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Orchestra offers a trifecta of Scandinavian compositions

Award-winning guest pianist will perform solo of a Romantic work

Award-winning guest pianist will perform solo of a Romantic work

November 10, 2005|by KATE COLEMAN

Last June, Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and members and friends of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra Guild traveled to Scandinavia and Russia.

This weekend, Schulze and the MSO players will take their audiences along on a musical tour of what is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Pianist Andrew von Oeyen will be along for part of the ride. The 25-year-old Malibu, Calif., native will be the soloist for Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor, a popular Romantic work.

"Everyone's heard it sometime," Schulze said.

If you can't quite place it in your music memory bank, go to to hear a selection. Jean Sibelius' Fifth Symphony, the weekend's finale, also is there.


If you've never heard the concerto, von Oeyen and the MSO are expected to make an indelible impression. He's really a "brilliant pianist," Schulze said.

How does von Oeyen make the well-known concerto his own?

In a telephone interview from Paris last week, von Oeyen said it's important to be aware of the many traditional ways of playing it. But he tries to approach every piece without preconception.

"I try to have a very clear understanding of the structure, and, when that understanding is present, usually traditional practices don't get in the way."

It was a "magnetic attraction" that pulled a very young von Oeyen to music. His mother is a singer and there always was music in the house.

"We had a piano and I was just drawn to it," he said.

He would watch his mother practice. When she was done, he'd sit at the piano for hours poking out notes.

"I wanted to start lessons when I was 4. My parents thought that was too young so I had to wait another year," he said.

Von Oeyen has made up for lost time.

He made his solo orchestral debut at age 10, and the award-winning young artist has performed with noted American orchestras - Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis, Detroit and Seattle symphonies among them. The 2005-06 season marks his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony and the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. He received critical praise for his conducting debut at the 2004 Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston, S.C.

That's conducting from the keyboard, von Oeyen explained.

Conducting and playing at the same time?

"Sort of like patting your head, rubbing your tummy," he said with a laugh.

A recent graduate of the Juilliard School, von Oeyen has lived in New York City for about eight years.

His schedule is packed with performances and daily practice, but, occasionally - say for vacation - it's nice not touching the piano.

"It's really important to take breaks," he said. When you come back to the piece you're working on, you usually have a clearer outlook and a better sense of the larger picture, he explained.

He likes to cook, he loves to read - nonfiction - and luckily, he loves to travel and does so for pleasure as well as work.

Von Oeyen doesn't listen to much music outside his classical repertoire. He does "passively" sometimes, but said he works so much and spends so many hours practicing, that he often doesn't want to hear any music. He described his breaks from practicing and listening to music as sort of "cleaning the palette."

Von Oeyen was very young when he decided on a musical career. He knew what he wanted to do from the time he started to play.

Marian Rian Hays, the MSO's principal harp, would seem to approve of von Oeyen's career choice. As a family friend, she has known him since he was a child.

Friendship aside, she called him a "fabulous, fabulous musician."

"He's not just good," she said. "He is just an extraordinary talent."

There is no harp in this weekend's program, so Hays will not share The Maryland Theatre stage with her young friend. She'll be playing in Washington, D.C., so she won't even get to hear him with the MSO.

But Hagerstown audiences are in for a treat, she said.

"Andrew will blow you away."

If you go ...

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra's MasterWorks II concert, "Romantic Scandinavian Masterpieces," with Andrew von Oeyen

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $20 to $72 for adults and $10 to $36 for full-time students and children 12 and younger. They can be purchased at the MSO office, at 13 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets also are available by calling 301-797-4000.

Discounts for groups of 10 or more are available.

Three- or four-concert season subscriptions still may be purchased.

For information and to listen to selections from the weekend program, go to the MSO Web site at

MORE: Music Director Elizabeth Schulze will welcome Michael Holmes to Prelude, which begins one hour before each concert.

Holmes, whom Schulze calls a "fascinating musician," is an expert on Jean Sibelius, whose Symphony No. 5 will be performed.

Holmes was awarded a Fulbright fellowship for the year 2001-02 and lived in Helsinki, Finland, researching the composer's life and works.

The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.

STILL MORE: There will be a preconcert wine tasting from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Michelle's Restaurant, 10 E. Washington St. Attendees can sample 12 wines, courtesy of Potomac Wine and Spirits, that will be available for purchase. Twenty percent of the sales will benefit the MSO.

The event is free for MasterWorks II ticket holders; reservations can be made by calling the MSO office at 301-797-4000.

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