Performance Friday, April 20, 2012 | 7:30 PM

Grace Francis

Weill Recital Hall
British pianist Grace Francis is one of the best-kept secrets in the classical-piano world. Hailed for her brilliant performance by seasoned pianists Mitsuko Uchida and Stephen Hough, she was introduced to an international audience by legend Vladimir Ashkenazy. With unbounded virtuosity, Francis presents some of the most ambitious pieces of the 19th and 20th centuries for her Carnegie Hall debut, including Mussorgsky’s epic Pictures at an Exhibition and Brahms’s timeless Variations on a Theme by Paganini.


  • Grace Francis, Piano
    New York Recital Debut


  • BRAHMS Book II from Variations on a Theme by Paganini in A Minor, Op. 35
  • MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition
  • PROKOFIEV Selections from Visions fugitives, Op. 22
  • LISZT Vallée d'Obermann
  • LISZT Sposalizio
  • LISZT Mephisto Waltz No. 1



    Grace Francis

    Grace Francis was born in East London and attended the Yehudi Menuhin School, where she studied with Peter Norris and Louis Kentner. At the Royal College of Music, Ms. Francis studied with Irina Zaritskaya and was awarded the Chappell Gold Medal, the highest award for a pianist. She continued her studies with a Wingate Scholarship in the UK, also receiving the Hattori Foundation Award and winning the Negrada Piano House Award in Zagreb.

    Ms. Francis has given many concerts in the UK, including at major London venues such as Wigmore Hall, St John's, Smith Square, the Barbican, and the Purcell Room of the South Bank Centre. Following the success of her Brahms/Liszt recording on the Quartz label, she performed the Grieg Piano Concerto in Lugano with the European Union Youth Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

    Ms. Francis's recent recitals included a performance at the Bath Mozartfest, which was recorded live and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She also performed at a number of literary festivals during last year's Liszt bicentenary year together with John Spurling, author of A Book of Liszts. She has been broadcast several other times on BBC Radio 3, performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and in a recital of works by Chopin, Field, and Novak.

    Ms. Francis's repertoire is wide-ranging and varied (including Haydn, Beethoven, Carl Vine, and Colin McPhee), but she is happiest with the Romantic composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    More Info


Brahms Variations on a Theme by Paganini Book 2 (Non troppo presto)
Grace Francis, Piano

At a Glance

JOHANNES BRAHMS  Book II from Variations on a Theme by Paganini in A Minor, Op. 35

Written when the composer was in his late 20s, the Paganini Variations were designed to show off Brahms's pianistic prowess to the sophisticated Viennese public. The 28 variations (14 in each of two books) cover the gamut of keyboard techniques, from delicate pizzicato effects to two-fisted octaves in contrary motion. Though no fan of Liszt, Brahms had clearly taken the great pianist's "transcendent" virtuosity to heart.

MODEST MUSSORGSKY  Pictures at an Exhibition

Mussorgsky's highly personal and innovative voice was long obscured by well-meaning editors and orchestrators who considered his unconventional harmonies and orchestrations crude. Pictures at an Exhibition and other masterpieces can now be heard in their original state, enabling us to see Mussorgsky not just as a representative Russian nationalist, but as an authentic genius who was decades ahead of his time.  

SERGEI PROKOFIEV  Selections from Visions fugitives, Op. 22

Prokofiev, known for his precision and refinement at the keyboard, wrote some of the 20th century's most brilliant and percussive keyboard music. But he also had a gentler and more playful side, as reflected in this suite of charmingly epigrammatic miniatures. Composed in Russia on the eve of the Revolution, the Visions fugitives became so popular with audiences in the West that Prokofiev played them as encores on his recitals.

FRANZ LISZT  Vallée d'Obermann; Sposalizio; Mephisto Waltz No. 1

A legendary virtuoso and a seminal figure in the 19th-century Romantic movement, Liszt was also a musical visionary who prefigured many of the major compositional developments of the 20th century. His vast catalogue includes some 1,000 works in many genres, but he is best known for his dazzlingly virtuosic and often richly poetic piano music, as represented by the three pieces that close tonight's program.


Program Notes
This concert is made possible, in part, by the A.L. and Jennie L. Luria Foundation.
The Distinctive Debuts series is made possible, in part, by an endowment fund for the presentation of young artists generously provided by The Lizabeth and Frank Newman Charitable Foundation.

Additional endowment support for international outreach has been provided by the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation.
This performance is part of Distinctive Debuts.

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