La Sierra to debut Czech four-piano works at Riverside’s Fox center

Sept. 24, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker


RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( Back in 2004, when the small package arrived in the mail from the National Museum in Prague, Czech Republic, pianist Victor Moreno was surprised by its size. Rather than the bulk package of sheet music he had expected, he received a roll of microfilm that bore copies of compositions penned between 1845-1860 by the father of classical Czech music Bedrich Smetana.


Moreno, a Chicago area music director, took the film roll to a library, struggled to copy the oversized, aged images onto modern, 8 1/2x11 inch paper, and distributed it to the seven pianists who later joined him in the first and second performances of Smetana’s works written for four pianos, 16 hands, and for two pianos, eight hands.


On October 7, at Riverside’s historic Fox Performing Arts Center, Moreno, together with colleague Elvin Rodríguez, chair of La Sierra University’s music department and six Southern California concert pianists will bring to the stage a third performance of Smetana’s works. They will play the four-piano works titled “Richard III” and “Triumph Symphony,” the Scherzo and Finale movements, and his two-pianos-eight hands compositions titled “Composition in G minor,” “Youth Rondo in C Major,” and “Sonata Movement in E minor.” The performers will use the same copies Moreno made eight years ago, of the pen and ink sheet music created by Smetana.


“Piano Extravaganza: One Night, Four Pianos, Eight Pianists,” organized by La Sierra University’s music department, heralds the West Coast premiere of Smetana’s compositions for two and four pianos. The event will also feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Concerto in A minor for Four Pianos and Strings BWV 1065,” accompanied by strings of the La Sierra University Orchestra.


The concert begins at 6 p.m. with a pre-concert lecture at 5:15 p.m. Tickets range from $12 for students to $50 and are available for purchase from Ticketmaster or the Fox Performing Arts Center box office. For the Fox Theater Box Office call 951-779-9800, or go to For Ticketmaster call 1-800-745-3000 or go to For more information contact Lovelyn Razzouk at, call 951-785-2154, or access information online at


Pianists joining Moreno and Rodríguez include Elben Capule, Grace Chung, Jungwon Jin, Jonathan Mamora, Lorenzo Sánchez, and Sergio Leiva. They represent several nationalities and possess extensive performance experience in venues around the United States and the world. Most hold various positions as music professors, music directors and teachers, and all have ties to La Sierra University. Seven hail from Riverside, Loma Linda, La Mirada, Santa Ana, Claremont and Los Angeles, while Moreno arrives from the Chicago area. Click here to learn more about the musicians:


The pianists will use one Yamaha grand piano from the California-based manufacturer, two grand pianos by Czech manufacturer Petrof, and one grand piano by Austrian maker Bösendorfer, a Yamaha division. The piano makers are donating the use of the instruments as co-sponsors of the concert through the assistance of Derry Faji at SoCalPianos in Ontario.


The Piano Extravaganza will also serve as La Sierra’s debut performance at the Fox Performing Arts Center located near Riverside City Hall and the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. The Fox opened in 1929, part of a 305-theater national circuit developed by motion picture entrepreneur William Fox. The Riverside structure served as a cinema/vaudeville theater house that featured high profile performers Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and others, and where the first public screening of iconic Hollywood film “Gone With the Wind” took place. The recently renovated Riverside landmark now serves as a 1,600-seat performance hall for resident artist group the Riverside County Philharmonic and for internationally famed performers such as Dwight Yoakam, Brian McKnight, Judy Collins, Three Dog Night, and a Broadway show series, all part of this season’s lineup.


Rodríguez and Moreno first discussed a collaborative effort of the Smetana piano compositions in 2006 but schedules and funding issues proved to be challenges. Meanwhile the two pianists performed recitals together and Moreno helped arrange a Midwest tour for La Sierra’s Chamber Singers. “He’s been a friend of the university,” said Rodríguez of his colleague.


This year the piano ensemble concert idea became a reality. Moreno secured permission from the National Museum in Prague to perform the Smetana works in Riverside and planning began in late spring. “It is a team effort,” Moreno said of the eight-pianist concert. “Every part is important. Nobody is the soloist.”


Mamora, at age 17 is the youngest of the pianists. He is an award-winning soloist and collaborative pianist, activities he squeezes into a busy schedule as a high school senior at Loma Linda Academy. He studies piano with Rodríguez who asked him to participate in the Piano Extravaganza. “I said yes, but only later did I realize that it would be a concert where all eight of us play at the same time,” Mamora said.


“It is an extreme honor to be able to play with very accomplished pianists on the same stage together,” Mamora said. “I have done chamber music before, but nothing like this where eight pianists play on four pianos all at the same time, so I am looking forward to the challenge.”

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