Roche Guest Artists Series welcomes first performance of the season

Saturday, September 11, 2021

roche guest artistsAfter a year’s absence, Mercyhurst University welcomes back the Roche Guest Artists Series, now in its 32nd season. The first performance, slated for Monday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. in Walker Recital Hall, features singers Xiu-ru Liu and Guenko Guechev with pianist David Allen Wehr. As with all concerts in the guest series, it is free and open to the public thanks to the generosity of the Terry and Margaret M. Roche Family.

Since its founding in 1988, the Roche Guest Artists Series has introduced local audiences to a unique mix of acclaimed traditional soloists and chamber ensembles, along with specialized performers and lecturers in areas of contemporary music, jazz, Renaissance, Baroque, world music, and music therapy. A hallmark of the series is the residency component in which each artist or ensemble augments their recital performance with an in-depth workshop relating to their area of specialization. Also open to the public, a voice masterclass given by Xiu-ru Liu and Guenko Guechev follows on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. in Walker Recital Hall.

Following are the biographies of the guest artists:

Xiu-ru Liu, mezzo soprano

Mezzo-soprano Xiu-ru Liu was born in China. She graduated with distinction from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. In 1986, she received a full scholarship from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where she successfully earned her master’s degree and performance certificate. Liu has appeared as Ramiro in La finta Giardiniera, Endimione in La Calisto, Arnata in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Azucena in Il Trovatore, Ulrika in Un Ballo in Maschera, Suzuki in Madame Butterfly, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Erda in Das Rheingold, Philipievna in Eugene Onegin, and Amneris in Aida with European and American opera companies. She has consistently exceeded expectations and astounded audiences in numerous prestigious cities, such as Salzburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, London, Paris, Zurich, Luxemburg, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

A versatile soloist accompanied by orchestra and oratorio societies throughout the United States and abroad, Liu performed Verdi’s Requiem, Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody, Mozart’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Durufle’s Requiem, and Bach’s B Minor Mass, St. Matthew Passion. Her artistry has tremendously influenced and delighted audiences and music critics alike.

“Ms. Liu reveals a world of emotions with just a glance...mesmerizing as Suzuki”
-Opera Review, May 2000. 

“A fiery, vengeful Azucena, a level of vocal color and musical discrimination rarely heard”
-Ira Schwarz. 

“Ms. Liu added a sympathetic presence to Filippyevna’s every appearance” 
-Opera News, Feb 1999

“Magnificent voice...her dramatic ability created a wonderful feeling of pathos”
-Otaria, vol II #4.

A devoted educator and internationally renowned voice teacher, Liu has given masterclasses and private voice lessons in United States, Europe, and Asia. She currently serves as a judge at the Puldin International Voice Competition held in Bulgaria, as well as for the Bologna International Opera Academy in Italy and China. In 2007, Liu joined the Duquesne University voice faculty. Many of her students have successfully furthered their vocal studies in master’s and doctoral programs in prestigious music institutions like Manhattan School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, and Cleveland Institute of Music.

Guenko Guechev, bass-baritone

Guenko Guechev was born in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance from the Pancho Vladigerov State Conservatory of Music in Sofia. He finished two post-graduate studies in Moscow and Rome.

Since graduation, he has sung principal bass roles with many major European companies. He has appeared in productions of Carmen, Nabucco, Boris Godunov, Don Giovanni, Barbiere di Seviglia, Aleko, Macbeth, I Puritani, Il Trovatore, La Boheme, Tosca, La Traviata, and Un Ballo in Maschera in Austria (at the Salzburg Festspielhaus), Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Shortly after moving to the United States, Guechev made his US opera debut in Verdi’s Rigoletto with the Pittsburgh Opera. Since then, he has appeared in Lortzing’s Tzar und Zimmerman, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and Britten’s Albert Herring with Opera Delaware, Opera Syracuse, and Natchez Opera Festival.

Guechev currently serves as faculty in the voice department at the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University.

David Allen Wehr, piano
“More than a pianist's pianist; he is a musician's musician." 
American Record Guide

David Allen Wehr’s international career was launched when he won the Gold Medal at the 1987 Santander International Piano Competition in Spain. The resulting tours have taken him to over 30 countries in Europe, North and South America, and the Far East. Career highlights include performances in New York (Carnegie Hall, 92nd St. Y), London (Barbican Centre, Queen Elizabeth and Wigmore Halls), Paris (Salle Gaveau), Vienna (Musikverein), and Washington (Kennedy Center). Over 1,300 solo, chamber music and concerto engagements include 13 seasons of touring the United States and Canada for Community Concerts as recitalist and pianist with the Sartory Trio (with violinist Charles Stegeman and cellist Jennifer Langham). Wehr has been soloist with the London, National, Chautauqua, Houston, New Zealand Symphonies and all the major Spanish and Latin American orchestras.

Born in Princeton, New Jersey, Wehr grew up in Boise, Idaho, where his parents, graduates of Westminster Choir College, were ministers of music at the Methodist Cathedral of the Rockies. Piano lessons began on his fourth birthday with his mother and continued with his father. Later study was in Miami with Peggy Neighbors Erwin, at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Edward Zolas, and at the University of Kansas with Sequeira Costa. At Kansas, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and performed in over 40 monthly masterclasses. Early in his career, Wehr won the Kosciuszko-Chopin Prize in New York City, the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist Award, and second prizes in the Naumburg and Kapell International Piano Competitions. 

Wehr has amassed a large and critically acclaimed discography with Connoisseur Society, Inc., with albums by Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, Schumann, Delius, Czerny, Gershwin, Brahms, Griffes, Wagner-Liszt, Dvořak, and Joe Utterback. His debut album for Chandos, a program of American music, included the world premiere recording of Corigliano’s “Fantasia on an Ostinato.”

He currently serves as the Hillman Distinguished Piano Chair at Duquesne University’s Mary Pappert School of Music.

PHOTO: (L-R) David Allen Wehr, Xiu-ru Liu, Guenko Guechev