Could you tell us about your upcoming album?
Yes! It was actually recorded back in June of 2019, and then we did some post-production and video documentary things that got delayed because of the pandemic. We didn’t want to release the album during Covid, so we have been sitting on it basically since December of 2019. I signed a contract with Sony to release my Haydn and Hummel album, but we got an offer from Naxos, who was particularly interested in the Weinberg Concerto, so I signed that deal instead. I can probably do one more CD with Sony, and now I have this new deal where I will be releasing an album in March 2022 with Hans Graf conducting the Russian National Orchestra. I played the Arutiunian Concerto, the Weinberg Concerto (which was dedicated to Dokshizer), and Dokshizer’s arrangement of the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1.
|Pre-order NEW Russian Concertos — Arutunian, Weinberg, Shostakovich|
$25 (includes shipping): https://www.paypal.me/PaulMerkelo?locale.x=en_US
How did you keep connected to music during the period of the pandemic when no performances or any musical activity were going on?
I won’t lie; it was tough. I was on a Canadian solo tour during the beginning, and I kept seeing it on the news every night. It started spreading to the East coast, but we thought we were pretty safe since we were in more remote areas near Halifax and St. John’s. The first case was reported in Halifax when we were there, but our tour manager at the time said we should keep the tour going. I had a pregnant wife at home, which didn’t sit well with me, so I ended up being the one who called it off. Once I got home, I didn’t feel motivated to do anything, and I struggled. I enjoyed the time off, but I was in a weird place until my daughter was born. At that point, I decided I needed to whip myself back into shape and get back on the horn. That would have been the fall of 2020. When she was born, I realised that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and just get back in the game (physically and mentally). I got a bunch of old recordings of Mahler symphonies out and got re-inspired. Now, I’m full in and so excited to get back to work in the Symphony next week.
What other projects do you have on the horizon that you would like to tell us about?
Shostakovich 5 is a pretty cool way to start off the season since it uses such a large orchestra. We have been doing a smaller repertoire thus far, so this should be exciting. We also have Brahms 2, Shostakovich 15, and Bruckner 7 coming up. This Gershwin project is two and a half years in the making, and it’s fully funded by the Wicha Music Foundation, which is amazing. I am thinking about just releasing this digitally without physical copies since it’s a television project. It’s supported through medici.tv, which does a lot of great work with symphony orchestras and soloists. The theme of the repertoire is everyone he influenced and everyone who influenced him, including Schoenberg, Ravel, Stravinsky, even Duke Ellington. Gershwin’s world encompassed so much diversity; he studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and played tennis with Schoenberg! I know this sounds cheesy, but we have a medley of Verklärte Nacht, and Summertime from Porgy and Bess wrapped up into one where I’m doing some improvisation within the arrangement. We have an arrangement for Stravinsky’s Petrushka for cornet, piccolo trumpet, and piano. Matt Herskowitz did an amazing job with the arrangement on that. We’ve got the first and second movements of the Ravel Piano Concerto that I’m doing on the D trumpet and flugelhorn. An American in Paris is there, of course, and I do two improvised solos as well. It’s really pushed me because improvising for me takes a lot of work. If it’s getting close to the filming and I don’t feel as comfortable as I would prefer, I might write a few outlines so I know where I’m going. It’s been a fun process that has caused me to pick the brains of some of my friends who improvise really well. I respect what they do so much! We will film that October 1st and 2nd and might even be able to release it as soon as Christmas. The filmmaker has this terrific idea of interweaving the thematic storylines with the music, and I think the storytelling is going to be amazing.
I feel like now that I’m a little older, I want to do more of this fun, outside-the-box stuff. I did a French album, a Russian album, the Haydn and Hummel. I have a Balkan music project with a string orchestra next year that has some crazy stuff. It’s so wild! I want to have more fun as a soloist in the post-covid world and explore diverse music-making ways.
|Full Interview: “Tell a Story When You Play and Believe In Your Own Story”|