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Kathryn Apland

On May 17 and 19, the Gorge Sinfonietta will play its season finale concert, including a world premier piece by Mark Steighner, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor.

The Grieg Piano Concerto will be performed by local musician Kathryn Apland, who is not only a long-time Sinfonietta member, playing oboe, but a well-known piano teacher and performing artist with an impressive resume of studies, said a press release.

Grieg’s concerto, written in 1860, is one of the most familiar pieces in the repertoire for piano and orchestra.

Apland describes the concerto’s three movements: “The first is heroic and bold.  The second movement has gorgeous, lush melodies that will break your heart. The third movement is exciting and flashy with the kind virtuoso pianistic fireworks that audiences love, and it all ends with a return of the heroic theme from the first movement, only this time in a major key,  giving it a courageous and optimistic ending. It’s one of the most performed concertos by the world’s major orchestras for a reason!”

There is a short video prepared for the original February concert dates, where Apland performs excerpts of the Piano Concerto in A minor by Edvard Grieg, at  youtu.be/XiFhZqIF0AA.

Symphonic Spectacular Season Finale concerts are Friday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m., both at the Hood River Middle School auditorium. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 CGOA members, $5 youth (ages 10-17) and free for kids under 10. Tickets are available at the door and through gorgeorchestra.org. A short talk by artistic director Steighner about the music will precede the concert.

The February concerts had to be canceled due to snow.

‘Grieg has left us with a treasure to be handed down’

Full interview of Kathryn Apland by fellow Sinfonietta member, Erica Roulier:

ER: Have you performed the Grieg piano concerto before, or did you learn it for this concert? How long did it take you to learn?

KA: I learned the first movement to the Grieg when I was 15 for an Oregon Symphony Concerto competition. My dad was in the symphony at that time and would coach me playing the orchestra parts on his violin. The other two movements I learned several months ago for this concert. As far as an estimate of hours put in, around two to seven hours a day, so roughly 600 hours total. On days when I teach, I’ve had to be creative in order to get the time in and, without my amazing family’s support, I couldn’t have found the time. I also had hand surgery in November, which slowed down practice times for several weeks.

ER: What about Grieg and this concerto do you most appreciate now, after spending so much time with it?

KA: Grieg’s work is the only concerto he wrote and it is so beautifully balanced and written. One can almost see the Norwegian countryside, fjords and snow-covered mountains in the music. It is majestic, lyrical, yet includes the kind of flashy pianistic fireworks to thrill listeners. It really is timeless in its appeal.

ER: I understand you were in Kansas City earlier this year studying with a teacher from Russia and performing the concerto. Tell me more: Where and with whom did you perform?

KA: Three years ago, I was awarded a Tholen Fellowship from Portland Piano International, enabling me to work closely with a famous Russian teacher, Tatiana Ioudenitch, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory. Tatiana’s husband won the Van Cliburn International Competition (the gold medal of piano Olympics) while teaching at their music school in Kansas City and, in early February, she invited me to come to Kansas City to work with her and perform the concerto there before our Hood River performances. It was a very intense week working five to eight hours a day on the concerto and then performing, but also really fun to be able to concentrate closely on details.

ER: Has working on this concerto had any influence on your teaching? Has it inspired you in new ways to inspire your students?

KA: Taking on a student’s role has helped me see how important it is to encourage the learning process, communicate ideas well and create a love of the journey along the way. Grieg has left us with a treasure to be handed down.

ER: Do you have a favorite movement? 

KA: My favorite movement is whichever one I’m playing at that moment!

ER: Do you have a favorite story about this music?

KA: There is a story that Grieg as a young composer was sitting in a publisher’s office hoping to establish his work when Franz Liszt entered. Liszt offered to sight read the concerto with his friend Fredric Chopin at the second piano reading the orchestra part. Both pianists were immediately enamored with the work. (They must have been fabulous pianists to be able to sight read this piece of music.)

ER: What is your favorite recording of this concerto?

KA: There is a wonderful YouTube recording of Arthur Rubinstein (who was 89 years old at the time) playing the concerto. He plays it so powerfully, yet elegantly, despite being blind at that time. That has been inspiring to watch.

ER: How have you enjoyed working with our local orchestra?

KA: Working with Mark Steighner and the Sinfonietta and having the opportunity to make music with them has been inspiring. 

My father conducted the Sinfonietta in the 1960s and at different times, all my kids, husband and myself have had the privilege of playing with the group.

This concert, my daughter and husband are both involved and it’s a delight to look across and see them in the group. We are privileged to have a Symphony Orchestra right here in Hood River to keep alive such wonderful works of music.

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