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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 virtually unusable.

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 Olso, Norway.

After coming to the United States Schepkin earned an Artist Diploma at the

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.

10/20/97