Student Life

UMass Piano Student Jess Larsen Releases New CD, ‘Transformations’

Jess Larsen, a junior piano performance major in the department of music and dance, has recorded a new CD comprised of the complete first book of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Larsen released the CD to mark the ten-year anniversary of the first recording she made of Book One when she was only 10 years old. She chose ‘Transformations’ as the title of her new CD to reflect not only the evolution of her approach to Bach’s music over the past 10 years, but also the revolutionary nature of Bach’s “well-tempered” tuning system, which made it possible for these pieces to be played in any of the 24 keys.

NEWS Jess Larsen
Jess Larsen

Professor of piano Gilles Vonsattel, Larsen’s instructor at UMass, commented, “A recording of this repertoire at such a high level of artistry would be a major achievement for any pianist, let alone for an undergraduate. Jess plays with control, nuance, sensitivity, and intelligence throughout, and her abilities to absorb and interpret complex material convincingly and naturally are remarkable.”

Larsen began playing piano at the age of 3 and composing at 5. She came to the attention of renowned pianist Lang Lang when she was 8 years old through a video of her performing Chopin’s Etude Op. 25 No. 11. Larsen was invited to join Lang Lang’s International Music Foundation, which led to performances on the Oprah Winfrey Show and at Carnegie Hall on two occasions, all before the age of 13.

An avid composer as well, Larsen wrote her first symphony at age 10, which earned her an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. She also won ASCAP Awards for her first two piano concertos, and was awarded first place in the Massachusetts division of the MTNA Composition Competition for nine consecutive years from 2007-15. In addition to her Bach recordings, Larsen has also released two other CD’s that included works by Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Beethoven and Haydn, among others.