The Symphony for Pianists

Victoria Symphony: Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1


Today, I went to see the Victoria Symphony perform Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1 with Canadian Pianist Dmitri Lekovich as the fifth concert of their Classics series. The symphony also performed Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Brahm’s Symphony No.2; all three pieces were conducted by Christian Kluxen.  All three performances received standing ovations from the packed audience.

While I was studying, a professor told me that the piano was once considered “the home version of the orchestra”. The instrument can play entire orchestral reductions, because of it’s ability to play polyphonic music, or more than one melodic line at a time. In piano lessons, we often talk about playing certain phrases and parts like other instruments, by imitating the articulation and phrasing. For example ,it is not uncommon for a piano teacher to say “phrase that like….a violin playing pizzicato”. Mimicking other instruments is an important skill for pianists. The more nuanced we are with our fingers and ears, the more the music can speak.

This is why the symphony is such an important experience for the growing pianist. The student gets to hear the timbre of different instruments, and experience different musical parts coming together to create one piece. We pianists, have to bring all these same instruments to life with our ten fingers on the piano. Students should learn that every part is important, not just the melody!

A piano concerto, is especially interesting. To me, it feels as if it is a collaboration between two orchestras; one controlled by the pianist, and one controlled by the conductor. Both parts are complex and are engaging in conversation with each other, resulting in captivating music. A piano’s timbre stands out from the rest of the orchestral instruments, yet they compliment each other very well.

As part of the audience, I myself particularly enjoyed watching the interaction between the pianist and the conductor. There are a lot of factors to coordinate, and the two musicians kept constant eye contact to execute every cue on time.