Peter Serkin celebrates 70th birthday with PCMS show at Kimmel

A legendary pianist who got his start in Philadelphia before going on to worldwide fame is coming home, thanks to The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

For six decades, pianist Peter Serkin has been taking the world by storm.

"He can do just about anything on stage. He has a huge career," enthuses Miles Cohen, Artistic Director of The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, who points out that Serkin's musical roots run deep. "His father was a very famous pianist, Rudolph Serkin. Rudolph Serkin was not only this world-renowned performer, but he also happened to be the president of The Curtis Institute of Music."

During his father's tenure as President of The Curtis Institute, Serkin was a student there.

"So Philadelphia has a close connection to Peter," Cohen points out.

In celebration of his 70th birthday, The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (PCMS) invited Serkin to perform a solo concert.

While the pianist has leaned more towards contemporary sounds in the last quarter century, for this concert, Cohen says. Serkin is paying tribute to the music that marked the start of his storied career, "He's performing Mozart; he's performing Bach."

The concert starts with Mozart's Adagio, written just as he was finishing up his well-known opera Don Giovanni. Cohen explains, "It's a very slow, contemplative, kind of mournful work. It's got a sad nature to it."

Serkin will then brighten the mood with one of Mozart's final Sonatas.

"Everything that you think about when you think about classical music," Cohen says. "You can hear that in this piece. There's a sunny quality from the beginning to the end.

The finale is one of Bach's most challenging works and a Serkin signature. He performed the piece on his debut solo recording when he was just 18 years old.

"The Bach Goldberg Variations," Cohen says. "It's extremely difficult to play. It requires a high level of skill, and it's not a piece that a lot of pianist venture into until they really feel that they're ready."

Serkin's performance is one night only, in the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater.

"There is this great opportunity to hear a legend in Peter Serkin, in a very intimate setting," Cohen says. "Every performer and ensemble that comes through the Chamber Music Society series always remarks how one of their favorite places to play in the country is in Perelman Theater."

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society: Peter Serkin
Friday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Perelman Theater
300 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
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