A century of Viennese excellence
Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder has a special relationship with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
By JOHN FLEMING
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra is on an American tour that stops in Clearwater on Friday. Rudolf Buchbinder is the soloist in Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, a work that requires especially close communication between pianist and conductor.
"You have to breathe the music the same way, the same time," Buchbinder said, describing his relationship with Vladimir Fedoseyev, the VSO's principal conductor.
"If you don't, 20 rehearsals are not enough to get together. Either you fit together or you will never fit together. Maestro Fedoseyev and I have a very good relationship. We talk about the music, and there is not the tiniest problem. Nothing."
Buchbinder was speaking from New York on the morning after the orchestra played Carnegie Hall, with his part of the program being Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. Alternating in the Rachmaninoff and Schumann concertos, he'll be playing in 10 concerts on the tour, and that means 10 different pianos, which are supplied by the halls.
"Usually you can expect a decent Steinway grand piano," Buchbinder said. "Once I played in Taipei and they said I could choose any piano I wanted at the concert hall, and more than 20 concert grand pianos were standing there. Five or six Steinways, two Boesendorfers, two or three Yamahas, everything you could want."
Among concert pianists, there is a perennial debate over which is better, the Steinway manufactured in the United States or in Germany.
"The German Steinways are sometimes a little bit too dull," Buchbinder said. "But if you find a good German Steinway, it's for sure the best piano. I have two German Steinway concert grands at home in Vienna. One very bright, one very soft."
Despite its long history, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra is overshadowed by its hometown's world-renowned orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
"The Vienna Symphony is the concert orchestra in Vienna," Buchbinder said. "The difference is the Vienna Philharmonic is actually our opera orchestra. Musicians in both come from the same schools. Many young musicians don't want to go to the Philharmonic because then they have to play opera. They prefer to play only concerts and go to the Vienna Symphony."
The VPO has become something of a cause celebre in recent years for its reluctance to hire women musicians. The Vienna Symphony is no feminist stronghold either, but Buchbinder said there are five women musicians in the orchestra on the tour.
Along with the Schumann piano concerto, Friday's program includes Wagner's Faust overture, Weber's Euryanthe overture and Mozart's Symphony No. 41.
Buchbinder has made more than 100 recordings, with the latest being a CD on the Erato label of both Brahms piano concertos with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He prefers to record concerts live rather than in the recording studio.
"I try to catch the atmosphere in the concert hall," he said. "I'm not the type who has to repeat too many things. For instance, the Brahms concerti I did live, we played them twice, and that was it."
But live recordings have a downside, too. "The problem is the coughing and the noise of the public, which you have to cut out," he said. "It is really unbelievable. I think it's almost a question of concentration. You can go and watch a James Bond movie and nobody's coughing."
The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, with Rudolf Buchbinder, piano, and Vladimir Fedoseyev, conductor, at 8 p.m. Friday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets: $35-$52. (727) 791-7400.
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