Pianist Robert Thies Performs Tribute to His Beloved Dog at Restoration Concert

PHOTO: Sally Kilby | South Pasadena News | Pianist Robert Thies and composer Danaë Vlasse pose after the May 8 concert with a photo of Simon, Thies’ dog who passed away during the pandemic. Vlasse created a composition to honor the close bond between Thies and his pet. The concert marked its U.S. premiere.

World-renowned pianist Robert Thies performed at the Mother’s Day concert Sunday afternoon May 8 in the Library Community Room. The Restoration Concerts Committee of the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library sponsored the event. He received a standing ovation and returned for a brief encore.

An audience of approximately 140 attendees heard him play classical compositions and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Another piece that Thies played, “Sérénade pour Simon (Serenade for Simon),” held a personal meaning for him. Standing next to the piano with a microphone in hand, he told the audience that music composer Danaë Vlasse, a friend of his, had created this work as a gift to him in 2020. The piece celebrates the relationship between Thies and Simon, his much-loved dog who passed away during the pandemic.

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Prior to playing it, Thies introduced Vlasse who was in the audience. “There is a musical message in the melody of the piece,” she said. Vlasse, who won a 2022 Grammy award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album, then explained what she meant. She had paired the letters in the dog’s name Simon and the musician’s name Robert with their corresponding notes on the musical scale to create the five-minute composition.

Thies shared with the audience that he, like many others, experienced a difficult time during the pandemic. He said he could not play the work when he had received it because of his grief over losing his pet. “It was too beautiful, and I was too raw,” he said. “I put it aside for a year and a half.”

The piece was first performed in France, he said, and this concert marked its U.S. premiere. “Every time I return to it,” he told the audience, “it reveals new treasures.”

The next event in the 2021-22 Restoration Concerts Series takes place at 4 p.m. on May 22 in the Library Community Room at 1115 El Centro Street. The New Hollywood String Quartet is performing along with pianist Bernadene Blaha. Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor and Haydn’s Op.76, No. 4 (“Sunrise”) are on the program. Tickets are $20 at the door.

The Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of the Library and funds for it. To join as a member or to order 2022-23 season tickets ($136), visit www.friendsofsopaslibrary.org.