Pianist finds Bartók's melodic, lyrical side

2013-03-14T00:00:00Z 2013-03-15T23:36:40Z Pianist finds Bartók's melodic, lyrical sideCathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It is not unusual for German pianist Markus Groh to be doing an interview with an American reporter past midnight in Germany.

"We have two kids, and they go to bed at 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock. And then I practice a little bit," he explained. "At midnight I'm still awake."

During one of those late nights two weeks ago, Groh, sounding refreshed and awake, joked that he was doing the dress rehearsal in London last week for his Tucson Symphony Orchestra debut this weekend. The way he saw it, the TSO asked him to perform Bartók's Third Piano Concerto long before the Brussels Philharmonic signed him up for a London concert that he did last Friday. Therefore, in the scheme of priorities, we win.

"I've played it several times, and it's a very melodic piece," Groh said. "Although it was written in 1945, it's one of the more easier listening pieces of Bartók. ... You see the more melodic and lyrical side of Bartók."

The 43-year-old Groh is critically acclaimed for his "sound imagination" and powerful playing. "Groh plays straight, just as God and Brahms instruct him. … (He) now ranks at the top of the German tradition," gushed the Berliner Morgenpost.

Groh is also known for his long hair tied back in a ponytail. Earlier in his career, some promoters suggested he might want to cut it, but Groh has resisted.

"It's just a hairstyle, that's it, but it has become kind of a trademark," said Groh, who had lived in New York for several years until his 6-year-old daughter was born and he and his family moved back to Berlin.

His hair will likely be the last thing on the minds of the audience once Groh starts playing.

"The Concerto No. 3 ... is less demanding in a technical way, but it's more melodic than the piano concerto (Bartók) wrote before," Groh said. "The third movement is very rhythmical, and like in all Bartók pieces, the craftsmanship you can really admire. ...

"You see that he was influenced by the music of Bach and Beethoven and all the musical masters," Groh said. "And he added some new spice in rhythmical patterns, which he got from folk tunes in Hungary and Romania. ... You can hear a lot of it in his works."

If you go

• What: Tucson Symphony Orchestra with pianist Markus Groh.

• When: 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

• Tickets: $26 to $79 through tucsonsymphony.org or by calling 882-8585.

• Program:

Rossini's Overture to "The Thieving Magpie."

Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 in F major, "Pastorale."

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.

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