This weekend, internationally acclaimed pianist and Washington native Charlie Albright will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Spokane Symphony in their 2018-19 season opening concert: “The Bohemian Spirit.”
Albright, who grew up in Centralia, painted quite a picture of the piece he considers a personal favorite both to hear and perform.
“It’s majestic in a way, but at the same time, it’s also extremely passionate,” Albright said. “For the first movement, you can almost feel a kind of royalty: a king or maybe a prince. It’s a very emotional, passionate time for this person, but there’s that air of majesty involved. The second movement is this gorgeous, very introverted, deeply personal – maybe the king is sharing something very intimate, very personal. He may keep that shroud of regality but under that is this deeply personal feeling. The third movement has that air of majesty but almost jokingly showing another side of this person. It’s a blast to play because it has a little bit of everything and it maintains that very Beethoven sound.”
Albright, widely celebrated for his ability to improvise, will be treating audiences to a characteristic display of his skills. He plans to improvise both of the cadenzas called for in the Beethoven score.
Spokane Symphony music director Eckart Preu, who will conduct the concert, said improvisation used to be expected of performers, but it’s unusual and exciting to have a soloist capable of something like this now.
“He’s just a phenomenal young talent who is able to do what used to be part of every major pianist’s game: to improvise. Franz Liszt, Beethoven, Mozart. They all improvised,” Preu said. “That was what all these musicians did, but I think the trend has changed, the focus changed, the education has changed in the classical music world. Nobody does this really anymore. Jazz musicians still do it, what we ought to be doing.”
In addition to Albright’s anticipated interpretation of the Beethoven piano concerto, the symphony will perform Bedrich Smetana’s “The Moldau” from “Ma Vlast (My Homeland)” and Antonín Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7.
“I decided to do the Moldau, one of the big staples of the symphonic, more tone poem repertoire” Preu said. “It’s much more easy listening, much lighter. It’s a little more splashy, more colorful.”
The second half of the concert will feature the Dvořáksymphony.
“I wanted to do Dvorák because usually we do some big Russian piece or something bombastic,” Preu said. “This symphony in particular has a lot of depth and drama in it as well as the typical Slavonic folklore. It’s a nice mixture of drama, and it has of course a major ending and it’s a nice way for the symphony (orchestra) to kind of dig in for the first of 10 classics and to get really, really in shape.”
Audiences may not be as familiar with Symphony No. 7 as they would be with Dvorák’s “New World Symphony” (Symphony No. 9), but No. 7 will not be found lacking any of its depth.
“It’s a symphony that is rated very, very highly with the best symphonies ever written. It’s a phenomenal piece to play, it’s beautiful, it’s dramatic, it has tragedy, beauty, lightness, heavenly things.”
Albright will joinPreu for pre-concert talks both days to discuss the historical and musical significance of each piece. They will talk about what audience members should be listening to in the individual pieces, as well as the broader connections between the pieces and the reasoning behind their being programmed together.