Peter Orth was born in Philadelphia and started playing the piano at four years of age. At the invitation of Rudolf Serkin in 1978 Orth became a member of the Marlboro Music Festival. He stayed in Vermont to study with Serkin at his Institute for Young Performing Musicians in Guilford and subsequently won first prize in the 1979 Naumburg International Piano Competition held in memory of the great American pianist William Kapell. Awards followed from the Peabody Mason Foundation in Boston, and the Shura Cherkassky Prize from the '92nd Street Y' in New York. As well as his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, and many other important venues in the United States, he received Orchestra engagements from the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the Boston and Chicago Symphonies amongst many others. The New York Times wrote that Peter Orth is 'a major talent' upon his orchestral debut in Carnegie Hall. In the 80's Orth had the continued good fortune to encounter two more important musical influences: the pianist Paul Doguereau of Boston, and the conductor Sergiu Celibidache. Doguereau was friends with Maurice Ravel and had studied with Egon Petri, Ignaz Paderewski, and Emil von Sauer. While General Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic, Sergiu Celibidache gave master classes that Orth attended for two years at the University of Mainz. In the last seasons Peter Orth has kept a visible New York presence
Peter Orth The story of how this recording came to be is long and must start with the good fortune I had to become a pupil of Rudolf Serkin in 1978 and gain entrance into his musical atmosphere. Beethoven's Diabelli variations was a staple of his repertoire. We discussed on several occasions that it might be a piece for me. My confrontation with his playing of the piece planted a seed that took 20 years to take root. THE MUSIC 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Beethoven's last great composition for the piano: in 1819, the publisher sent a sheet to fifty personalities on the Vienna music scene, his composition of a German dance (predecessor of the Vienna Waltz), and requested they compose a variation. The theme seemed to fascinate Beethoven, because instead of contributing the desired, small contribution to the collection of musical curios he immediately got to work, plumbed the depths of all his skills as a composer - and had soon finished 23 variations. Out of Diabelli's waltz Beethoven created his own musical kaleidoscope, and like the head of Janus it points two ways, both to the past, and to the ways open in the future to the formation of music. We can hear a fughetta that recalls Beethoven's own remark: "This shouldn't be called Bach, but ocean!"; and an Allegro molto alla "Notte e giorno faticar" di Mozart gives us an idea of the wild dance Figaro planned to perform with his lordship the Count. A Notturno offers prospects into Romantic piano music, and we even hear the freely floating harmonies of Claude Debussy resonating as foreshadows of the future. At the end of his mighty composition, Beethoven includes two acts of homage to the previous century - he himself came from its last third: at first we hear a grandiose fugue, which could have represented the crowning pinnacle of the monument. But the Diabelli Variations actually ends with a minuet, the dance of the Ancien Régime with the tempo mark Tempo di Menuetto moderato and ending in a spaciously composed Coda - like a melancholy reminiscence of past times.