How Do You Practice a Concerto Without an Orchestra? Pianist Kirill Gerstein Explains

By Stephen Raskauskas |

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Kirill Gerstein (Photo: Marco Borggreve)

Pianist Kirill Gerstein has appeared as a soloist with some of the world’s greatest orchestras. On a break from rehearsals with Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for performances of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, he shared some of his tips for playing concertos.

Concertos are a special kind of piece that feature one or more soloists playing with the orchestra. Kirill described the experience of performing as a soloist with a major orchestra like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as nothing short of “magical.”

“Playing music and making sound together with other people who are incredibly skilled is an extraordinary feeling of doing something magical," he said. "I don’t think we really understand how music works. We understand some theoretical, mathematical constructions about it, and a bit how to play the different instruments. But how it truly operates, in our minds and in our ears and in our hearts, if you will, that’s really magical. It feels like you’re doing magic, you stick your hands in space and music comes out.”

Perhaps you’ve wondered what it feels like to experience the magic of performing with an orchestra yourself. But before the magic happens, there’s a lot of hard work and practice that goes into preparing to perform a concerto.

But how do you practice a concerto without an orchestra? In the video below, Gerstein shares his tips.

For information about Kirill Gerstein's performances of Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra November 16 - 21, 2017, visit the CSO's website.