Pianist Aaron Kurz to perform with the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra
American pianist Aaron Kurz will be the soloist at the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra’s second concert in West Road since the lockdown ended.
He will play Prokofiev’s third piano concerto, the most popular of Prokofiev’s concertos and a notoriously difficult work for the soloist.
The 26-year-old was studying at the Royal College of Music in London when the first lockdown began in March 2020 and has been hoping to return to the UK since then, but this will be his first time in Cambridge.
Aaron said: “I will play Prokofiev’s third concerto which is a really fun piece. It was written in 1921 and I personally find the early 1900s to be one of the most interesting musical times where you have this influx of a bunch of different styles at the same time, all with their own little twist. This piece is still very understandable by an audience where I think some music from this period can be somewhat questionable in this regard. But it still has a lot of that modernist flavor where Prokofiev will deliberately write wrong notes or sarcastic things. It is a very exciting piece, very virtuoso and a lot of fun for the pianist. It’s also fun stuff for the audience to listen to. I’ve never been to a show where I didn’t feel like the audience really liked it. It’s just a very pleasant song to listen to.
“It’s definitely the hard side to play, not quite the hardest but it’s up there. In fact, I was already familiar with the piece when I was contacted for this performance.
One of the most characteristic things I think about Prokofiev’s writing is his orchestration because he creates these amazing effects with different wind instruments and percussion that really gives the music so much depth and character. Something I appreciate is his really quick character changes in the musical. You will be in one character, and suddenly you will go from sarcastic to anger without any transition.
He was presented to the CCSO by Cambridge composer David Earl and invited to perform as a soloist. It will be chaired by Robert Hodge of the CCSO.
Something Aaron loves besides happening is the travel to different countries that he allows. He has already performed on three continents at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall in New York to the Palace of Peace and Harmony in Kazakhstan. He has been a soloist in numerous orchestras and winner of numerous competitions. In recent years, he has traveled to China to teach, lecture and perform, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Musical Arts at the Yale School of Music, having obtained an Artist Diploma from the Royal College of Music. from London.
“I spent a year at the Royal College of Music in London and had planned to travel after graduation, but of course that didn’t happen as I suddenly had to walk half of my Classes. I thought I would only be home for a month.
His trip to Kazakhstan was “fascinating,” he says.
“I was chosen because a clip of me playing had become very popular on Youtube and I think that’s how they heard about me. I saw a bunch of fun sites while I was there and there was this amazing pageantry because I think it was government sponsored. It was very sumptuous. I was greeted at the airport with flowers and these Kazakh figurines. It was unreal for me as an impressionable 17 year old. It was definitely my first experience where I felt blown away by the possibilities of a career in music and the places I could go with it.
“I was a semi-finalist, I did not qualify for the final. But I discovered that I really like to travel. I think that’s one of my favorite things besides music, being able to experience different cultures and different places. I’m delighted to come to Cambridge to see this and I just love to travel so it’s definitely a big plus that comes with the profession.
It was also a much needed encouragement, as working hard on her piano practice in high school meant giving up so many other activities.
“I started playing when I was three years old,” says Aaron. “And I think there were times in high school where it could be a little too much because it was a lot of pressure. There were definitely times when I honestly would have preferred to be a normal high school student. There was so much work that I couldn’t go out with friends because of the training. Clearly something told me to keep going because I didn’t stop. But I wavered on it.
“I felt like there were some things that I had missed. I wanted to play in sports teams but the choice was always, it’s sport or the piano, and I chose the piano for obvious reasons. But it was still hard. I couldn’t go to a birthday party today because I had to work for a competition. And that made it harder, I think, for a while. As a result, I lost some motivation and inspiration because it kept me from doing normal things. But nobody made me do this. It was always something I wanted to do and I couldn’t tear myself away from it.
“It wasn’t until some point in my undergraduate degree that I learned more, played and started to enjoy it more. It just snowballed up to a point where I was like, okay, I can do it and I want to do it. It was around the age of 20. It’s a big commitment because it’s a difficult area to integrate. And while it’s incredibly rewarding, you really have to want it because you can make a lot more money doing a lot of other things.
In addition to his performances, Aaron worked for two years for the Van Cliburn Foundation’s “Cliburn in the Classroom” program, which teaches the principles of classical music to children in disadvantaged school districts. The aim of the program’s interactive seminars – to inspire a love of music in children and to help educate the next generation of classical musicians.
“I think it’s really important to pass music on to the next generation,” he says. “I think music has such a power to inspire people that you kind of have an obligation to give back as an artist, because that’s one of the things you can do really well. And you can really, I think, affect people that way.
Aaron Kurz will perform with the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra on December 4 at the West Road Concert Hall. Visit .adcticketing.com / whats-on / concert / ccso-concert-with-aaron-kurz-piano /