5 Questions for Toy Pianist Mark Robson

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Lauded by the Los Angeles Times as a pianist with “one of the great techniques” and “an inquiring mind,” MARK ROBSON has created a career which expresses his diverse interests as soloist, chamber artist, composer, and conductor. He has been on the music staff of the Los Angeles Opera since January of 1991, working as an assistant conductor and coach, and has been a musical assistant at the Salzburg and Spoleto (Italy) festivals. Robson’s music has been programmed on concerts in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Barcelona, and Paris. The Brentwood-Westwood Symphony Orchestra has premiered two of his orchestral works, Apollo Rising and Christmas Suite. Soprano Patricia Prunty has recorded his song cycle A Child of Air, which has been performed at the winter Ravinia Festival. The recipient of several scholarships and awards (including the Certificate of Excellence from the Corvina Cultural Circle for artistic contributions to Hungary), Mark Robson has received degrees from the University of Southern California and Oberlin College; several years of study in Paris embellished his musical training. He has been employed by USC, Chapman University, and the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts as a vocal coach and teacher. One of his most formidable musical projects was the performance of the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven, a year-and-a-half-long endeavor expressed in eight concerts. In 2010 he will present his sixth performance of Messiaen’s cycle Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus.

Mark Robson will join colleagues from across the globe at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival in January 2016 presented by The New Music Conflagration, Inc.

1) How did you first become interested in the toy piano as a concert instrument?
It is quite possible that my notion of performing on the toy piano as a concert instrument derives from participation in a performance of John Cage’s “Music for Amplified Toy Pianos” with members of Piano Spheres, under the auspices of the West Coast/Left Coast festival hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009. I later played multiple keyboards in Oscar Bettison’s “Livre des Sauvages” in 2012 with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in which the toy piano plays a notable timbral and psychological role in parts of the three–movement work. Finally, in 2014 I premiered several short works for toy piano as part of a Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame presentation in which I asked for piano, toy piano or acoustic/toy pieces based on the idea of the ‘elements’; and my truest foray into an all-toy piano program came last May at Boston Court in Pasadena, CA.

 2) What influenced you to apply for the festival?
My interest in the festival was sparked by my friend Hunter Och’s submission of his work “It’s a Toy” for possible programming during the festival. It also seemed like a great way to find out more about the instrument itself, how other use it and conceive pieces for it, and to consort with a unique community of musicians.

3) Who is your favorite toy piano composer and why?
I can’t say that I have a favorite toy piano composer; each person finds a personal way to create something that will tickle the ear.

4) What do you see as the future of toy piano?
Wow, as to the future of toy piano, it’s probably a lot about repertoire and the reception of the instrument as something that is viable outside of it’s understandable association with childhood, amateur playing or pure bizarreness!

5) What local place or thing are you most excited to experience during your visit to the Tampa Bay Area for the festival
While in Tampa I hope to see the Dali museum (St. Pete) for the second time and perhaps take in Caladesi Island (in my spare time!).



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