The work's ferocious form of romanticism _ which has captivated worldwide audiences for a century _ calls for a pianist of substantial technique and formidable intellect. Also on the program is "The Rite of Spring" by Stravinsky and the world premire of Timothy Stulman's Element Cycle for orchestra _ a narrative of the five Chinese elements earth, metal, water, wood and fire _ commissioned as the 77th orchestral work of New York Youth Symphony's First Music series.
Golka is the winner of two of America's most prestigious musical awards: the 2008 Gilmore Young Artist Award, and most recently the 2009 Max I. Allen Classical Fellowship Award of the American Pianists Association.
He has performed nearly 300 concerts since he took the first prize in the Shanghai International Piano Competition at age 16 in 2003. His extensive concerto appearances have included the Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Fort Worth symphonies, as well as the BBC Scottish Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa), the Shanghai Philharmonic.
He chats here about his work and upcoming performance:
1. Your March 7 performance with the New York Youth Symphony marks your Carnegie Hall Debut. How do you feel as you approach this career milestone?
I feel very grateful to have such a precious opportunity. It inspires new forces in my practicing, knowing that I will play in the hall which has provided me with so many of the most timeless experiences as an audience member. I can't wait to see what sort of energy it brings out in my music-making at the actual event.
2. Your repertoire this season includes many different solo works and concertos by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Ravel, among others. Do you have a favorite composer or set of works that you hold closest to your heart?
I am very promiscuous with my musical loves. It depends what I had for breakfast in terms of what my ultimate preferences are. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms _ these seven composers' masterworks leave me in a never-ending state of awe.
3. Is there a particular mentor or pianist that has served as your greatest inspiration?
There are two people I must mention. Most recently, I am so lucky to be currently guided by the much-venerated Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory. The lessons illuminate rich, new layers to music that I thought I knew well; they inspire passion and possibilities that make me fall in love with playing the piano over and over again. Previously I worked with Jos_ Feghali, who mentored me for seven years, and who was like a musical father to me, and who will always be a big part of my musical personality.
4. Describe a live music performance you've attended that you will never forget.
I could write a novel in response to this question. Live performances by great artists are the foundation of my musical personality. A few weeks ago a live recital by Radu Lupu in Maryland hit me like a rock. I walked out of the recital like a zombie, stupefied by the mysterious power of the music he played. The next morning I woke up, cleansed, ready to continue the struggle for achieving new musical heights.
5. Any specific classical music recording that you couldn't live without?
Almost anything recorded by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Artur Schnabel, Alfred Cortot, and William Kapell, to name a few. And Leon Fleisher's Beethoven 4th Concerto, or his recent Schubert B-flat Sonata!
6. Who are your favorite non-classical artists?
Well, I occasionally listen to past and present jazz legends like Tatum, Peterson, Fitzgerald, Monk, Jarrett, and Mehldau, with enormous enthusiasm. But I must admit that I am generally quite one-track minded in terms of listening to music, though not intentionally. There is simply so much "classical music" (I hate this designation; I prefer "art music"!) that I am always dying to hear, that I never find the time or energy to explore music of a more popular nature. And when I'm not listening to those things I am preserving my ears, since they should not be excessively strained...
7. Your solo and chamber music appearances have taken you to famous venues such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Musashino Hall in Tokyo, National Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw, the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, and the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. Is there any single performance that stands out in your mind as the most memorable?
Actually, no; I try to treat my life as one never-ending concert. In my preparation for concerts I try to find things to latch on to that will help me lose myself in the music and that will help keep an intense level of concentration. Hopefully it works and my involvement leads me to moments of great mystery and revelation. When those moments happen, I develop an unquenchable thirst for more and greater moments. At this stage in my development, I always want more, so I am not too reflective about past experiences yet!
8. On Sunday, February 27th, you performed Chopin's two concertos under the baton of your brother, Tomasz Golka, in the Chopin Society of Houston's Gala Concert at Stude Concert Hall. Did you find that this performance had a certain emotional significance, in the sense that you were able to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Poland's greatest composer with a member of your own Polish family?
Well, first of all, I am still exhausted and recovering from this intense experience last night as I answer this question. It was quite an exhilarating experience celebrating the great composer's birthday in this way: my brother and I have performed both of Chopin's concertos together on separate occasions, since 2004, so we are developing a history of playing these pieces together. Yes, emotions were certainly high playing these two masterworks in front of an audience of nothing-but-familiar-faces, since Houston is my hometown!
Concert tickets are $15. Tickets are available online at Carnegie Hall's ticket site, by phone at 212-247-7800, or by visiting the Carnegie Hall box office at 57th Street and 7th Avenue.