Feel the love: Pianist Vassily Primakov joins the Maryland Symphony Orchestra in concert
Pianist Vassily Primakov joins the Maryland Symphony Orchestra in a concert of Mozart and the music of romance. (Submitted photo / February 13, 2013)
The MSO will pay homage to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during its 31st season's third masterworks concert, "For the Love of Mozart." The program includes Frank Martin's Ouverture en hommage à Mozart, Robert Schumann's "Carnaval," Op. 9 and Symphony No. 4 in D minor and Mozart's Concerto for Piano No. 27 in B-flat Major.
The concert sets up a conversation among composers speaking to and interpreting each other from one century to another, Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an email.
Mozart and Schumann are among the top five of her favorite composers — or "desert island companions," she wrote. Both will be highlighted in the form they innovated: Mozart and the piano concerto, Schumann and the symphony. She has coupled each major work with a work of musical commentary by 20th-century composers: Martin with Mozart and Maurice Ravel with his orchestral arrangement of some of Schumann's solo piano pieces.
Concert pianist Vassily Primakov will join the orchestra to perform the Mozart concerto.
It will be his second appearance with MSO. In October 2004 he was in town to play Sergei Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. He will perform that work in April again under the baton of Schulze with the Flagstaff (Ariz.) Symphony Orchestra. Schulze is that orchestra's artistic director and conductor.
Schulze said she is "so happy" to reunite with Primakov. She called him "an artist of extraordinary ability and depth" and wrote, "I'm excited for our audiences to experience the new insights in his playing that maturity brings."
Primakov, 33, also is excited. He called his first experience working with Schulze "just incredible."
"She's a great musician and just fantastic to work with. So this is thrilling. Not only am I working with her once, but twice this season," he said during a recent phone interview from New York.
He's lived there for 15 years, arriving in 1997, a 17-year-old who spoke no English. He came to study at The Juilliard School. He received a bachelor's degree in 2001 and completed a master's in 2004.
Primakov had begun piano studies with his mother when he was 8 years old. Because she was a musician, he was surrounded by music rehearsals and all sorts of concerts, he said. He knew pretty much right away that he wanted to be a professional musician. He wasn't forced into it. The decision was his.
"I really was kind of serious about it. As long as I remember myself, I never took it as a hobby. I right away plunged myself into very serious work," he said.
"I have nobody to blame but myself," he added with a chuckle. "No matter how hard it is sometimes — I don't regret it."
Primakov hasn't outgrown serious work. Although he didn't come up with an exact number, it's safe to say there are 30 concertos in his repertoire. "Maybe I should sit down and count," he said with a laugh.
He has recorded 12 of Mozart's 27 piano concertos. Three compact discs have been released, and the fourth volume will come out sometime this year. The recordings are a nice mix, Primakov said. The 27th, Mozart's final piano concerto and the one on this weekend's program, is included. The work was premiered in Vienna in January 1791 at Mozart's final public performance, according to program notes on the MSO website at www.mary landsymphony.org.
Musically, Primakov said, some of Mozart's last concertos are some of the best concertos. "From a musician's perspective — to me, this concerto feels a little more ethereal and in some ways calmer. Not necessarily — sad or depressing. It's a very moving piece," he explained.
Primakov said his touring schedule is chaotic. There are times when he's home and pretty much nothing is happening, then things get crazy, he said. The next two months are fairly quiet. He has concerts, but they are not back to back. Things start to heat up in April. Performances include an all-Chopin program at Carnegie Hall in New York, and, in June, he heads to South Africa for the third time. He immediately fell in love with the country because of its beauty and culture. He'll be playing 15 concerts in less than a month, and said it's pretty intense. "But I can't complain, because I get to see the entire country."
During this relative lull, Primakov is enjoying his time at home. For most of his 15 years in New York, he's lived in Manhattan. He recently moved to Brooklyn, to a "kind of trendy area called Williamsburg, which I am absolutely in love with." He really likes the change. "It's a little different, so whenever I can, I've been exploring — little shops and wonderful restaurants here."
Primakov described himself as a very hard-core soloist mainly playing solo recitals and with orchestras. But that is changing, too.