Kevin Cole brings George Gershwin’s music to life
Pianist will play Deer Valley Music Festival
July 11, 2017
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.
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