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Tickling The Ivories at Abrons

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Pianist Blair McMillen, one of the musicians performing at Keys To The Future at Abrons this week

Move over Beethoven. A series of solo contemporary piano concerts—Keys to the Future—makes its way to Abrons Arts Center this week. In its sixth year, the series runs May 24-26 featuring a pithy survey of contemporary piano repertoire packed into one-hour recitals.

Joe Rubenstein, pianist/composer and curator of Keys, says his goal is to offer audiences a glimpse into the richly diverse styles of contemporary piano music ranging from minimalist and neo-Romantic, to modernist pop-influenced and hybrid pieces. Rubenstein has drawn piano composers from all over the world to play in the series which operates as a non-profit organization.

The series kicked off in 2005 at the Greenwich House Music School in the Village, moved to rock/pop cum cabaret club Le Poisson Rouge in 2010 and debuts its new home at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center.

Rubenstein says he was attracted to Abrons by the venue’s intimacy and sonics. “I wanted to get back to the intimacy of being in a concert hall and we needed a bigger space. Abrons is the perfect size—350 seats and a balcony. I loved the hall, its history and the great artists who have performed there.” The neighborhood has a strong pull as Rubenstein’s family lived on the Lower East Side before moving to Brooklyn.  “I’ve always loved the history of the place and the neighborhood. The Henry Street Settlement is such a huge part of the history of the city and the idea of spreading cultural riches through philanthropy.”

The Keys festival features original contemporary piano works and some new arrangements of established pieces. Rubenstein describes the festival’s  musical philosophy as “a melting pot of musical styles.” The goal, he says, is to represent that melting pot in each concert. “We’ll have a minimalist piece up against an atonal modernist piece. I think the juxtapositions are exciting for a concert-goer to hear.”

While Rubenstein has built up a cadre of pianists he’s known for years, in order to identify emerging artists, he holds piano competitions for artists 25 and younger. They submit a DVD of their performance as an audition and the winner gives a paid performance on the second evening of festival. This year, that artist is Jenny Chai who performs on May 25.

Keys to the Future plays at 466 Grand St. at Pitt. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. One-hour performances without intermission begin at 8 p.m. For ticket information, click here or visit the Keys to the Future website here.

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