If you're so minded on Sunday, you can schedule a piano marathon. At 4, Soheil Nasseri is performing at Strathmore; while at 6:30 Joaquin Achúcarro is wrapping up the season at the National Gallery of Art. Transportation issues, however, probably make it impossible to hear both recitals in their entirety.
(read more after the jump)
Achúcarro, whom I interviewed before his last DC appearance last year, is an old-school, old-repertory Romantic: the teaching career, the big concertos, the traveling schedule. He's better known in Spain than in this country, though he's long been on the faculty of SMU, and the Spanish Embassy has been doing its part to promote him in DC; it's sponsored both last year's concert and this one, devoted to Spanish music.
Nasseri, still in his early 30s, is what you might call a new-school pianist: one who is putting together a career out of all manner of unconventional engagements (his Strathmore appearance is bracketed by eight performances playing Chopin onstage during American Ballet Theater's revival of John Neumeier's "Lady of the Camellias"), unusual repertory, and a lot of his own elbow grease. Without a major label or manager backing him, he's still a regular fixture in New York and Washington (he went to high school in Rockville, Maryland until he dropped out to focus on piano) and other cities around the world; and he's carved out a niche by adding living or little-known composers (like the eccentric Kaikhosru Sorabji, whose Sonata No. 0 he gave its world premiere recording). In addition to Beethoven's "Appassionata" and Chopin's G Minor Ballade, Nasseri's Strathmore recital gives pride of place to his own Iranian heritage, with pices by the 20th-century composers Javad Maroufi and Ruhollah Khaleghi and a world premiere by Hormoz Farhat.
There are more and more younger musicians who, like Nasseri, are pushing the boundaries of the definition of "making it" in music, establishing active careers without the big orchestral gigs that delineate the territory for many star soloists. Jenny Lin is another example of a pianist who has pursued a performing and recording career on her own terms, not necessarily by choice, but who has securely established herself as a significant artist. Talent alone won't always do it, particularly if an artist is unusual or not easy to package conveniently; sheer determination and energy and networking are -- indeed, have always been -- essential components of a career. Piano fans who love ballet can give Nasseri's Strathmore concert a pass, go up to New York, and hear him play twice at ABT -- at the afternoon matinee and in the evening -- the day before his recital, instead.
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