Hungarian pianist Péter Tóth, who regularly performs internationally, will be presenting a local concert when he appears with The New Sussex Symphony at its Nov. 23rd concert.
Tóth, a member of the piano faculty at Fairleigh Dickinson University who now lives in Lake Hopatcong, will perform Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 under the baton of music director Jordan Brown. Rounding out the program will be a Beethoven overture, a short piece by Bizet, and Tchaikovsky's symphonic poem “Romeo and Juliet.”
The orchestra will be participating in the national “Orchestras Feeding America” food drive as well that day. Concert-goers are encouraged to bring canned food, which will be donated to Manna House at the First Presbyterian Church in Newton to help in its mission to feed a daily meal "to all who enter."
The concert is at 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave.
We asked Tóth, 36, a few questions about his background and journey to becoming a piano virtuoso:
Does musical talent run in your family?
Not really. In my case, none of my family members were musicians. The only person who was the closest to music was my grandfather, but he was just an amateur mandolin planer. He was very good at it, even though he didn't read music. He played by ear. As I remember, he was very musical, and very talented.
What was the reaction of your parents when you decided to go into music?
They were very happy. They supported me. We had a neighbor, a friend of theirs, who lived only a few blocks away, and she was a piano teacher. She had an upright piano in her home. One time we went over to visit her, and I saw the piano, and I asked her if I could try it. I was 11. I liked the sound of it, and the look was fascinating, with all those keys.
Why did you decide to pursue your career in the United States?
I came here to study first. I'd already finished my studies at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, and I thought I would benefit from getting a different perspective from a different teacher. I was always interested in the United States, because I though it was a great country and there were a lot of possibilities here.
You've given recitals recently in Peru, Japan, the Netherlands, China, and Hungary. How to you handle rehearsals when you have to communicate in so many different languages?
The good thing about English is almost everybody speaks it nowadays. So I don't have to deal with Japanese or Dutch. I do all my communication in English.
You've presented a series of recitals at Washington's Headquarters in Morristown, playing on their 1873 Steinway. What's that like?
It has its flaws. It's not perfect, of course, but what can we expect from an instrument that's almost 150 years old? But considering its age, it's pretty good. I like to play it.
In this concert, you'll be accompanied by a full orchestra. How is that different from solo recital work for you?
In many ways I find it more difficult to play with an orchestra, because not only to you have to pay attention to your own stuff, but you have to listen to the orchestra as well. That makes it more difficult. When I play solo music, I can do whatever I want.
But it's also very rewarding, and it gives me access to pieces I wouldn't be able to play by myself. And the piano concerto repertoire is very beautiful.
Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students. Children 5 years old and under are admitted free. Although tickets may be purchased at the door, they are also available at Bill Wright School of Music in Sparta and at the Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council in Newton, by calling the orchestra's business manager at 973-579-6465, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the New Sussex Symphony, please visit www.newsussexsymphony.org.
Those who are interested in contributing to the food drive are urged to donate canned yams, soup, fruit, tuna and chicken. Manna House could also use cooking oil, Parmalat milk, juices, salsa and paper goods. (No glass, please)
Additional funding for this concert has been made available by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, through the State/County Partnership Block Grant Program, as administered by the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council.