Weiss vows to bring joy to SummerFest 09

By Jessica Fryman

When 27-year-old Orion Weiss signed on to play variations of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” a piece rarely performed at concerts, he didn’t yet realize how unique the selection would be.

After proposing to fellow pianist Anna Polonsky about two weeks ago, Weiss’ upcoming performance proved to be an ironic but perfect fit.

“I’m a little scattered,” Weiss said on the phone just shortly after popping the question during a surprise visit to Seattle. “It will all come together.”

Weiss, who has been preparing for several upcoming La Jolla performances, said he looks forward to “a very joyous summer festival.” (The answer was yes.)

He will help open the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest tonight as part of a “Piano Extravaganza,” and he’ll perform Tuesday on one of three programs honoring Mendelssohn. Weiss is also part of the Music Society’s Chopin Festival and will return later this season for those performances.

“He has a sense of different composers’ musical souls,” Christopher Beach, the society’s artistic director, says about Weiss’ versatility on the piano. “He is able to reach in there and find it.”

Weiss, who has been playing piano since age 3, has traveled across the globe to perform and is an audience favorite.

He’s previously played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Vancouver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Detroit, San Francisco, Omaha and a long list of others. The 2004 Juilliard graduate has also toured Israel and China.

“He is deeply musical,” Beach said. “It’s almost magic. He has a kind of engaging electricity when he plays.”

Weiss will be joined by Anne-Marie McDermott, Jon Kimura Parker and former Juilliard classmate Helen Huang for the extravaganza, which features several pieces on two pianos. The night will end with an eight-hands series, including “Ride of the Valkyries,” “Danse Macabre,” “William Tell Overture” and “Fantasy on Themes From Carmen” – “tunes to bring down the house,” Weiss said.

Weiss first started playing with the society in 2006 as part of the Discovery Series for young artists and has been part of the SummerFest ever since.

The Ohio native said he is especially excited for the warmth of both the Southern California weather and his host family. (SummerFest musicians stay with families of volunteers).

“I hope it’s a long-term relationship,” Weiss said about playing for the society. “The music is always of such a high level. The energy is so good. It’s one of my favorite festivals.”

This story was originally published in The San Diego Union-Tribune
on July 31, 2009.
Original story on The San Diego Union-Tribune website.