Friday, September 25, 2009

AfriClassical Interviews Terrence Wilson on Naxos CD of 'Deus ex Machina' by Michael Daugherty

["Michael Daugherty Metropolis Symphony"; Terrence Wilson, pianist; Nashville Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Naxos (2009)]

We interviewed Terrence Wilson on September 25, 2009.

Thank you for agreeing to an interview with AfriClassical.
I would imagine you're busy as you approach the release of your recording?

Oh yes, well I certainly am very excited about that!
This will be your first commercial CD, that's released on Tuesday, the 29th?
That's correct.
Starting with the world's largest recording label, you must be pleased?
I'm very happy, very excited and truly honored to have my debut with such company as the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Naxos and conductor Giancarlo Guerrero playing music by one of the most performed American contemporary composers in the world right now, Michael Daugherty!
Yes, that's quite a reputation that he has!
I am just incredibly elated by this.
I believe you have previously performed this with Giancarlo Guerrero?
Well, that's right!
Was that the premiere?
It was the world premiere, yes, and on the subsequent four performances with four others. This project came about because I had asked Michael Daugherty to write a piano concerto for me and he was excited to do it, but somebody had to pay his fee! That meant that I had to go out and find some orchestras that would be willing to do that. I asked five orchestras to participate in a consortium of orchestras to co-commission the work together.
Who were they?
They were the Charlotte Symphony, they were the host institution. They were the ones that got the world premiere; the Nashville Symphony, of course, which is the orchestra with which the recording was made; and the New Jersey Symphony; the Syracuse Symphony in Syracuse, New York; and also the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
So you have a balance of Southern and Northern orchestras represented?
What part of the country are you from, Terrence?
I'm a Yankee! I'm from the Bronx, New York.
Were you raised in the Bronx?
I was, yes.
Where did you get your Music education?
I went to Juilliard actually.
Did you always major in piano performance?
Oh yes, I did.
When did you graduate from Juilliard?
I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in 2001.
Are you a full-time musician?
I'm a full time musician.
Has that been true the entire time since you finished Juilliard?
I was professionally active during most of my Juilliard career as a student.
What type of work were you doing at that time, Terrence?
Mostly soloing with orchestras, as a soloist in concertos.
What are your preferences for chamber music, orchestral music and solo performance?
I'm blessed to have all three of them. They are three very challenging and rich experiences, three different parts of a career that I find challenging in different ways, and of course exciting.
Have your recitals always been solo recitals?
I've done recitals for piano and violin, for piano and cello.
You don't have recitals where there's someone else sitting at the same piano with you?
Oh, no I haven't done that!
How did you happen to make the acquaintance of this prominent composer, Michael Daugherty?
Well actually, we met thanks to Marin Alsop, because she invited me years ago to play another piece by Michael Daugherty called “Le Tombeau de Liberace” with her Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz, California. I played that piece with her and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and Michael Daugherty came to hear that performance, and that's where we got acquainted. And throughout the years...
How long ago was that, Terrence?
That must have been at least ten years ago.
How did your relationship develop with Michael Daugherty?
In the years after having met him the first time, he was the composer-in-residence with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Whenever I would go to Detroit as a guest soloist, I would see him there. We would go out to dinner and reminisce about how much fun we had in Santa Cruz, and one of those times we fantasized about working together in the future on another piece.
You didn't have any idea which piece it would be at that time, right?
No, we didn't. We just thought “Maybe someday Michael, you'll write another piano concerto.” He said “Yes, that would be nice.” So we just would talk about it, we talked about music and so on and so forth, and we talked about contemporary music. We got along really well. I think several years went by, and it seemed like the idea just went dormant. I guess both of us got so busy with our own projects and things that nothing came of what we had discussed. Until when I remembered when I was sitting at dinner one time with Gale Mahood and Richard Early of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Gale Mahood is the former Artistic Administrator of the Charlotte Symphony who is now the Artistic Administrator of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. But at the time she was the Artistic Administrator of the Charlotte Symphony, and I had said after one of my performances with that orchestra that I was interested in premiering a work by Michael Daugherty and that I was looking for some orchestras to take up the project. And she said oh, well, we'd be delighted to participate in that! In fact, the orchestra was celebrating, I can't remember if it was the 75th or 80th anniversary.
Well, anyway, it was a momentous occasion?
It was an occasion that they wanted to celebrate by doing this. And so they said “Yes, we'd like to participate, in fact, can we guarantee that we will get the opportunity to play the world premiere?”
So we negotiated all of that and that's how it came about. And then I went shopping for some other orchestras that would be interested in participating and linked them up with Gale Mahood and soon thereafter the project had some legs and we were off and running.
About when was that, approximately, that you were on your way?
Probably the Spring of 2005 because I don't think Daugherty started writing it until 2006.
When was it completed?
It was completed and the world premiere performance was in 2007.
As planned, then, the world premiere was in Charlotte?
Yes, the world premiere was in Charlotte. And then the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and then the Syracuse Symphony, then the Rochester Philharmonic, and the New Jersey Symphony...
Was that in a fairly short period of time that they all gave their premieres?
The world premiere was in the Spring of 2007. The final performance was in the Fall of the same year.
Is there any comment you'd like to make about the concerto?
Well, it's just a tour de force, I'll say that! I think overall, its most striking feature is its rhythmic drive, its complexity, its rhythmic infectiousness.
It sounds as though a person would have to be in fine shape to be ready to perform it?
Well yes, it definitely does require quite some stamina mentally and physically, but definitely it's very satisfying to play. It's pretty massive forces involved in this piece, which I think is appropriate. It fits the name of the piece for one, I mean “Deus ex Machina” definitely would sound like a very impressive, powerful piece in terms of the force.
Do you enjoy trains?
I do enjoy trains. I do have a certain awe about trains and the history of trains, and then the power of the trains, and the evolution of the trains from the very earliest models, the steam locomotive, to the diesel train and we have bullet trains now!
It is quite a history to relate.
Quite a history, yes.
When did you become introduced to the “Metropolis Symphony”?
Well the “Metropolis Symphony,” which of course does not involve me, I was familiar with that piece early on.
Do you think we've covered what you wanted to?
Yes, I think we've covered it!
Thank you again for taking the time for us, and I look forward to getting my copy on the release date!
Thank you very much! It's been a pleasure talking to you, and thank you for the interview!

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