Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Piano Grand V
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of [title of show]

Courtesy of Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota
Four Steinway eight-foot concert grand pianos lined the stage of the Sarasota Opera House. It must be time for one of the most fun events of the year, Piano Grand, this year the fifth incarnation, Piano Grand V.

Four fine local pianists, 40 nimble fingers did the honors in this recent one-night event. Participating were: Dr. Joseph Holt, our moderator who is a gad about town, director of Choral Artists of Sarasota, and previously artistic director of Artist Series Concerts; Don Bryn, coordinator for theory and keyboards at State College of Florida among other things; Thomas Purviance, currently maintaining a private studio specializing in instruction for adults and senior citizens; and Susan Woodruff Versage, formally holding positions with several opera companies around the U.S. including New York City Opera.

Since the venue was the opera house, music from the world of opera was heavily featured. Opening the program was the overture for The Magic Flute by Mozart, which begins with three dark chords, referred to as the masonic chords, because the opera contains multiple references to Masonry, then the artists launched into a spirited four-part fugue, one for each pianist. The fugue took on a whole new hew as it jumped from piano to piano. A quick rotation of pianists at the pianos brought on one selection from the suite of Slavonic Dances by Antonín Dvořák. Other works in the first half included two waltzes from operas, Eugene Onegin and Faust, and the triumphal scene from Aida.

The second half began with a buildup of multiple hands on a single piano: first Dr. Holt's two hands playing the Prelude in B-Flat Major of Rachmaninoff; next four hands of Susan Woodruff Versage and Thomas Purviance playing the Intermezzo from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana; then Don Bryn, Thomas Purviance and Susan Woodruff Versage, six hands playing the overture to The Barber of Seville by Rossini. Finally, all four artists jockeyed for bench space at the piano for Galop-Marche by Albert Lavignac. It was hilarious to see a hand suddenly push behind its owner to make room for another pianist to execute his or her part, which happened several times.

The other pianos were reset on stage and popular selections were played, including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," a Polka medley of "Beer Barrel Polka" and "Roll Out the Barrel," "Take Five," and "The Stars and Stripes Forever." An encore of "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton brought everyone back in red crowns with Joseph Holt in a robe as well.

Coming soon from Artist Series Concerts: Double Reeds Unite on October 17th and 18th; SooBeen Lee, violin and Dina Vainshtein, piano on November 7; and Emmanuel Ceysson, harp on November 11. Check their website for more details on these and other wonderful programs.

All arts organizations in the Sarasota area have agreed to strict COVID-19 protocols, which include a very recent negative test or proof of vaccination. Masking inside venues is also required.

Piano Grand V was presented October 9, 2021, by Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota at Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota FL. For more information, please visit

Don Bryn
Joseph Holt
Thomas Purviance
Susan Woodruff Versage