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A Pianist Goes to the Opera

Date: 1/18/2013

About two weeks ago, we set up an interview between Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register and pianist Louis Lortie, who'll be performing with us next Saturday. The article will run in this Sunday's paper, on the cover of the Arts section. Be sure to pick up a copy.

There's always a little trepidation when setting up these artist interviews (what if technology fails us? what if someone forgot about the interview? etc.), but thankfully none of that happened this time. Or not much, that is, according to Tim's opening sentences. Here's an excerpt from Tim's article, A pianist goes to the opera:

Promptly, at the appointed minute, just as planned, Louis Lortie arrives in the ether, requesting to chat on Skype. A silhouette cutout of head and shoulders appears. We soon get the video function sorted out (he quicker than I) and, presto, I'm staring into the friendly face of one of the world's greatest pianists, half a world away in Berlin, where he makes his home.

After ascertaining what publication I write for, the French-Canadian musician, 53, immediately asks about the Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo, where he'll perform an unusual recital program on Jan. 26. He's never played there and good acoustics (I assure him they're fine) are necessary to his plan.

That would be Wagner opera. The Overture to "Tannhäuser." The Prelude and "Liebestod" from "Tristan und Isolde." The Magic Fire Music from "Die Walküre." The "Siegfried Idyll." None of it piano music, in other words.

As a pianist, Lortie explains, he has always been frustrated by the latter part of the 19th century. It's an historical anomaly. In the early part of the century composers such as Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Schumann wrote extensively for solo piano. But come mid-century, the stream begins to dry up.

"Suddenly, great composers find the piano too small and are not interested to write for the piano, or less than they used to (be)," Lortie says. Wagner, Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Verdi and Mahler, for instance, left very little for solo piano as they pursued more grandiose forms. "So, for me," Lortie says, "there's a whole block of music literature at the end of the 19th century that I love and it's frustrating because I can't play it on the piano."

Keep reading here.

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