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PIANIST IN TOUCH WITH BRAHMS’ ‘MELANCHOLY’

Pianist Eduardo Delgado’s eloquence on the subject of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto grows out of his deep personal feeling for the work, which he will play with the South Coast Symphony at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Orange Coast College.

“Although Brahms was very young when he wrote (the concerto), he already had a deep inner suffering,” Delgado reflected in a recent interview at his Glendale home. “That long opening cantabile combines hurt and melancholy in a way that cannot be explained. It has to be felt.”

Delgado’s performance of the Brahms concerto at a master class at USC with pianist Rosina Lhevinne in 1973 was, he said, a turning point in his life. “It opened doors for me,” said Delgado, who also studied with Lhevinne at the Juilliard School of Music.

The Argentinian-born Delgado has also concentrated on the music of Bach, Mozart and, especially, compatriot composers, such as Alberto Ginastera.

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“I felt it was my duty to represent composers of my country, that it was important to make them better known,” he said.

But now he feels ready to tackle the “tremendous depth” of Brahms’ music.

“In the concerto, you can feel the intensity and expansiveness,” Delgado said. “In the first movement, there is the melancholy already of a mature person, but with the passion and fire of youth. In the second, he already has conquered a celestial feeling, almost like late Beethoven.

“In the third, the struggle for life from a feeling of tremendous depth comes to a glorious ending: No matter how deep we can feel, it seems to say, life is simple and glorious and beautiful.”

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Brahms originally had planned to write a symphony rather than a concerto, Delgado said, and sections of the work reflect an orchestral point of view.

“So the orchestra has to put you in the mood and create an atmosphere to inspire the soloist,” he said.

All of which makes the collaboration between soloist and orchestra critical.

Yet Delgado has never performed with the South Coast Symphony or even heard the orchestra, he said, but added that he and conductor Larry Granger did meet once to discuss “tempos, interpretations and feeling for the piece.”

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While he will have two rehearsals before Saturday’s concert, Delgado said, " I consider it really 1 1/2 rehearsals because one of them is a dress rehearsal on the afternoon of the concert, and you cannot do very much in the dress rehearsal.”

The lack of time to work out a meshing of interpretations between the soloist and the conductor “can ruin a performance,” he said.

“Some conductors are great doing a Brahms symphony but maybe not so great accompanying a soloist. Just like a pianist playing chamber music: He can be great by himself, not great in an ensemble.”

How does Delgado deal with these problems?

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“You have to adapt yourself,” he said. “The most important thing is to make music.

“People who have come to the concert want to have an experience, they want to suffer and be happy with the feeling of the music. So the most important thing is that a performer must project a message.”

He also feels it is a question of rapport between soloist and conductor. With Granger, “I feel a certain chemistry,” Delgado said. “Things are going to be all right.”


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