Pianist, composer teaming with ASO for a little romance

Weiss to perform Chopin’s Concerto No. 2
Pianist Orion Weiss will perform "something romantic" with the Albany Symphony Orchestra.
Pianist Orion Weiss will perform "something romantic" with the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

TROY — Pianist Orion Weiss has often performed with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, but the concerts this Saturday and Sunday mark a first for him.

“I’ve played Beethoven, Stravinsky, Rouse and Mozart with them, but this is the first time I’m doing something romantic,” Weiss said last week from Milwaukee’s airport, where with the temperature at 18 below, he wasn’t sure he’d be flying out.

Weiss will perform Frederic Chopin’s Concerto No. 2.

“I’ve played it a lot,” he said. “It’s endlessly beautiful, has amazing piano writing, thousands of notes and is as hard as it sounds. There’s also a luminescence and richness, and variety of piano writing.”

Before he even shows up for the ASO rehearsals, however, Weiss will be playing in Texas, Florida and the New York City area.

After the Troy concerts, he immediately heads down to New Orleans to play a Mozart concerto, then it’s on to a tour with pianist Shai Wosner and more solo recitals.

“My career is unfolding the way I’d hoped,” he said. “I’m playing beautiful music with people I admire and broadening my horizons. I’m very happy.”

He credits his former teacher, the estimable Emanuel Ax, with his groundedness.

“Ax has been a big supporter and was a role model, both personally and musically,” Weiss said. “His modesty, kindness to others … he’s a very centered person, and that he’s made it through in a musical career is a good goal to have. He’s inspiring.”

When he’s not playing music and “bouncing around,” Weiss said he loves to read, especially about such topics as artificial intelligence and chess.

And, if he’s in a town and has time, he’ll check out the latest horror flicks — a special favorite.

Composers, however, have a different focus. Annika Socolofsky is always on the lookout for the next inspiration.

For the world premiere of her piece, “Gaze,” she decided the timing of these concerts was the key.

“It’s a Valentine-themed concert, so I decided the eye contact with a loved one was the most intimate thing … like falling into another person,” she said.

Since ASO music director David Alan Miller told her she could write about anything, and because the Chopin and Robert Schumann’s very romantic Symphony No. 2 were also on the program, she said she felt it a good fit.

“The piece is about nine minutes long, and is colorful and immersive with melodies, momentous moments and introspective, subtle moments. There’s a big range,” Socolofsky said.

The work is also for a full orchestra.

“I’ve written for the Dogs of Desire and for the Water Music Project, which were both for smaller groups,” she said. “This is my first piece for a regular orchestra. It took three months to write.”

Both Socolofsky and Weiss are looking forward to returning to work with Miller.

“He’s a friend for a long time,” Weiss said. “He’s astute and insightful. We’ll have a great time.” 

Miller will give a preconcert talk at noon on Friday at the Albany Public Library and will talk from the stage one hour prior to each concert.

Albany Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: Saturday 7:30 p.m.; Sunday 3 p.m.

WHERE: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

HOW MUCH: $60-$15

MORE INFO: 518-694-3300; www.albanysymphony.com 

Categories: Entertainment

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