Five Questions for Pianist Orli Shaham

Bangor, ME — On Sunday, February 25th, pianist Orli Shaham will join the Bangor Symphony Orchestra to perform Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Collins Center for the Arts. The program will also feature Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 and Smetana’s Overture to The Bartered Bride. Ms. Shaham is an accomplished artist, with the New York Times calling her a “brilliant pianist,” and in anticipation of Sunday’s performance, we spoke with her about what audiences can expect.

We’re looking forward to having you in Bangor! Have you performed in Maine before?
I’ve played at the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival. I had some of the most incredible lobster my life – I know it’s a cliché, but it’s totally true.

What is most exciting to you about performing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3?
It’s one of my favorite pieces of the 20th century. Bartok wrote it late in his life, and at this point he understood a kind of economy and efficiency of ideas and notes, so that all of his incredible folk melodies and evocative nighttime ideas are distilled into a perfect presentation.

The piece is also really exuberant; the sheer rhythmic joy that Bartok was so great at creating is present throughout the third movement.

What in this piece would you encourage the audience to listen for?
There are so many of Bartok’s signature elements in this piece. Definitely listen for some brief exchanges between the piano and sections of the orchestra that go back and forth several times. Also listen for the bird calls and night music in the center of the second movement.

My other favorite moment of this concerto is the opening of the second movement. The orchestra creates a very spiritual atmosphere, and the piano comes in with the most stunningly beautiful chorale, which seems to me like a deep, inwardly felt prayer.

Can you describe how you view the relationship on stage between soloist and conductor?
In this case, Lucas Richman is someone that I have known and worked with a number of times. So even before we’ve had our first rehearsal, I know that it’s going to be a very mutual collaboration. We’ll exchange ideas back and forth in rehearsal, and I’m sure that we will end up with an interpretation that is both honest and authentic to both of our ideas.

What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
I’ve just recorded the Mozart Concertos K 453 and K 491 with the St. Louis Symphony, with David Robertson conducting. It will be out on the Canary Classics label a little later this year.