Artist Interview: Peter Orth, piano

By jwoods on January 6, 2012

For our seventh artist interview of the season, pianist Peter Orth was gracious enough to sit down and answer a few questions about his upcoming program at the American Philosophical Society. Here are his answers. I hope they help to illuminate the artist behind the music, and that learning a bit more about this program inspires you to attend Mr. Orth's recital on January 27th at 8 pm.

Peter Orth

Peter Orth

Juliet Woods:  How did this program come together? Why did you choose these particular pieces?

Peter Orth:  Well,  recital programs are very personal and subjective things. Everyone has a different idea of what might work for the public, but the over-riding thing about them is that whatever one is learning or feels like playing in any given season determines their make up. Of course there are other considerations too. Maybe one is invited to play certain works, but not an entire program, and then you might end up building a program around that. Then there are birthday years of composers; we just had Liszt and Stravinsky, for example. And there you have parts of my program for Philadelphia. There is really no rhyme or reason in my case. There are so many layers and aspects to playing a program that one does the best one can. You see how it goes, and you find out immediately if a program works.

JW:  You first began your piano studies here in Philadelphia. What are some of your memories of being a young musician in this city?

PO:  There are so many memories from my past in Philadelphia that I could not possibly write of them all. But the primal ones are:

  • My very first piano recital for my 6th birthday.
  • My first time in a concert hall. It was Arthur Rubinstein. Academy of Music. And I heard him every year when he came through. Once I sat on the stage within spitting distance. That about sums it all up.
  • The other thing to mention is that from an early age, thanks to a generous friendship, I attended the matinee concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Ormandy years - with all that meant - including Serkin's collaboration with them on several occasions. There isn't a much better formative experience than this.

JW:  You first began your piano studies in Philadelphia, but now you now live and teach in Germany at the Hochschule for Music. Are there any definitive differences in teaching philosophies in Germany/Europe? If so, how do you incorporate these other practices into your teaching style?

PO:  As far as Germany/Europe versus the States, as a broad generality, the "chops" are sometimes better in the States for young people. But, in any case, it's this way over all. The Europeans have different role models than the Americans. In America the Toscanini sound had a huge effect on the imagination. In Europe it was Furtwängler. If you are a musician this is a known fact. So role models of what is great varies.

As far as teaching is concerned, all teaching is the same. If you love it and the student, that's all there is. One little thing, however, would be to mention that teaching in a foreign language can present difficulties, especially if the student speaks yet another language. Then one is communicating through many screens. You just get on with it.

Pianist Peter Orth performs works by Ravel, Stravinsky and Liszt on Friday, January 27th at 8 pm at the American Philosophical Society. For tickets and information, visit the concert page or call 215-569-8080.