A key(board) performer: Acclaimed pianist making first appearance with the Philharmonic Feb. 1

One of the most acclaimed pianists worldwide currently battles one element perhaps more than any other during rehearsals in his Bloomington home.

And that would be Zeus, his 1-year-old hound/beagle mix.

Seems that when Norman Krieger sits at the keyboard to practice, the pooch sees the musician moving the foot pedals “and apparently thinks it’s some kind of game.” So Zeus heads under the instrument to frolic.

“I’m lucky he hasn’t stolen any of my music,” Krieger said with a laugh, speaking by phone from his office where he serves as professor of piano at the prestigious Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

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Krieger’s game is producing some of the most expressive music around. The 63-year-old who has played with the finest ensembles across the globe and with such noted conductors as Zubin Mehta and Marin Alsop will make his first appearance at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic. He will perform Ludwig von Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.

He acknowledged that he has heard “great things” about Philharmonic Music Director David Bowden and the ensemble. And he hopes the audience will hear equally great things when he plays the Beethoven work.

“Hopefully, people will hear the spirit in which Beethoven wrote it,” Krieger said, referring to its expressiveness, subtlety, and experimentation, far different than the composer’s “crashing keyboard attack,” as some music analysts have noted. “It is a revolutionary concerto in the sense that nothing else like it had been written beforehand. It’s one of the most elevated works of art, period, because it’s in the key of G major, which is a very sort of spiritual key.

“G major immediately establishes a feeling of nuance and subtlety of phrasing.”

David Bowden, the Philharmonic’s music director, is nearly at a loss for words when describing Krieger’s gift — one that has earned almost every conceivable superlative in concert reviews the world over.

“He’s extraordinary,” Bowden said. “He’s a terrific technician, and can do literally anything. … But that’s not what drives me about him. No, what drives me is that there is a a poetry, a kind of soulfulness in his playing. There’s a grace, a beauty. He just has this remarkable sense of knowing how to make everything sound gorgeous.”

Krieger acknowledged that down time and hobbies are difficult to find these days, though his formerly long-time concert schedule of 60 global performances annually now has been cut in half. Still, when he recently played two concerts with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, his wife and three children, two of whom have been involved in music, frolicked and enjoyed themselves. Dad, on the other hand, had to practice, practice, practice.

Except Krieger was grateful for enjoying meals together.

“It’s very difficult — very difficult,” Krieger said of balancing his schedule between the classroom and the concert hall. “Pianists spend way too much time alone. But, being a full-time musician, you have to be a little bit crazy.”

And he believes he would be crazy to foresee retirement on any horizon in the next few years. To drive home that point, he quoted legendary composer Sergei Rachmaninoff: “Music is enough for a lifetime. But a lifetime is not enough for music.”

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Who: Globally acclaimed pianist Norman Krieger performing with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic. Besides Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, the orchestra also will play Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1

Musically speaking: A conversation with Philharmonic Music Director David Bowden and Krieger at 6:45 p.m. 

Where: Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St. in Columbus.

Tickets: $10 to $50.

Information: 812-376-2638 or thecip.org.

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