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Concert Pianist Peter Basquin to Perform Recital in Berkeley Springs
Berkeley Springs, WV - Concert pianist Peter Basquin returns to Berkeley Springs Sunday May 27, for the Church on the Hill Concert Series. He performs the works of Beethoven, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and more in a Moonlight and Serenades theme at 4 p.m. in Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church.
This is his fourth year playing at the church. Basquin is known to the local area for his many years’ performing as artist-in-residence at Coolfont Resort’s Manor House summer concerts. When Coolfont closed, its Yamaha grand piano found a new home in the Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church. Basquin followed to continue playing annually for the community.
Berkeley Springs Presbyterian’s Rev. Robert Osborne said, “We have been pleased to maintain the tradition of musical performance that had graced the community. We are delighted to host Peter Basquin again in concert: first for his wonderful talent and second, for his gracious personality. Peter has proven to be a generous and approachable artist. He relates well to his audiences, works to accommodate schedules and occasional requests, and is a pleasure with whom to work. It is wonderful that we can host an internationally acclaimed musician in our community.”
Basquin’s Sunday program in Berkeley Springs will feature Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata in its entirety, he said. “I will also perform Debussy’s preludes La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune,’ ‘La Serenade Interrompue,’’ and L’Isle joyeuse,’” he said in a phone interview.
Also planned are favorites on the theme of moonlight and serenades by Rachmaninoff, Scarlatti, and Liszt’s transcriptions of romantic songs by Schubert and Verdi. He said he may even sneak in some Chopin.
“I like Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and Chopin,” said Basquin. “I’ve played a lot of Chopin.”
He said the theme of “moonlight and serenades” was actually the result of several requests he play the “Moonlight Sonata” of Beethoven.
He said, “I was already planning to include the Liszt arrangements of Serenades by Schubert and Schumann, so the title seemed to suit most of the works on the program and to provide a theme. The Debussy pieces include a moonlit piece and a slightly humorous ‘Interrupted Serenade.’ The pieces by Rachmaninoff and Scarlatti are less obviously serenades, but at least in part convey similar moods.”
Osborne said the church’s worship space offers an ideal space for concerts and recitals. “It is small enough to provide a sense of intimacy, but has enough space to have great acoustics.”
Basquin said he appreciated the opportunity to play twice a year at Coolfont, because it induced him to work on new pieces and learn a variety of music for his programs. Now, he likes playing at the church.
“I think the piano sounds even better in the church than it did in the Coolfont Manor house,” he said. “And it attracts a wider audience. I truly enjoy the concerts, and the audience is wonderful.”
Osborne said newcomers would be impressed. “It’s a great opportunity for a piano student to watch and hear this exceptional musician. We always welcome the community to the concerts.”
Basquin became interested in piano very young. “My mother was not a professional but could play,” he said. “I watched and imitated her.”
She arranged for her son’s lessons at age four, and he never stopped. He said the most critical event in his career came when at a local arts college in Minnesota. He said he had a good teacher who understood how to approach music in a way the young Basquin could understand.
“I didn’t realize it but he was preparing me to compete in an annual competition of the upper Midwest. There was the WAMSO-Women’s Association of Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. I was awarded a scholarship that enabled me to go to graduate school at Manhattan School of Music.”
He said that gave him the idea he could pursue his dream. His next big break was playing at the Montreal International Piano competition. He then played with Montreal and Quebec symphonies.
Since, Basquin has performed throughout the country, including Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall. Orchestras he’s performed with are Boston Symphony, American Symphony, and Minnesota Orchestra. He tours with the Aeolian Chamber Players and was a featured artist at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. In summer, he serves as faculty and artist at Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick Maine.
He was a professor of piano at Hunter College-City University of New York (CUNY) for over thirty years. He has an honorary doctorate and lifetime achievement award from Carleton College.
Now retired, he still performs and is professor emeritus at Hunter and at the CUNY Graduate Center. He said his summers are busy at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and in winter he still teaches. He’s happy with his career.
“I may not be as famous as Yo-Yo Ma, but I’ve enjoyed teaching young people and performing,” Basquin said.
Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church is located in town at 97 S. Mercer St. Admission is free, but donations are accepted in order to maintain a concert schedule.