Marsalis, a three-time Grammy winner who has his own jazz quartet, is no stranger to classical music and is a frequent soloist with major symphony orchestras.
But when he opens the Beethoven festival next Sunday, the 51-year-old will perform his first classical music recital since high school.
“This recital is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” Marsalis said in a recent telephone interview. “I don’t play classical music as much as I would like, but the more I play, the better I get. It is the most solid music I play.”
For the recital, Marsalis is collaborating with pianist Ned Kirk, a Saint Mary’s University music professor and artistic/managing director of the Beethoven festival.
“He is an amazing musician and collaborating with him has been a joy,” Kirk said. “He is the first artist who has treated me like a partner, with a lot of give and take.”
Kirk has rehearsed with Marsalis in California, North Carolina and New Orleans in preparing for the recital. It was Kirk who suggested they stage a classical music recital together after Marsalis and a Brazilian ensemble performed a special concert in October 2008 as part of the Beethoven Festival.
“He was very excited about such a recital because it was new to him, and it has been an amazing experience,” Kirk said.
Marsalis will play works for alto and soprano sax by six composers, including Beethoven and Samuel Barber.
He has played classical music professionally for 10 years. He performs about 10 classical music concerts a year and he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra two years ago.