Spokane Symphony takes an American journey with Andreas Boyde this weekend.
The compositions featured in the Spokane Symphony’s upcoming classics concert are meant to evoke the sights and sounds of America: The majesty of the Grand Canyon, the vibrancy of New York’s jazz scene, the timeless charms of George Gershwin’s American standard “Rhapsody in Blue.”
As for visiting pianist Andreas Boyde, he was born in Germany and is currently based out of London, but he spends plenty of time performing with symphonies in the States.
“It can be quite a challenge, but I also enjoy it very much,” Boyde said of his constant traveling. “Actually, I really look forward to working with Eckart (Preu), which will be our first time.”
Boyde’s musicianship seems to be almost genetic: His brother is also a working musician, and his sister is a music therapist.
“I started playing the piano at age 4,” Boyde said. “My dad played the piano, and I’d be under the instrument trying to hit the pedals, annoying him. My older brother started taking lessons, and I really wanted to play the piano as well.”
Despite his musical upbringing, Boyde said he never made the conscious decision to become a career musician.
“I just grew into it,” he said. “From being a child pressing buttons and something exciting happens, to being more serious about it. But you ‘play’ the piano, you don’t ‘work’ the piano, which I think is quite a wonderful aspect.”
During this weekend’s concerts, Boyde will be performing both Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Though Stravinsky and Gershwin were contemporaries, they’re not often mentioned in the same breath. But Boyde says he sees some stylistic similarities in their work, especially in their Russian backgrounds (Gershwin’s parents were of Russian and Jewish heritage).
“Apart from being your classic American composer, (Gershwin) was clearly influenced by Russian and Jewish music,” Boyde said. “You can hear the Russian roots in ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ and that’s another link that might tie the two pieces together. They were actually composed around the same time.”
Stravinsky was one of the most controversial composers of his era: The 1913 premiere of his piece “The Rite of Spring” supposedly incited riots in the audience, with opera composer Giacomo Puccini describing it as “the work of a madman.” This piano-wind concerto isn’t nearly as well-known as “Spring,” but it is equally unconventional.
“It’s a wonderful piece,” Boyde said. “It’s very rewarding and very fun, and it’s also funny. … Some people might be scared off a piece like the Stravinsky, but it’s actually great fun. It’s virtuosic, and it displays a lot of quirkiness, which people should enjoy. I notice that when I play the Stravinsky, it goes down well with the audience.”
Gershwin, on the other hand, has a comfortable presence in the American songbook, and the oft-performed “Rhapsody in Blue” should serve as a satisfying final course after the strangeness of Stravinsky.
“It’s certainly one of the most popular pieces for piano,” Boyde said. “It’s a wonderful show stopper.”
Original article found here.