Pianist Weiss revisits Tchaikovsky concerto

10 years away from piece, dad-to-be says it's fun to play
2012-12-06T00:00:00Z 2012-12-08T01:46:50Z Pianist Weiss revisits Tchaikovsky concertoCathalena E. Burch Cburch@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
December 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Orion Weiss finally took a honeymoon with his pianist wife of nearly three years.

Last month, the pair sneaked off to Cancun, Mexico, but Weiss said they no longer considered it a honeymoon.

It was a "babymoon," the final hurrah for Weiss and his wife, Anna Polonsky, before they welcome their firstborn, a daughter, in January.

"We're so excited. But we're like now we have to do our vacation immediately," Weiss said a few days before the trip in mid-November. "As soon as we got married, we went right away and played concerts. We didn't really have a chance for a honeymoon."

The introduction of a baby into the lives of two in-demand concert pianists makes for an interesting conversation. Weiss, 31, who is making his Tucson Symphony Orchestra debut this weekend and his first Tucson concert since he played a recital with the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music in 2004, was downright giddy when talking about his impending fatherhood.

What will you do with a baby in the mix of your two active careers?

"If you have any suggestions, we are actually completely open to them. Right now we're just figuring we're going to play it concert by concert. We have a lot of friends and two sets of parents who don't live in New York City but want to come visit and help. We figure we'll do nannies and travel together. ... It's going to be an adventure for sure."

We get you in your final concerto of 2012 doing the Tchaikovsky No. 1. What's your relationship to that piece?

"It was one of the first concertos I played with an orchestra when I was 17. I played it a lot when I was going through Juilliard in my early 20s, and then I didn't play it for 10 years. This will be only the second time in 11 years that I've played this concerto, even though it has been something I have always had in my repertoire and always loved it. Pieces come and go, and some years you won't play a particular piece. I'm so happy I'm playing it again. I love it. I think it's one of the greatest concertos. It's a lot of fun to play."

When you picked it back up after a 10-year absence, did your fingers remember how to play this?

"It was all still there. … There are some things that I thought, 'Oh, that was not a good idea,' and then I practiced it and it started to come back and felt more comfortable. But I think having it in my repertoire for so long I have a sense of it and I have a sense of having played it. But it's still hard. You keep practicing."

What's your approach to the Tchaikovsky?

"That's always a tough question to answer because I don't put on Tchaikovsky colored glasses … that I try to filter my interpretation through. I have heard it a lot. I know what characteristics I like about it. And I know the things that I don't want to do. I think whenever I play music I am trying to not pretend, to be honest about what the music is and what it is saying. ... I'm trying to be as true to the music as I can. I think one thing I try to avoid is oversentimentalizing anything, and it can happen in a piece like this with so many beautiful melodies, so many beautiful moments."

There's also the risk of overinterpreting.

"I think that's true, and in Russian music you have a long history of stylized playing and mannerisms, and it's easy to fall into that stuff. I just try to think of the amazing scope of the piece and the structure. It's amazingly difficult to try and talk about how one interprets music because so much of it is done by ear and your emotions and your sense of taste and not anything in the mind."

Why did you leave the Tchaikovsky for so long?

"I just got asked to play Mozart concertos and Grieg concertos and Rachmaninoff concertos instead. … I feel like I will be exploring stuff throughout my life and probably taking breaks, even unintentional breaks, from pieces I love. But that makes the reunion all the more sweet when you get to finally play something again."

What is on your must-do list before your daughter arrives?

"We have both been trying to learn more repertoire … because we're not going to be able to practice for the first couple months with the baby. Buy baby furniture. Maybe go outside and go running. But at the same time we can't wait for the big change in our lives."

If you go

• What: Tucson Symphony Orchestra with guest pianist Orion Weiss.

• 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

• Program:

Jacobsen/Aghaei's "Ascending Bird."

Stravinsky's "Petrushka."

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. Jacobsen/Aghaei

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals, offers & events

View more...