Pianist back for fifth tour with NZSO
Acclaimed British pianist Freddy Kempf, 39, is in Blenheim later this month to perform Pianomania with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
I always remember loving music - and even before I started playing an instrument I was listening to it. I first wanted to play an instrument at age 4 - I very clearly stated I wanted to have lessons. And after that it was just my hobby - and luckily it still is!
How do you play and conduct at the same time?
The conducting part is mostly in rehearsal. Normally a soloist will have a separate conductor that plans how to use the rehearsal time and what plan to have for the show. I then have to take over this role, where the "playing" part is less important. I have to focus on listening to the orchestra and sorting out whatever problems occur. In the concert I’m mostly just playing since by then everyone knows what’s going on.
What is it that you love the most about performing to an audience?
I suppose the excitement all comes from the challenge. We all attempt to play something that is actually incredibly difficult - whether it’s a concerto, a symphony or opera. No-one is ever absolutely sure that nothing will go wrong - so everyone is trying as hard as they can to sense mistakes before they happen, or to play something right that’s never gone right before.
Because of the audience and the occasion, we all know we have only one shot - so that’s where the pressure comes from. If things work, and usually some things do then it’s incredibly fulfilling and exciting.
How did you come to choose the six works you will perform in Pianomania?
I wanted to pick a mixture of my favourite pieces as well as works that made sense stuck together, that maybe explained a little about the whole idea of piano plus orchestera.
The Handel was the most dramatic work I could find written before Mozart and Beethoven - and happens to be basically the first example of a concerto written in the way that they’ve been written ever since.
The Mozart is simply sublime. The Chopin is one of my favourite works for piano that is rarely played because the orchestra part is so minor. The Mendelssohn is a work I played as a child, written by Mendelssohn when he was very young, and a very exciting piece.
The Rachmaninov almost everyone recognises, and is one of the most passionate works ever written. The Gershwin is so unique - not a concerto, but one of the most famous works for piano and performed almost more often than anything else.
Pianomania will be your fifth series of performances with the NZSO. What is it about the orchestra that you love?
It’s always lovely to get to know an orchestra more personally, and am so delighted I’ve been asked to come back for the fifth time. The NZSO is not only one of the best in the world, but has a unique relationship with its audience - hardly any orchestra tours so regularly throughout its own country.
Freddy Kempf and the NZSO will perform in Blenheim at the ASB Theatre on September 19.