Piano virtuoso Thomas Pandolfi plays the music of George Gershwin tonight at 7:30pm at .
Thomas Pandolfi is a young American pianist who is being showered with critical acclaim worldwide. Though his work often features Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Liszt, he is also a brilliant interpreter of George Gershwin’s music, which will be his focus tonight.
Pandolfi appeared in Pasadena last night and between that show and his travel to the Bay Area today, he took the time to answer a few questions about his musical career.
What’s your connection to the music of George Gershwin?
I always have loved the music of George Gershwin as a listener, but the first time I really got turned on by it as a performer was while a student at Juilliard. There was a concerto competition for the Second Rhapsody for Piano & Orchestra, and I entered and ended up winning. As a result, I performed the piece with the Juilliard Orchestra in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. The next morning I was called down to the administrative offices and told that [composer] Morton Gould had been in the audience and was so impressed that he wanted to meet me. So I went to his offices at ASCAP, and he had some very, VERY complimentary things to say about my performance, and encouraged me to play more and more of Gershwin's works. So, I suppose I have taken his advice!
With the passing of Etta James yesterday, will you be playing any Gershwin pieces that are connected to her?
Oh yes, "The Man I Love" will be part of my improvisation.
Have you appeared much in the Bay Area prior to this?
No, unfortunately not that much, but I am hoping to change that! I have played at the Berkeley Arts Center, and given a master class to some very gifted students at the San Francisco Conservatory, and at the Old First Concert Series.
It looks like you often perform with symphonies and orchestras. What's the solo experience like for you in contrast?
Solo recitals are a lot more work because one must perform the entire repertoire on both halves of the concert! But, because piano literature is so vast and varied, solo recitals offer a wealth of material to the audience. However, planning a concert program has always been immensely exciting for me. I love it, but I can't say I like one more than the other. A steady, balanced diet of both is ideal.
Can you share a little bit about your early journey to becoming a pianist? How old were you when you began? When did you first feel a strong connection to the piano?
I was around 4 when I started lessons. My parents always played classical music in the house, and I would run over to the piano's upper register and try to play along. Apparently, what I was doing was fitting rhythmically and harmonically with what was going on....so I began lessons. My progress was rapid, and I started to perform in public when I was 10 or so. From then on, I knew this is what I wanted to do in life.
You can get a taste of Pandolfi's talent on his youtube page.
Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 7:30pm. Arrive early for tickets and best seating! More information available here.