November 11, 2006

Michigan's Musical Connection: James Tocco

Welcome to the "post-midterm election" edition of Michigan's Musical Connection. As is the case with politics, the direction this weekly feature will take is just as unpredictable. And is also the case as with politics, if you don't get a result that you expected, just "tune" in next time.

This week I am casting the spotlight on James Tocco.

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts -
Italian-American virtuoso James Tocco enjoys international renown as a recitalist, orchestral soloist, chamber musician and pedagogue. Beyond his vast repertoire of virtually the entire standard piano literature, he is widely regarded as among the foremost interpreters of American masterworks, including Bernstein's Age of Anxiety, which he recently recorded with Leonard Slatkin and the BBC London Symphony and performed with Marin Alsop and the New World Symphony; and the Corigliano Piano Concerto, of which he is acknowledged the definitive interpreter by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer. He has performed this spectacular work to great acclaim with the Atlanta, San Diego, Kansas City and Phoenix Symphonies and Louisville Orchestra, the latter including an acclaimed recording, and in the 2003-2004 season he reprises it with Andrew Litton and the Cincinnati Symphony, among other orchestras. The pianist's recent seasons included his Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra debut, performing the MacDowell Concerto and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, both conducted by Leonard Slatkin. An especially accomplished recitalist, Mr. Tocco has been widely praised for his interpretations of Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt, as well as 20th-century composers, and he among the very few pianists to regularly program the keyboard works of Handel.

Born of Italian parents in Detroit, Mr. Tocco's love of music--especially opera--began in early childhood. At six he started studying piano and at twelve he made his orchestral debut, performing Beethoven's Second Concerto. Among the countless awards that followed were a scholarship to the Salzburg Mozarteum and a French government grant to study with Magda Tagliaferro in Paris. His musical education was completed with Claudio Arrau in New York. International prominence came with his First Prize victory in the International ARD Competition in Munich, followed by a major triumph as a last-minute replacement for Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli as guest soloist for the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto at the Vienna Festival. In the years since then he has performed literally around the world: throughout North and South America, Europe, the Soviet Untion, Japan, Australia, South Africa and the Middle East. His orchestral engagements include the Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras; Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Munich Philharmonics; London, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, New World, National, and NHK (Japan) Symphonies. Conductors with whom he has collaborated include Marin Alsop, David Atherton, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Andrew Litton, Yoav Talmi, Robert Shaw, Yoel Levi, Zdenek Macal, Gerard Schwarz, Raymond Leppard, David Zinman, Lukas Foss, Georges Prtre, Neeme J┬░hrvi, James DePreist, Hugh Wolff, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Leonard Slatkin, John Nelson, Christoph Eschenbach and Christoph von Dohnnyi. Festival invitations include Salzburg, Vienna, Lockenhaus, Holland, Schleswig-Holstein, Dubrovnik, Wolf Trap, the Hollywood Bowl, Blossom, Ravinia, New York's "Mostly Mozart," Spoleto (USA) and Santa Fe.



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