After nearly 20 years of working together, it's fair to say that pianist Alexander Tutunov and Marlan Carlson, the musical director of the Corvallis-OSU Symphony, are comfortable with each other.
"We just know how each other thinks," Carlson said of Tutunov, whom he first noticed at Southern Oregon University in the mid-1990s.
"He spotted me," Tutunov said of Carlson. That means, Tutunov joked, Carlson is to blame for the long-running partnership.
Regardless of who's at fault, though, Tutunov said the two have developed a deep level of trust in each other's abilities. Mid-valley audiences get another chance on Sunday to watch the two in action when Tutunov joins the orchestra to perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3.
That piece, as challenging as it is, is a warmup of sorts for the main event: Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, which clocks in at about an hour.
The concert is billed as "Two Big Bs: Beethoven and Bruckner."
Tutunov, a professor of piano at Southern Oregon, notes that Beethoven's third concerto, for whatever reason, is not as frequently performed as some of the composer's other works. In fact, Tutunov said, the work is "overlooked," if that label that can be applied to any of Beethoven's music.
But it's not because the music itself is inferior, Tutunov said: "It's supreme music." Sometimes, he added, "it's just a matter of luck" which pieces are frequently performed live and which ones slide a bit into shadow.
In any event, Tutunov said, the work is a terrific way to start Sunday's performance: "It's a great first half of the program," he said. "It just raises the roof."
After intermission, Carlson will guide the orchestra through Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, the work that served as a breakthrough for the Austrian composer.
Carlson said there's a clear contrast between the Beethoven concerto and the Bruckner symphony: The Beethoven work, Carlson said, sweeps listeners along: "There's a logic, an inevitability to it."
By contrast, Carlson compared the Bruckner symphony to a leisurely stroll through the various rooms of a grand cathedral: "It's a series of musical experiences that seem to be unrelated but they're all part of the cathedral," he said.
To some listeners, Carlson said, the symphony "may seem like it's lacking in direction," but one of the conductor's challenges is to give it a measure of added urgency. To that end, Carlson said he intends to push some passages along with a somewhat faster tempo than listeners usually hear: "I march right through the music," he said. "I keep it moving. I really do keep it moving."
For his part, Tutunov sees a connection between the two works, as different as they might be: Both, he said, are beautiful pieces, in a world that needs as much beauty as possible.
"We need the reminder of beauty," Tutunov said. "This is such a powerful reminder of beauty."