Drew Petersen
November 14, 2017
Tucson Symphony Orchestra Classical Concert Grieg Piano Concerto

TSO Classical Concert Friday, November 17th 7:30pm

Sunday, November19th at 2pmGrieg Piano Concerto
Drew Petersen, winner of the 2017
American Pianists Awards and the Christel
DeHaan Fellowship of the American
Pianists Association, has already achieved
an enormous amount at the age of 23,
including the fact that he graduated cum
laude from Harvard when he was only 19.
But he is awed by the fact that a number
of famous composers had already written
their masterworks by the time they were
his age. “I am performing Chopin’s Piano
Concerto in E minor in concert this season,
and I find myself thinking, ‘How in the world
could Chopin have written this when he
was only 20? It’s too good!’” he says.
Likewise, the Piano Concerto in A minor
by Edvard Grieg that he will play with the
TSO was written when the composer wasjust a year older than Petersen is now. The
piece is a grand, crowd-pleasing work, filled
with beautiful melodies and plenty of opportunities
for the performer to showcase the range
of the piano.
This is the first time Petersen has performed
the Grieg with a full orchestra, and
he notes that the biggest challenge for him
will be, “to make it my own, and not take it for
granted, and realize that there’s more to it
than just a superficial understanding that we
all have of the piece.”
He points out that when it was first composed
it immediately earned some very
enthusiastic supporters. “I heard a story that
Franz Liszt once had the opportunity to meet
Grieg, and Liszt decided to play the concerto,
alternating between the orchestra and solo
parts. And Liszt loved the piece, particularly
this wonderful moment where in the last bars
Grieg changes one of the major themes of the
final movement. He writes it originally in a typical,
classical scale pattern. But the last time
it appears he changes it to give it an unusualespecially Norwegian quality. And the story
goes that Liszt gets to that moment, sees
the changed note on the page, and before
he plays it, he stands up from the piano
and storms around the room, singing the
tune with the new note and shouting how
ecstatic it is.”
Petersen gravitated toward the piano
(thanks to the presence of one in his family’s
home) as a toddler, and begged his
mom to teach him some things. When he
outgrew what she knew, formal lessons
soon followed. But that wasn’t the only
endeavor for which he showed aptitude
early on: he also was a competitive swimmer,
and continues to find time to enjoy
pool or ocean swimming when he can.
“Swimming and music are really compatible
from the standpoint of the physical
activities themselves,” he observes. “It’s all
about efficiency of movement. It’s all about
doing as much as we can with as minimal
movement as possible.”
That’s not to say that the charismatic virtuoso
is just kicking back. Along with his hectic
tour schedule, he found free moments to
record an album of 20th Century American
works, which will be released on the
Steinway & Sons label. Among the featured
works will be two piano sonatas written by
multi-Pulitzer Prize-winning giants Samuel
Barber and Eliot Carter.
Young as Petersen is, he has already
fully embraced the role of being an ambassador
for classical music, ensuring that
compositions both famous and obscure
continue to be played. “Being able to be
close to great masterpieces of civilization
on a regular basis is amazing,” he says.
“Just sitting at a piano all alone and playing
through the Grieg concerto is wonderful.
But traveling all over the world and sharing
what I love with so many people is even
more incredible.”

TCC Music Hall. 882-
8585. Tucsonsymphony.org.

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