Music Director Trond Saeverud talked about the Galveston Symphony Orchestra’s next concert.
Q. Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto has had many wonderful recordings, including an unforgettable one by Leon Fleisher, who came to Galveston a few years ago for a concert at the invitation of Shrub and Peaches Kempner. (Galvestonians are lucky when it comes to music.) Fleisher’s old recording with the George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra somehow made a famous, often-performed piece absolutely fresh. Is there a secret to that? What do musicians do to make an audience hear a familiar piece as if for the first time?
A. Yes, that’s always a challenge when playing well known pieces! I actually talked about this at our most recent rehearsal: These pieces were revolutionary and groundbreaking when they were first heard, and there was certainly nothing normal or ordinary about that experience. We are trying to recreate that sense of newness and excitement, and I spend much time and effort getting to that “place” so I can help inspire this feeling. The audience can help, too!
Q. The soloist, Anton Nel, made his debut at age 12 playing a Beethoven piano concerto. His recordings suggest he loves music from Beethoven’s era. Please tell us about him.
A. Yes, we are extremely fortunate to have Anton Nel as our soloist! Growing up in South Africa, he was a famous child prodigy and media personality — and in this country he landed a faculty position at University of Texas at Austin at the age of 23. After holding professorships at Eastman School of Music and The University of Michigan, he returned to UT Austin as a professor in 2000. He is Head of Keyboard Studies and the first holder of the Joe R. and Teresa Long Endowed Chair In Piano. Between all this, he keeps traveling the country and beyond as a soloist and recitalist.
Yes, Beethoven is one of his favorite composers, and Anton is widely regarded as one of the foremost Beethoven interpreters today.
Q. How did you bring him to Galveston?
A. GSO principal violist Tom Strauch is a friend of Anton Nel and made the connection. I am of course very grateful for this — and looking very much forward to working with Anton!
Q. Often, the Galveston Symphony Orchestra’s concert feature works of more than one era. This program is focused on a relatively short period. What should we in the audience be listening for?
A. Well, I must admit that my first answer would be that these are all pieces that speak immediately to our emotions and can be enjoyed “directly” without any analytical thought or verbalization of the experience. That’s how I listen if I’m not at work. And, even though they are related in time period and basic style, the emotional events in these three pieces are extremely varied.
But if something more is helpful, there are some specific aspects that could be interesting to follow:
Both composers are masters of creating large structures based on small building blocks. Notice how the same motifs are varied and changed — including how they are altered to fit different instruments.
The return of familiar material creates important moments in every piece on this program, including each movement in the symphony.
Try to notice when we return to what you have heard before — and how that transition is handled. It is often sneaky!
And now I really shouldn’t get more technical: please enjoy these timeless masterpieces!
WHAT: Galveston Symphony Orchestra presents “Mozart and Beethoven”
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St., Galveston
Beethoven, Egmont Overture
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 3, Anton Nel, piano
Mozart, Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”