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Pianist Ken Bichel Plays Encores and Showpieces at Bellas Artes

Ken Bichel

By Fredric Dannen

I once heard a classical concertgoer sniff that a program consisting entirely of encores was “no more nourishing than a box of chocolates.” It is not a good argument.

There are times when you want to hear a Mahler symphony, a late Beethoven quartet, or a 40-minute free jazz composition. And there are also times when you want the box of chocolates.

Ken Bichel, one of the most admired pianists ever to live in San Miguel, is giving a solo concert at the Bellas Artes on Thursday, March 22, and every work on the program is a crowd-pleasing showpiece, from his virtuosic arrangements of Beatles songs, to a Chopin prelude infused with bossa nova, to his finger-twisting composition “Whitewater,” which was commissioned by the Cervantino festival.

Bichel, a luminary of the New York recording and performing scene, counts a lot of famous musicians among his fans, including jazz great Bill Charlap, singer Judy Collins—who calls Bichel “a pianist of the highest order”—and singer/actor Mandy Patinkin, who says of Bichel, “His music is glorious!”

A Juilliard-trained classical pianist who played the Liszt E-flat piano concerto with a symphony orchestra as a teenager, Bichel went on to perform at Lincoln Center, La Scala, and the American Music Festival in Geneva. An Emmy-winning composer, Bichel collaborated with artists such as Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Plácido Domingo, and Peggy Lee and had a role in the hit Broadway musical I Love My Wife, for which he won a Drama Desk Award. Bichel also made history as an early champion of the Moog synthesizer, on which he performed at Carnegie Hall in the 1970s.

But Bichel feels most at home on the grand piano, and every year in the past three, he has participated in the Steinway Series, a quasi-monthly series of concerts at the Bellas Artes, which possesses a high-quality, nine-foot Steinway concert grand.

“Though San Miguel is a town with so much expat wealth,” Bichel says, “the Bellas Artes has the one decent piano in the one public concert venue. Even though I’m a synthesizer pioneer, my musical life began with the piano, and the piano remains my primary focus—an orchestra under your fingers.”

All Steinway Series concerts benefit Libros para Todos, an outreach program to promote reading, with a focus on children and young adults. (Visit makingreaders.org or creandolectores.org, for more information.)

Tickets for “Ken Bichel Plays Encores and Showpieces” are 300 pesos (350 at the door starting an hour before the performance), and can be purchased at Solutions (Recreo 11) or online at steinwayseries.com.

 

Music

“Ken Bichel Plays Encores and Showpieces”

Ken Bichel, piano

Thu, Mar 22, 7pm

Miguel Malo Auditórium

Bellas Artes, Hernández Macías 75

Tickets:

300 pesos advance; 350 at the door

Sale at: Solutions, Recreo 11

steinwayseries.com

 

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