Watts Shows off ‘Emperor’ with Omaha Symphony


June 4th, 2014

Omaha,NE — The Omaha Symphony’s season ends with a grand finale.

Pianist Andre Watts

Pianist Andre Watts

The Omaha Symphony concludes its season with a an epic program featuring not one but two large-scale, heroic masterpieces. One is the tone-poem “Ein Heldenleben” by Richard Strauss. The title means “A Hero’s Life” and this is the first time the Omaha Symphony will perform it. Also performing is pianist Andre Watts. His career, however, started on a very different instrument.

“I played the violin for about 6 months – this was in Germany. We had two dogs, and I would practice standing up and they would sit next to me as I was practicing and howl,” he said.

Watts will perform Beethoven’s “‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto No. 5” with the Omaha Symphony. Beethoven’s first concertos were written for himself to perform as the soloist, but before he started the 5th, Fate intervened.

“He was already very, very  hard of hearing when he wrote the 4th Concerto, and played that in public with some disastrous results,” Watts said.

The 5th was his final piano concerto, and one Beethoven never performed in public. However, the composer’s grandiose style is present right from the start!

“When he gets to the 5th Concerto, also the opening is different, but it is ‘big orchestral chord, cadenza, other orchestral chord, cadenza, next orchestral chord, big, big cadenza, and boom’, off you go,” Watts said. “He takes three notes in succession and turns them upside-down, inside-out, different colors, this and that, and you have an incredible mosaic and then you realize, ‘well, wait a minute, that’s only three notes!’”

Watts point out that, despite having performed this music many, many times, there is always something new, always something to learn.

“You re-study them and what happens is you look again at the score and think, ‘Oh, wait a minute, that’s actually an 8th note with a rest, I think I’ve been playing that too long,’” he said. “Once you decide something like that, then, of course, there’s the similar place, all the other places, there are other place that are different; it changes everything!”

The Omaha Symphony’s program of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto featuring Andre Watts will be this Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8. Both performances are at the Holland Center and begin at 8 pm. More information is available at www.omahasymphony.org.

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