This weekend, we had the pleasure of speaking with Anna DeLoi ’18, one of the winners of the 2017 Berkshire Symphony Soloists competition. Anna will be playing the first movement of Gliere’s Concerto for Harp and Orchestra with the Berkshire Symphony of April 21 in Chapin Hall.
What got you into the harp in the first place?
I wanted to play the harp for as long as I could remember. When I was a little kid, like 3 or 4 years old, it was my dream to grow up to be a harpist. I’m not sure why, but I remember bugging my parents about it pretty regularly for most of my elementary school-age life and eventually they caved. My mom got me lessons when I was about 9.
Do you still want to be a harpist or has that changed?
Probably not a performer, but I’m interested in continuing to work in the arts, whether in education or management or arts non-profits.
So Gliere’s Harp Concerto is quite dramatic and full of lots of technical challenges. Is there a particular you like to play best?
I always like playing the cadenza. [The concerto] has a kind of unashamedly long and really showy cadenza. It’s the only time in the piece when you don’t have the constraint of staying with the orchestra and keeping a consistent rhythm, so you can really go all out with it. It’s a lot of fun!
Speaking of which, in concertos, the composer often plays with the relationship between soloist and orchestra. How do you think that works in this piece?
There’s definitely some mirroring of themes [melodies] between the orchestra and the solo part, that kind of dialogue. The soloist probably wins out in the end by taking over all of the flashy material, especially in the cadenza. As long as the harpist plays loudly enough to be heard, that is.
Are there things you are working on now to prepare for the big performance?
The thing I worry about more than anything else is getting overly comfortable with [the piece]. I feel like I know this piece well, so it’s easy to get over-confident in my playing of it, so I try to remind myself to still approach it with fresh eyes every time.
What is your method of practicing? Do you go through sections one at a time or do you just run the whole thing?
I usually do a mix of the two. I usually just warm up with slow sections of what I’m working on, so I’ll often start at the last section of a piece and play it really slowly and then go backwards. Then I’ll maybe run the piece all the way through and then go back and practice spots that I think I could work on more. When I’m getting ready for a performance, I always make sure to do plenty of full run-throughs because there is something different about going all the way through. You need to practice being in that mental space.
Since you play in the Berkshire Symphony, do you feel like playing as a soloist for that group has a special significance for you?
I always really love soloing with orchestras that I’ve played with and where I know people. In some ways, it’s more stressful because all the people on stage are your friends and teachers, so you really want to do a good job [for them]. But at the same time, having been involved in the Music department for almost three years and having generally loved this department, it’s nice to be able to perform in Chapin Hall and perform under Mr. Feldman. There are lots of good feelings there, so I’m excited to get to do it again!
–Interview by Christine Pash ’18