The 5 Browns perform at the Phillips Center


Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 11:55 a.m.

With charm, youthful appearance and dazzling technique, The 5 Browns, America's first family of piano virtuosi, are making classical music cool. <0x000A> "We've grown up with classical music, playing it and listening to it," Gregory Brown said in a phone interview. "Classical music needs to find a place in today's society because it is great music."

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The 5 Browns bring the sound of five piano-playing brothers and sisters to the Phillips Center tonight.

Special to the Sun

Facts

The 5 Browns

What: Utah-based quintet of piano-playing brothers and sisters.
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road, Gainesville
Tickets: $22-$47
Info: 392-2787 or www.performingarts.ufl.edu

Raised in a Mormon family in Utah and now in their 20s, the five siblings - Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan - have been performing on the piano since they were children. They made musical history when they all attended the Juilliard School, honing their piano chops with famed pedagogue Yoheved Kaplinski.

Their performances often showcase all five pianists, on five pianos, at once; the instruments are placed onstage in a pinwheel fashion.

As relative newcomers to the classical-music world, the "Fab Five," as People magazine dubbed them, have wasted no time making a splash. In 2005, The 5 Browns skyrocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard Classical chart with their first, self-titled album, and it remained there for eight weeks. Their second album, "No Boundaries," spent 21 weeks at the No. 1 spot on the charts the following year.

At 7:30 tonight at the Phillips Center, The 5 Browns will perform a selection of beloved piano repertoire, such as Chopin's "Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor" and classical favorites specially arranged for the ensemble.

"There's not a lot of music for five pianos," added Deondra Brown, "so we narrow down our favorites and try to find ones people will enjoy." Arrangements of Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony," Rachmaninoff's "Variations on a Theme of Paganini" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" are Brown concert favorites, with orchestral-like sonorities shimmering at the performers' touch.

"We're playing our favorite pieces," Gregory Brown said. "The majority of our pieces are classical ones, but we are also performing some film music." Tonight's concert will feature a suite from "Star Wars" for five pianos, foreshadowing the group's upcoming CD release of film music in March.

In addition, the Browns recently filmed a special for PBS, which also will air in March and feature music from the new album.

It is the Browns' mission to bring classical music to a wide audience. "It saddens us to see music programs cut from schools these days," Gregory concluded. But as the star siblings continue to pack their concerts with young children, teenagers and young adults, The 5 Browns are achieving their goal.

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