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'Pianissimo!'

The 11th annual "Pianissimo!" concerts at the University of Montana School of Music are returning this Friday and Saturday. 

This weekend's Pianissimo! concerts at the University of Montana School of Music will feature a special guest: a brand-new Steinway & Sons piano.

Professors Christopher Hahn and Steven Hesla went to Los Angeles last week to select the instrument, which will arrive on Thursday and make its debut on Friday.

"We're really excited to be able to welcome this new instrument to the school and to bring a new piano into the world here for the joy of Missoula audiences," Hahn said.

Hahn said it's a "gorgeous" instrument, purchased with a donation from Howard and Judith Jelinek.

The Pianissimo! concerts were started 11 years ago to raise money for the UM Keyboard Society. The money goes toward scholarships, student travel for competitions, visits from guest artists, or the occasional new piano bench.

Pianissimo! is, by design, a fun "spectacle," said Hahn, who programs the concert. "If you love one piano, you'll love five."

There will indeed be five pianos on stage, and the instrument-musician ratio varies from composition to composition.

This year, they'll pull heavily from the orchestral repertoire: The iconic first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for five pianos; or Saint-Saëns' Dance Macabre in a "crazy, bonkers arrangement" by Greg Anderson, one of Hahn's favorite arrangers; or Rossini's William Tell Overture with 10 pianists playing five pianos.

Hahn has signed up for a two-piano interpretation of "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's not the only pop selection on the program. Expect mash-ups, or a pop rendition of "This is Me" from the movie "The Greatest Showman."

The performers, 25 in total, include faculty, students and community members like Scott Billadeau, who again contributed several original compositions. Some of the other listed performers are Barbara Blegen, Nancy Cooper, Dorothy Beck-Peterson, Adam Sears and Paul Nonnenmacher.

On Saturday, they're presenting a condensed, hour-long version for parents or those who prefer a matinee. They tried it last year and it proved popular enough that they're doing it again.

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