American Public Media "New Classical Tracks" - December 25th, 2012
The Oracle - November 20th, 2012
Pioneer Press - November 15, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio - November 13, 2012
Edina Sun Current - November 6, 2012
Review of New CD Release - Preston Recorded Music Society - October 11, 2012
New CD Realease - Naxos International Releases The Hamann Sisters' Newest CD Project - International Piano Magazine - January 30, 2012
The Crescent-News - November 18, 2010
Ledger-Enquirer - February 28, 2010
Times-Georgian - April 2, 2009
The Pilot - April 1, 2009
Converse Headlines - March 2009
The Trojan Times - November 19, 2008
Converse Headlines - July 2008
Sun Current - April 29, 2008
Brookings Post - November 9, 2007
Star Tribune - September 27, 2007
Mpls./St. Paul Magazine - July 2007
Star Tribune - October 8, 2006
The Gazette - September 25, 2006
Columbus Dispatch - September 24, 2006
Tutti - Spring 2006
About Town - Winter 2006
Edina Magazine - January 2006
Mpls./St. Paul Magazine - December 2005
Star Tribune - September 18, 2005
Star Tribune - May 1, 2005
Star Tribune - April 10, 2005
Chautauquan Daily - July 29, 2004
Chautauquan Daily - July 27, 2004
Mpls./St. Paul Magazine - June 2004
Minnesota Monthly - January 2004
Sun Current - November 27, 2003
Star Tribune - November 23, 2003
Chautauquan Daily - June 28, 2003
New York Times - June 3, 2001
Rochester Post - March 21, 2001
Sun Current - April 22, 1999
Spartanburg Herald - March 28, 1999
In Studio Interview on "New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher", December 25th, 2012
ST. PAUL, Minn. Sara and Amy Hamann were immediately drawn to the upright Yamaha piano their father purchased as a gift for their mother. Sara was four years old, and Amy was five when they started taking lessons. Sara says friendly rivalry was an early motivator to practice. Amy agrees, "When we started we had so much competition between the two of us. Sara was 17 months younger than I am and there was no way I was going to let her be better than I was so I practiced all the time and she didn't want me to be better than she was."
"So I think that motivated us as well, in addition to falling so in love with the instrument," Sara adds. "But also the sibling rivalry probably worked to our benefit." By the time they were eight and nine years old, Sara and Amy Hamann were already committed to performing four-hand piano music, and they've just released their first studio recording, Beethoven: The Complete Piano Duets. This is a two-CD set featuring these works on both a modern Yamaha piano; and on instruments of Beethoven's period.
After winning a McKnight artist fellowship, they decided to put their award toward a special recording. Sara says the idea was to focus on a single composer. "And right around the time that we had won the fellowship, Beethoven's Grosse Fuge manuscript had been discovered in Philadelphia in a seminary and it sparked all of this interest in the piece. So we thought we should record that. Which then led us to doing the complete four-hand works, because we found out, wow, you can't get a complete disc of all of the works. And we were considering, do we want to do this on piano or do we want to do this on period instruments? And then we decided, why don't we do both, do a comparative recording?"
The Schubert Club in St. Paul loaned Amy and Sara three fortepianos for this recording. There's a dramatic contrast in the sound of these keyboards compared to the modern piano. Amy says playing these instruments also posed unique challenges. "It feels much, much different than the modern pianos that we're used to. The first and foremost difference, I would say, is the range of the instruments is so much smaller. Our modern pianos today have a little over seven octaves and these fortepianos are only five octaves.The keys are quite a bit narrower as well. So we have to be very, very precise. They're very sensitive, so if you barely just touch a key, it makes a sound, whereas on a modern piano, it's a little more forgiving."
The earliest fortepiano, from 1784, is featured on the Sonata in D major for piano, four hands. The sound of this instrument is most reminiscent of a harpsichord, and these early instruments also have another unique feature that makes them even more challenging to play. "The fortepianos have knee pedals as opposed to the pedals that are on the floor. So that's a big adjustment. It's also interesting, being a woman, your heel height really changes where your knee sits. There were all of these funny little things that we had to account for. We put our feet on books so that our knee would be able to easily hit the knee pedal. Otherwise, you end up using your entire leg and then you're distracted by the incredible pain that you're having in your hip from trying to use your whole leg."
Elegant choreography is essential to creating a beautifully executed four-hand piano work. Amy explains this was especially critical in performing Beethoven's Grosse Fuge. Playing this work on two pianos would makes it much easier, and more physically comfortable for the performers, but Amy says that would change the overall effect of this dramatic work. "Then you're using two pedals versus one. He had it with one pedal in mind for all the sonorities versus two instruments, and each person having their own pedal. We try to really think of all those things when we're exploring music. Exploring... it's our job to convey the composer's intentions and his ideas and ideals about the piece, that's our job."
"Sisters Serenade Audience with the Music of Beethoven" Emma Snyder, The Oracle, November 20th, 2012
Last Saturday, sisters Amy and Sara Hamann celebrated the release of their new CD in the same place they began their first recording sessions: Sundin Music Hall. Their CD, "Beethoven's Compositions for Piano Duet," is a compilation of Beethoven songs played by the duo on both a modern and a chronologically accurate reproduction of a fortepiano.
The performance which was held on Saturday, November 17, was hosted by Alison Young, a host on Classical Minnesota Public Radio. Three pianos sat on the stage, each from a different time period. The sisters played songs from their new CD on a 1784 and 1800 fortepiano as well as a Yamaha Disklavier modern piano. In between songs, Young interviewed the sisters about how they had began playing together, the work they had put into the CD, and what it was all about. The sisters talked about the process behind their music, and laughed about them telling their coach, Alexander Braginsky, about the project they were about to take on.
"He said it was a project of a madman," Sara said.
Since the concert was open to the public, the majority of the audience were non-Hamline students. The sisters ended the show with Grosse Fuge in B flat major on the modern piano, and were praised by the audience with a standing ovation.
The Hamann sisters have been performing together for the past thirty years, ever since they were the mere age of four and five. The two have received many awards for their performances, including being the first American piano duo to win the first prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale, which was held in Rome, Italy as well as the first prize winners of the International Grieg Competition which was held in Oslo, Norway.
After being awarded a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians, the Hamman sisters decided to put the funding towards a recording project.
"We felt strongly about recording the works of a single composer and have always been intrigued by the evolution of the piano," Amy wrote. "After reading about the discovery of Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, Opus 134 manuscript for piano duet, we knew we had to record Beethoven's Complete Piano Duets on both modern and period instruments. It was the perfect combination of all of our interests and, more importantly, hadn't been done before."
Sara and Amy Hamann spent two and a half years learning and recording their pieces for the record.
"We were our own producers and spent countless hours preparing, recording, listening to and editing all of the material. It was the most grueling project of our career thus far, but throughout the process, we had faith that it would somehow garner the attention of a major label," Amy wrote.
The sisters feel honored that Silvester Vicic, director of Sundin Music Hall, offered to host their CD release concert. In the future, the sisters hope to continue in the same direction and record another CD together.
"We feel very fortunate to share our life's passion with each other. Nothing brings us more joy than sharing our love of music with others through our private teaching and concertizing," Amy wrote.
Entertainment Best Bets, Pioneer Press, November 15th, 2012
Classical - Amy and Sara Hamann -
Saturday: When it comes to music for two pianos or one piano, four hands, the Edina-bred Hamann Sisters are getting to be among the world's most-renowned duos. The pair's latest recording is a two-CD set: They've recorded Beethoven's complete piano duets not only on a modern piano, but also on a 19th-century pianoforte similar to the one the composer would have used when writing and perhaps premiering them. That disc was recorded at the Schubert Club Museum in downtown St. Paul. For their CD release concert, they will play a vintage instrument at Sundin (and a modern one, too). 7:30 p.m.; Sundin Music Hall, 1531 Hewitt Ave., St. Paul; free; 651-523-2459 or hamline.edu/sundin. -- Rob Hubbard
Amy and Sara Hamann play Beethoven's Piano Duets Then and Now, MPR, November 13th, 2012
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Tirelessly practicing, Amy and Sara Hamann grew up playing piano together. And with their fantastic technique and dramatic interplay, they're poised to take the world by storm.
Their home set the stage, and the nurturing environment of the Twin Cities classical music scene helped make them stars. They made their professional debut at Minnesota Public Radio's Fitzgerald Theater as winners of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' Concerto Competition. In 2007, Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra featured them during Sommerfest.
Under the tutelage of Alexander Braginsky, Amy and Sara Hamann are the first American duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale held in Rome, first prize in the International Grieg Competition, and first prize of the Ellis Competition for duo-pianists.
With touring, acclaim and prizes under their belts, a new recording is the natural next step. And what a recording it is.
A two-disc endeavor, the first CD is performed on a modern piano; whereas the second CD features the same pieces performed on reproductions of the fortepianos Beethoven was composing on at the time. And they play both eras beautifully and with ease.
Stuart Stiltoe of Preston Recorded Music Society writes:
They seem at home on either the period or modern instrument, which is no mean feat in itself, but they are then able to bring out every nuance of the great man's music. Whether in the more contemplative and humorous passages to be found in the two sets of variations (WoO 67 & 74) or in the more marshal music of the 3 Marches Op. 45 their playing is excellent!
On the decision to record on both modern and period instruments, The Hamann sisters said, "we struggled with the question of which instrument renders the most authentic performance of Beethoven's Complete Piano Duets. We decided to embrace their inherent technical and interpretive differences and recorded our period instrument disc in an intimate performance space which is in stark contrast to the vibrant concert hall of the modern disc."
Listeners can see and hear the difference live too. The Hamann sisters are celebrating the release of this double disc set with a concert at Hamline University's Sundin Music Hall on November 17, 2012. They will be playing selections on both the modern instruments and fortepiano. Classical MPR host Alison Young will emcee the event.
Edina Grads Perform Free Piano Concert, Lisa Kaczke, Edina Sun Current November 6th, 2012
Two Edina High School graduates are holding a release party for their upcoming CD.
Duo pianists Amy and Sara Hamann will be performing a free concert to celebrate their new CD at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 17, at Hamline University's Sundin Hall.
The sisters new CD is a recording of Beethoven's Complete Piano Duets, performed once on modern pianos and a second on reproductions of the fortepianos on which Beethoven was composing at the time. The CD "Beethoven Complete Piano Duets" is available on Amazon.
Complete works for Piano Duet
Amy and Sara Hamann
Grand Piano GP619-20 (2 CDs)
It seems that this young American duet have the market to themselves at the moment, yes there is the recording by the Prague Piano Duet on the Praga Digitals label, but this is not complete, as instead of the Grosse Fuge Op. 134 you get a transcription by Hugo Ulrich of the 7th Symphony. This recording is also unique in the way that the sisters give you two recordings of all the works, the first presented on a modern Yamaha piano which is recorded in a concert hall, while the second version is recorded in a more intermit surroundings using three fortepianos. The difference is remarkable; there are times when you would think that you were listening to different works, with the more percussive modern instrument really showing up the limitations of the fortepianos. That being said, I do think that overall I prefer the more period aware recording, yes I know that the sound from the fortepianos will not be to everyone's taste, but it is to mine!
The performance is, at times, full of bravura brilliance, the Hamann sisters are new to me, as I am sure they will be to most people on this side of the pond, but they seem to have been making musical waves, both as a piano duet and on two pianos in their home country, and you can hear why. They seem at home on either the period or modern instrument, which is no mean feat in itself, but they are then able to bring out every nuance of the great man's music. Whether in the more contemplative and humorous passages to be found in the two sets of variations (WoO 67 & 74) or in the more marshal music of the 3 Marches Op. 45 their playing is excellent! The highlight for me, on both discs, is their interpretation of the Grosse Fugue in B flat Major Op.134, as here they take this brilliance to another level. This is Beethoven's own transcription of the famous single movement string quartet, perhaps this is why I like it so much, and whist I enjoyed the period performance, this is for me the work which is best heard on the modern instrument, as while the fortepiano is fine in the quieter moments, it is only on the modern instrument that you get the full effect of the more explosive elements of the piece!
This is a most rewarding set and one which I have no hesitation in recommending. I hope that the powers that be at HNH make further recordings with the Hamann sisters either for their Grand Piano or their Naxos labels; they certainly have a wide enough repertoire to suite either label. Good notes from that stalwart of Naxos booklets, Keith Anderson, and good recorded sound only serve to heighten ones enjoyment of this fine recording.
From International Piano Magazine: Naxos Announces The Creation of a new record label for lesser-known piano music including the release of the Hamann Sisters' "Beethoven - Complete Piano Duets"
30 January 2012
Grand Piano, a new label dedicated to classical piano recordings, will launch this March. The group will focus on rare works and lesser-known piano cycles that might otherwise have remained unrecorded.
Early releases will include the first in a series of five discs covering the complete piano works of Saint-Saens performed by New York-based Geoffrey Burleson, and a volume of pieces by Joachim Raff, not previously recorded, by Vietnamese pianist Tra Nguyen. Piano fans can also look forward to a series of Moisey Samuilovich Vaynberg works, set to disc by Allison Brewster Franzetti, and a CD featuring Caroline Weichert performing repertoire by Erwin Schulhoff.
Long-term plans include the release of world premiere recordings of the complete piano sonatas by Christian Gottlob Neefe, famous as Beethoven's teacher, played by Susan Kagan; Beethoven's complete four-handed works for one piano by duo Amy and Sara Hamann; Gerhard Frommel's piano sonatas with soloist Tatjana Blome; 100 Etudes by Johann Baptist Cramer performed by Gianluca Luisi, and the complete piano music of Alexander Tcherepnin, recorded by Giorgio Koukl.
During 2012 Grand Piano releases will feature artwork by Gro Thorsen, a London-based graduate of Wimbledon School of Fine Art, on its CD covers (pictured). The label will be distributed worldwide by the Naxos Group.
The Hamann Sisters will be featured at the third "Sunday at the Center" concert series this Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Arts and Media Center, 319 Wayne Ave.
The Crescent-News - November 18, 2010
The well-known piano duo the Hamann Sisters will be featured at the third of the 2010-11 Moats Enterprises "Sunday at the Center" concerts on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Arts and Media Center, 319 Wayne Ave. The event is co-presented by Defiance Community Cultural Commission and the Schomburg Series. Sponsors are the StateBank and Trust Co., Renovators Commercial, Inc., and Service Master. Event sponsor is the Richard M. Small family.
Heralded as "having the eloquence and ability to maintain their audience under the powers," Amy and Sara Hamann, in just a few years, have won international recognition, captivating audiences and critics alike wherever they appear. Most recently, the sisters were honored in New York City by Yamaha Corporation of America, which bestowed upon them the title, "Yamaha Artists."
As winners of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' Concerto Competition, Amy and Sara made their professional debut at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. Their broad range of repertoire and versatility in playing period and modern instruments have since led them to be featured artists worldwide in a variety of venues and with respected orchestras. Frequently, Amy and Sara's performances have been broadcast on national and international television and radio, including NPR's "Performance Today" and "Studio 360."
Amy and Sara are the first American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale, held in Rome, Italy, and the first prize winners of the International Grieg Competition, held in Oslo, Norway. The Hamanns are the youngest first prize winners in the history of the National Federation of Music Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists. In addition to winning the first prize, Amy and Sara were awarded the Lucile Parrish Ward award for the best performance of American music. The sisters are also winners of the prestigious McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians administered by MacPhail Center for Music.
The Hamanns have produced a CD and are currently recording the complete four-hand works of Beethoven.
Tickets for the concert are available at the door for $10.
Hamann Sisters will play duo piano with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra March 6
Ledger-Enquirer - February 28, 2010
The Hamann Sisters, Amy and Sara, were born just 17 months apart. In many ways, they are much like twins. They finish each other’s sentences, practically read each other’s minds and both are pianists. “We pretty much communicate without talking,” Sara said. “We are so interconnected that it’s as though we are twins,” Amy said.
The sisters will perform with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra on Saturday. Playing dual pianos. They’ve played dual piano concerti since they were 4 and 5 years old. Growing up in Edina, Minn., they attended the University of Minnesota. Recently, the sisters were honored by being named Yamaha Artists by the Yamaha Corp. of America.
They won the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies’ Concerto Competition and made their professional debut at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.
Have they ever considered solo careers? “No,” Sara said. “Since we were both blessed with the same gift and commitment to our art form and each other, we’ve never considered pursuing a solo career. We consider that this is an extraordinary gift and we’ve trusted that this is what we’re supposed to do with our lives.”
They have performed with orchestras and at music festivals in the United States, Canada and Europe. Last season, they played the American premiere of Haydn’s “Concerto for Two Pianos.” Amy and Sara are the first American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale in Rome, and were the first-prize winners of the International Grieg Competition in Oslo. They were also the youngest first prize winners in the history of the National Federation of Music Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists. They also won the Lucile Parrish Ward Award for the best performance of American music. The sisters also won the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians from the MacPhail Center for Music. Their first CD, “Jeux d’Enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo,” will be followed by the complete four hand works by Beethoven.
How to tell them apart? One way to tell them apart is by their hair — Amy has curly hair and Sara has straight hair. Some people ask if they are twins while others don’t believe they’re sisters. Amy is the elder sister, and they were one grade apart in school. Both are married and neither has children. Amy has two dogs. Sara has a dog and a cat. The sisters practice at Amy’s two-piano home because Amy is allergic to cats.
Looking forward to a trip south. The sisters say Minnesota has been very cold and snowy this winter. “We can’t wait to get to Georgia,” said Sara. When told that temperatures were expected to reach the upper 30s at night during their stay in Columbus, Amy said people in Minnesota would consider that a heat wave and wear shorts and flip-flops. Sara said Wednesday morning’s temperature was 5 degrees in Minnesota. Besides the warm weather, the sisters are excited that Columbus Symphony Orchestra conductor and music director George del Gobbo requested the duo play one of their favorites, the Poulenc concerto.
“We’re really happy to perform it,” Amy said.
Award-winning Hamann Sisters to perform concert at Townsend Center
Times-Georgian - April 2, 2009
Amy and Sara Hamann will perform a concert of classical music Thursday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Richard Dangle Theatre at the Townsend Center for the Performing Arts.
Performing on the Townsend's twin Bosendorfer Imperial Grand pianos on the University of West Georgia campus, the duo will perform Schubert's "Fantasia in F Minor," Liszt's brooding and dramatic "Reminiscences de Don Juan," as well as works by Milhaud and Mendelssohn.
Raised in Edina, Minn., the Hamanns have been performing since they celebrated their fourth and fifth birthdays. They began their training by practicing at the Yamaha School of Music where instructors thought the look-alike sisters looked cute on a piano bench together.
From the start, the Hamanns soon decided being a piano duo was more than a charming pose. Throughout their education in Edina and at the University of Minnesota, the sisters dedicated themselves to piano duets.
The pianists made their professional debut at the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul as winners of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Concerto Competition. The Hamanns became the youngest first prize winners in the history of the Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists, earning $10,000 and two years of concert dates.
"We sort of just breathe together and know what the other one is going to do," said Amy. "We're not twins, but we do have a very tight connection."
That tight connection as well as thousands of hours of practice enabled the sisters to become the first American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the 14th Concorso Pianistico Internazionale held in Rome in 2003.
In 2005, Amy and Sara traveled to Oslo, Norway to compete in the International Grieg Competition and returned home once again as the First Prize winners. In 2006, the sisters won the prestigious McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians and a prize of $27,000.
The Hamanns perform 20 or more concerts a year and have recently released a debut CD. Their performances are a regular broadcast on national and international television and radio.
"It's probably unusual that two sisters get along as well as we do and share the same drive and passion," said Sara. "But we think it's a gift and we'd be crazy not to make the most of it."
Tickets for the concert are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and military, $5 for children and $7 for UWG students. For ticket purchases, call the Townsend Center Box Office at 678-839-4722. Box office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 10 a.m. until closing on show day.
For more information, visit www.townsendcenter.org.
Weymouth Season Finale Features Duo Pianists
The Pilot - April 1, 2008
The season's final concert of the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities Chamber Music Series is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, April 5, in the great room at Weymouth. The concert features duo pianists Amy and Sara Hamann. They will be performing on the Yamaha Grand given by Sally Logan in memory of her husband, Nelson Logan, in the early 1980s. A fine instrument, pianists proclaim it to be beautiful and responsive, says Elaine Sills, chairman of the Chamber Music Concert committee.
The Hamann sisters will be performing a program for "One Piano, Four Hands." Pieces will include "Sonata in D Major, Opus 6" by Ludwig Van Beethoven; "Fantasia in F Minor, D. 940" by Franz Schubert; "Petite Suite" by Claude Debussy; "Three Marches, Opus 45" by Beethoven; and "Four Norwegian Dances, Opus 35" by Edvard Grieg. Reviewer Michael Anthony of the Star Tribune writes that the "Hamanns are smart, stylish players, and they have a bold streak...[they] attack their instruments with a fierce energy...The sisters can also play with real delicacy, along with perfect unanimity...The Hamanns will go far."
Amy and Sara Hamann, in just a few years, have won international recognition, captivating audiences and critics alike wherever they appear. Most recently, the sisters were honored in New York City by Yamaha Corporation of America, which bestowed on them the title "Yamaha Artists."
As winners of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' Concerto Competition, Amy and Sara made their professional debut at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. Their broad range of repertoire and versatility in playing period and modern instruments have since led them to be featured artists with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at the Chautauqua Institution, the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, the Oslo International Music Festival, the Quebec International Duo-Piano Festival, as well as the Reding-Piette Two-Piano Festival in Switzerland.
Last Sommerfest season, the Hamanns joined Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra for the American premiere of Haydn's "Concerto for Two Pianos." In addition, the sisters were the guest artists for the season opening concerts of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, and the Colonial Chamber Series in Minneapolis, Minn. Frequently, Amy and Sara's performances have been broadcast on national and international television and radio, including NPR's "Performance Today" and "Studio 360."
Amy and Sara Hamann are the first American Piano Duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale, held in Rome, Italy and the First Prize winners of the International Grieg Competition, held in Oslo, Norway. The Hamanns are the youngest First Prize winners in the history of the National Federation of Music Club's Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists. In addition to winning the First Prize, Amy and Sara were awarded the Lucile Parrish Ward Award for the best performance of American music. The sisters are also winners of the prestigious McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians administered by the MacPhail Center for Music.
Following on their first CD Jeux d’enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo on the Schubert Club’s Ten Thousand Lakes label, they are recording the complete four hand works of Beethoven. Amy and Sara are under the tutelage of Alexander Braginsky and are represented by StandingOvationArts, Critics Choice Concerts and Yamaha Artist Services, Inc.
The concert is partially funded through membership, John Hernandez, and the Lena Stewart Brillhart and John Stewart Music Endowments. Coordinating the Chamber Music Concerts are Pat Williams-Daws; Tony Hantjis; Ralph Jacobson; Jeffrey Mims; Sondra Nelson; Havner Parrish; Mary Emma Wilson; Lena S. Brillhart, ex-officio; and Elaine M. Sills, chairman. Admission to the concert is by membership or $15 at the door. Doors will open at 2 p.m. Call 692-6261 for additional information.
Converse Hosts National Duo-Piano Competition
Converse Headlines - March 2009
Duo-piano teams from throughout the country will converge upon the Converse campus this Saturday to compete in the Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists. Sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs, the bi-annual Ellis Competition is the only recognized American duo-piano competition supported by a national music organization.
The competition will be held in Converse's Daniel Recital Hall Saturday, March 28, at 8:30 a.m. Teams will be competing for a $10,000 prize and the opportunity to receive professional representation by the NFMC for two years. The winners will be announced at 2:30 p.m. There is no admission charge, and the public is invited to attend.
"The Ellis was our first national competition win and it gave us the confidence to enter international competitions," said Sara Hamann, one-half of the Minneapolis-based duo Hamann Sisters who won the top prize in 1999. "It was our first big 'break' and gave us a great deal of performing experience. It helped us learn how to deal with performance anxiety in the most positive and productive manner. The repertoire and memorization requirements rank as the most challenging in the Ellis. Because of these requirements, competing teams have to be dedicated, serious duo-pianists."
For the Hamanns, the Ellis Competition was the springboard for an incredible career that includes performing as featured artists with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at the Chautauqua Institution, the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, the Oslo International Music Festival, the Quebec International Duo-Piano Festival, as well as the Reding-Piette Two-Piano Festival in Switzerland. In addition, the sisters were the guest artists for the season opening concerts of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, and the Colonial Chamber Series in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Frequently, Amy and Sara's performances have been broadcast on national and international television and radio, including NPR's "Performance Today" and "Studio 360."
Other past winners of the Ellis Competition include Pas De Duo of San Francisco, California; the Roo Duo of Missouri; and the Long Duo of Taiwan. Two local music clubs, the Spartanburg Philharmonic and the Music Club of Spartanburg, provide support in the form of hospitality and transportation. Mrs. Kenneth Cribb of Spartanburg is chair of the Auditions Committee. The Ellis Duo-Piano Competition was made possible originally by a legacy left by Annie Lou Ellis of Birmingham, Ala., friend and benefactor of the National Federation of Music Club.
Recital Series Continues with Hamann Sisters
The Trojan Times - November 19, 2008
Sara Hamann may be an A flat and Amy Hamann may be a G sharp but the noted Minneapolis pianists sound identical on the stage. The sisters are as enharmonic as any two notes can be and have won numerous awards in four-hand piano competition. On Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 7:30 PM they brought their repertoire of classical music to Rodgers Chapel.
As Sara Hamann said in a July National Public Radio interview, "We sort of just breathe together and know what the other one is going to do." Amy added, "We're not twins, but we do have a very tight connection."
That tight connection, as well as thousands of hours of practice, has allowed them to become the first American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the 14th Concorso Pianistico Internazionale in Rome in October 2003. Judges added the "absolute" tag because their points far exceeded the second-place finishers.
Raised in Edina, Minnesota, the pair has been turning heads since Amy was a 5-year-old and Sara had just turned 4. They began their training by practicing at the Yamaha School of Music, where the instructors thought the look-alike sisters would be cute on a piano bench together.
From that innocuous start, the Hamann Sisters soon decided being a pianist duo was more than a cute pose. Childhood whims of pursuing the piano were replaced by childhood resolve when they met the Labeque sisters. As 8 and 9-year-olds, the Hamann sisters met the French musicians backstage at a Minneapolis performance. "That was a turning point for us," Sara said.
Throughout their education in Edina and at the University of Minnesota, the duo dedicated themselves to piano duets, and after graduating from the University with degrees in piano performance, they pursued their passion professionally. In 1999, they won the Ellis Competition for Duo Pianists, earning them $10,000 and two years of concert dates.
These days the sisters perform 20 dates a year, have recently released their first compact disc, "Jeux d'enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo," and still practice five hours a day when preparing for a performance.
At Rodgers Chapel, the duo performed works by Bach, Schubert, Milhaud, Mozart, Grieg, and Liszt before a crowd of faculty/staff, students, and community members.
Converse-Based Carols Moseley Music Series Brings Famed Musicians to the Upstate
Converse Headlines - July 2008
An extraordinary roster of internationally renowned musicians will headline the 26th season of the Carlos Moseley Chamber Music Series.
The schedule includes performances by The American Chamber Players (Sept. 22), who will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of their first appearance at Converse, The Hamann Sisters (Nov. 10) and the Guarneri String Quartet (March 2). A bonus concert by violist Miles Hoffman and Reiko Uchida (piano) is scheduled for April 13.
Each performance will begin at 8 p.m. in Daniel Recital Hall on the campus of Converse College.
Admission to the performances is by subscription for a fee of $125 per person per season. For membership information, contact Sarah Spigner in Converse's Petrie School of Music at (864) 596-9193 or send an e-mail.
The American Chamber Players; Sept. 22, 2008
The New York Times praised The American Chamber Players for their “warm, seductively luxurious sound and impressive precision and unity of purpose,” while the Washington Post stated simply that “they have established standards of chamber music performance equal to any in the world.” They have toured throughout North America, engaged and re-engaged by prestigious concert series from Florida to British Columbia, and have traveled to Paris for a series of special gala concerts at the Paris Opera and the Bibliothèque Nationale.
They have also been heard countless times on National Public Radio's "Performance Today" and on local radio stations throughout the United States, and they are the resident ensemble of the June Chamber Festival at the Kreeger Museum, in Washington, DC. They have recorded music of Mozart, Bruch, Bloch, Stravinsky, Harbison and Rochberg for a series of compact discs and cassettes distributed internationally on the Koch International Classics label.
The group's performance at Converse will feature a performance of Beethoven’s magnificent Septet for winds and strings.
The Hamann Sisters; Nov. 10, 2008
In just a few years, the Hamann Sisters have won international recognition, captivating audiences and critics alike wherever they appear. Amy and Sara Hamann are the first American Piano Duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale, held in Rome, Italy and the First Prize winners of the International Grieg Competition, held in Oslo, Norway.
In 1999, they became the youngest First Prize winners in the history of the National Federation of Music Club's Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists, which was held at Converse College. In addition to winning the First Prize that year, the Hamanns received the Lucile Parrish Ward Award for the best performance of American music. The sisters are also past winners of the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians administered by the MacPhail Center for Music, in Minneapolis.
Following on their first CD Jeux d’enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo on the Schubert Club’s Ten Thousand Lakes label, they are recording the complete four hand works of Beethoven. Amy and Sara are under the tutelage of Alexander Braginsky and are represented by StandingOvationArts, Critics Choice Concerts and Yamaha Artist Services, Inc.
During their Moseley Series concert, the Hamanns will perform Darius Milhaud’s dazzling Scaramouche Suite along with works by W. F. Bach, Franz Liszt and others.
The Guarneri String Quartet; March 2, 2009
The renowned Guarneri String Quartet "is among the most revered and enduring ensembles of its kind in the world" (National Public Radio) and has circled the globe countless times since it was formed in 1964, playing in the most prestigious halls in North and South America, Mexico, Europe, Asia and Australia. The Guarneri String Quartet has announced its retirement at the completion of the 2008-2009 season. In the coming seasons the quartet will celebrate by doing what it does best - touring extensively throughout the United States as they have for nearly 45 years. These performances also include their annual Metropolitan Museum of Art concert series, instituted in 1965, as well as collaboration with the Johannes String Quartet. The ensemble also makes its annual tour to Europe this winter.
Their Moseley Series program will include the String Quartet in F Major by Maurice Ravel.
Bonus Concert: Miles Hoffman, viola, and Reiko Uchido, piano; April 13, 2009
Violist and Petrie School of Music Dean Miles Hoffman will close the season performing a recital with piano virtuoso and international prize winner Reiko Uchida. One of the nation’s most highly regarded champions of the viola as a solo instrument, Hoffman began his career in 1979 with a debut recital that the New York Times hailed as “an uplifting experience,” and he has since appeared in recital and as soloist with orchestras all across the United States.
His program with Ms. Uchida will include works for viola and piano by Schumann, Shostakovich, Bruch and Brahms.
For decades the name Carlos Moseley has been synonymous with musical excellence. A Spartanburg native and former executive of the New York Philharmonic, Carlos Dupre Moseley has served on the boards of Converse College and Brevard Music Center, and has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from The Juilliard School, Duke University, Wofford College and Converse College. Additionally, he is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest honor available to a citizen of South Carolina, and has been named an Honorary Member of The Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc.
The Friends of the Petrie School of Music was formed in 1983 by a group of devoted Converse faculty, administrators, and community supporters. Their mission was to entice future generations to the Converse campus through new avenues in musical programming, audience development, and support projects for the Petrie School. Spearheading the effort were Carlos Moseley, the first president and later chairman of the board of the New York Philharmonic; Henry Janiec, then Dean of the School of Music; Dicksie Cribb, Converse alumna and respected arts leader; and the late John McCrae, professor emeritus of voice and opera.
Upcoming Classical Two-Piano Recital
Sun Current - April 29, 2008
Amy and Sara Hamann, a classical piano duo based in the Twin Cities, will perform a program 4 p.m. Sunday, May 11, at Normandale Lutheran Church, 6100 Normandale Road, Edina.
The Hamanns will perform Sonata in F Major by W.F. Bach, Fantasy in F Minor by Schubert, Fantasy in C Minor by Mozart/Grieg, and Reminiscences de Don Juan by Liszt. The concert benefits Mission: Juarez 2008 Normandale Youth Activities Scholarship Fund.
In early April, the sisters were honored in New York by Yamaha Corp. of America, which bestowed on them the title "Yamaha Artists."
Enharmonic Minneapolis piano duo set to perform at the PAC
Brookings Post - November 9, 2007
Amy and Sara Hamann, the Brookings Chamber Music Society guest artists, play a concert of duo pianos at the Performing Arts Center Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. In just a few years, have won international recognition, captivating audiences and critics alike.
Sara Hamann may be an A flat and Amy Hamann may be a G sharp but the noted Minneapolis pianists sound identical on the stage.
The sisters are as enharmonic as any two notes can be and have won numerous awards in four-hand piano competition.
They bring their repertoire of classical music to the stage of the Performing Arts Center at South Dakota State University in the second concert of the season for the Brookings Chamber Music Society.
Concert time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, with tickets available from the Music Department and at the door.
“I expect them to be a very dynamic and interesting group,” said Associate Professor John Walker, director of keyboard studies at SDSU and director of the Chamber Music Society.
“From what most people have observed, people who are blood relation have an innate ability to play closely together.”
As Sara Hamann said in a July National Public Radio interview, “We sort of just breathe together and know what the other one is going to do.”
Amy added, “We’re not twins, but we do have a very tight connection.”
That tight connection as well as thousands of hours of practice has allowed them to become the first American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the 14th Concorso Pianistico Internazionale in Rome in October 2003.
Judges added the “absolute” tag because their points far exceeded the second-place finishers, they report.
Raised in Edina, Minn., the pair have been turning heads since Amy was a 5 year-old and Sara had just turned 4. They began their training by practicing at the Yamaha School of Music.
The instructors thought the look-alike sisters would be cute on a piano bench together.
From that innocuous start, Sara and Amy Hamann soon decided being a pianist duo was more than a cute pose. Childhood whims of pursuing the piano were replaced by childhood resolve when they met the Labeque sisters.
As 8 and 9-year-olds, the Edina sisters met the French musicians backstage at a Minneapolis performance.
“That was a turning point for us,” Sara said.
Throughout their education in Edina and at the University of Minnesota, the duo dedicated themselves to piano duets, and after graduating from the U of M with degrees in piano performance, they pursued their passion professionally.
In 1999, they won the Ellis Competition for Duo Pianists, earning them $10,000 and two years of concert dates.
These days the sisters perform 20 dates a year, have recently released their first compact disc, “Jeux d'enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo”, and still practice five hours a day when preparing for a performance.
When practicing together, they face opposite directions to hone their listening skills.
In an interview with the Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine, Amy said, “It's probably unusual that two sisters get along as well as we do and share the same drive and passion. But we think it's a gift, and we'd be crazy not to make the most of it.”
Walker says any fan of piano duets would be crazy not to make it to their concert at the Performing Arts Center.
Tickets: Adults, $15; students, $5; SDSU students, free with ID.
Purchase: At the door, from the Music Department (Lincoln Music Hall), or by check, Brookings Chamber Music Society, Box 2212, SDSU, Brookings, SD 57007.
The Big Gigs - September 28 - October 4
Larry Fuchsberg, Star Tribune - September 27, 2007
Precocious local pianists Amy and Sara Hamann maintain a busy touring schedule. But Sunday the duo kicks off the Colonial Church Chamber Series with a two-pianos program featuring works by Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven and W.F. Bach, along with Liszt's brooding and dramatic "Reminiscences de Don Juan," a standout on the pair's 2005 debut CD. (7 p.m. Sun., Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina. $15. 952-925-2711.) (L.F.)
Lani Willis, Mpls.St. Paul Magazine - July 2007
At Sommerfest, the Hamann Sisters premiere a recently discovered Haydn concerto for two pianos.
It's not every day you get to hear a 250-year old work for the first time. But this Sommerfest, the Hamann Sisters - Amy and Sara - introduce Franz Joseph Haydn's long-lost Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra to American audiences.
"It was always talked about that there was a two-piano concerto that Haydn had written when he was seventeen," says Amy Hamann. "But it was unpublished in its original format, and for centuries was thought to be lost."
The full manuscript was discovered in a Czech library, authenticated, and obtained by private collectors, who in 1996 gave it to a Greek conductor and pianist, George Petrou. Petrou, in turn, gave it to the Hamann sisters as a birthday present for Amy.
"It's the only thing Haydn wrote for two pianos, and he was very young when he did it," says Amy Hamann. "It's almost Baroque in style, but you can hear where he's going - there are stereotypical surprises and humor, unadorned harmonies, intricate ornaments and trills. The ensemble is quite involved."
The Hamanns had been looking for the right opportunity to premiere the score. Then their teacher, Alexander Braginsky, mentioned the treasure to Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vanska. "It's pretty rare you hear of a Haydn premiere, and he was intrigued," says Amy.
The premiere also marks the duo's Minnesota Orchestra debut. The Hamann Sisters have won many prestigious awards, including a 2005-06 McKnight Artist Fellowship, but performing as guest soloists with the Minnesota Orchestra is a big step forward in their careers.
"We couldn't be more thrilled to present the American premiere with our home orchestra in our hometown," she says. "It means so much to us." July 14. Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5656, minnesotaorchestra.org, hamannsisters.com
Classical New & Notes: Hamann sisters are a hit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Michael Anthony, Star Tribune - October 8, 2006
Hamanns earn praise
The Hamann sisters' career continues on the upswing. The two-piano team from Minneapolis, Amy and Sara, were guests of the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Symphony at that orchestra's season opener last month, playing Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat.
"The sisters," wrote George C. Ford in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, "who are 17 months apart in age, performed as one, exhibiting an intensity and stage presence that captivated the audience and earned them a standing ovation." The concert, given at the city's Paramount Theater, featured the debut of the orchestra's new music director, Timothy Hankewich, who, judging by Ford's review, also was a hit with the audience.
This weekend the Hamanns are giving a recital in Columbus, Ohio, this time performing repertoire for one piano-four hands. They'll be playing the Mendelssohn Two-Piano Concerto with the Rochester (Minn.) Symphony Nov. 18 at Mayo Civic Center Presentation Hall.
Students of Alexander Braginsky at the University of Minnesota, the Hamanns won first prize in the two-piano category in the Grieg International Piano Competition in Oslo, Norway, a year ago, and earlier in 2005, they released their debut CD on the Schubert Club's Ten Thousand Lakes label.
Freed will lead
Kenneth Freed is the new music director of the Mankato Symphony. Freed will lead the orchestra in his inaugural concert next Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Mankato West High School. A violist with the Minnesota Orchestra, Freed was conductor of the Kenwood Symphony for several years, and during the 2005-06 season he served as assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, a position he shared with two colleagues from the orchestra, Manny Laureano and William Schrickel. Freed's guest soloist next Sunday will be another colleague, Burt Hara, the Minnesota Orchestra's principal clarinet, who will play the Mozart Clarinet Concerto.
C.R. Symphony captivates crowd - Masterworks series earns standing ovation
George C. Ford, The Gazette - September 25, 2006
A near-capacity crowd greeted Maestro Timothy Hankewich and the Cedar Rapids Symphony on Saturday evening at the Paramount Theatre for the season's inaugural Masterworks series concert.
The concert opened with the traditional singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and quickly moved to a performance of the sweeping "In the South" overture by Edward Elgar. Written in 1903-04 while the composer visited Alassio on the Italian Riviera, the selection contains a beautiful viola solo portraying a shepherd's song.
Directing without a musical score, Hankewich conducted "In the South" with an enjoyable flowing style that engages the orchestra and the audience.
Pianists Amy and Sara Hamann joined the CRSO for an eloquent performance of Mozart's "Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat." The sisters, who are 17 months apart in age, performed as one, exhibiting an intensity and stage presence that captivated the audience and earned them a standing ovation.
The CRSO opened the second half of the concert with a stirring performance of Respighi's "Pines of Rome."
The four movement composition, composed as a celebration of Rome and it's history describes four very different locations in the Eternal City.
The opening movement, "The Pines of the Villa Borghese," features music that mimics children in the estate's garden. The scene changes to the "Pines Near a Catacomb" as somber music sets the mood for an underground burial site.
Moonlight brings an air of mystery to the "Pines of Janiculum." A recording of nightingales helps the listeners envision Rome's highest hill.
Hankewich filled the balcony boxes with additional trumpets and trombones for the final movement, "The Pines of the Appian Way," with its musical visions of past Roman glories. As the final notes echoed, many audience members quickly stood and applauded.
The Hamann Sisters, Duo Pianists, to Open 2006-07 CityMusic Chamber Music Series Sunday, October 8, 2006
Coumbus Dispatch - September 24, 2006
They are the first American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale in Rome, Italy and the First Prize winners of the International Grieg Competition in Oslo, Norway. Amy and Sara Hamann, Duo Pianists, will open the 2006-07 CityMusic Chamber Music Series with a performance on Sunday, October 8 at 2:00 p.m. at 161 N. High Street. WOSU-FM is media sponsor for the concert.
Amy and Sara Hamann will perform a concert of music for one piano, four hands, including Andante and Variations, K.501 by Mozart, Fantasy in F minor, D.940 by Schubert, Ma Mere l'Oye by Ravel, Jeux d'enfants by Bizet, and Four Norwegian Dances, Op.35 by Grieg.
Heralded as “having the eloquence and ability to maintain their audience under their powers” by L’Impartial (Switzerland), Amy and Sara Hamann have been captivating critics and audiences alike. According to the Star Tribune, "The Hamanns are smart, stylish players, and they have a bold streak...[they] attack their instruments with a fierce energy...The sisters also can play with real delicacy, along with perfect unanimity...The Hamanns will go far."
The City Music Chamber Series is an intimate and relaxed way to enjoy great music. The popular Series has been called the “best way to spend a winter Sunday afternoon” by Columbus Monthly.
Tickets for the Hamann Sisters are $20 Adults, $15 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased by calling (614) 228-6224 or by going online to www.CityMusicColumbus.org. Ticket outlets include Better Earth in the North Market, The Cookware Sorcerer in the Short North, The Piano Gallery in Dublin, Hammond Harkins Galleries in Bexley, and Colonial Music Stores in Worthington, Westerville, Reynoldsburg and Hilliard.
Tutti Spring 2006
Alumnae Sara and Amy Hamann receive international accolades and release a new CD
In just a few short years, School of Music alumnae Amy and Sara Hamann have won international recognition, winning competitions and concertizing in North America and abroad.
Amy and Sara were the first American Piano Duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale and are also the youngest First Prize winners in the history of the National Federation of Music Clubs Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists.
2005 was a very monumental year for the sisters—they released a new CD, were awarded a $25,000 prize from the McKnight Foundation Fellowship for Performing Musicians and won first prize at the International Grieg Competition (Two-Piano category) in Oslo, Norway.
The sisters’ new CD Jeux d'enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo was released on the Schubert Club’s “Ten Thousand Lakes” label and is available from the Schubert Club (651-292-3267 or www.schubert.org) or on their website www.hamannsisters.com. The CD is a recording from a live performance, unedited and straight from one program. Amy says, “When we first thought about it, it was terrifying, but at the same time, it was such a romantic idea. You get so much energy that you can’t get in a recording studio. It’s much more difficult to recreate that energy when you know you have as many takes as you need.”
The Hamann sisters, who were the only Americans to compete in the International Grieg Competition’s Two-Piano category, were praised by judges for their stage presence and energy. Their final round program of works by W.F. Bach, Corigliano, Mozart, Grieg and Liszt was a winning combination, which not only won them the first prize, but also the prize for the best performance of a Mozart composition. Sara says, “We certainly didn’t automatically think we had won but we felt that we had represented ourselves well and felt positive about what we had done.” As the winners of the prize, they will perform at the 2006 Oslo Grieg Festival this July.
While they attended the SOM, Amy studied with Lydia Artymiw and Paul Shaw, with whom Sara also studied when she started the performance degree one year after her sister. Today, the sisters study privately with SOM Professor of Piano Alexander Braginsky, with whom they have studied for nearly 4 years. The sisters say studying with him has been very rewarding. Amy says, “We can’t say enough positives about him. And, that man knows how to push our buttons and get us motivated. It is unbelievable how he’s able to give us exactly what we need at exactly the right time.”
At present, Amy and Sara are working on two recordings in the studio, one of which will focus on harpsichord music. In addition, the Hamann sisters are slated to perform in the season opening concert of the Cedar Rapids (IA) Symphony Orchestra and will also perform with the Rochester (MN) Symphony Orchestra. They will also attend the International Keyboard Institute this summer in New York.
About Town Winter 2006
Performing Sister Duo From Edina Wins International Accolades, Releases New CD
By Cheryl Anderson
Amy and Sara Hamann's ever-growing list of musical accomplishments generates as much excitement as their bright, cheerful personalities. Even their conversational style resembles their performances - well-timed, complimentary and high-energy.
Now duo concert pianists, Amy and Sara have experienced one musical success after the next since graduating from Edina High School in the 1990's. They recently won the first prize at the International Grieg Competition in Oslo, Norway, along with a prize for the best performance of a Mozart composition. This past spring, the MacPhail Center for Music awarded them a $27,000 prize through the McKnight Foundation Fellowship for Performing Musicians. And they have just released their first CD on the Schubert Club's “Ten Thousand Lakes” label.
Growing up together in Edina, the performing sister musicians attended Countryside Elementary, Valley View Middle School, Edina High School and the University of Minnesota. Amy now lives in southwest Minneapolis, while Sara lives in Edina's Edinborough.
The sisters began their successful musical journey together at the Yamaha School of Music. There, they were introduced to “Four-hands” playing, or duo piano playing.
“We felt it was important to get them introduced to music at a young age,” said their father, Dr. Arlyn Hamann, who describes Amy and Sara as being “more like twins” than mere siblings in their thought processes and how well they work together. “They always seemed to have a natural talent, or a natural drive, since the beginning.”
Reflecting on his daughters’ work ethic during their young years, he added, “Just when you would expect young kids to lose interest [in piano], they would become more interested in it. They’ve been so successful not just because of their talent, but because they were really willing to work hard at it, which is sometimes difficult for some kids to do.”
At ages 7 and 8, they began admiring and following the Labeque sisters - duo piano performers from France. When the Hamanns were 8 and 9 years old, the Labeque sisters released recordings through the Schubert Club’s International Artist series, all of which they listened to. History changed for them when they were able to meet the French musicians backstage at a Minnesota performance.
“That was a turning point for us,” Sara said.
Although they are only 17 months apart in age and play so well as a duo that listeners sometimes cannot tell one from the other, Amy and Sara acknowledge that they are different.
“We compliment each other well,” said Sara.
“We balance each other out,” added Amy.
The results of the 2005 International Grieg Competition in Oslo, Norway clearly demonstrated this, as Amy and Sara played the first prize-winning performance. Leading up to the momentous experience, Sara said, “We felt as well-prepared as we could possibly be.”
Reaching this level of preparation takes significant dedication. For the talented sisters from Edina, a typical day is spent keeping their piano talents in tune and perfecting their passion for musical performance. The women practice four to six hours per day. The morning begins with each working individually; they later join each other for practice in the afternoon.
Their current teacher, Alexander Braginsky, decides which pieces to practice; and they usually practice specifically for their next performance. Interestingly, they did not have Braginsky as a teacher while at the U of M but learned from him after graduation “for a different viewpoint,” said Amy.
As far as what they spend the rest of their time doing, and the interests that they have, Sara said that music is “pretty much all-encompassing” in their lives. The two enjoy attending Minnesota Orchestra performances and arts organizations’ shows, arts fairs and other art-related events.
Currently, Amy and Sara are artists-in-residence at the International Piano Institute and say they are “looking forward to a busy season.” The CD they have just released, “Jeux d’enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo,” is a live recital program.
Presently, the sisters are working on two recording projects. They are studying early period instruments, such as those from the Baroque, the harpsichord and various keyboard instruments. And, according to Amy, they might produce a duo harpsichord and piano recording in the future. This would be the first performance of its kind - by women using such instruments in a duet.
“They are so dedicated to music and their career as performers,” says Sara’s best friend of 12 years, Laura Mullin, who met the sisters at the University of Minnesota. “When they commit to something, they put their whole hearts into what they do, and believe me, it shows!”
They take their work very seriously, but these multi-talented sisters also have a great sense of humor - a virtue that has helped them maintain their composure amidst the unexpected. Amy recalled a memorable moment during a concert performance years ago, describing it with amusement as “just one of those nights when everything seemed to be falling apart.” Sara’s earring fell out during the performance; and as Amy reached out to strike one of the keys on the “gorgeous old Steinway” they were playing, it fell completely off and onto the floor. With a laugh, they said they promptly practiced the “art of recovery.” Sara also recalled a time when they were playing and one of the pedals on their piano fell off and “slammed to the ground.”
“Both Sara and Amy are delightful to be around,” said Mullin.
Surprisingly, their musical passion is not rooted in their immediate family. Amy and Sara say they have two younger sisters - one who sings and another who dances - neither of whom shares their love for piano. Neither do our parents (“They were not concert pianists,” said Sara, dispelling an assumption that might have existed over the years about their influences). They said that this was what made the bond between them so strong - why they grew up so close, and still are. They had only each other with which to share their strong interest.
“We always felt we were destined to do this,” began Amy.
“We never questioned it,” Sara agreed, completing Amy’s thoughts.
It is no small wonder that their captivating performances are like a beautiful conversation between two pianos that combine perfectly as one.
Edina Magazine January 2006
Music of the Heart
By: Susan Palmquist
Photo: Todd Buchanan
Amy and Sara Hamann grew up knowing exactly what they wanted to do with their lives
Fighting with your parents about doing your homework, cleaning your room and especially practicing your musical instrument is a part of everyone’s childhood experience, unless you are Amy and Sara Hamann. No one ever reminded them to practice their piano skills when they were children. They knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up - musicians. The Hamann sisters were just 4 and 5 years old when they started taking lessons at the Yamaha School of Music and had their first recital. A few years later, they made their television debut playing an original duet composition live on WCCO.
After attending Edina High School, they both enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where they studied piano performance. Amy and Sara were right: they were growing up to be musicians.
A typical day for them begins with each sister practicing by herself. Later, they meet to practice as a duo for their live competitions, concerts and CD recording sessions. Sara says, in the early days, they both played on one piano, but then switched to two different pianos for their performances. “It gives us our own space, and we can make eye contact as we sit across the stage from each other,” says Sara. “Plus, it’s also more visually appealing to the audience...to see both pianists, instead of just one,” adds Amy.
In 1989, one of the first competitions they won was the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies Concerto Competition, and the award list just increased from there. They were the first American duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Fryderyk Chopin Concorso Pianistico Internazionale in Rome, Italy, and the First-Prize winners of the International Grieg Competition in Oslo, Norway. The Hamanns were also the youngest First-Prize winners in the history of the National Federation of Music Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists. “Our prize was $10,000, and we also got professional management for two years, which actually turned into four [years] because the next time around, the prize wasn’t awarded to anyone,” says Sara.
Recently, they were chosen to be the recipients of the 2005-06 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians administered by the MacPhail Center for Music. “It was a great surprise. The first part of the competition is totally blind because the judges only get to listen to a CD recording and have no idea who you are. They narrow it down to nine finalists, who are then invited to take part in a live competition,” says Amy.
Even though they’ve been playing in front of live audiences for many years, both sisters say they still get a touch of stage fright. “We still get butterflies when we perform, which in a way is good, because it adds to the sense of excitement when we go out on the stage,” says Sara.
One person who they give a lot of credit to is their current teacher, Alexander Braginsky, a professor of piano at the University of Minnesota. “He’s our ears. Sometimes two pianos can be very loud, and he’ll make suggestions like having one of us ease up on the pedal,” says Amy.
When they’re not practicing or performing, they both enjoy going to hear the Minnesota Orchestra or the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, taking trips to art galleries and playing with Amy’s dog. They also like to play other instruments such as the harpsichord.
Another exciting venture for the Hamann sisters is the release of their first CD, Jeux d’enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo, which is part of the Schubert Club’s Ten Thousand Lakes label.
Although they’ve had to put in long hours developing and improving their piano skills, neither sister has any regrets about the path they’ve chosen. “If you want to do this, you have to work hard. There are no short cuts, and in the end, it’s very rewarding,” says Sara. “We’ll be doing this when we’re [older]. Even when we were little girls, we were committed to it. We’ve never doubted that this is what we were supposed to do with our lives,” adds Amy.
Susan Palmquist is an Eden Prairie-based freelance writer.
Best of the Twin Cities 2005
You Heard It Here
Mpls./St. Paul Magazine December 2005
Mpls. St. Paul Magazine's
music writers selflessly devoted hours to listening to the albums released this year by some of the Twin Cities' most talented musicians. The list of favorites is by no means comprehensive, but we hope you'll find a few albums that will jibe with your musical tastes and whet your appetite for new ones. -C.J.
About the Band
Sisters Amy and Sara Hamann
have quickly gained international recognition, winning competitions and concertizing in North America and abroad.
About the Album
Title: Jeux d'enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo
Whether similar genetics or shared teachers are to thank for their harmonious style, the duo tackles every piece with brilliance and beauty. The repertoire spans three centuries and includes a Bach sonata, a Liszt transcription of a Mozart opera, and a fiery set of variations on Paganini's oft-quoted theme.
Best track: “Jeux d'enfants”
Where to get it
The Schubert Club 651-292-3267 schubert.org
About the Band
A frequent musical guest on A Prairie Home Companion, Minnesota native fiddler/mandolinist Peter Ostroushko
is known for his knack for painting aural landscapes.
About the Album
Title: Minnesota: A History of the Land
Ostroushko wrote this original score for the Twin Cities Public Television series of the same name that traces the history of Minnesota’s landscapes and people. The tunes call to mind Coplandesque prairies, nostalgic hymns, and sweet country waltzes.
Best track: “Dancin’ in the Mississippi Mud”
Where to get it
Barnes & Noble, Borders Books, The Electric Fetus, Redhouse Records
About the Band
Under Osmo Vanska’s baton, the Minnesota Orchestra
has begun a five-year project recording all of Beethoven’s symphonies.
About the Album
Title: Beethoven Symphony No. 4 and No. 5
From the first moments of Symphony No. 4, Vanska’s impact is evident; the orchestra’s newfound dynamism, passion, and expressiveness shine in solos and ensembles alike. The performances strip centuries of habit away and, true to the page, give fresh insight into Beethoven’s most productive period.
Best track: Symphony No. 5, opening of the final Allegro
Where to get it
Barnes & Noble, The Electric Fetus, Minnesota Orchestra
About the Band
With reputations that proceed them, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
and the St. Olaf Choir
unite to present polished, soulful performances.
About the Album
Title: Mozart Requiem, Sussmayr Requiem
The album features two classical-period requiems - the familiar one by Mozart (think Amadeus) and a lesser-known one by his pupil, Sussmayr. It marks the first performance in 200 years of Sussmayr’s Requiem, which bears a strophic, structural beauty, but none of the operatic impact of Mozart’s, the orchestration of which Sussmayr completed upon his teacher’s death.
Best track: “Dies Irae”
Where to get it
St. Olaf College 888-232-6523
About the Band
Twin Citians usually see Charles Lazarus
all tuxed-up and classical in the Minnesota Orchestra’s trumpet section. Now we have a glimpse of what happens when he hangs out in a recording studio.
About the Album
Title: Solo Settings
Rangy and experimental, the album showcases the dizzying technique, phenomenal range of expression, and burgeoning compositional voice of one of the country’s most talented trumpeters. His original Hawaiian-inspired tracks express the hypnotic roll of surf and chanting of ancients, while solo arrangements of Heitzig’s Nobel Symphony herald an intimate perspective of justice.
Best track: “Java”
Where to get it
Applause, Barnes & Noble, The Electric Fetus
A Winning Duo
Michael Anthony, Star Tribune
September 18, 2005
Amy and Sara Hamann, the Minneapolis piano duo, are having a good year. On Sept. 6, they won first prize in the two-piano category at the Grieg International Piano Competition in Oslo, Norway. In April, along with three other performers, they won the McKnight Foundation Fellowship competition.
The Hamanns are students of Alexander Braginsky, professor of piano at the University of Minnesota. Always a master of understatement, Braginsky, hearing of the sisters' win, sent an e-mail: "Not so bad! We're obviously giving support to the right team."
Piano-playing sisters win tough competition
Michael Anthony, Star Tribune
May 1, 2005
The talented Hamann sisters of Minneapolis are on a roll. The piano duo, Amy and Sara, recently released their first CD on the Schubert Club's Ten Thousand Lakes label. On April 23, they beat out 132 other contestants to win the McKnight Foundation Fellowship Competition at Sundin Hall.
"We never thought we'd win," Amy Hamann said. "We thought we had played well, but the competition was really tough."
The sisters played two pieces, Liszt's Reminiscences of Don Juan and the Sonata in F Major by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. In addition to their $25,000 prize, they will receive $2,000 for a community-service project to be determined.
The Hamann sisters' teacher, Alexander Braginsky, had another reason to be happy last week. Braginsky, professor of piano at the University of Minnesota, saw his old friend, formidable pianist Yefim Bronfman, come to town to play Beethoven's Emperor Concerto in three performances with the Minnesota Orchestra.
The careers of these two native Russians have intersected in unusual, although oddly parallel, ways.
In 1980, when Bronfman played with the Minnesota Orchestra for the first time, Braginsky and his wife, cellist Tanya Remenikova, were scheduled to play Schubert's Trio in B-flat with violinist Kensley Rosen at Walker Art Center.
"I was on my way to a rehearsal the day before the performance," Braginsky recalled. "I blew a tire and reluctantly got out to fix it. I'm not exactly a professional at this. So I started to fix it and -- boom! -- my wrist goes. Suddenly I can't play. So I called Ken. He said 'Maybe Bronfman can do it.' He did it, and he was great."
Cut to 2000. Bronfman, now a big star of the concert world, is scheduled to play a recital in the Schubert Club's main series on a Friday night, and there's a major snowstorm on the East Coast. The airports are closed. Bronfman can't fly.
Braginsky gets a desperate call from Bruce Carlson, manager of the Schubert Club: "We're trying to get Bronfman a private plane, but nothing's working. Can you and your wife play tonight?"
"We haven't practiced," Braginsky told him, then called Tanya, who asked him if he was crazy.
Having said no to Carlson, Braginsky hurried to his 1 p.m. group class. He told the students what had just happened and how he had always stressed to them the last-minute things that can happen in a career and how a performer has to be ready.
"But then I admitted that I had said no, whereupon the whole class said, 'Do it. Do it. You've got to do it.' What could I say? I walked back to my office, and the whole class was following me. I called Bruce back and said, 'We'll do it.' They cheered.
That night, Braginsky and Remenikova played the Chopin Sonata for Cello and Piano to a packed house at the Ordway Center.
NEW CHAMBER GROUP PLAYS
The Arius Chamber Music Society is a new local group made up of 12 string players who perform in a variety of ensemble sizes. The group will give two concerts this week, with a program including works by Holst, Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Friday's concert will be at the Ramsey International Fine Arts Center, 50th St. and Nicollet Av. S., Minneapolis. Saturday, the ensemble will move to St. Michael's Lutheran Church, 9201 Normandale Blvd., Bloomington. The program will be repeated May 13 at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 48th St. and France Av. S., Minneapolis.
Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12, $8 seniors and $5 students. Call 651-379-2499.
Michael Anthony is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pianists play so well together, they could be sisters
Michael Anthony, Star Tribune
April 10, 2005
Amy and Sara Hamann of Minneapolis were the first American piano duo to win first prize in the Concorso International Piano Competition in Rome in 2003. They have released their first CD, Jeux d'enfants and Other Works for Piano Duo on the Schubert Club's Ten Thousand Lakes label.
The Hamanns are smart, stylish players, and they have a bold streak. This, after all, is a live disc, a recording of a recital the sisters gave last June at Ted Mann Concert Hall. There are obvious risks to live recordings - mistakes and sound problems among them. On the upside is the greater involvement and sense of urgency that playing before an actual audience, rather than an empty recording studio, can bring, and that seems to be the case here.
The Hamanns attack their instruments with a fierce energy in works such as Franz Liszt's Reminiscences of Don Juan and Witold Lutoslawski's witty Variations on a Theme of Paganini, the same theme that inspired Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and a number of other works. (Back to the downside: The bigger climaxes get a trifle boomy, which presumably is the fault of the recording equipment.)
The sisters also can play with real delicacy, along with perfect unanimity, as they show in the careful ornamentation they apply to the Sonata in F Major by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, which opens the set. The title selection, Georges Bizet's Children's Games gets an appropriately light, breezy reading, though probably the most interesting performance of all is the Suite No. 1 by Anton Arensky, one of the classics of the duo-piano repertoire.
Maybe through the influence of their teacher, Alexander Braginsky, a native Russian, the Hamanns have a real feeling for Russian Romanticism: the flexible phrase and the singing line. The Hamanns will go far.
Michael Anthony is at email@example.com.
Music, talented pianists make fine concert
Robert W. Plyler, Chautauquan Daily
July 29, 2004
Music from the heard of Europe and talented soloists combined to make a fine concert by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Tuesday Evening.
The program was a brief one, lasting only about 90 minutes, but it provided melodic, accessible music, which was both effective and popular.
Guest conductor Arthur Fagen got the evening off to a lively start with Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, No. 1. That popular work with its energetic rhythms created a receptive feeling for the evening's centerpiece, which followed it.
Felix Mendelssohn's Concerto for Two Pianos in E Major is a lively piece from the conductor's teens and shows clearly the influence upon him of earlier masters.
The first movement, Allegro Vivace, had a quality of Beethoven clearly impressed upon it. The elegantly dressed, sibling soloists - Amy and Sara Hamann - performed the work like a hearty conversation, passing the audience's focus from one to the other and back to the orchestra, with commanding ease.
The second movement, Allegro non troppo, proceeded especially remarkable, since it features separate solos for the pianists. Amy's was lyrical and had much of a Mozartian quality, while Sara's was stentorian and continued the evocation of Beethoven.
Both soloists demonstrated solid technique and sensitive interpretation and he resulting performance was enthusiastically received.
There was no intermission, but rather a brief pause, during which the house lights were kept out, following which the final symphony was performed.
Once again, Antonin Dvorak's work was undertaken, this time Symphony No. 8, Op. 88 in G Major.
That work is thoroughly bi-polar, with each movement having elements of nearly rollicking happiness, interwoven with dark, Slavic passion.
The first movement was evocate of both nature and the composer's bohemian roots. The CSO's woodwind section was featured and performed clearly and brightly.
The third movement bore traces of the famed gypsy violin. The overall effect was relatively simple melodies that had been orchestrated beautifully, taking advantage of the unique tone and color of the different instruments of the orchestra.
The CSO was in fine form, seemingly intent upon their guest conductor and quite responsive to his reading of all three works.
Robert W. Plyler has been arts critic of the Jamestown Post-Journal since 1980. He has written for Opera News and for Dance Magazine and does freelance writing
Hamann sisters join CSO at Amp
Eve A. Gaus, Chautauquan Daily
July 27, 2004
Since they were young children, Amy and Sara Hamann have been inseparable from their pianos. The sisters will join guest conductor Arthur Fagen and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 tonight in the Amphitheater.
Separated by 17 months, the sisters were paired together on the piano early on. "We looked so similar when we were little girls that our teachers would always put us on the bench together," Amy said.
The piano always had a special pull on both Amy and Sara. "It was something we were drawn to. Our parents never had to ask us to practice," Sara said.
The sisters began their studies separately at the Yamaha School of Music, and later began duo lessons. At college the sisters began to seriously study two-piano literature, which now they exclusively perform.
The sisters will perform Mendelssohn's Concerto for Two Pianos in E Major. "It is a conversation between the two pianists in a few sections, and a conversation among the pianists and the orchestra," Amy said.
"We wanted to do this one because it is less frequently done and we love it," Sara said. The sisters also chose the piece because it highlights the orchestra. "The orchestra is so great; it is really well showcased in the piece," Amy said.
The piece has three movements. The first movement, broken into three sections, begins with an orchestral introduction. Amy enters first, and is later joined by Sara. "We have our own little dialogue," Sara said. "It is very energetic, with big sounds coming from the orchestra and the pianists."
The second movement begins again with an orchestral introduction, but in this section, each pianist has a solo. "Each pianist is truly by herself, and then we come together at the end," Sara said.
The third movement features a lot of back and forth between the pianos, where one piano is more lyrical, while the other piano plays energetic and fast passages, Amy said.
In addition to playing the piano, the sisters perform on such period instruments as the harpsichord and pianoforte. Although it is unusual to hear a piano duo, there are many works written for two pianos, Amy said.
"Pieces are still being written today for two pianos," Sara said.
Sara and Amy enjoy their collaboration. "We feel very fortunate that we get to this together. Since we were 8 or 9 this was something we wanted."
The CSO will also perform Slavonic Dance, Opus 46, No. 1 by Dvorak and Symphony No. 8, Op. 88 in G Major, also by Dvorak.
Arthur Fagen is renowned as a conductor throughout the United States and Europe. He was born in New York and began his conducting studies under Laszlo Halasz. He attended Wesleyan College and Curtis Institute where he was under the guidance of Max Rudolf.
Fagen was the first prizewinner of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Conductors Competition, as well as prizewinner of the Gino Marinuzzi International Conductors' Competition in Italy.
In 2002, he became music director of the Dortmund Theatre, and in 2003 he made is debut as conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He has held positions as principal conductor of the Kassel and Braunschweig Orchestra and Opera as well as Chief Conductor of the Antwerp and Ghent Opera and Orchestra.
He has an opera repertoire of more than 60 works, and has conducted opera companies such as, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera and the Munich State Opera.
Beautiful Music Together
Claire Joubert, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine
They call themselves "pretty much complete opposites," and, at first glance,
so they appear. Amy, seventeen months older that her sister, is animated and
emotive; she loves the human form in representational art and has remodeled
her own home. Sara, though as lively as Amy, is more serious in
conversation, prefers Impressionistic landscapes, and takes long walks in her
free time. They live separately, albeit not far from each other, in the
When the Hamanns take the concert stage, however, they are obviously and
inextricably bound. Their togetherness as classical pianists has, in fact,
earned them world renown, most recently, last fall, as the first American
piano duo to win top honors in the Concorso Pianistico Internazionale in
Rome. Since making their professional debut in St. Paul fifteen years ago,
the sisters have traveled widely, appearing in such prestigious venues as the
Chautauqua Institution in New York, the International Duo-Piano Festival in
Quebec, and high-tone music festivals in half a dozen European cities. They
will soon begin working on their first CD, and, on June 6, they perform at
the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota. (See About Town
Though inspired by the legendary Labeque sisters of France, the Hamanns are
decidedly Minnesotan. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, they are former
winners of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' Concerto Competition,
graduates ofthe U of M (with majors, naturally, in piano performance). and,
for the past three years, students of U of M piano professor Alexander
Braginsky. Their professional headquarters is Amy's refurbished house near
Lake Harriet, where the sisters typically practice three to five hours a day
on one or more of their several pianos and harpsichords. Not surprisingly,
given their practice regimen and many performance invitations ("We pretty
much take everything," says Amy, with apparently only slight exaggeration),
neither has time for a "day job."
The Hamanns began playing at four and five (there is a third, younger sister,
Emily, who reportedly "hates" the piano) and have been a committed sister act
ever since. "It's a very different life we've chosen," says Sara. "And I
think because we've always known what we wanted, we've never gone through a
period of wondering what we were going to do with our lives." Though they've
remained close to family and a handful of friends, their dedication both to
their music and each other has made "normal" social life - and, so far,
marriage - impractical. "I'm sure some of our friends think we're crazy,"
Amy concedes. "Well, yeah, we're different.
"It's probably unusual that two sisters get along as well as we do and share
the same drive and passion," Amy continues. "But we think it's a gift and
we'd be crazy not to make the most of it."
Claire Joubert is arts and entertainment editor of the Mpls.St.Paul
Pianists Amy and Sara Hamann take their sister act worldwide - and win big.
Courtney Lewis, Minnesota Monthly
Even their laughter is in tune. Sisters Amy and Sara Hamann are the first
American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Concorso Pianistico
Internazionale in Rome, collecting the maximum points the jury could award.
"The translators announced there was no first prize awarded, and our hearts
just sank to the floor - " Amy says, " - but then they announced we were the
Absolute First Prize Winners," Sara says, finishing her sister's sentence.
"We were so happy. It was very emotional." Practicing two to five hours a
day, the sisters sometimes loose track of time, but never of their goal -
which, as Sara declared in her senior high-school yearbook, to "be known as
Hamann Sisters Worldwide." Well on their way, the duo is working on a
classical music video project for the Bravo network and preparing for concert
performances throughout the United States, England, France, Greece, Italy,
Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.
When did you get started as a duo? We started at age 4 and 5 at the
Yamaha School of Music. At that age, we were doing duets - four hand music.
Our first was an arrangement of Ode to Joy. We were always those
weird kids that would practice hours and hours a day.
Was there any sibling rivalry when you were younger? Oh, yes!
Playing four-hand piano, we were sharing the same bench. I [Amy] was always
a little stronger than Sara, being the big sister, so I would shove her off
the bench. But Sara would grow her pinky fingernail longer than the rest and
cut it really sharp and scratch me. Then I'd screech and push her off the
bench - and I'd be the one to get in trouble. We definitely aggravated each
What, or who, inspired you to pursue piano performance? When we were
about 7 and 8, we learned about the Labeque sisters [Katia and Marielle], a
French piano-playing duo. We collected all their recordings. About a year
later, they were at the Ordway doing a recital for the Schubert Club for
their international artists' series. We were taken backstage to meet them.
They encouraged us to keep practicing. It was really one of those
life-altering experiences, very motivating. We've never questioned what we
wanted to do since.
How many hours do you spend practicing? We'll practice two hours a
day minimum to keep our fingers in shape, but at least five hours a day when
preparing for a performance. We practice by ourselves to do memory work
before we come together for ensemble work. There are so many intricacies
being in a duo. Things you would normally do as a solo artist, you can't do
because you may throw the other person off.
How attuned are you to mistakes the other might make in the ensemble?
Even without communicating verbally, we can read each other's thoughts. We
have worked together so long. And when we practice, our backs are to each
other, so it forces us to really listen. We've been doing this technique for
three or four years, and it helps us to not rely on any visual cues to
perfect our timing. We have an advantage over other duos. It can take years
to become in-sync with your partner, but being sisters, it came really
naturally to us. We have a special connection.
Did your parents make you practice? Our family is not musical. Our
father is a doctor and our mother is a special ed teacher. They always
supported what we were doing, but it wasn't a passion of theirs. They didn't
really encourage us to go into this, but it was a decision they supported.
They would be there, even if our dad was in the front row falling asleep with
the video camera.
How active were teachers in your work? Our current instructor,
Alexander Braginsky, a professor at the University of Minnesota, has made
such an impact on us. We started working with him about three years ago, and
he's completely turned our playing around. He's given us that push when we
needed it and has been a really great support system. He's the first person
we call when something good happens in our music.
What did you do in high school to be productive in your work? We were
in the Edina public schools. We were having private instruction all along,
but the school had a very strong music program, so we definitely got a lot of
exposure. We were in concert band and concert choir and orchestra -
basically every group. We played the flute and clarinet, as well. We were
known for our music.
How did your classmates deal with your talent? There's always an air
of competition in that age range, but people knew our success didn't come
easily. We worked hours a day. We were voted most talented when we were
seniors. People recognized we had a talent and weren't just doing it as a
Was there any stress when one or the other of you wanted to spend time
with friends instead of practicing? Certainly, but it [piano] was such a
priority for us. When you're in high school, you want to be with your
friends, and it's difficult to keep things in perspective. Some years were
hard, when one of us was out and the other wanted to practice. But we're
good at balancing that now.
What is your favorite piece to perform? How do you receive other piano
performances? Probably Reminiscences of Don Juan, but it really
depends on what we're working on. When listening to music, we go into
studying mode. It's very difficult to listen for leisure without that
critical ear going. We learn so much from watching other artists play.
Whether it's their physical approach to the music - if they drop their weight
to create a louder sound or have different interpretations of a piece - it's
looking at things like that. We love to listen to people who have really
made the music their own.
What is your New Year's Resolution? Do you have any advice to people in
the upcoming year? Never stop dreaming - if you have a vision and work
hard enough, you can accomplish anything.
Courney Lewis is Minnesota Monthly's editorial intern.
Local piano duo makes history
November 27, 2003
Edina High School graduates Amy and Sara Hamann received the Absolute First Prize in the 14th Concorso Pianistico Internazionale, held in Rome on October 27.
In the 36-year history of the competition, the Hamann sisters are the only American piano duo to receive this prize, and there were no Americans on the jury.
Amy and Sara Hamann also shared the top prize in the 4 hands category at the competition.
The Hamann sisters are also the youngest first-prize winners in the history of the National Federation of Music Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists. In addition to winning the first prize, Amy and Sara were awarded the Lucile Parrish Ward Award for the best performance of American music.
As winners of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' Concerto Competition, Amy and Sara made their professional debut at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. They have been featured artists at the Chautauqua Institution, the First Quebec International Duo-Piano Festival, as well as the Reding-Piette Two-Piano Festival in Switzerland.
Amy and Sara's performances have been broadcast on national and international television and radio, including NPR's "Performance Today."
Minneapolis sisters win piano competition in Rome
Michael Anthony, Star Tribune
November 23, 2003
Amy and Sara Hamann of Minneapolis flew to Rome last month and came back winners. They are the first American piano duo to win the Absolute First Prize in the Concorso Pianistico Internazionale. In addition, they shared with another duo first prize in the category of four-hand - that is, one piano, two players - performance.
"We felt very good about our playing," said Sara Hamann. "But we couldn't read the jury at all. They had stone faces. So when we won, it was a pleasant surprise." Their trophy was a gold plate with their names on it.
Sara and Amy started piano lessons at ages 4 and 5. (Sara gives their current ages as "mid-20s.") As winners ofthe Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies Concerto Competition, they made their professional debut at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. They have been featured artists at the Chautauqua Institution and the Quebec International Duo-Piano Festival. Their idols are the Labeque sisters, Katia and Marielle.
"We saw the Labeques for the first time when we were little. They were on "The Tonight Show," Sara said. Then, at 8 and 9, they actually met their idols after a performance the Labeques gave at the Ordway Center. Bruce Carlson, manager of the Schubert Club, arranged the meeting. "The Labeques gave us a sense of direction," Sara said.
For the past three years the sisters have been studying privately with Alexander Braginsky, professor of piano at the University of Minnesota. Just a few years earlier, Braginsky had guided the careers of the Russian duo-piano team, the Elkina sisters. "None of our success would have been possible without Alex," said Sara.
Braginksy rates them highly. He talks especially about their strong stage presence. "They are dedicated to making a career," he said, "I think they will make it."
Upcoming engagements include performances, both recitals and with orchestra, in Europe and the United States - including one in the Twin Cities, though the contract for that one hasn't been finalized.
They do perform solo work occasionally, but they prefer the two-piano format. "We find it lonely onstage without the other one being there," said Sara.
Michael Anthony is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sisters share love of piano Sunday at Lenna Hall
Laura Pate, Chautauquan Daily
June 28, 2003
Sisters Amy and Sara Hamann spend every day together. They fight. They grow tired of one another. But they still spend every day together. They do this by choice.
The Minneapolis sisters say that to be successful, they practice piano together everyday. They say it is this practicing that helped them to win the National Federation of Music Clubs' 1999 Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists.
The two will play a W.F.Bach Sonata in F Major, with three movements: Allegro moderato, Andante and Presto. Amy said she chose this piece because she believes it is an interesting combination of baroque and early classical style.
Next they will play Reminiscences of Don Juan, a piece which is based on themes originally written by Mozart and used as inspiration to Liszt.
They will also play a sonata by Hindemith and Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme by Paganini.
Amy believes that Hindemith and Bach are especially good combinations. She enjoys hearing the similarities between the two. "They are both so far apart in chronology, but they used a lot of counterpoint in writing," Amy said.
In winning the National Federation of Music Clubs' 1999 Ellis competition, the sisters also won the Lucile Parrish Ward Award for the best performance of American music. The two also won the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' Concerto Competition at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.
They also played as featured artists in the Quebec International Duo-Piano Festival as well as the Reding-Piette Two-Piano Festival in Switzerland.
The duo plans to make recital, concerto and festival appearances thorughout the United States and Europe.
Forecast - Pleasant with Much Music
Robert Sherman, New York Times
June 3, 2001
JAZZ violin, grand opera and what the artist Maurice Sendak calls ''a doodly life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart'' are all part of the sixth annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
From June 14 through the end of the month, New Haven will be a hub of cultural activity, with literally dozens of events on each day's schedule -- plays, art exhibitions, theater productions, children's classes, schooner sails -- and an abundance of musical delights.
A few of the highlights:
On June 16, the Grammy Award-winning violinist Mark O'Connor, joined by Frank Vignola on guitar and Jon Burr on bass, will pay homage to Stephane Grapelli, the French master who died in 1997. The concert begins at 8 p.m. in the Hall of Graduate Studies Courtyard at Yale.
Other concerts in the courtyard will be the Wycliffe Gordon Quintet, with the Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez on June 17; the Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto on June 19; the piano-bass duo of Rex Cadwallder and David Chevan on June 20; and the percussionist Trilok Gurtu on June 21. On June 16 at 1 p.m., Neely Bruce gives a ragtime piano recital at the New Haven Historical Society. That same afternoon, at 5 p.m., the New Haven Symphony plays a free outdoor concert under its music director, Jung-Ho Pak. Bring a blanket and a picnic if you like to the quadrangle at Quinnipiac University.
Mozart (sort of) is the hero of ''Fantasy Sketches,'' a collaboration between Maurice Sendak and Amy Luckenbach, director of Milan's Teatro Minimo. The result is a puppet show that Mr. Sendak describes as a ''a Brooklyn Mozart as seen through the tiny prism of my own soul, a theatrical work that attempts to capture the very personal commentaries that I have compiled over a long life in the form of drawings and doodlings relating to the life and work of Mozart.''
Music by Mozart (and others) contributes to what Mr. Sendak described as ''a cockeyed life of Mozart, ending not so much with his death, but a total melding with all things eternal.'' There will be performances at 7 p.m. from June 20-24 in the Chapel Street Theater, with 2 p.m. matinees on the last two days.
As for the grand opera, that comes courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera, which has included the New Haven Green on its free ''Met in the Parks'' tour. Puccini's ''Tosca'' is the work on hand June 27 at 8 p.m., with Georgina Lukács in the title role, Fabio Armiliato as Cavaradossi, James Morris as Scarpia and Julius Rudel conducting. For a full listing of festival events, including other free programs, call (888) 278-4332.
Summer does not officially begin for a few weeks, but two summer pops concerts jump the gun next Saturday evening.
At 6:30 p.m., the Farmington Valley Symphony brings the romance of Italy to the lawn at Miss Porter's School, with overtures by two native composers, Rossini and Verdi, plus impressions penned by two celebrated visitors, ''Capriccio Italien'' by Tchaikovsky and the ''Italian Symphony'' by Mendelssohn.
''Come early and bring your family, lawn chairs and dinner,'' said the music director, John Eells, who promised to move to an indoor location in the event of rain. For tickets or directions, call (860) 651-9962.
The Symphony Pops Orchestra and two other Greenwich groups, the Choral Society, the Children's Chorus and Symphony Pops Orchestra, join forces next Saturday.
The program also features two popular Connecticut artists, Brenda Harris and Thomas Woodman, who will offer scenes from ''Porgy and Bess.'' The children help out in the Prayer from Humperdinck's ''Hansel and Gretel'' and the Humming Chorus from Puccini's ''Madame Butterfly,'' while the adult singers pluck favorites from the works of Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Bizet.
Downbeat time is 7:30 p.m. in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, which opens at 6 p.m. for picnics; the rain date is next Sunday at 6 P.m. For information, call all the Greenwich Arts Council at (203) 622-3998.
People who are looking for the Hartford Symphony and its sixth annual Talcott Mountain Festival will find it at a new location: Iron Horse Boulevard in downtown Simsbury. A pops flavor dominates the series, which begins June 29 and continues for the next three Friday evenings.
Opening night, with Randall Craig Fleischer conducting, is titled ''Red, White and Boom'' since fireworks will top off the program of patriotic hits and American favorites. On July 6, the cast of Bravo Broadway will contribute songs from ''Rent,'' ''Phantom of the Opera'' and other current musicals.
On June 13, John Eells takes the podium for a pre-Bastille visit to Paris, the orchestra assisted by the Simsbury Light Opera Chorus. The finale on July 20 comes back to Americana as the Count Basie Orchestra joins the Hartford Symphony for a Duke Ellington program. The concerts begin at 7:30 p.m., rain or shine, with an hour of musical games and other children's activities offered at 6:15 p.m. each evening. For reservations: (860) 244-2999.
Connecticut is unquestionably the summer place to be for chamber music lovers. Several festivals -- Chestnut Hill, Connecticut Early Music, Music Mountain, Norfolk, Silvermine and South Shore -- have racked up 294 years of music between them.
Norfolk does not open its 60th anniversary season until July, and Chestnut Hill will start its 32nd set of recitals in August. For advance listings, call (860) 542-3000 for Norfolk and (203) 245-5736 for Chestnut Hill.
The 19th Early Music Festival, meanwhile, gets under way Friday at 8 p.m. with the organist Kimberly Marshall playing dance music of the Renaissance and Baroque at St. John's Episcopal Church in Niantic.
Nine more weekend concerts follow at various locations in New London, Noank and Norwich.
Among the other highlights are a free children's introduction to music for voice and harpsichord by Rachel Rosales and the Festival director, John Metz, next Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in the Science Center of Eastern Connecticut; concertos for strings and organ next Sunday at 6 p.m. in Harkness Chapel of Connecticut College; music for two harpsichords, featuring Mr. Metz and Linda Skernick, June 15 at 8:30 p.m. in the Lyman Allyn Art Museum; and back to Harkness Chapel for the grand finale, the Mozart Requiem, in a new performing edition by Robert Levin, June 24 at 6 p.m.
Music Mountain, which proudly proclaims itself ''the oldest continuing summer chamber music festival in the United States,'' is also known for its singular dedication to the string quartet. Yes, there are jazz nights, an incursion of baroque flutes, even a special evening of Irish step dancing. But string foursomes rule the classical roost, often appearing with guest soloists.
At the first recital, next Sunday at 3 p.m., the Bert Lucarelli is featured on the oboe with the Leontovitch Quartet; when that ensemble returns on June 24, it will be in the pianistic company of Barry Snyder.
The festival runs through Aug. 25. Later events of note include the American debut of the Zapolski String Quartet of Denmark (June 30 and July 1), and multiple visits by the Blair, Shanghai, St. Petersburg and Whitman quartets.
Among the other noted guest artists are the violinist Nardo Poy, the clarinetist Ethan Sloane, the double-bassist Alvin Brehm and the pianists Ruth Laredo, Peter Basquin, Frederic Chiu and Pamela Mia Paul. All Sunday matinees start at 3 p.m.; the Saturday recitals, plus a couple of Friday evening programs, start at 8 p.m. Information: (860) 824-7126.
On June 15, the South Shore Festival season, already under way, will feature the prize-winning pianists Amy and Sara Hamann applying their skills to the music of Bach, Brahms, Clementi and Arensky. On July 20, the Philharmonia Quartett, comprising principal players of the Berlin Philharmonic, arrives with a program of Mozart, Beethoven and Szymanowski. The season finale on Aug. 24 will be the St. Petersburg String Quartet, with the pianist Ludmil Angelov, playing Brahms, Schubert and Shostakovich. Information: (203) 227-0695.
Four concerts also make up the 43rd summer of the Silvermine Chamber Music Series, each held in the recently renovated auditorium at the Silvermine Guild Arts Center in New Canaan, where the galleries are opened for viewing during the intermission. The Aulos Ensemble Up will perform first with a recital at 8 p.m. on June 22. A classical guitar program with Peter Blanchette and Jean Chaine follows July 6. The Turtle Island String Quartet explores the contemporary scene July 20, and the Laurentian String Quartet concludes the cycle Aug. 3. Information: (203) 966-9700.
The Turtle Islanders are also part of the Sunset Series at Wesleyan University, with a performance at 8 p.m. July 13 in Crowell Hall. Among the other attractions: Buster Keaton's silent film classic ''Steamboat Bill,'' screened with live organ accompaniment (July 17 at 8 p.m. in Middletown's Church of the Holy Trinity); a piano recital by Neely Bruce (July 24 at 7 p.m. in Crowell); and consecutive evenings of gypsy fire with the Noche Flamenca troupe of Spain (July 26-27 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Theater). Information: (860) 685-3355.
Concert more than lives up to its dramatic title
Dolph Bezoier, Rochester Post
March 21, 2001
The word "drama" was the title for the Rochester Orchestra and Chorale concert Saturday night. One-word titles have been used all season with varying degrees of appropriateness but it seemed that this one might be a bit of a stretch. I wasn't sure how Borodin, Mendelssohn, Mozart and Handel would rank on the dramatic scale. Still, done this well, and with the fine talents of a sister duo-piano team, this concert was not lacking in dramatic punch.
With the Orchestra and Chorale performing several Coronation Anthems Handel wrote for the coronation of England's George II in 1727, the concert started out most dramatically. Written for that grand occasion there is little subtlety involved. They were composed to be blockbusters and the chorale was fully up to the challenge.
The Orchestra and Chorale also joined for the finale of the concert, the Overture and Polovetsian Dances from Alexander Borodin's Opera, Prince Igor. We heard the familiar Stranger in Paradise used in the Broadway show Kismet, plus many other brief melodies. Borodin's rich orchestration calls for the largest possible sound. The work is made up of ornate harmonies and rollicking rhythms. It is a delight for chorus members but it only works with the backup of a full orchestra. It was an appropriately dramatic ending for the concert.
Earlier we heard the Overture: The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave) by Mendelssohn. In its low, sweeping melodies we can almost see and feel the rising tide as wind and waves move into the caves on islands off the Scottish coast. This is at once a romantic musical picture and a specific advancement in the growth of symphonic form. Serious music students delight in tracing the growth of the form, melody and harmony through various musical periods. Academics aside, it is just a delight to hear them.
Featured in the concert was the performance of sisters Amy and Sara Hamann, young pianists from the Twin Cities area. After establishing a strong reputation in this region, they have toured various sections of the United States and won special recognition in Canada, the Czech Republic, France and Switzerland.
The very appearance of these young women, in matching long gowns, taking their places at the twin grand pianos, was a bit of drama in itself. Even more exciting was their musical talent. They seem equally talented with lightning fast fingering and a fine understanding of musical nuance.
The two grands were in a line on the stage. The soloists, though facing each other, were about 14 feet apart, but they seemed to be of a single mind. Often it was a musical dialogue with alternating comments. But many times a single very fast phrase would race from one keyboard to the other so seamlessly that it was hard to tell which instrument was playing.
The music was the Mozart Concerto in E-flat Major for Two Pianos and Orchestra. To most of us, Mozart piano music is the very essence of the classic style and is sometimes compared to style and grace of classical ballet. Perhaps not everyone would consider it dramatic but elegance with this flair carries a drama all its own.
Then responding to the applause the Hamann sisters gave us an encore, a Spanish Dance by Infante. It was a delicious romp.
Sisters win national duo-piano competition
April 22, 1999
Sisters Amy and Sara Hamann walked away with $10,000 and two years of concert dates as winners of the Ellis Competition for Duo Pianists in Spartanburg, S.C., in March.
The competition, sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs, is a competition for duo pianists.
Since its imception in 1991, only three teams have been declared first-place winners. The Hamanns, both in their early 20s, are the youngest pair to win the contest, according to the federation.
The sisters impressed the judges with a 70-minute program that included Wilhelm Friedmann Bach's Sonata in F Major and Johannes Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn.
The women also won the $1,500 Lucile Parrish Award for the best performance of an American composition. They played John Corigliano's Kaleidoscope.
"Everything fell into place - we could not have played any better," said Sara Hamann, who lives in Bloomington. "We have been working so long and so hard, winning the competition was very rewarding."
The Hamann sisters' first concert following the Ellis Competition will be in May at the Music Federation's convention in St. Louis.
Amy Hamann, a resident of Minneapolis, and her sister began their joint piano studies at the ages of 5 and 4 at the Yamaha School of Music.
They made their first professional appearance at the former World Theater in St. Paul in 1989 as winners of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies' Concerto Competition.
After a summer of study with Jackson Berkey, keyboard artist for Mannheim Steamroller, they enrolled as piano performance majors at the University of Minnesota School of Music.
Minnesota sisters win duo-piano competition
Jose Franco, Spartanburg Herald
March 28, 1999
Sisters Amy and Sara Hamann of Minneapolis walked away with $10,000 Saturday as winners of the Eliis Competition for Duo Pianists at Converse College.
The competition, sponsored by the National Federation of Music Clubs since 1991, is a highly regarded competition for duo pianists.
The sisters' performance Saturday morning dazzled the audience and three judges. All music must be performed from memory. Selections included Kaleidoscope by John Corigliano and Concerto for Two Pianos in E Major by Felix Mendelssohn.
The sisters also won the $1,500 Lucile Parrish Award for the best performance of an American composition.
"It was a stunning performance; they sounded like one," said Barbara Irish, president of the National Federation of Music Clubs.
"After the first couple of notes, everything fell into place," said Amy Hamann, who read about the competition last year in Musical America. "It's so rewarding when all of your hard work pays off."
In the competition's short history, only three teams have been declared first-place winners.
Irish of Ithaca, N.Y., said the competition is attractive to artists who what to pursue a career as duo-pianists.
"It's considered very prestigious nationally because of its rigorous repertoire," she said.
After the Hamanns learned they were finalists in December, they practiced 10 hours every day - five hours alone and five hours together.
"A life as duo pianists has been our dream since we were about nine years old," Sara Hamann said. "We have always had the same goals. Although we got on each other's nerves the last couple of weeks, this competition really brought us closer together."
Judges for the competition were Henry Janiec, former dean of the School of Music at Converse College; Allison Nelson, member of the piano duo Nelson and Neal; and Elizabeth Pridonoff, teacher at the Cincinnati Conservatory.
The Hamann sisters' first concert will be at the music federation's convention in St. Louis in May.