WALNUT CREEK -- World class concert pianist Gregory Taboloff will perform works by such legendary composers as Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and others masters at a piano concert, "Great Music from Great Ballets," Friday Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. at the Sherman Clay store, 1605 Bonanza St. in downtown Walnut Creek.

Lauren Jonas, Diablo Ballet's artistic director, will introduce and talk about each ballet.

Taboloff, a graduate of Skyline High School in Oakland, hailed from Southern California. He took Oakland and most of the West Coast by storm during his teenage competition-winning years, established himself as a performer and composer, and now lives with his wife of three years, Ann Marie, in San Ramon.

Taboloff is fresh off a Sept. 30 performance with the California Symphony at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts. He had been waiting 26 years for the opportunity to sit under the baton of guest conductor Robert Moody, and performed the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2.

"Patience works out," Taboloff joked. He called the opportunity of his California Symphony debut "a dream come true."

Two years ago, a phone call accelerated what had been a deliberate courtship by the symphony's board of directors.

"They've gone to my concerts for many years, and finally the date was set up," he said.

The Sept. 30 California Symphony performance had been agreed upon seven months ago, and Taboloff practiced four hours a day in advance of that concert.


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"There are repeated, five- and six-note chords, which means you have to split your fingers and play right on the cracks," he said of Rachmaninoff concerto performed Sept. 30, identifying one of its greatest challenges. "I usually try to stay away from pieces like that, but I love the long cantabile lines and getting the rubato going."

It helps that Taboloff has a natural inclination for his instrument.

"For me, the piano is something I could not live without," he said. "I've tried other instruments -- the viola and clarinet -- and they opened up doors for me. At Skyline, I got to do a lot of music, which wouldn't have happened with just the piano."

One experience, playing viola in the musical "South Pacific," ranks low on his musical satisfaction scale, but high on the experience of a brush with a celebrity classmate.

"I didn't get to know Tom Hanks, but our paths crossed in the musical," he said. "I remember the guffaws when he came out dressed as a transvestite in one scene. At our high school reunions, everybody talks about him, but he's never come up for a concert. Maybe he will someday."

He said having a contemplative approach to life is a good temperament for a pianist.

"Stepping back, looking at the work, tackling one small section at a time: you have to be brave, intrepid," he said.

That doesn't mean he has always been hopeful.

"My dad was very pessimistic about my ever making a living and I had a pianist friend who was so frustrated he committed suicide ... so I was discouraged at times," he said. "But it also made me work all the harder to be the exception."

To relieve the tension in his fingers and forearms, Taboloff visits an acupressure massage therapist. To release the stress from performing, he engages in long distance bicycling and plays tennis with his wife.

"That's where we met -- on the tennis courts in Lafayette, and it was on Valentine's Day," he said.

IF YOU GO
WHAT: Piano concert, Gregory Taboloff, "Great Music from Great Ballets"
WHERE: Sherman Clay store, 1605 Bonanza St., downtown Walnut Creek
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
COST: Free
INFO: Diablo Ballet at 925-943-1775 or visit www.DiabloBallet.org.