Prescott resident and internationally-renowned Steinway artist James D’Leon is performing with Arizona Philharmonic (AZ Phil) in a Piano Quintet, collaborating for the second time with four of AZ Phil’s principal string players. The concert takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center (YCPAC).
In this performance, D’León curates and directs some of his favorite works for piano and strings. He is joined by AZ Phil’s Concertmaster Katie McLin, Principal Second Violinist Luke Hill, Guest Violinist Kim Haskins and Principal Cellist Ruthie Wilde. The piano and violin quintet will perform Haydn’s classical Piano Trio No. 39 in G major, Mozart’s Violin and Viola Duo in G Major, Schoenfield’s jazzy and sensual Cafe Music, and the Piano Quintet in E-flat Major by Schumann.
D’Leon started playing piano at the age of 4 and continued to study through college before becoming a Steinway artist.
“I did my first recital when I was 6 and then I just continued through the years, went to college, got my bachelor’s and master’s in Philadelphia, and I got my doctorate in piano from the Eastman School of Music in New York,” D’Leon said. “After that, I did a bunch of competitions and became an international Steinway artist.”
Each piano has a unique sound and each Steinway produces a slightly different sound. When selecting a particular Steinway to perform with, D’Leon prefers a warmer sound.
“Just because it says Steinway, I don’t know how it’s going to sound until I sit down and play it. They take individually handcrafted to another level. Some are very unique. I think it all depends on the craftsmanship, the wood, the sound, the age. It’s like wine, you know, one bottle of wine could be the same age as something else, but it depends on how it’s made.”
Speaking to the audience before each piece is how D’Leon engages the audience with highlights of certain aspects behind the composer’s creation.
“I kind of take the audience along for a ride,” he said. “So, even the people that show up and have no idea what they’re going to listen to or what the music is, they’ll have something to listen for because I’ll explain it to the audience from a microphone.”
The classical style is usually defined by a note-perfect performance, but D’Leon also incorporates natural movement into his playing which is partly what makes his own style unique in the genre.
“I was trained by a teacher who really taught me how to incorporate natural movement as I play,” D’Leon said. “Sometimes pianists sit there and play a note-perfect performance and as I like to say, they kind of sit there like a stone the whole time. Audiences appreciate the sound, but I found in my travels that audiences also like to see when the pianists get into the music.”
D’Leon pointed out that the movement he incorporates in the performance is a genuine connection he has to the music he plays.
“I’m not saying I move by acting, it’s all heartfelt and it matches the music,” D’Leon said. “I breathe with the music. My arms move a certain way. I don’t throw them up in the air like a rock star. It makes sense, so that’s why I’m different.”
Tickets and information are available at AZPhil.org.
For more information about James D’Leon, visit www.jamesdleon.com.
Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at email@example.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.