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WSO musical director delights in 'Keys to the Heart' fresh perspective

| Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 4:06 p.m.
Pianist Andrew Tyson
Sophie Zhai
Pianist Andrew Tyson

Daniel Meyer likes to see things from fresh angles, and his line of work provides ample opportunities.

As music director of the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, Meyer's tools for finding new perspectives aren't limited to how he paces a piece of music, the balances he sets between the instruments, and the articulation he chooses for the musical ideas. Meyer also is expert at using programming to create interesting juxtapositions of pieces and their styles.

Meyer will conduct the Westmoreland Symphony in “Keys to the Heart” on Feb. 17 at Greensburg's Palace Theatre. The program is Claude Debussy's ”Clair de lune” (Moonlight), Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Andrew Tyson, Giacomo Puccini's “I crisantemi” (Chrysanthemums) and Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”).

Debussy's popular “Claire de lune” will open the concert, but instead of the piano original, Meyer will offer a different view of it by performing Andre Caplet's beautiful orchestration. The conductor was recently struck by the music's emotionally cool sense of reflection by hearing it at the end of the film “Ocean's 11.”

Following Debussy with Beethoven is a turn to a much more emphatic style. When Beethoven wrote his First Piano Concerto, he was a young composer trying to make a name for himself in Vienna, Austria, living in the shadow of Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In fact, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 is not the first one he wrote, but because it's bigger and more ambitious he published it first.

“He definitely cared about his first statement in any genre,” says concert soloist Tyson. “He was trying to prove himself. He was trying to set a new standard in form and scale, which you see also in his early string quartets and First Symphony.”

Tyson was born and raised in Durham, N.C., and is an award-winning graduate of both the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and the Juilliard School in New York City.

After intermission, Puccini will precede Mendelssohn. Puccini is known for his operas, but “I crisantemi” is an early instrumental piece originally for string quartet. It was written to honor the memory of an Italian nobleman, and Meyer finds it fascinating that there's often a fine line between expressions of mourning and expressions of love.

Mendelssohn “Italian” Symphony is one of the great musical travel mementos.

“I always remember and think about those incredible ink drawings and watercolor paintings he brought back from his trips. He had an incredible ability to assimilate styles, gestures and dimensions,” Meyer says. “You see that just as much in his Bach homage writing as in his saltarellos and Italianate writing in this symphony. He has a keen ear and a keen eye for gestures he observed and picked up on during his trips.”

Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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