Pianist Simon Tedeschi, a Sydney Eisteddfod alumni and Ambassador, is the featured pianist in the NSW Doctors Orchestra fundraising concert on May 15th. He has an impressive resume that includes a string of international prizes and awards and a classical music chart-topping album – Gershwin and Me.
Mr Tedeschi took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to the Sydney Eisteddfod about preparing for a big performance, his favourite pieces to play and his advice for young musicians.
What can audience members expect from the NSW Doctors Orchestra concert and your performance of Rhapsody in Blue?
A performance of the piece that has been the theme music to my performing career, since I was 13, in its greatest form - with symphony orchestra. Rhapsody in Blue is the quintessential American work - full of pop, fizz and bang.
As a child, when did you first show interest in playing the piano?
When I was 5, nearly 6 - I heard a boy in my class playing in my primary school assembly hall, and it was all guns blazing from then.
During your younger years as a Sydney Eisteddfod competitor, how did you keep the nerves at bay before an event?
With enormous difficulty - in other words, I didn’t. They were difficult years. Luckily, my nerves have decreased markedly with age, which is the reverse of many performers.
You’re a very accomplished musician with many international performances. What goes through your mind before playing a big concert?
Depends on the repertoire, how many times I've played it, the venue, my mood and a host of other factors. I usually try to empty my mind, so I can sink into the music rather than think about it consciously.
The Sydney Eisteddfod sees a plethora of talented young pianists each year. What advice would you give young musicians contemplating a career in music?
Go for it. Fine music needs you to survive. Always take the music with the utmost of seriousness - but that doesn’t mean you need to take yourself seriously.
What does music mean to you?
Music, like all art, is the language of the unconscious. It is profoundly redemptive and can totally change us as humans.
What has been the most challenging piece you have played? And your favourite?
Most challenging piece - probably Liszt’s Gnomenreigen, which I hate. My favourite is Brahms’ first piano concerto, which I performed for the first time recently.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Winning the Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year in 1998.
Do you enjoy your role as an ambassador for the Sydney Eisteddfod and other charitable organisations?
Yes - I think it is incumbent on a musician to contribute to the society that made him or her possible, and it is also the duty of the artist to not only convey the humanity in the greatest works but to translate that into social justice.
For a bit of fun, do you have any funny stories involving a performance or playing the piano?
Yes. Once I was playing Rhapsody in Blue with Graham Lyall and his jazz band, and the snare drummer missed his downbeat and swore loudly and voraciously in full hearing of the mostly elderly audience.
What’s next on your agenda?
Looking forward to returning to WA for the Fremantle Heritage Festival this month, and a tour to China at the end of the year. More performances of Pictures at an Exhibition (my latest recording) later this year too.