Mayron Tsong and U.Md. Symphony Orchestra explore a Brahms masterwork

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Perhaps the very thing that makes Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 an intriguing piece lies in the fact that he really didn't think it was that wonderful. He worked it out so many times, annotating and reannotating, so that to this day, it remains a piece with many revisions.

"He was a self-doubting person his whole life, anyway, but particularly so with this piece," explained pianist Mayron Tsong, a faculty member of the University of Maryland's School of Music. "I'm not really sure if he was alive he would even call it a masterpiece, but I think that's what makes us eternally fascinated by the piece."

Conductor James Ross performed the Brahms Horn Trio with Tsong last year at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, and when the opportunity arose to team up again this year, the two chose the Piano Concerto. And so, with the power of the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra, the Brahms masterpiece will be presented today, with Ross at the podium and Tsong at her Steinway.

It could be said that the Piano Concerto is to pianists what Hamlet or Lady Macbeth would be to actors, requiring endless layers of complexity and ambiguity.

Onstage
U.Md. Orchestra plays Brahms
Where: University of Maryland, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University Boulevard and Stadium Drive, College Park
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Info: $10 to $25; 301-405-ARTS (2787); claricesmithcenter.umd.edu

"There are many levels and steps in the piece where you can hear that [Brahms] himself was searching, and it compels us to search as well," Tsong said. "I started learning it when I was 19 and I have revised all of my different thoughts about almost every phrase in the piece many times. Each time I end up with something I think I'm pretty convinced about and then the next day, it's elusive and changing.

The interest lies deep in the concerto's multiple challenges, however, and Tsong, a native of Canada, is up to the task. She earned a Performer's Diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto at the age of 16 and holds graduate degrees from Rice University.

Tsong is equally confident performing with the student orchestra, noting, "They're such a great group ... you can almost see a kind of reincarnation of the narrative of the piece. There's a feeling of youthful exuberance, and yet, there's [a] maturity as well."

Debussy's "Nocturnes" and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10 are also on the program.

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