ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After capturing fourth place in the inaugural Olga Kern Piano Competition, Albuquerque native Joshua Rupley is coming home. The 24-year-old pianist will perform Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with the New Mexico Philharmonic at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Nov. 19. The home-schooled pianist now studies at the University of Music in Würzburg, Germany. He’s been practicing the “Emperor” for about six months.
At first, he didn’t get it.
He was much younger then.
“I didn’t understand much about Beethoven when I first started,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s something like having life experience to understand Beethoven’s work. It’s such human music, so honest and so passionate.”
The second movement repeats the melody three times.
“It’s almost like a spiritual experience,” Rupley said. “It’s hymn-like; a chorale; incredibly tender and reverent.”
“Technically, it’s not the most challenging, but musically, it’s a very formidable challenge,” he continued. “It’s always changing.”
The “Emperor” was Beethoven’s last completed piano concerto, written between 1809 and 1811 in Vienna.
Rupley took home $2,000 in prize money after competing in the competition here a year ago. He was the only American in a pool of 100 pianists from across the globe.
“It was a pretty big deal for me, mostly in a personal way,” he said. “A lot of people haven’t heard of (the contest), so it’s not like people go, “Oh, you won a prize in the Olga Kern Competition.
“It did a lot for my reputation here” in Germany, he continued. “And a lot of concert organizers don’t want to talk to you if you aren’t a prize winner.”
Rupley will leave school in July. He hopes to perform in concerts and teach.
The concert will be a family gathering. Both his parents and his grandmother plan to attend.
Guest conductor Christopher Confessore also will lead the orchestra in Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations. Each variation contains a musical sketch of one of the composer’s friends. These include both his wife and his publisher.