Classical Pianist To Share Beatles Interpretations
As a former winner of the Naumburg International Piano Competition in New York City, Anthony Molinaro can, of course, perform traditional piano repertoire and perform it well.
The Naples Tribune once said Molinaro performed Bach’s Piano Concerto in D minor “with such aristocratic grace that he reached the heart of this glorious baroque work without distraction or detour.”
The 40-year-old from Chicago also is a gifted improviser.
He often plays his own cadenzas in Mozart and Beethoven concerti, and his “free-wheeling” and “unconventional” rendition of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” features improvised cadenzas.
With that in mind, Molinaro, who will perform Saturday afternoon at Meadowlark Music Festival, said he began exploring techniques for solo piano in an improvised setting.
Specifically, he sought something that would connect with a large audience.
“The first thought I had was do more of a jazz standards record, but not in a jazz style,” he said in a phone interview to promote his concert. “I didn’t like that idea.”
That’s because jazz standards just “aren’t known like they used to be,” Molinaro said. “If the listener doesn’t know the starting point of the journey, then it’s harder to follow.”
So instead, he settled on the music of The Beatles.
“I’m a huge Beatles fan, like most of the world,” he admitted. “Having played a few tunes in the past, (the idea) quickly moved to the head of the class. I thought this would be a perfect repertoire to explore.”
On Saturday, listeners will hear Molinaro’s interpretations of such Beatles classics as “Blackbird,” “Yesterday,” “When I’m 64,” “Lady Madonna,” “Dear Prudence” and more.
This fall, he will release an album of the music, calling it “Here, There and Everywhere” after another Beatles hit.
“I truly didn’t know what to expect,” Molinaro said. “But I’ve had a couple of composer friends tell me they really, really dug it … of me taking the material and treating it as raw meat and making it my own creation.”
He also sold out two concerts in Chicago, where he released early versions of the album.
“Some of the (music) is more straightforward than others, “ he said. “It really lent itself to what I wanted to do.”
Molinaro will close Meadowlark’s three-concert series, which began Wednesday with two free performances by the Trinkle Brass Works at Uncle Sam Jam. The 14-piece brass ensemble also accompanied the fireworks display.
For Molinaro, Saturday will be his debut concert in Nebraska and, he believes, his first trip to the state.
“Anthony is brilliant in so many ways,” Sturm said. “He’s an international award-winning classical pianist, and at the same time has collaborated with some of greatest improvising musicians, so I think that’s the key. He brings this amazing breadth of stylistic expertise but at incredible depth.”
Molinaro began playing the piano at 3 years old and immediately took to it.
“There never was a time I considered (doing) anything else,” he said. “Sure, there may have been a moment I thought about being a basketball player, but I was 5-foot-8. That would have been crazy.”
He studied at the University of North Texas and Northwestern University and has won several awards in addition to the Naumburg Prize, most notably the William C. Byrd Piano Competition.
Molinaro makes his home in his native Chicago, where he is a music professor at Loyola University. He records exclusively for Nineteen-Eight Records, a label he founded in 2001 to support creative music of all genres.
“My idea is to continually challenge myself,” he said.