Pianist Adam Neiman
is no stranger to the Santa Fe area. His first appearance here was almost a decade ago, with the Chamber Orchestra of Albuquerque, followed by a number of performances for the Santa Fe Concert Association, including a recital in April. On Saturday, Nov. 6, he performs the quintet version of Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E Minor with the chamber ensemble Concertante in his second appearance for the Los Alamos Concert Association.
“I love playing Chopin. I play a great deal of his music,” Neiman said. “And I love this arrangement of this piece. It gives the music a level of intimacy and flexibility that’s very hard to achieve with a full orchestra.” Indeed, given what Neiman refers to as the delicate nature of the piece, he relishes the chance to present this work in the composer’s scaleddown setting. “The chamber version allows for the soloist to work directly with the players rather than through the medium of the conductor. Also, the balance of the piano and the ensemble is so much easier to maintain when the pianist doesn’t have to project over a large number of players.”
Neiman is well versed in the requirements of performing with large musical forces, having appeared as a soloist with the Chicago, Houston, St. Louis, and San Francisco symphony orchestras, among many others. His career, which began at age 11 with a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 at Los Angeles’ Royce Hall, has taken him to most of the country’s major cities and concert halls, as well as to France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. His virtuosity has earned him many honors: he is the youngest person to win the Gilmore Young Artist Award (in 1995), and he twice won the Juilliard School’s Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. In 1999, he received both the Avery Fisher Career Grant and the Rubinstein Award (given by Juilliard to the most promising graduate).
In addition to his solo work, Neiman is known as an avid chamber musician. He became a member of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two program in 2004, and he is a founding member of the Corinthian Trio, which includes violinist Stefan Milenkovich and cellist Ani Aznavoorian. His previous performance for the Los Alamos Concert Association, in 2007, was with flutist Eugenia Zukerman and violinist Gary Levinson as Trio Virtuosi. “There’s a certain level of intimacy in chamber playing,” Neiman said. With regard to New York-based Concertante — which is known for performing traditional repertoire as well as adventurous contemporary works — he said that he has the utmost respect for his frequent collaborators. “I’ve played with Concertante many times. It’s a very tight-knit ensemble with a long history, and the musicians are some of the best string players in the country. Their interpretations are so well formed and also very polished.”
In the first half of Saturday’s concert, Concertante, which comprises six string players, performs Richard Strauss’ Capriccio and Dvorˇák’s String Sextet in A Major. After intermission, Neiman joins the group in a quintet setting — two violins, viola, cello, and bass — for the Chopin piece. “The program for this concert came from Concertante,” Neiman said. “I brought the idea of performing the Chopin concerto to them when I mentioned that I’d played it in the past. They were interested ... that 2010 is Chopin’s bicentennial year.”
Chopin wrote this piece when he was about 20 years old. “He wrote it as a tool to display his virtuosic talent as a pianist,” Neiman said. Although the work was written to be performed with a full orchestra, this intimate setting perhaps suited the composer best, the pianist said. “Chopin created this chamber version because it was very expensive to perform in a large-scale format; he had to pay for the musicians, the hall, et cetera. He performed the work with a full orchestra only once.”
Neiman acknowledged that you lose a bit of the power of the orchestra when you play with a chamber ensemble (“All the winds’ lines get put into string parts, for example”), but he enjoys presenting this quintet version to a new audience. “This piece is still very, very beautiful in its chamber version.”