In 1978, the great Texas pianist Van Cliburn traveled to Temple for a noteworthy occasion. The Cultural Activities Center, at considerable cost, purchased the sine qua non of every serious classical music venue: a 9-foot Steinway “D” grand piano, and Cliburn, always gracious to a fault, agreed to personally dedicate the instrument.
It’s particularly fitting, then, that the same piano will be played by American-born Sean Chen, 24, Saturday at the CAC. Chen was a finalist in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition — the first American to win the Silver Medal since 1997.
Presented jointly with the Temple Symphony Orchestra, the recital is part of the Central Texas Orchestral Society’s series at CAC.
Born in Florida and raised in California, Chen now lives in New Haven, Conn. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the prestigious Julliard School in New York and has garnered prizes at the Leeds International Piano Competition, Seoul Competition and Cleveland Competition, among others.
The pianist also enjoys composing music, according to his website. Also, apparently, arranging: there’s a YouTube video of the artist performing his piano adaptation of Maurice Ravel’s ballet “La Valse.” He’s been noted for his “million-volt smile” and a “formidable set of fingers” by The Dallas Morning News.
Chen appeared as a guest soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Fort Worth Symphony, performed recitals for the National Chopin Foundation and the Ventura Music Festival, and has a solo recording on the Steinway label in preparation for a CD release.
Currently pursuing his artist diploma at the Yale School of Music, the pianist had a webcast of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Indianapolis Symphony described by International Piano as “blazing with color and excitement.” Chen is said to be a computer geek and enjoys “tinkering with computers” when not at the piano.
Saturday’s audience members will have the chance to evaluate that smile up close and personal: Chen will meet and greet concert-goers from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Strasburger Hall at the CAC. Desserts will be served at intermission.
Cliburn, who died in February, was only 23 when his virtuosity catapulted him to international stardom in Moscow, winning the Tchaikovsky Competition.
On Saturday in Temple, a musical legacy will come full circle.