Orion Weiss, acclaimed pianist, is on the phone from New York. He's about to bite into a question about Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major when there's an important interruption:
The cry of his 9-month-old daughter, Alia, his first child.
Yes, life has changed for Weiss since 2009, when he made his debut with the Fresno Philharmonic.
"Four years go by pretty fast," says Weiss, who will play Friday night, Saturday and Sunday in the orchestra's "I Got Rhythm" concert at Shaghoian Hall. "I guess you could say a major change since I was last in Fresno has been the stabilization of my romantic and family life."
Weiss is married to concert pianist Anna Polonsky. The couple juggle schedules — and rely on grandparents — to cope with the demands of an infant, not to mention international touring schedules.
"Somehow we're making it work," Weiss says as the baby's fussiness subsides.
Life has a rhythm, and Weiss' recent foray into child-rearing has certainly provided a different syncopation to his routine. It's somehow fitting, then, that he'll be joining the Fresno Philharmonic for an event that showcases rhythm — specifically rhythms of music from the U.S. and Latin America.
Along with Ravel's famed concerto, which was inspired by the French composer's fascination with American jazz, Weiss will play Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm Variations."
Also featured on the program: Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas' "La Noche de los Mayas," Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez's Batuque and Arturo Marquez's Danzon No. 2. The Fernandez and Marquez pieces are from the album "Latin American Rhythms," recorded by music director Theodore Kuchar with his Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela — and nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for best instrumental album.
Weiss, a star at Juilliard who studied with piano great Leon Fleisher (who appeared last month at Fresno State with the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series), has kept busy since his last performance with the Fresno Philharmonic. He's performed with the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic.
He's also a strong proponent of chamber music, performing with the Pacifica Quartet and frequenting such venues as Lincoln Center in New York. He also has performed with the Reno Chamber Music Festival, conducted by Kuchar.
The Ravel concerto, written in the late 1920s, offers Weiss a chance to flirt with a different style of music than he often plays in concert halls.
"When you're playing music of the 20th century, you run into jazz," he says. "I love jazz. I play a lot of things that are jazz-like."
Gershwin's work, of course, is known for its jazz influences. Weiss has become something of a Gershwin aficionado, having recorded the composer's piano concerto, his Second Rhapsody and "I Got Rhythm" with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for the Naxos label.
The idea of a concert devoted to "rhythm" is intriguing, Weiss says.
"There's a rhythm to everyday life," he says. "A rhythm to the way we walk, the way our hearts beat, the way we breathe."
And a rhythm, it seems to growing up in a household of two professional pianists. Baby Alia is now fast asleep.
Just think of the music she's absorbed so far in her short life. You can already gauge the impact when she's awake, according to her proud father.
"She likes to sit on my lap and bang on the piano," he says.
Orion Weiss with the Fresno Philharmonic, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Shaghoian Hall, 2770 E. International Ave. fresnophil.org, (559) 261-0700. $28-$75
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, email@example.com and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.