Lansing Symphony’s Season Finale Substitution

May 10, 2018

With very little notice, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra has made a change to this Friday night’s Wharton Center performance in East Lansing. Earlier this week, WKAR’s Jamie Paisley spoke on the phone with the young artist who is filling in at the last minute: Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner.


This past Friday word spread quickly that one of the 2018 Gilmore Young Artist Winners for 2018, a pianist named Elliot Wuu had a slight injury which meant bowing out of this Friday’s Lansing Symphony season finale. But the Gilmore Festival had already worked behind the scenes to fly out a former winner of the Gilmore Young Artist Award to Lansing. His name is Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner… and fortunately,  given that at the time the LSO concert was less than one week away, he already knows the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto, although it’s been a few years since he’s played it. "Well, I have played Rach[maninoff] 2 before. It was in my repertoire, yes." says Sanchez-Werner. "I haven't played it for about 5 years, actually. So it's something which I'm looking forward to a great experience with Timothy Muffitt and the Lansing Symphony and the Gilmore family is such an important family to me, so I'm very glad to be stepping in and helping them out."

[Music sample of Sanchez-Werner playing the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto in 2012.]

"I think that it's always a great experience to revisit a piece as your life experiences continue to evolve as a human being, as an artist." says the young pianist. "You see things differently and so the way that I played it when I first played this piece when I was 13, is different from how I'm playing it now I'm 21, different from how I'll play it when I'm 30, or 40. I think that the original wonderment that Rachmaninoff communicated throughout the whole work hasn't changed, but some of the ways that I might execute some of these characters or colors has changed as I've had more experience."

Pianist Llewellen Sanchez-Werner has garnered quite a lot of experience in his 21 years, from playing a recital at the White House back in 2009, then invited to perform in 2013 at the Kennedy Center for President Obama’s 2nd Inauguration Concert, plus in 2010 he was the 1st American artist to perform with the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. But there are other types of outreach which are important to Sanchez-Werner.

"'Beethoven and the Bully' was something very important." says Sanchez Werner about a project he worked on with Canadian conductor Boris Brott in 2011. "We know that Beethoven had an abusive father. And we felt that some of the personal trials that Beethoven had to go through (and of course there were many others as well) could be relatable to kids who are experiencing abuse in their home, or any kind of bullying at school. So, there was a script involved. I actually played the part of Beethoven and I didn't need to put on a wig, luckily, I had the hair for it! But we sort of, took the kids through difference Beethoven pieces, so they would know what they were listening to, but along the way, it had sort of an accessible narrative and it's something which we were very proud of doing."

[Music sample of Sanchez-Werner playing Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.32 in 2017 during the Gilmore Festival]

The Lansing Symphony Orchestra welcomes substitute pianist, 2014 Gilmore Young Artist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner to play the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto Friday night at the Wharton Center for their season ending concert on a program that also includes a world premiere from MSU College of Music’s Zhou Tian and the famed Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. More info at Lansing Symphony.org and thegilmore.org