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Young guns at the piano; Two more rising pianists will perform at Kleinhans this weekend

This is turning into Buffalo's year for young pianists.

There was the recent drama surrounding Lang Lang, the 28-year-old superstar who canceled his appearance here last weekend but promises to play here in July. The Kleinhans Music Hall audience delighted in 24-year-old Joyce Yang, Lang Lang's last-minute sub.

This weekend, two more talents are coming to town.

Friday and Saturday, Terrence Wilson is playing Mozart's sublime Piano Concerto No. 21 with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. And Sunday, Charlie Albright is giving a free solo recital, courtesy of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society.

Wilson is 35, while Albright is just 22. Both bring passion to their demanding profession.

Wilson, who grew up in the Bronx, was born into music.

His father sang in an a cappella doo-wop group called the Wilson Brothers. His mother, Madelyn Moore, had a few hits with a girl rock n' roll group, Baby Jane and the Rockabyes.

"She was Baby Jane," Wilson admits bashfully. "Somewhere in the family archives, there's an old 45 of my mom singing 'How Much is That Doggie In the Window?'"

When he was about 8, he recalls, his life did a flip.

"My mother bought a piano for the living room, as a piece of furniture," recalls the pianist. "It so happened that around that time I had discovered a classical music station in New York. It was WNCN, which no longer exists, not as a classical station. One of the first pieces of classical piano I heard was the G Minor Ballade of Chopin, the first Ballade.

"I was so struck by that music. I was just mesmerized by the power and the beauty of this music that was unfamiliar to me. And it just happened that, you know, that discovery on the radio of classical music happened at the same time that my mom bought that piano. So I asked for piano lessons. And I kept tuning in to WNCN more and more, thinking 'Gosh, I want to make that sound.'"

Wilson's Web site, www.terrencewilsonpiano.com, carries the news that he is up for two Grammy Awards this year, for his Naxos recording of a modern work -- Michael Daugherty's "Deus ex Machina" -- with the Nashville Symphony.

But though he enjoys working with living composers, he also loves reaching into the past.

"I would have loved to have been there either at the concert or just at the rehearsal when Mahler and Rachmaninoff were rehearsing the Third Concerto of Rachmaninoff," he mentions. "The story goes that Rachmaninoff was just so struck by how thorough Mahler was. He would rehearse the orchestra part, and Rachmaninoff would go, 'Oh, great!' And Mahler would say, 'Let's just touch on one more thing.'

"I would love to have been there to witness these two huge giant minds interact, with that huge giant piece."

He loves Mozart, and plays three Mozart concertos. "But the 21st is the one that I really have played a lot. I love it. It's definitely one of my favorites, the most dramatic, beautiful."

Wilson, who lost both his parents to unrelatedillnesses in 2002, is soft-spoken and philosophical. Asked to discuss a piece he is happy to have mastered, he squirms.

He is still learning, he says.

"I'm still a kid in that sense."

'I get itchy feet'

It's fun to contrast Wilson with Albright, who is more than a decade younger.

Immediately likable on the phone, Albright is not only studying music at the New England Conservatory, he is majoring in pre-med at Harvard. While Wilson is, as he puts it, "in a relationship," Albright contents himself with spending the little free time he has with friends.

Like Wilson, Charlie Albright found that classical music reached out and grabbed him. Though his mother is from South Korea, he laughs that she was not one of those stereotypical Asian "dragon mothers" who push their kids. He brought it all on himself.

"I get itchy feet really quickly," he says.

As a kid in Seattle, he wanted to be a jazz pianist. "I was doing movie music and popular songs," he says. "My teacher eventually told my dad that I needed a strong classical background. So he sent me to a teacher who introduced me to classical music."

Albright took to it. "I've always had a liking for Beethoven or Chopin. I guess I'm kind of a romanticist in that way."

Now, he boasts a bewildering string of accolades. Centralia College, his alma mater, recently unveiled the Charlie Albright Piano, a new Steinway nine-footer. His Web site, www.charliealbright.com, lists dozens of prizes. They include such arcane awards as "Best Performance in a Master Class Prize," won at Eastman, and "Best Stage Performance of a Study by Liszt Award," from Australia.

In one respect, Albright is easing up on himself. He is shifting away from competitions.

"I've done a lot of them," he says. "I'm sort of slowing down, focusing on giving concerts. Competitions are good for exposure, I guess. Sometimes you can form connections. The piano world is really small. You see the same people over and over. At the same time, Bartok said something like, competitions are for racehorses. How can you really judge these things?

"If Horowitz were entering competitions now he wouldn't win any of them. He plays uniquely. That what makes him special."

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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CONCERT PREVIEWS    

WHO: Terrence Wilson, playing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra    

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday    

WHERE: Kleinhans Music Hall    

ADMISSION: $29-$74    

INFO: 885-5000    

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WHO: Charlie Albright, playing recital on the Buffalo Chamber Music Society's Gift to the Community Series    

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday    

WHERE: Mary Seaton Room, Kleinhans Music Hall    

ADMISSION: Free    

INFO: 462-4939

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