester (Kurt Atterberg’s Piano Concerto) soon followed a recording with the Stuttgart Philharmonic (two of Hans Huber’s Piano Concerti). These premiere recordings received outstanding reviews and are broadcast on dozens of classical stations throughout the US.
As Music Director and recital soloist with the international festival, Elysium: Between Two Continents from 2005-2013, he has been showcased in performances of the music of Viktor Ullmann here and in Europe, recently in Wroclaw, Bratislava, Lisbon and Berlin and Vancouver. Major German newspapers praise his work for “stirring emotionalism, precision with keen intensity…”
As collaborative pianist and vocal accompanist and coach he has been in demand for his expertise for over 30 years, performing at venues such as The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Cleveland Museum’s Distinguished Artist Series, and Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.
He is a member of the American Matthay Association for Piano, and frequently performs at their yearly conferences.
Zhen Chen has emerged as a soloist and chamber music artist on important stages in USAand China, such as Stern Auditorium, Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall of Lincoln Center, LeFrak Concert Hall in New York, China National Center for Performing Arts, and Tianjin Recital Hall. From 2008 to 2010, he was the featured solo pianist with China Xinhua Philharmonic Orchestra and performed concert tour around China. Zhen won first prize of Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition in 2009, New York; second Prize at Hong Kong-Asia Piano Open Competition in 2007; and second Prize at China-US Heintzman Cup Youth Piano Competition in 2005. Because of his highly acclaimed music talent, he has been invited as a guest artist to play recitals at the Alexander & Buono International Annual Galas in 2011 and 2012 at Carnegie Hall, New York.
After finishing Master of Music program in classical piano performance at Manhattan School of Music, Zhen was accepted to Master of Music program in accompanying at Manhattan School of Music with full scholarship and kept on his further study on chamber music. He was invited as a collaborative pianist to Castleman Quartet Program at College of Music, University of Colorado Boulder in 2012 and performed violin and piano duo recitals with violinist Charles Castleman. In 2012, Zhen initiated the Jade Duo with acclaimed Chinese violinist Shuai Shi in New York. The Jade Duo were coached by violinist Pinchas Zukerman, Dr. Heasook Rhee and Peter Winograd of the American Quartet, and won first prize at 2013 Artur Balsam Competition for Duos in New York, USA and second prize at 2013 J.C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition in Connecticut, USA. The exceptional collaborative performance brought them recording contract with U.S. label MSR Classics. Debut CD FAURÉ, SCHUMANN, BARTÓK Sonatas for Violin and Piano was released in October 2014 in USA. The CD has been highly praised by critics with publications such as Fanfare, American Record Guide, Audiophile Audition and ClassicalNet.
As the crystallization of his academic and artistic training in chamber music, he translated the book by Dr. Heasook Rhee: The Art of Instrumental Accompanying (published by Carl Fisher, New York) into Chinese, and the Chinese version has been published by the Central Conservatory of Music Press, the leading classical music publishing house in China . To recognize Zhen’s contribution to the filed of chamber music, Manhattan School of Music granted him Helen Cohen Award, an award for a pianist who has done outstanding work in chamber music in 2014.
Besides his devotion to classical music, Zhen is also an avid advocator for contemporary music. In 2013, Zhen worked with Jeffery Milarsky, a leading conductor of contemporary music and conducting faculty at Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, and performed Ballet mècanique by American composer George Antheil (1900-1959) at Borden Auditorium of Manhattan School of Music. In 2014, he was invited as a guest artist to perform Suite for Violin and Piano composed by American composer Edward Smaldone, Director of Aaron Copland School of Music of Queens College in the Concert Celebrating 40 Years at Queens College, and shared the stage with the prominent artists, such as clarinetist Charles Niedich and violinist Daniel Phillips.Zhen studied in classes of Sylvia Rosenberg, Robert McDonald, Frank Peter, Zimmermann, David Geber, and Miriam Fried. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree in piano performance at Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and earned his Master’s Degree in piano performance under Dr. Arkady Aronov and Master’s Degree in instrumental accompanying and chamber music with Dr. Heasook Rhee at Manhattan School of Music. Zhen currently works at Manhattan School of Music as a Staff Pianist, and he also holds the position of the Music Director of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church (established 1884) in Jersey City, New Jersey.