Pianists Stephanie Ho and Saar Ahuvia collaborate as DUO Stephanie & Saar in performances noted for their artistic versatility, elegance and intellectual curiosity.
The duo’s most ambitious recording to date, Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of Fugue was released on New Focus Recordings in June 2017 and has garnered rave reviews. The Art Music Lounge states “this is creative music-making of an extraordinarily high level” and Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review claims “the utter seriousness of the music, its incredible power is given to us undiluted, aesthetically sound yet not overly florid, tempos seeming just right, now lingering and contemplative, now expressing great depth of feeling and strength.” Since the release of the album DUO Stephanie & Saar have featured the work in performance at An Die Musik Live in Baltimore, The Salon in Philadelphia, All Classical Portland’s Thursdays @ Three, and most recently, The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. Future performances include Portland’s Lewis & Clark College and the Arizona Bach Festival.
As probing recording artists, the duo explores repertoire with concomitant classical and contemporary sensibilities. Beethoven Dialogues, their 2014 album featuring Beethoven Quartets Op. 18 Nos. 1, 4 and 6 in rarely heard four hand arrangements, was performed in its entirety at New York City’s (le) poisson rouge and chosen as Album of the Week on WQXR. Bach Crossings, the duo’s 2012 album featuring György Kurtág’s illuminating transcriptions of Bach, continues to receive acclaim. International Piano Magazine states, “It is clear from theprecision and elegant phrasing on this disc that this is a tight partnership between pianists who have developed an implicit understanding of each other’s musicality.” The New York Times praised their “beautifully understated performances” of selections from the disc.
Fluent in both classical and cutting-edge contemporary styles, their 2016 performance at Makrokosmos Project in Portland, OR led Oregon Arts Watch to proclaim that “in the hands of (Ho & Ahuvia) the work (Philip Glass’ Four Movements) emanated a sheer joy of piano sound.” Also noted was their “masterly” performance of George Crumb’s Otherworldly Resonances which “scintillated with dense tintinnabulations reminiscent of Olivier Messiaen’s battiest religious ecstasies.” The duo’s 2015 performance at Bosnia’s Sarajevo Chamber Music Festival featured George Crumb’s dazzling Celestial Mechanics for amplified piano and other cutting- edge American works to international acclaim by Radio Sarajevo. “Stephanie and Saar’s last night’s performance once again recalled all the epithets of elegant and innovative, that have been following them throughout their career.”
Stephanie & Saar are the founders and artistic directors of Makrokosmos Project, a music festival in Portland, Oregon dedicated to contemporary American music and performances by Oregon-based performers and composers. The 2015 inaugural festival featured standing-room performances of George Crumb’s Makrokosmos I & II and music by Kenji Bunch and David Crumb. Oregon Arts Watch frankly states “It was one of 2015’s peak Oregon musical moments.” The 2016 festival, American Berserk featured performances in both Portland and Eugene to rave reviews. The 2017 festival, Reichmokosmos! captured the packed audience’s awe with a dynamic performance of Steve Reich’s Six Pianos. Please go to www.makrokosmosproject.org for more information.
While pursuing graduate studies at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, Stephanie and Saar were inspired by Leon Fleisher to explore the Beethoven string quartets in a duo piano setting. Saar Ahuvia, a native of Israel, studied at Israel’s Tel Aviv Academy and Switzerland’s Schaufhausen Conservatory before coming to the United States to pursue a Graduate Performance Diploma with Leon Fleisher at Peabody. Stephanie Ho, of Taiwanese descent, grew up in Portland, Oregon before obtaining degrees from Oberlin College and Northwestern University. She received a Graduate Performance Diploma from Peabody, under the direction of Julian Martin.
Stephanie and Saar, who are married to each other, reside in New York City. Visit them at www.stephsaarduo.com.