MSO welcomes pianist for finale

March 13, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

Much of a concert pianist's life is solitary.

A lot of the time - many hours of time - you are by yourself, because you practice by yourself, says Esther Budiardjo, who will perform with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

Budiardjo is the featured soloist for Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2.

"It's probably one of the most beautiful piano concertos ever written," she says.

Budiardjo will perform Saturday, March 15, and Sunday, March 16, in the MSO's MasterWorks V, the final concerts of the season.

Performances are the other, nonsolitary, part of her life as a concert pianist.

"I think for a performer to be successful, there has to be an audience," she says.

"Your playing changes when there are other people around," she says. "The audience is part of the performance."

Budiardjo, 30, was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she started playing piano before she was 5 years old. She wanted to learn because her older brother was learning to play.


"I just wanted to join in the fun," she says.

Her mother, for whom music is a serious hobby, was Budiardjo's first piano teacher.

The family came to America when Budiardjo was 15. She entered Walnut Hill School in Natick, Mass., a high school that has an arrangement with the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Budiardjo attended pre-college programs on Saturdays at the conservatory, where she later received her bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as her doctorate.

Budiardjo played under MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze's baton when both were guest artists with the Omaha Symphony in November 2000.

"I felt that she had a really beautiful pianistic voice," Schulze says.

On the program was a concerto by Edvard Grieg, a work Schulze describes as "massive."

This weekend's Chopin concerto is different.

There's hardly a more romantic concerto, Schulze says. It is not heroic or epic, just a gorgeous piece of music.

"It calls for someone who understands that the piano is to be used to unravel this beautiful song." Budiardjo will do it well, she says. "She's very bright, thoughtful and gifted as a musician."

The pianist is looking forward to working again with Schulze.

"I found that she's very understanding about my approach to the music."

Budiardjo compares working with a conductor for the first time to meeting a new friend.

Usually, you have to collaborate a lot in a short time.

"Ideally you will work with a person who knows what you are trying to do," she says. But understanding how a musician or conductor approaches the many musical details of a work can take a long time.

When she's not practicing or performing, Budiardjo spends much of her time gathering information and reading about the pieces she's playing. "I'm really occupied with trying to get pieces ready. It's just what I like to do," she says.

Budiardjo and her husband, composer Timothy Pickett, recently moved to Vancouver, Canada. He is studying at the University of British Columbia.

Her Hagerstown performances are part of a month-long concert tour. She will miss the debut of music he composed for the original play on which Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" was based.

If you go ...

Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents MasterWorks V, including Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5.

Pianist Esther Budiardjo is the featured soloist.

8 p.m. Saturday, March 15, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 16

Prelude, a pre-concert discussion with MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze, begins one hour prior to each performance.

The Maryland Theatre

28 S. Potomac St.


Tickets cost $12 to $35. Box seats cost $50.

For tickets or information, call 301-797-4000, visit the symphony office at 13 S. Potomac St. or go to on the Web.

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