Kevin Cole brings George Gershwin’s music to life | ParkRecord.com

Kevin Cole brings George Gershwin’s music to life

Pianist will play Deer Valley Music Festival

Pianist Kevin Cole knows the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

The award-winning concert performer, arranger, music director, vocalist and archivist has admired the Gershwins' works ever since he saw the 1945 film, "Rhapsody in Blue," when he was a boy.

Throughout his career Cole has become, according to many music critics, the go-to pianist for Gershwin music. He was featured as a soloist with the Nashville Symphony on the PBS special, "Gershwin at One Symphony Space." He also wrote, produced and performed the multi-media concert, "Here to Stay: The Gershwin Experience," with a variety of symphonies.

His 1995 album, "Gershwin's Oh, Kay!," which he recorded with soprano Dawn Upshaw was awarded the Gramophone Musical Album of the Year.

Cole, a Steinway artist, will perform Gershwin arrangements with the Utah Symphony during the Deer Valley Music Festival at 7:30 p.m., on Friday, July 14, at the Snow Park Amphitheater.

Due to rehearsal and travels, Cole conducted an email interview with The Park Record about the upcoming concert.

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Here's how it went:

Park Record: The music of [pianist] George Gershwin is so iconic and so recognizable. What is the weight of responsibility like for you every time you sit at the Steinway to perform these pieces?

Kevin Cole: Actually, there isn't a weight but more of a personal goal of capturing the energy of Gershwin's music. There are hundreds of interpretations of his piano works. Pianists get very personal with their approach; sometimes to the neglect of George's intentions. I had no way of knowing the way I played Gershwin sounded like Gershwin himself playing. That was just the way I played him as a teenager. It was his sister, Frankie, and his inner circle of friends and songwriters who declared that. If I feel any responsibility, it's to them.

P. R.: Throughout the years you have been performing and studying these works, what have been some of the interesting things you have learned about the music?

K.C.: I've learned there are a lot of bad arrangements out there. Ha ha ha! (George) Gershwin was a concert-pianist-composer like List and Rachmaninoff. They were the ones playing and promoting their works. A pianist-composer approaches their writing from a performer's standpoint, so you know the piano part is going to be challenging and amazing.

P. R.: Have there been some surprising things that you have learned about George and his brother, Ira, that you would like to also share?

K.C.: That there was never a feeling a competition between the brothers. Ira, the lyricist, did not need the spotlight and George was very comfortable being in the spotlight.

P. R.: Aside from the responsibility, what makes these pieces a challenge to perform?

K.C.: Technically there are twists and turns everywhere, so you can't let your guard down, no matter how many times you've played them. I had a conductor tell me once that watching me play Gershwin was like watching an Olympic athlete perform their event.

P. R.: On the flipside, what are the rewarding aspects, artistic and personal, that you have experienced by performing, studying and honoring Gershwin music?

K.C.: The universal love (George) Gershwin's music generates no matter when I am on the globe. His music in in synch with the heartbeat of humanity.

P. R.: Do you have a favorite Gershwin work? If so, why? If not, why?

'The Rhapsody in Blue' will always have a special place in my heart, but George's Concerto in F encapsulates the world of Gershwin and American music in a way no other works does for me.

The Utah Symphony | Utah Opera's Deer Valley Music Festival will continue with pianist Kevin Cole who will perform the works of Gershwin at 7:30 p.m., on Friday, July 14, at the Snow Park Amphitheater. For information and tickets, visit http://www.deervalleymusicfestival.org.