Pianist Cheng, Westmoreland Symphony conductor Meyer team up in Brahms concert
Pianist Angela Cheng and conductor Daniel Meyer appear to agree with each other about themselves as much as they do about Johannes Brahms.
Meyer, artistic director of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, says Cheng is one of his favorite soloists to work with, while Cheng describes two prior performances with Meyer as a “wonderful musical experience.”
She will perform Brahms' first piano concerto with Meyer and the orchestra on April 13, and they both talk about the work with similar enthusiasm.
“The concerto brings out his poetry, his passion,” Meyer says. “This was an early work for him and I think he wanted it to be something of a calling card. It said what he was all about.”
Cheng agrees, calling the work “one of the great masterpieces of the piano repertoire. It is symphonic in its scope and demands a wide spectrum of emotions from the pianist.”
The concert also will include a work Meyer believes fits well with the sweep of the Brahms concerto: the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar. He says that work is a study of “intimacy in the face of grandeur” in how the 14 variations of a theme build to a powerful conclusion, much like a Brahms' statement.
In a sense, Meyer says, the work is a piece that reflects the thinking that a “sum is greater that the whole of its parts.” But yet each variation is a good orchestral achievement on its own, fitting in with the scope of the Brahms work.
Meyer worked with Cheng at both the Erie and Asheville symphony orchestras, two other ensembles where he is artistic director, and says he enjoys the way she “makes the whole experience go” in understanding “her role as a collaborator.”
Describing her as a “musician with something to say,” he says her talent equals her perception of the music, making her interpretive decisions strong and logical.
Born in Hong Kong, Cheng grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and Indiana University in Bloomington, where she studied with the great Menahem Pressler.
She has performed around the world and made her debut at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2012. She also teaches at Oberlin University in Ohio.
Just before the trip here, she toured China and Japan with the Pinchas Zukerman Chamber Players.
In an email exchange from China, Cheng says she is happy once again to perform with Meyer, especially doing Brahms first, which is “one of those pieces that I feel very close to and I've played it often over the years.”
That concerto is one of the works, like Ludwig van Beethoven's fourth concerto, that she keeps ready to perform. Like most soloists, she keeps a number of works ready “because of their great beauty and their spiritual quality.”
She says the “dramatic character of the first movement, the serene quality of the second movement and the gypsy dance-like spirit of the last movement, all work together to produce a fulfilling and satisfying journey for both the performers and audience.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.