Young star pianist to play Snowmass Chapel |

Young star pianist to play Snowmass Chapel

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

If you go ...

Sarah Tuan, piano

7 p.m., Monday (Dec. 28)

Snowmass Chapel


Once again, the Snowmass Chapel will be graced with a holiday performance by one of the up-and-coming stars of the classical-music world.

Every three years, the chapel hosts the winner of the junior division of the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, many of whom have gone on to achieve international fame, said Paul Dankers, the chapel’s music and information technology director, who organizes the performances during the holiday season. One musician in particular, Jan Lisiecki, who has returned to perform at the chapel six times since his debut in 2007, “is now the toast of the classical-musical world,” Dankers said.

This year, the chapel will welcome 13-year-old Sarah Tuan, whose list of accomplishments spanned performances at Carnegie Hall, the Liszt House in Germany and concerts in her home state of California and first prizes in international competitions even before her win in the 2015 Virginia Waring contest. For Tuan, who began studying piano under the tutelage of her mother, Alice Chen, herself an accomplished classical pianist, the Virginia Waring contest has been a dream for a long time.

“For the judges to announce my name, I felt like there was a spotlight over me,” Tuan said Wednesday. “I would like to thank the judges for giving me such a good prize at the Virginia Waring competition, and a really nice memory also is that I made lots of new friends that I still talk with now.

“It was a big milestone for me, and I really just want to live that moment again and again.”

Tuan, who is in her second year at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music precollege division, is excited to perform in Colorado. Her performance tonight at the Snowmass Chapel will have seven pieces, starting with Handel’s Suite No. 2 in F major.

“It’s a very Baroque piece,” Tuan said. “It was actually written in a church form, so it’s going to be very nice and interesting in a chapel. … I’m going to like the acoustics.”

Tuan will follow that with a sonata by Beethoven, a darker piece that she said she hopes she can convey well.

“It will be very interesting to see a young child like me trying to play something so dark and mature,” Tuan said. “I hope I can play well.”

It won’t all be dark and dismal, though. Tuan also will play a piece by Liszt that she calls “showy and flashy.” That will be followed by a nocturne by Chopin that Tuan said is her personal favorite.

“Nocturne means a night song, so I think at night it will be a very good piece to calm everyone down, especially after a showy piece like the Liszt etude,” Tuan said. “I think everyone’s going to like the color and the drama that it has inside of it.”

Her other pieces will be a scherzo by Chopin, a prelude by Rachmaninoff and capriccios by Ligeti, a modern piece that Tuan expects most of the audience will not have heard before.

“I need to help the audience enjoy my performance and give them an unforgettable performance,” Tuan said of tonight’s concert. “I think they should feel how much I love being on the stage, and I have to make sure they love what they hear and what they see, as well.

“There’s no pressure. I’m really going to have fun.”

At the chapel and outside, too: While she and her family aren’t planning on skiing during their stay, the California resident said she’s excited to see snow.