Idyllwild Art Academy’s Feb. 18 student piano concert Photo by Jenny Kirchner

All sorts of things were being preprocessed in anticipation of Feb. 18 scheduled “PianoFest” performances, both on the ground and in the skies.
When considered as a whole — the dry and cold air present that evening, plus the morning’s occultation of Mars by the Moon (and other portentous events) — the situation presented itself as ominous, given Idyllwild’s preoccupation with fire and water (not to mention cold), and thus could have accounted for the sparseness of the attending audience.
Nevertheless, the devotees of the scheduled keyboard practitioners all crowded, for the most part, on the left-hand side of Lowman Hall, were treated to a display worthy of a new constellation, courtesy of the collective aegis of faculty members Jeanette Louise Yaryan and Douglas Ashcraft.
It was perhaps fortuitous that the centripetal piece on the program was the opening movement of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” in the composer’s two-piano scoring (prior to the orchestral version). However, the lead-in selections, as well as what followed, were more than an adequate panorama of keyboard sonorities, somewhat enhanced by the added resonance that a less-than-full hall provided.
Thus, Xuerong Sharon Wang’s essaying of J. S. Bach’s “Toccata in E Minor” and Xinyi Selena Sun’s playing of the opening movement of Mozart’s “Sonata in D, K. 311” both proved the performers’ technical abilities as well as a standard of programming introductions.
The brief appearance of Ryan Lawrence’s playing of Chopin’s “Prelude in A Major” was an essay in concentration and performance economy, as were the two Beethoven sonata movements cleanly played by Tong Daisy Su and Michael Stroud from the F-Sharp and the G-Major sonatas, Opus 78 and 49, respectively.
A shift in performance quality was evidenced in the next two repertory excerpts: Chopin’s “A Major (Military) Polonaise” had the requisite martial character (perhaps as an unintentional preview of the Holst) and Debussy’s “Hommage a Rameau” took to task the French Baroque master with impressionistic whole-tone moistening of the environment and its assembled auditors. The performers — Yichen Jane Wang and Michael Dunaevsky, respectively — took their parts quite seriously and were rewarded in those efforts.
The aforementioned “Mars” movement from “The Planets” was then presented. Both Myungchan Andrew Kim and Saveliy Sotnikov’s rendition brought forth the starkness of the piece, from the drumming 5/4-time rhythm to the clarion calls of the upper voices, even more so than the orchestral arrangement.
The following “Ballade in A-Flat, Opus 47” of Chopin (perhaps representing the Moon in the constellation’s traversal) proved a blessed relief in Feinila Kaysaier’s blissful rendition. Proceeding in sequence, the concert finished on two high notes, with Messrs. Kim and Sotnikov providing more than perfunctory performances of Beethoven’s early sonata movement (A Major, Op.2 No.2) and Bartók’s 5-part “Romanian Folk Dances,” respectively. Polite applause was provided and a general satisfactory overview of the evening — as well as future prospects — was effected by all present.