Fresno Philharmonic’s Rei Hotoda joins guest artist Fabio Bidini for a 2-piano evening

One of the perks of having a music director who is also a concert pianist is the occasional chance to hear her play along with watching her conduct. That’s the case with this weekend’s Fresno Philharmonic “Mozart x2” concert. (Performances are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, at Shaghoian Hall.) Rei Hotoda will do double duty when she conducts and plays Mozart’s Concerto for 2 pianos in E-flat Major K. 365. Here are Five Things to Know About the Concert:


You get two pianos for the price of one.

Pictured above: Italian pianist Fabio Bidini joins the Fresno Philharmonic. Photo: The Colburn School

Hotoda will be joined by guest artist Fabio Bidini, the Italian pianist (and finalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1993) who returns to Fresno after performances more than 15 years ago with the Fresno Philharmonic and Keyboard Concerts series.

Bidini teaches at the Colburn School in Los Angeles and engages in a robust concert touring schedule around the world (when we’re not in a pandemic). He is a big fan of the concerto and has played it many times before, he tells me in a phone interview earlier this week.


Before this week, Bidini and Hotoda hadn’t played together.

“I’m very much looking forward to it,” he says.

They planned to rehearse the piece together this week before the concert, of course. They won’t have to discuss how to play Mozart — as professional musicians, they both know stylistically the essence of the composer and of the piece, what Bidini calls “the perfume of 1700” that is needed when it is performed. But there are parts of this difficult concerto that are very free, with no rhythmic pulse, and the two pianists need to be of the same mind.


The most difficult thing to overcome, he says, is the percussive nature of the piano. There is always a sound delay coming from an instrument, even if they’re right next to each other, and the players need to be in perfect sync so that the hammers strike the strings at precisely the same time.

“It’s a challenge,” Bidini says.


Mozart may have written this concerto to play with his sister. Or may have not.

It’s one of those details that has been lost in the mists of music history, Bidini says.

“It is true that the sister was a pianist. It is true that he had a very special relationship with his sister. It is not very clear that he wrote it for her.”

It’s a nice story, however. It’s important to remember that because of the times, it’s not as if Mozart’s sister would have ever performed with her brother in public. Women just didn’t do that back then.

After his forced pandemic vacation, Bidini is reembracing touring life with a vengeance. (On the day after his Fresno concert, he’ll be going on to Houston.) Streaming concerts are OK. Teaching on Zoom is better than nothing. But you can’t beat performing live. “The best music happens in the moment,” he says.


There’s more to the program.

The orchestra will play Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances” and Gabriela Lena Frank “Elegia Andina.” Both works are inspired by folk music traditions.


Final thought: Never forget that Mozart was a consummate entertainer.

“People should expect lots of surprises, as Mozart always does,” Bidini says. “Normally he writes to surprise people, to put a smile on the faces of people. He uses changes in direction, changes of character, changes of articulation. People should look to have a fun evening. It’s very entertaining.”

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Vicki

    Is this the place to express an interest in the free tickets to the show tomorrow, Sunday? Because I am interested.


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