Steinway Concert Grand Piano - A Gift to the Opera  

1999 was an exiting year for the members of the Latvian National Opera Guild. We achieved our goal to present the Latvian National Opera on its 80th anniversary with a “Steinway & Sons” concert grand piano. The guild had worked diligently all year, presenting benefit concerts, holding a lottery and generously contributing special donations for the purchase of the piano. And so it came to be that on September 14, 1999, a top of the line “Steinway & Sons” concert grand piano arrived at the opera house in Riga.

Pictured from left: Linda Briede, Teofils Bikis, Ilze Graubina,
Ilgvars Spilners, Arturs Ozolins, Vestards Simkus, Vilma Cirule,
Andris Veismanis. In front -  Peteris Plakidis  - Photo by Ugis Mezavilks

On Dec. 11, the grand piano was presented to the public for the first time at a memorable concert participating three generations of Latvian pianists, playing works by thirteen composers. The three generations of pianists were represented by some of the most talented and accomplished Latvian musicians. The oldest generation was represented by the legendary pianist, Vilma Cirule who opened the concert with Alfred Kalnins “ Hymn to Our Homeland”. Arturs Ozolins, considered one of Canada’s leading pianists, followed with masterful renditions of compositions by List, Debussy, Rachmaninov and Albeniz. The first part concluded with a performance by the youngest artist, 14 year old, several international contest prizewinner, Linda Breide. In the second part of the concert, the audience was treated to the artistic talent of some of the most accomplished pianists in Latvia: Ilze Graubina, Teofils Bikis and Peter Plakidis. The evening concluded with an exciting performance by Vestards Simkus, a young pianist who at the age of 15 has already won first place in four international competitions.

The filled to capacity opera house resonated with the audience’s enthusiastic applause, appreciating the diversity and enormous talents of the performers and pleading for encores. It was also gratifying to see that the younger generation, was well represented since special transportation arrangements had been provided to enable music students from all over Latvia to attend. This magnificent Steinway grand piano is after all not just an anniversary gift but a gift to the generations of talented Latvian musicians to come.

Guests of honor included the minister of culture, Karina Petersone, the United States ambassador to Latvia, James Holmes and United States cultural attache` Gregory Elftman. A reception followed at which the honored guests expressed their gratitude to the Latvian National Opera Guild for its tireless work and valuable contributions to the restoration of the opera house.

Encouraged by the success of the past year, the guild is looking forward to another year of many worthwhile projects and is hopeful of continued generous response by guild members and other music enthusiasts.