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Piano duo give UNIQUE concert

For two lifelong musicians, the chance to perform in Queens for the first time marked a monumental occasion. Saar Ahuvia and Stephanie Ho, a married piano duo and Forest Hills residents, performed “Sounds of New York,” a free concert held at LeFrak Hall at Queens College, on Thursday, December 11.
The concert was dedicated to Denise Broadhurst, who died from breast cancer in September. Portions of Broadhurst’s piece, “Stepping off the Front Porch,” were the first selections performed at the concert by Ahuvia and Ho, who arrange pieces of music for piano four-hands, or duos.
In addition to this piece, the couple was excited by the chance to perform the world premiere of musician Matt Van Brink’s piece titled “Initial Ascent.” They also played the New York premiere of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s “Lilliburlero Variations,” which Ho called a “very lovely, fun piece.”
According to Ahuvia, the duo asked members of the Long Island Composers Alliance to send them their scores, from which they selected a few of these to perform, as well as a few pieces written by other New York composers. They then applied for and received a grant from the Queens Council for the Arts.
Ho said that the pieces played represent “a wide array of very interesting music.” She added that there is now “a trend to bring audiences back to the concert halls.”
Although this was the first time Ahuvia and Ho performed in Queens, where they have lived for the last four years, their musical careers stem back to childhood.
“Since I can remember, I was crazy about music,” said Ahuvia, who started playing the piano when he was eight years old. “I really stuck with it, and by 12, I knew this was going to be my path in life.”
Ahuvia moved around from Israel, Puerto Rico, and Argentina before settling in the United States, using music as a way to connect with his peers despite language barriers.
“Throughout all of those moves, I was playing music,” he said. “It was a way to make friends.”
Ho, who was born in Taipei, Taiwan, shares a similar musical history. She began playing the piano at age five because her parents wanted Ho and her sister to have a solid music education.
“My mom was really crazy about music,” she said.
After receiving degrees from prestigious music institutions, both musicians studied at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, where they obtained their Graduate Performance Diplomas and first began their partnership.
Ho said that Leon Fleisher, the professor whom Ahuvia was studying with at Peabody, was “influential in getting us [the duo] together.”
Ahuvia was asked by Fleisher to start exploring Beethoven string quartets in a four-hand setting. Ahuvia asked Ho to read music with him, even though she wasn’t in his class. Ho said that Fleisher “encouraged the whole project [of becoming a duo].”
The duo then went on to the Banff Center in Canada, where they completed Performance Art Residencies in order to work on their repertoire. While there, they also recorded a CD in 2005 called “Visions” featuring classical compositions by Debussy, Stravinsky and others.
While the duo has a classical background and play music from the classical repertoire, they are also interested in more contemporary pieces.
“We have an interest in more contemporary music, especially American and New York composers,” Ahuvia said. “The fact that we have both really embraced America and New York and especially the melting pot environment…we’re really defined by it.”
For more information on Ho and Ahuvia, visit www.stephsaarduo.com.

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