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Celebrating Pianos

A close-up of someone playing a piano.

Pianos and Piano Music 1750–1850

October 15 & 16, 2022
Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall

The evolution of pianos coexisted with a flourish of piano compositions and their drastic stylistic changes. Is this a mere coincidence or a cause and effect? Curated by pianist and Associate Chair for Performance Activities Jiayan Sun, two historical pianos grace the Sweeney stage, with eminent guest artists performing two concerts, and giving lectures and workshops on historical pianos and performance practice.

Schedule of Events and Concert Programs

2 p.m. | Introduction to Historical Pianos: Who They Are and What They Do
with Richard Hester, Mike Cheng-Yu Lee, Monica Jakuc Leverett, and Jiayan Sun


3 p.m. | Malcolm Bilson
Harold Schonberg-Malcolm Bilson Exchange about Early Instruments (1977)
Bilson vs. New York Times: Prof. Bilson discusses the diverging attitudes towards historical pianos and how we see these matters today.


4 p.m. | Audrey Axinn
Fantasy and Fidelity: Ornamenting Mozart and Beethoven
In his treatise On Playing the Flute, Johann Quantz advised readers to employ their own “fantasy” when adding ornaments. This talk reveals how one subscribes wholeheartedly to Quantz’s instruction to allow one’s musical voice to emerge in the ornamentation practice. However, tasteful placement of embellishments and matching musical vocabulary to the specific composer and piece of music ensures performers’ additions meld seamlessly into the original composition, adding expression and drama without detracting from a work’s structure.


5–6 p.m. | A “Guided Tour” of Historical Pianos
Try your hands on these pianos and have a direct encounter with them! With Jiayan Sun and guest artists


7:30 p.m. | Concert I: The Mendelssohns and the Schumanns
Cornell Professor Emeritus Malcolm Bilson, Cornell Visiting Artist-Scholar in Residence Mike Cheng-Yu Lee, along with Smith faculty soprano Katherine Saik and Smith faculty pianist Yang Liu, present music by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, on an 1835 Joseph Simon piano made in Vienna.

Concert I: The Mendelssohns and the Schumanns
Performed on an 1835 Viennese Joseph Simon Piano

Saturday, October 15, 2022
7:30 p.m.
Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall, Smith College

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
Phantasie in F-sharp Minor, op. 28 (1833)
    Con moto agitato - Andante
    Allegro con moto

Yang Liu


Fanny Hensel (1805–1847)
Ihr Töne schwingt euch fröhlich (1819) | Ich wandelte unter   den Bäumen (1838)

Clara Schumann (1819–1896)
from Zwölf Gedichte aus Friedrich Rückerts Liebesfrühling,   op. 12 (1841)
Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen | Liebst du um   Schönheit

Katherine Saik, soprano
Jiayan Sun, piano


Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Papillons, op. 2 (1831)

Mike Cheng-Yu Lee

Felix Mendelssohn
Lied ohne Worte in A-flat Major, op. 53, no. 1 (1841)

Fanny Hensel
O Traum der Jugend, O Goldener Stern, from 4 Lieder for   Piano, op. 6, no. 3 (1846)

Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Impromptu no. 3 in G-flat Major, op. 51 (1842)

Malcolm Bilson


Robert Schumann
Piano Sonata no. 1 in F-sharp Major (1835)
    Introduzione: Un poco Adagio - Allegro vivace
    Scherzo: Allegrissimo - Intermezzo: Lento
    Finale: Allegro un poco maestoso

Mike Cheng-Yu Lee


10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. | Workshops and Masterclasses, TBD


2 p.m. | Mike Cheng-Yu Lee
Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata and Its Misreadings
This short talk calls upon literary critic Harold Bloom’s theory of poetic influence to situate Beethoven’s well-known piano sonata within a network of Bloomian “anxiety of influence.” Drawing on examples from Bach, Haydn, Schubert, and Brahms that both pre-date and post-date the work, Mike suggests that the “Appassionata” engaged in misreadings of the past as well as served as a source of anxiety for subsequent generations of composers.


3 p.m. | Concert II: The Viennese Masters
Juilliard and Mannes faculty member Audrey Axinn, Smith Professor Emerita Monica Jakuc Leverett, and Smith faculty pianists Yang Liu and Jiayan Sun, present music by Joseph Haydn, Marianne Martinez, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven, on a replica of Viennese Anton Walter pianos, c. 1803, made by Paul McNulty in 2000.

Followed by a reception. Location TBD.

Concert II: The Viennese Masters
Performed on a replica after Viennese Anton Walter Pianos,   ca. 1803, Made by Paul McNulty in 2000

Sunday, October 16, 2022
3 p.m.
Sweeney Concert Hall, Sage Hall, Smith College

Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Sonata in C-sharp Minor, Hob.XVI:36 (1775)
    Scherzando: Allegro con brio
    Menuetto: Moderato

Marianne Martinez (1744–1812)
from Sonata in A major (1765)

Monica Jakuc Leverett

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 570 (1789)

Audrey Axinn

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
March in D Major for Piano Four Hands, op. 45, no. 3 (1803)
Six Variations in D Major on “Ich denke dein” for Piano Four   Hands, WoO 74 (1803)

Yang Liu, primo
Jiayan Sun, secondo

Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata no. 23 in F Minor, op. 57 (“Appassionata”) (1806)
    Allegro assai
    Andante con moto
    Allregro ma non troppo

Jiayan Sun


About the Guest Artists

Audrey Axinn’s recital appearances on modern piano and fortepiano include performances at Carnegie Hall, Bargemusic, Merkin Concert Hall, Caramoor, and the Edinburgh Festival. She has collaborated with artists including Sharon Robinson, Eugene Fodor, Daniel Heifetz, Fred Sherry, Gil Morgenstern, and Monica Huggett.

Fortepianist Malcolm Bilson has been in the forefront of the period instrument movement for more than fifty years. In the 1980s he recorded the first complete original instrument Mozart Piano Concertos with John Eliot Gardiner for Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv. He has recorded all the solo sonatas of Mozart and Schubert for Hungaroton.

Axinn has also recorded for the BMG, Koch, and Newport Classics labels. She has lectured and given master classes in chamber music, fortepiano, and performance practice at the Curtis Institute of Music; The Juilliard School; New England Conservatory; Oberlin Conservatory; Cornell University; Royal Conservatory in the Hague; and Beijing Central Conservatory. She is co-director of the Academy of Fortepiano Performance workshop in Hunter, NY.

Axinn has been a member of Juilliard’s chamber music faculty with a specialization in coaching chamber music for fortepiano since 2003. She is a member of collaborative piano, chamber music, and graduate studies faculties at Mannes School of Music. She has served as the assistant dean at Mannes and the associate dean for Academic Affairs of The Tianjin Juilliard School.

In addition, Bilson has also recorded the complete Beethoven piano sonatas with six of his former students for Claves Records.

Bilson has made three educational DVDs, Knowing the Score, vols. 1 and 2, and Performing the Score; these have been seen all over the world and have had considerable influence on modern performance (cf. Bilson has an honorary doctorate from Bard College and is a recipient of the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. In 2016 he received the Gold Cross from the President of Hungary for his 40-year long contribution to the musical life of that country, and in 2017 The Curt Sachs Award from the American Musical Instrument Society.

Richard Hester has worked in the technical and musical field of keyboard instrument design, construction, technical advisement, academic and historical research of instruments, documentation, conservation, restoration, and appraisal services since 1968. He attended the program for Master Piano Builders at the Fachsch ule fur Mukikinstrumenten Bau in Germany.

Mike Cheng-Yu Lee is one of a new generation of pianists at home on pianos that span the 18th to the 20th centuries. He is regularly invited to teach and perform at some of the most prominent music schools around the world, including the Royal Academy, Oberlin, Eastman School of Music, USC, Northwestern and Yale, among others.

A frequent lecturer on historical piano topics, he has been a Music Instrument Curator with the Music Department of the SUNY at Albany, and has received numerous research grants to photograph and make technical drawings of original instruments in European collections. He is the owner and founder of Richard Hester Fortepianos, which makes Viennese fortepianos of the Mozart and Beethoven period.

Mike’s scholarship lies at the intersection between analysis and performance. He has published on Schubert in Music Theory Online and has a forthcoming article in 19th-Century Music on the music of Chopin.

In 2015–17 he was Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University–Bloomington, and in 2017–19 directed the Australian National University Keyboard Institute. Currently he is Artist-in-Residence at the Cornell Center for Historical Keyboards. Mike holds a Ph.D. from Cornell and was awarded the coveted Donald J. Grout Memorial Dissertation Prize. His teachers include Malcolm Bilson and Boris Berman.

Participating Smith Faculty

Pianist Monica Jakuc Leverett is Elsie Irwin Sweeney Professor Emerita of Music at Smith, where she taught from 1969 until 2008. She has performed internationally, and is an active solo and chamber music pianist in Western Massachusetts, with special interests in women composers, living composers, early pianos and toy piano.
Praised by The New York Times for his “revelatory” performances, pianist Jiayan Sun has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Hallé Orchestra, the Chinese and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestras, the Fort Worth and Toledo Symphony Orchestras, the Toronto and Aspen Concert Orchestras.

A former member of the board, she has appeared as fortepiano soloist with the Arcadia Players period instrument ensemble. Her teachers include James Friskin, Beveridge Webster, Leon Fleisher, Russell Sherman, Konrad Wolff, and Malcolm Bilson. Her latest of three CDs, Fantasies for Fortepiano, includes Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata. In 2006, she married Bob Leverett, and together they explore forests and give presentations on nature and music. Please visit

In addition to capturing major prizes in the Leeds, Cleveland, Dublin and Toronto international piano competitions, playing early keyboard instruments and studying historical performance practice have played a significant role in Mr. Sun’s musical activities, with critically acclaimed appearances with the American Classical Orchestra in Alice Tully Hall.

Hailing from Yantai, China, Mr. Sun received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Yoheved Kaplinsky and Stephen Hough. Currently Assistant Professor of Music and the Associate Chair for Performance Activities at Smith College, he has performed Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas and presented recital series devoted to the works by Schubert and Chopin.

Katherine Saik
, soprano, is a cross-genre vocalist and teacher who currently serves as a Core Lecturer in Music at Smith College. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music where she focused on classical music and opera performance.
Pianist Yang Liu attracts worldwide audiences with her profound musicianship and extraordinary virtuosity. “Her performance was incredibly expressive… effortlessly moving from delicate flourishes to pounding intensity…” (Toronto Star). She has performed extensively throughout the US, Europe and China at numerous prominent venues.

As a graduate student, she was the second place winner in the Alan and Joan Taub Ades Vocal Competition and first place winner in the Eisenberg-Fried Concerto Competition.

Since returning to the Pioneer Valley, Katherine has been active in local and regional performing arts. She has appeared as a concert soloist with many regional orchestras, choirs and colleges. She has also appeared in several operas including La bohème (Mimi), Pagliacci (Nedda), Idomeneo (Idamante), Le Nozze di Figaro (Countess), and Die Walküre (Siegrune). Katherine was recently one of the artists who premiered a new song cycle by composer Nico Gutierrez ("Unsaid Prayers") at Clark University.

She has won many prestigious competitions, including the First Prize of the Toronto International Piano Competition, First Prize of the Chopin International Piano Competition in Hartford, Second Prize of the Serge & Olga Koussevitzky Young Artist Awards, among others. She is a member of the Musicians Club of New York.

Ms. Liu received both Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, Master of Musical Arts degree from Yale School of Music, and is currently finishing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Peabody Conservatory. In 2022, Naxos Records released her album Schubert: German Dances, Ländlers, and Écossaises, presenting Schubert's dances on both a modern piano and a fortepiano.

About the Instruments

Replica after Anton Walter, Vienna, c. 1803, crafted by Paul McNulty (2000)


This is a 5 1/2 octave (F1 – C7) instrument made by Paul McNulty after the design of Walter & Sohn of Vienna. It is mahogany with brass trim, and features moderator and sustaining knee levers, the equivalent of pedals on the modern piano. The moderator inserts a piece of cloth between the hammer and the strings, thereby softening and mellowing the sound. The sustaining knee lever is the equivalent to the damper (right) pedal on the modern piano.

Paul McNulty, an American living in Divišov, Czech Republic, is one of the most highly respected builders working today. Because this McNulty fortepiano represents ideas from a number of different Walter instruments in existence around the turn of the 18th century, it is difficult to date it. It is perhaps interesting to note that between 1780 and 1820 there were over 300 Viennese piano builders registered in the guild, and most of them did not date their work. The graceful curve of this piano’s case is not a Walter feature, but rather typical of Ferdinand Hofmann, the guild president at that time.

Monica Jakuc Leverett is gratefully acknowledged for generously providing her instrument.

Crafted by Joseph Simon, Vienna, 1835


The maker of this 6 1/2 octave (C1 – G7) instrument, Simon was the shop foreman for Conrad Graf, and made a number of pianos on his own. Particular features of this piano, especially regarding the mechanism, are virtually identical to those of Graf pianos of the period. Originally fitted with five pedals: shift (to reduce the striking of three strings to two), bassoon (parchment pressed onto the bass strings), pedal (damper raising), celeste stop (cloth strip between hammer and strings), and janissary (drum and bell). Bassoon and janissary, used principally in “battle” pieces (very popular in the early nineteenth century), are no longer present in this instrument. Formerly owned by Malcolm Bilson, this instrument is now in the collection of the Cornell Center for Historical Keyboards.

Cornell Center for Historical Keyboards and Mike Cheng-Yu Lee are gratefully acknowledged for generously providing the instrument.