Robert Jorgensen, who’ll perform Sunday with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra, has been playing classical piano most of his life — including a 1980 concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall and a 2016 concerto performance with the Künstler Orchester Wien in Vienna, Austria.
The Olympia pianist’s musical start, though, came much earlier than that.
“I generally say I started before I was born,” he told The Olympian. “My mother played, and so I’m sure I was getting those vibes very early on.
“I have a little picture of a very chubby 3-year-old me with my hands up on a piano,” he added, “but I didn’t actually start to take classes until a little bit later than that.”
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It was a long way from piano lessons in Fresno, California, to earning an advanced degree in music performance from the Royal Schools of Music in London and playing at Carnegie Hall, where he accompanied bass-baritone Earl Meyers.
Though he loves to challenge himself musically, Jorgensen is quite happy to perform and teach in South Sound, where he’s lived since 1987.
“I’m kind of a homebody,” he said.
In the years he’s lived in the Olympia area, he has become well known as a performer, piano teacher and accompanist for musicians, including students at the University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.
He also hosts a chamber-music series, “O! So Live,” at his studio on Olympia’s east side. The series has been on hiatus for the past year or so while Jorgensen was remodeling the property and will resume soon, he said.
“Robert is a local icon, well known and respected,” Huw Edwards, the symphony’s conductor, told The Olympian.
On Sunday, Jorgensen will play Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. The lyrical and romantic piece is one of the most beloved works by the Norwegian composer, who wrote it in 1868, when he was just 25 years old, Edwards said.
“It’s so beautifully written,” Jorgensen said of the 31-minute piece. “It’s in the mainstream repertoire as a masterpiece.”
As Jorgensen talked about the concerto, his voice was soft.
“The last movement is sort of a fiery Norwegian folk dance,” he said. “The middle section of the last movement is one of the most heartbreakingly gorgeous tunes. It’s straight from the heart. Really beautiful.”
Also on Sunday’s program — which Edwards sums up as “a matinee of cherished works” — are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98.
- What: The Olympia Symphony Orchestra warms up for Valentine’s Day with a romantic program featuring Olympia pianist Robert Jorgensen. Anthony Spain will serve as guest conductor.
- When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10
- Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
- Tickets: $7-$60; free tickets are available to federal employees affected by the recent shutdown
- More information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org, olympiasymphony.com
- Chamber series: Jorgensen hosts chamber concerts in his home studio. To receive announcements of future events, email firstname.lastname@example.org
On the program
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”
- Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, with Jorgensen
- Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98