Fourteen-year-old Aaron Kurz of Dallas will meet 27-year-old Israeli pianist and 2009 Van Cliburn competitor Victor Stanislavsky for the first time Saturday, Feb.13, and play a duet with him.
It’s all part of Keyboard Wonders, a 200th-anniversary celebration of the birth of Frédéric Chopin, at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
And for Aaron, the thrill is right up there with playing Carnegie Hall—which he did three years ago at 11 after winning an international competition—and the Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, where he was the pianist at the grand gala on public opening day in October. “I’m really excited to play in a concert with Victor because I’ve never played with anyone of his stature before,” says Aaron.
Stanislavsky flew into town Feb.4 for the Saturday concert at the JCC and a performance Monday, Feb.15 at St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth. When he was on the lookout for a piano that he could play for the concert in Dallas, he found that the Kurz family had not only a wonderful piano, but also a prodigy in Aaron. Stanislavsky offered to share his concert at the JCC and collaborate with him on Robert Schumann’s Pictures From the East, Op. 66. “I heard of his accomplishments and was very impressed with him,” Stanislavsky said by phone hours after arriving in the United States. “The Schumann [duet] is a small but very deep piece, and it’s a special test for a musician. I thought it would be interesting to see the different insights we might have with the music. You can always learn from each other, no matter who you are or how old or young you are.”
Aaron began playing piano at age 3. “We had these Baby Mozart videos, and my mom saw me run to the piano and try to play them after I heard them,” he says.
Aaron began studying at the Suzuki Institute of Dallas in Richardson and now studies with Carol Leone, chairwoman of piano at Southern Methodist University. He has won first prize in the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition and first prize in both the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) and TMTA (Texas Music Teachers Association) Texas state competitions.
Aaron’s favorite piece on the program is the hardest: Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20. It’s a technically complex piece that he has been laboring on for more than six months, and he says he feels like an explorer as he seeks the thread of the melody.
“When you first listen to this piece, it’s almost just a jumble. But there’s a lot of depth to it,” Aaron says. “The line is so buried sometimes, but you have to find it and follow it because if you don’t have the line, then it isn’t music—just notes.”
He’s also excited, but nervous, about his duet with Stanislavsky. “We are practicing with each other on Saturday but just for a short while,” Aaron says. “It’s more difficult to practice for a duet with someone that you’ve never played with before, but after you’ve played piano for a while and you listen to performances of it, you know what it should sound like.” And it’s an offer he would never dream of refusing. “I appreciate any opportunity for a big performance like this,” he says. “This is a great honor for me.”