Portland Piano International / SOLO presents three public hour-long performances by Rising Star pianist Zhenni Li. In addition to other pieces, Zhenni’s program includes a new work by Oregon composer Renée Favand-See, entitled Growing, a piece inspired by Benjamin Britten’s The trees they grow so high. Renée’s piece was composed through the Portland Piano International / SOLO Commissioning Project and performed in cooperation with its already-established Rising Stars program. The composer will be present at most of the performances.
“It is bittersweet to realize that our Commissioning Project is coming to an end with the premiere of the twelfth new work for solo piano. We’re pleased that we can pair up local composer Renée Favand-See with a terrific young female pianist named Zhenni Li,” explains Ellen Bergstone Wasil, executive director. “Renée’s piece, titled Growing, is inspired by Benjamin Britten’s setting of The trees they grow so high. We’re looking forward to hearing the new piece and the rest of the program that Zhenni will perform!”
“While I have long loved Britten’s songs for their graceful lyricism, focused expressivity, and fluid harmonic language guided by musical line and poetic phrasing, I also resonate with the story and the musical shape of The trees they grow so high on a personal level,” remarks Ms. Favand-See. “The young woman in this song recounts her tragic experience of being wed to and bearing the child of a young man who dies in battle at the age of eighteen, in the summer of his life. While these particular details do not apply to my life story, I do know loss at a moment of fullest bloom. I gave birth to my son Owen, felt myself born as mother, felt my heart break open with deepest joy as I welcomed my son into this world. Only one brief and precious week later, my son died from of a traumatic brain injury sustained either shortly before or during labor.”
She adds, “Making homage to Britten also gives a tender nod to my father, who introduced me to Britten and who passed away when I was nineteen, just a year older than the boy in this song. It will be dedicated those who die too young, and to we who hold their light in our hearts each day.”
Zhenni’s full program is the following:
Beethoven: 32 Variations in C minor, Wo0 80
Bortkiewicz: Ein brief, Op. 35; Nocturne (Diana), Op. 24 No.1; Lyrica Nova, Op. 59 No. 3; Preludes, Op. 33 No. 8
Britten: The trees they grow so high
Renée Favand-See: Growing (WORLD PREMIERE)
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Zhenni’s scheduled appearances include:
Thursday, December 6
3-3:45pm: Outreach Performance at Holladay Park Plaza, 1300 NE 16th Ave, Portland, OR 97232
Friday, December 7
7:30pm: One-Hour Recital at St. Paul's Episcopal, 1444 Liberty Street SE, Salem, OR 97302
Saturday, December 8
10am-noon: Master Class at the University of Portland, 5000 N Willamette Blvd, Portland OR 97205
3pm: One-Hour Recital at Portland Piano Company, 8700 NE Columbia Blvd, Portland, OR 97220
All performances are free.
The two-year Commissioning Project is funded through a Creative Heights Grant from The Oregon Community Foundation. Portland Piano International was selected as one of only 13 organizations statewide for the first round of these new grants, which were established through the Fred W. Fields Fund. Portland Piano International thanks the Herbert A. Templeton Foundation, ESCO Foundation for helping make the Rising Star series possible.
About Zhenni Li
Zhenni Li’s riveting personality and passionate performances have brought audiences to their feet around the world. Hailed as “a magnetic pianist--with fire and poetry“ by music critic David Dubal and for her "...big, gorgeous tone and a mesmerizing touch" by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms. Li has performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia in such notable venues as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Merkin Concert Hall and WQXR’s Greene Space in New York, the Kimmel Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, the California Theater in San Jose, the Grieghallen in Norway and the National Concert Hall in Tianjin, China.
Ms. Li has garnered worldwide recognition, most recently as the winner of the 2017 New York Concert Artists Worldwide Debut Audition, Astral Artist’s 2016 National Auditions, the Grieg International Competition in Norway, and the unanimous 1st Prize at the Concours Musical de France. She is also a top prizewinner of the International Russian Piano Competition, Midwest International Piano Competition, the Kosciusko Chopin Piano Competition and The Heida Hermanns International Piano Competition. Her performances have been broadcast internationally on New York’s WQXR, Canada National CBC Radio, Norwegian National Radio: NPK P2/NPK Klassisk, Texas Public Radio, Chicago’s WFMT Public Radio, Iowa Public Radio, Philadelphia’s WWFM The Classical Network and WRTI, and Hunan Daily in China.
About Renée Favand-See
Renée Favand-See is a composer and soprano who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her works explore the music of words, of natural and made environments, of emotions and spiritual questions. These investigations yield vocal music of all stripes, Musique Concrète-esque electronic pieces, lyrically driven instrumental music, and counterpoint or the relationships that unfold in the spaces between voices.
Renée recently completed a new cycle of songs based on scientific texts for mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn which was premiered at HERE Arts Center in New York City in 2016. Among her commissions are works for Resonance Ensemble, Five Boroughs Music Festival, Lucy Shelton and Eighth Blackbird, Sequitur, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, American Opera Projects, Wet Ink Ensemble, Outer Voices Festival, coloratura soprano Alissa Rose and cellist Ha-Yang Kim. Other groups who have performed her music include The Julians; Friends of Rain; Electrogals; Del Sol String Quartet; Peabody Trio; and many singers, including Jesse Blumberg, Blythe Gaissert, Anna Haagenson, Jennifer Aylmer, Kristin Norderval, and William Ferguson. Renée is a member of Cascadia Composers and its offshoot of women, Crazy Jane Composers.
Renée has written chamber, orchestral, choral and electronic pieces, as well as music for video and dance, including collaborations with Ten Tiny Dances in Portland, TRIP Dance Theatre in Los Angeles, Group Motion in Philadelphia and video artist Christine Sciulli in New York City.
Her music has been heard at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, Joe's Pub Public, American Opera Projects at South Oxford Space, Opera Index, Outer Voices, and HERE in New York City; Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lincoln Hall and First Presbyterian in Portland; WGBH Radio Boston and Pickman Concert Hall in Cambridge; The Longy School of Music in Paris; New Music New Haven, Kilbourn Concert Series in Rochester; First and Franklin Street Concert Series in Baltimore; and Settlement Music School in Philadelphia.
Renée’s works are featured on Five Borough’s “Five Borough Songbook” on GPR Records; Sequitur's "To Have and to Hold" available on Koch, and on Prism Quartet’s “Dedication” on Innova. This year, her choral work Only in falling will be recorded and released by Resonance Ensemble. She was a recording artist for Cappella Romana’s world premiere recording of the Maximilian Steinberg’s Passion Week.
Her honors include a grant from the American Music Center for her oratorio Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes., a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Bearns Prize from Columbia University.
As a singer, Renée enjoys performing works by living composers; singing with Third Angle, Resonance Ensemble, Cappella Romana, Oregon Catholic Press, Crazy Jane Composers and Cascadia Composers; and studying voice with the wonderful and wise Nancy Olson-Chatalas.
She holds B.M. and M.M. degrees in composition from the Eastman and Yale Schools of Music, respectively. She studied composition with Joseph Schwantner, Samuel Adler, Warren Benson and David Liptak at Eastman, and then with Mathias Spahlinger at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg, and with Martin Bresnick, David Lang and Jacob Druckman at the Yale School of Music. Her earliest compositional studies began at age twelve at The Walden School, a summer program for young musicians in Dublin, New Hampshire.
Renée currently teaches music composition and theory at Portland State University, Lewis & Clark College and Creative Musicians Retreat in New England.