Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Sound & Artistry: Market Square Concerts pulls the string on a new season.

“One piano, two pianists, four hands.”

That’s how Artistic Director Peter Sirotin describes Market Square Concerts’ first event of the 2017-18 season, which kicks off this month.

The diverse program from the Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo features everything from works by Schubert, Chopin and Mendelssohn to the symphonic grandeur of Brahms and Stravinsky to George Gershwin’s “An American In Paris” (the group’s own arrangement, by the way).

“In some ways, hearing ‘An American in Paris’ performed by two pianists sharing one piano may give listeners a glimpse into the composer’s original ideas and intentions, as well as offer familiar melodies in a new world of timbres,” Sirotin said.

He’s also looking forward to the pair’s transcription of music from the Russian ballet “Anyuta” by composer Valery Gavrilin, which is based on a short story by Chekhov about marriage and class in imperial Russia.

“Gavrilin has created a whimsical score that captures the spirit of Chekhov’s satire beautifully,” Sirotin said.

He said that he didn’t have to think twice about including the Varshavski-Shapiro Duo in Market Square Concerts’ new season. He’d heard the Astral National Auditions winner at the Chamber Music America conference in New York last January, and, he said, their sound and artistry “blew me away.”

So, Sirotin is clearly enthusiastic about the premiere program. But he’s equally excited about the other concerts in the coming season.

One takes place in November, featuring the Amernet String Quartet, which will offer a special program to commemorate the tragic events of the 1917 Russian Revolution. One selection will be String Quartet No. 11 by Shostakovich. Another will be the String Quartet No. 2 by Tchaikovsky, which Sirotin lists as one of his own favorite works of Russian romanticism.

“It is filled with beautiful melodies, elegant dance rhythms and spirit of poetry,” he said. “The Shostakovich piece is, in my mind, a perfect work reflecting on the tumultuous first half of the 20th century from the vantage point of the hopeful 1960s.”

The January concert is another that Sirotin describes as special, as it will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Cleveland Quartet Award. As part of this award, Market Square Concerts, along with only eight presenters nationwide, including Carnegie Hall, offers a debut opportunity every two years to a promising young string quartet. Every winner in the last two decades has gone on to develop a major career, and some have even won Grammy Awards. Two former winners, the Jasper and Jupiter String Quartets, will share the stage at Market Square Presbyterian Church for a performance of the magical and exuberant Mendelssohn Octet.

“Mendelssohn composed this piece at the age of 16, which is astonishing, and I doubt anyone would argue with me if I said that it belongs in the list of 10-best chamber music works of all time,” Sirotin said. “That piece is also particularly special to me because I had a privilege of performing it in school with one of my mentors, Earl Carlyss, a former violinist of the Juilliard Quartet.”

As in previous seasons, Market Square Concerts will collaborate with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra and Messiah College on an artistic residency, this time featuring pianist Mark Markham. He will offer the community two performances of Ravel’s magical Piano Concerto with the symphony, vocal and piano master classes at Messiah College and a recital at Whitaker Center featuring Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, along with works by Scriabin, Rachmaninoff and Debussy.

“The reason for two master classes is Mark’s unique dual career as a concert pianist and one of the most respected vocal accompanists/coaches in the world,” Sirotin said. “Having spent two decades as a pianist of the legendary soprano Jessye Norman, Mark has tremendous experience and insight, which he will share with singers and pianists in the two master classes at Messiah College.”

Sirotin doesn’t have a magic formula for how he puts a musical season together. Sometimes, it has to do with the relevance of a piece to a historical anniversary. Other times, it’s just pure luck when he’s able to book a promising young talent right before a Carnegie Hall debut. But what is consistent is across-the-board artistic excellence.

“My aim is always to offer the right balance between familiar masterpieces, which seem to nourish music-lovers year after year, and music and performances which stimulate, as well as expand, a listener’s musical reference,” he said.

Market Square Concerts debuts its 2017-18 season on Sept. 24. For more information, visit

The Season at Market Square Concerts

Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo

Market Square Presbyterian Church

Sept. 24, 4 p.m.


Amernet String Quartet

Market Square Presbyterian Church

Nov. 11, 8 p.m.


Jasper and Jupiter String Quartets

Market Square Presbyterian Church

Jan. 21, 4 p.m.


Escher String Quartet

Temple Ohev Sholom

Feb. 25, 4 p.m.


Mark Markham

Whitaker Center

March 21, 8 p.m.


Calidore String Quartet

Market Square Presbyterian Church

April 28, 8 p.m.


Author: Lori M. Myers


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