With snow starting to descend down the caps of Juneau’s mountains, it’s fitting Jon Hays is opening with something of a peaks performance to begin the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council’s Piano Series that starts Saturday and continues with additional concerts through next May.
Hays, artistic director of the series, will perform two works by 19th-century composer and pianist Franz Liszt that explore plenty of rugged musical terrain, highlighted by “Years of Pilgrimage: The Swiss Year.” The concert is scheduled at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.
“This set of nine pieces is based on the young composer’s time spent in Switzerland and is practically a journal full of references to physical locations, such as the Chapel of William Tell, lakes and rural villages, to literary influences to the bell towers of Geneva that Liszt would have heard as his daughter Blandine was born,” Hays wrote in an email response to questions Thursday. “It’s a gorgeous and varied program that encompasses many different moods and experiences.”
The second piece by Liszt is “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6,” which Hays describes as “more representative of Liszt’s brilliance and virtuosity as a pianist.”
“At the end I have to play rapid octaves in the right hand for nearly two minutes,” Hays wrote.
The series, intended to highlight the JACC’s piano and piano music in general, will feature other musicians making return appearances. Among them is Mei Xue, who will join Hays in a performance scheduled at 3 p.m. Nov. 12 that commemorates the 150th anniversary year of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s birth.
”Mei will play the early Opus 3 pieces, which include an Elegie, the famous prelude in C-Sharp Minor and a Melodie,” Hays wrote. “Next, Mei and I will trade off playing eight different Preludes from Rachmaninoff’s Opus 23, and then we will end the program with two piano four-hands pieces, Barcarolle and Slava from 6 morceaux, Opus 11.”
In keeping with the theme of the series, Hays said the opening two concerts “showcase two pivotal composers for the piano, not just that they contributed to the repertoire, but that they transformed the potential of what a piano is even capable of.”
Other scheduled performers, with the programs to be determined, are:
Feb. 10: Kyle Farley-Robinson and Jia Jia Maas, who Hays said are both Juneau residents who married during the past year, and will perform solo and piano four-hand pieces.
Feb. 16: Hays again in a solo performance.
May. 19: Greek pianist Ioanna Nikou.
May. 25: Joseph Yungen, accompanied by violinist Yue Sun.
Tickets for the fall concerts are now available at the JAHC website at www.jahc.org, by calling (907) 586-2787, or at the JACC at 350 Whittier St. Tickets for the February concerts will be available in January, and for the May concerts in April.
Ticket prices are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $10 for students. Tickets will be available at the door for $5 more.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at email@example.com or (907) 957-2306.