By Iride Aparicio

L-R in a duet concert Lucille Chung and Alessio Bax
Photos Courtesy: The Artists

SAN JOSÉ, CA--   On  Saturday  January 11, STEINWAY SOCIETY  The Bay Area  will continue its 25th year  "PIANO CONCERTS  season  2019-2020 with  a four-hands  piano concert by husband and wife ALLESSIO BAX and LUCILLE CHUNG at the Hammer Theatre in this city.

In a telephone interview with both pianists, before their arrival in Silicon Valley,  LUCILLE, who has never visited San José before, tells us that she is looking forward to coming to our city and  introduce  herself to a new  audience and ALESSIO that  he is excited to come back to San José, where he gave a  solo piano concert before.

We continue  our interview asking  ALESSIO  to tell our  readers something about the HAMAMATSU piano competition in Japan, in  l997, where playing a four-hand piano piece with LUCILLE (now his wife) for the first time, they fell in love.

C.W.B.  What is the HAMAMATSU International Piano  Competition?

ALESSIO: " It is one of the major competitions in the world. It happened in Japan and it is opened to all young pianists up to 28 years old. Because of its importance, about 400 people compete, but only about 75 or 80 of those competing are invited to go to Japan. Those selected, play four different rounds and they cut down to probably six or eight winners."

He does not tell us that he was the winner.

C.W.B. I understand that you two met and fell in love playing together during competing in that competition. Am I correct?

ALESSIO: "That's correct.

C.W.B.  How did you start  playing together?  Were you asked to play together?  

LUCILLE:  "Actually, yes. In Canada,  there is a festival called the OTTAWA CHAMBER MUSIC  FESTIVAL  and its  organizers decided that we should play together the RACHMANINOFF'S  Suite #2 for two pianos.  We had never played together before, but we decided why not? and  it was a great success. After that, we decided to start playing together."

C.W.B.  Alessio,  Could you tell our readers something related to the start of your career as a concert pianist?

ALESSIO:  I was born in BARI in the South East of Italy, where I attended the Conservatory of Music when I was nine years old. It is usually a ten year program but I graduated when I was fourteen. Then I came to America to follow Spanish Pianist JOAQUIN ACHÚCARRO, the  Basque Classical Pianist from Bilbao,  Spain,  who still teaches at the University in Dallas, Texas, and after I graduated from his class, at the age sixteen, I went to New York about fourteen years ago. "

C.W.B. "What attracted you to piano?"

ALESSIO: "Growing up, I heard the organ in church and I really wanted to be an organist because I loved the music, but when it was time for me to enter the music conservatory in my home town, to study organ (organ playing), the program require to take five years of piano, first. What happened is that while I was still waiting for the chance to play the organ,  I fell in love with the repertoire (musical pieces to be played at the piano) and that's what happened."

C.W.B  As a pianist,  what attracted you to play piano duos?

ALESSIO: " Well, there is one piece, one special piece in this coming concert which is by STRAVINSKY (Petruska  for piano Four HandsIt is a piece that was written for full orchestra and then arranged for two pianos by STRAVINSKY himself.  I fell in love with this particular piece when I was eight years old. I could not play it with anybody because the score is complicated, very complex, very difficult, and then, when at the Canada festival in Montreal I was asked to  to play a piece for four hands, I thought here is my chance to play this very complicated piece with LUCILLE, and it was a great success. So, from then on, after we get to know each other so well (as pianists)  we decided to continue playing together because, playing duos, we could perform the music that we loved together and travel together. Now, during the year, as pianists, we do different things, but we bring to each other whatever we learned from other people. We live a full musical life because as pianists, we have lots of choices "

C.W.B.  As a concert pianist, who is your favorite composer?

ALESSIO: " It is a question very difficult to answer because there is so much great music and we recycle it so much. When you know the music so intimately, as we do, you are constantly in awe of all these composers  and falling in love constantly with their music. But to answer your question, I am attracted to the music that is incredible intimate, which is amazing because it is the music that was written by the composers for themselves, to play it in the living rooms for friends and among friends. Not to make money .  So, MOZART, SHUBERT, SHUMANN,  and the composer of that romantic era, are very important to me."

"C.W.B." Being both concert pianists, who determines what pieces to play?

ALESSIO: "It is a combination. There is so much repertoire. There is still a long way I want to go and  LUCILLE too, but because what we both want to do (in a concert) is to make a valid program for the audience, if we find a chance to add a new piece that fits the program, we take it. Because of it, our repertoire gets bigger and bigger. "

pianists I.jpg

After catapulting  to prominence by winning First Prize at both the LEEDS and HAMAMATSU International  Piano Competitions, ALESSIO BAX is now a familiar face internationally, not only as a recitalist and chamber musician but also as a concert soloist who has appeared with more than 100 orchestras including the London Royal and the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston, Dallas, Cincinnati, Sydney and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras and the NHK Symphony in Japan. collaborating with eminent conductors.

Exploring other facets of BAX's musical career are his Albums, his eleventh one Italian Inspirations, released last Fall, which was also the vehicle for his solo recital debut at New York's 92nd Street Y.A.  followed by another debut with the Milwaukee Symphony,BEETHOVEN's Fourth Concerto and Choral Fantasy with the Santa Barbara Symphony, and same composer's works for cello and piano with the Emerson String quartet's Paul Watkins, at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and a forthcoming recording performs trios in Santiago, Chile and Rio de Janeiro with Berlin Philharmonic concertmaster DAISHIN KASHIMOTO.

As a pianist, BAX combines exceptional lyricism and insights into his consummate technique making him one of the most remarkable among the young pianists.


We ask LUCILLE  to tell our readers something about herself as a pianist.

LUCILLE:  " It is a very nice question, because my parents were not musicians and I actually came to learn how to play the  piano through my elementary school. Because all the "Cool girls"  were taking piano lessons, I beg my parents to let me learn the piano. I did not even own a piano, but my teacher thought that I had talent so she entered me in all of the competitions and after I won all the competitions my parents said: let's buy her a piano.  I just started playing piano because I wanted to be "cool" but I got a piano."

C.W.B. How old were you when you wanted to be "cool?" 

LUCILLE: "Six years old."

C.W.B. Where are you from?

LUCILLE: I am from Montreal, Canada and I was living there when this happened. When I was thirteen I left home  and entered a school of music in Philadelphia, and then went to JUILLIARD's School of Music in New York, and then, because I graduated very quickly,  I lived in Europe for many years.

After LUCILLE graduated from CURTIS  INSTITUTE  OF  MUSIC in Philadelphia and JUILLIARD, in New York, she decided to further her studies in London with MARIA CURCIO-DIAMAND. She also studied at the "Mozarteum in Salzburg where she worked  with  KARL-HEINZ KILMMERLING and received the KONZERTEZAM  Diploma (Concertist degree)  from the Hoch schule  "FRANZ LISZT" in Weimar, where she worked with the late LAZAR BERMAN. She also Graduated from the Academia Pianistica in Imola Italy with the honorary title of "Master," and from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas  under JOAQUIN ACHÚCARRO. 

C.W.B.  What made you decide to play Duos in piano?

LUCILLE:  "I developed quickly, so by the time I was ten years old I played with the Montreal Symphony orchestra, and from that moment on, I really wanted to become a pianist. I loved the stage, I loved performing, I loved the repertoire. And to answer your question, I decided to play duos because playing  with your husband is wonderful. We both respect music. And (by playing duos) we have a chance to travel together. But now that we both have a child, we don't see each other as much, so it is a treat to go away and perform together." 

C.W.B. For how many hours do you practice together before a concert?

LUCILLE: "We are lucky, because we already  have a vision for the music, the music for us is very clear, so we practice apart from each other. Also because we know how the other plays, When we are playing pieces that we performed before, we may need to rehearse them only once of twice. But before a concert, we always check the hall  (the place where they are  performing) for sound because every hall is different and every piano is different.

C.W.B.  And to end our interview, what does it feel to be a concert pianist a wife and a mother?

LUCILLE: I think it takes more effort for (wives and mothers) who are pianists to find the time to "practice" (piano) which is now is a luxury. When I travel, I can concentrate more in my career and feel very focused in my music, but not when I am at home. To try to balance your daily life, as a wife and mother, you need to organize your time, to be able to take your child to school, to bring her to different activities and do your "work". It is possible, and it is rewarding but it requires that you compartmentalize your life. "

After headlining the North Carolina Symphony's Season- opening concerts together last year, BAX and LUCILLE gave duo recitals in New York, New Haven, Atlanta and South America and in the Summer  BAX highlighted his fourth season as Artistic Director of Tuscany's Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival.

With this concert, THE STEINWAY SOCIETY  The Bay Area, is giving the music lover in Silicon Valley the unique opportunity to listen these piano virtuosos  together.

ALESSIO BAX AND LUCILLE CHUNG CONCERT will be held at the HAMMER THEATRE Center, 101 Paseo San Antonio in San José, CA on Saturday, January 11 at 6:45 PM (for those who want to attend the Lecture) or 7:30PM. For Tickets call (408) 300-5635