JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Internationally known concert pianist Piotr Folkert will appear Feb. 1 with the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra in the JCSO winter concert, “The Genius of Tchaikovsky.”
This is the second collaboration in concert between Folkert, a Johns Creek resident, and JCSO maestro J. Wayne Baughman. The first was in 2010 for the 200th birthday of Chopin, but Folkert says he and Baughman often cooperate musically on mutual projects.
The centerpiece of this concert will be Folkert’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor Opus 23. Also featured will be Tchaikovsky’s “Polonaise” from “Eugene Onegin” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4.
Folkert calls the concerto one of the most-performed in the world, along with Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, and one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular works.
“One of its qualities is the piece is so well-written for the piano,” he said.
This is despite one of the great contretemps in musical history. Tchaikovsky played his Concerto in B-Flat Minor for his friend Nikolai Rubenstein, considered then the greatest pianist of the age and a composer in his own right.
Rubenstein not only criticized it, but refused to play it unless Tchaikovsky agreed to Rubenstein’s “corrections.” The notoriously touchy Tchaikovsky refused and held it against him for being so rude. They later made up, with Rubenstein revising his harsh judgment of the concerto.
“Later, Vladimir Horowitz and other pianists did much to bring the concerto to a new level of appreciation,” Folkert said.
“It is not only one of the greatest concertos written, it is one of the most technically challenging to play,” he said.
The piece, while not a romance has a lyricism and a passion that expresses, “the heart of the Russian nation,” he said.
Indeed, at least part of the piece is based on Ukrainian folk music.
“It has a freedom of expression, yet it is classically written. Its essence is to try to portray emotion, so that Tchaikovsky blends the romantic movement with the classical,” Folkert said. “It’s an exciting mixture.”