On November 2 and 3 in the Lensic, one of Santa Fe’s favorite pianists, Anne-Marie McDermott, will lead the Pro Musica Orchestra from the piano in two concertos by Mozart, nos. 14 and 22. Also on the concert is Haydn’s Symphony No. 90, led by Thomas O’Connor.
Soloist as Conductor
When Anne-Marie leads the orchestra from the piano, she is following in the footsteps of many great composers and instrumentalists. So, what does it mean to simultaneously be a soloist and conductor?
During the Baroque and Classical Periods (1600-1800), the roles of composer and performing musician were tightly intertwined. Most composers performed and most performers composed, writing concertos or showpieces for themselves, and traditionally led performances of these pieces while playing their instruments. Vivaldi led his orchestra in his concertos while playing the violin. Bach led his keyboard concertos and other works from the keyboard. Mozart conducted while playing his piano concertos at royal salons throughout Vienna. Considering that the size of the Baroque and Classical orchestras numbered in the teens and low 20s, it was not too difficult for the orchestra members to respond directly to what Vivaldi, Bach or Mozart were playing. Even Beethoven played his piano concertos leading the orchestra from his position at the piano. It’s like chamber music but on a larger scale.
However, conductors as time-beaters and “traffic cops” were usually needed for large scale works like opera that involved singers on the stage and instrumentalists down in the pit where they can’t see the singers. It was not until the Romantic Period (1800-1900) when orchestras grew to large dimensions (70-80 or more players) that a conductor was needed to keep the group together. Interestingly, it was not until the late Romantic Period and into the 20th century that we find conductors regarded as great interpreters and consequently as the star of the show.
Recently, a professional musician stated that “Professional orchestras today, and indeed, centuries ago, do not need time beating for them. The pulse or tempo within the orchestra can be felt by all the players. What the conductor does is indicate how he wants the music to be played. If the music is not too complicated, the orchestra should be just fine listening to the soloist and responding with what’s written on their parts.”
Pianist Jeffrey Kahane (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) has often performed as piano soloist and conductor. He says that “the orchestra players have to adopt a different attitude to the whole process. They can’t do what they normally do, which is to rely only on visual clues from the conductor. They have to listen! They have to become much more participatory and responsible.”
So, for Anne-Marie McDermott to simultaneously lead the orchestra and play the piano is a situation that is traditional and historically appropriate. When the Pro Musica Orchestra joins her, it will be like playing chamber music but with a large group of friends. You can be sure that the Orchestra members will be on the edge of their seats.
Watch Leonard Bernstein conduct and play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453 (13:54)
Meet the Music
To learn more about the music, join us one hour before each Pro Musica Lensic concert and hear informative conversations with Music Director Tom O’Connor and the guest artists. Free to ticket holders.
505.988.4640 | sfpromusica.org
Orchestra Series II
Mozart and Haydn
Lensic Performing Arts Center
Saturday, November 2 at 4 PM
Sunday, November 3 at 3 PM
Pro Musica Orchestra
Thomas O’Connor, conductor
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano and conductor
HAYDN Symphony No. 90 in C Major, Hob. I:90
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-Flat Major, K. 449
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat Major, K. 482
Look for our next newsletter to learn about Haydn, the “father of the symphony.”
Subscriptions and discounts available exclusively through the Pro Musica Box Office.
Tickets range from $20-$100.
Pro Musica Box Office
505.988.4640 | sfpromusica.org
Lensic Community Box Office
505.988.1234 | lensic.org