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February 27, 2014

‘A complete meal of classical music’ at Central Presbyterian

TERRE HAUTE — Beethoven composed his masterpieces nearly two centuries ago. George Gershwin wrote “Rhapsody in Blue” a few years after World War I.

Since his teenage years, pianist Sam Rotman has performed classics by Beethoven, Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev in music halls in 59 countries around the planet. Rotman will add to that list a 7 p.m. Tuesday concert in Central Presbyterian Church at 125 N. Seventh St. in Terre Haute.

Classical, romantic, impressionistic and contemporary compositions by such masters will always have an audience, in Rotman’s view.

“The reason this music has lasted and will continue to last is because it is able to express the universal human emotions,” the Arizona-based pianist told the Tribune-Star. “Regardless of nationality, everyone feels tenderness, and this music expresses it. Everyone feels joy or sorrow, and this music expresses it. It will continue to endure.”

Those pieces rest in well-credentialed hands. Rotman earned two degrees from Juilliard School in New York City, received nine awards as a student — including the prestigious Laureate Winner at the Beethoven Competition in Vienna, Austria — and later won five piano competitions in the U.S. and Europe. “The defining moment of my career was performing in Moscow in the Grand Hall of the Conservatory for the sixth annual Tchaikovsky Competition in 1978,” he explained. “The competition was broadcast live in 11 time zones.”

Such global attention isn’t anticipated for his Terre Haute performance. It is an encore show, though — “a return engagement by popular request,” said church spokesman Jim Slutz.

Rotman entertained a large crowd in Central Presbyterian in 2011. His followup begins the church’s 2014 Alfred Schmidt Music Series.

The series honors Schmidt, the late Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology math professor who served as Central Presbyterian’s organist for 29 years. He died in 2007, and donated the multi-faceted musical instrument — the organ — to local churches, chapels and Rose.

Central Presbyterian also houses a Steinway grand piano, donated by Katherine Becker, said Slutz, chairman of the Schmidt Music Series. Upcoming Schmidt events also include the April 11 “Night of the Organ” concert featuring Jonathan Rudy and friends, and them May 9 formal organ concert by Rudy.

Tuesday’s piano performance will give listeners a broad taste of classical music, Rotman promised, as well as his Christian testimony.

“The sounds that the audience will hear will be as if they are having a complete meal of classical music,” he stated. “They will hear French music in the Debussy, Russian music in the Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, and American music in Gershwin. They will hear music from the classical period in the Beethoven, the romantic period in Tchaikovsky, the impressionistic period in Debussy, and the contemporary period in Pokofiev. It’s like they’ll have a meal of salad, meat, potatoes and dessert.”

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or

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