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Pianist Louis Lortie Joining RPO to Recreate Historical First Concert

February 28, 2008

Commemorative Anniversary Concert Features Landmark Repertoire from RPO’s Debut Concert

Rochester, NY – If George Eastman was sitting in his regular seat in the mezzanine section of the Eastman Theatre on Thursday, March 20 and Saturday, March 22 at 8 p.m. with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performing onstage, he would be feeling right at home.  The March 2008 performers may be different, but the music, by Herbert, Grieg and Tchaikovsky, will be a historical déjà vu. 

As one of the major highlights of its 85th anniversary season, the RPO looks back to its earliest days recalling the night on March 28, 1923 when conductor Arthur Alexander first raised his baton to conduct the debut concert of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra with guest pianist Alf Klingenberg.  This time, Christopher Seaman leads the RPO in Victor Herbert’s Irish Rhapsody, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Canadian pianist Louis Lortie and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique.”  Christopher Seaman hosts the pre-concert chat at 7 p.m.

Victor Herbert composed the delightful Irish Rhapsody in 1892.  Commissioned by the Gaelic Society of America, it was premiered in New York a year later at the Society’s annual meeting with the composer conducting.  Skillfully constructed and colorfully orchestrated, it alternates a medley of traditional airs with lyrical melodies and lively dances.  Quoted themes include All Those Endearing Young Charms; Erin, Oh, Erin, Come O’er the Sea, and more.

Grieg’s Piano Concerto is the composer’s only outstanding large-scale creation.  Composed in 1868, the piece was premiered the following year by Edmund Neupert, the pianist who advised Grieg on the concerto’s solo part and premiered it the following year.  The first movement boasts one of the most familiar openings in the entire concerto repertoire; it is memorable through its simplicity.  The rather melancholy movement is balanced by ample warmth, followed by a long and difficult solo cadenza.  The second movement is a tender song without words.  The Finale follows directly, modeled on the springdans (leaping dance), a Norwegian folk step.  In contrast, the second theme provides a wistful and beautifully poetic melody, concluding with a grand triumphant hymn.
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 was given its descriptive title by Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modest, who chose “pathétique” because its subtext of passion and suffering reflected the composer’s struggle with fate.  Christopher Seaman describes the opening as “dark and brooding,” with the first movement alternating between struggle and great tenderness.  The second movement, a waltz, promises a graceful contrast, but with five beats to a measure instead of three, the mood is thrown off-kilter.  Seaman goes on to describe that “the manic excitement of the third (a march) is followed by a poignant and tragic Finale, ending by going into the darkness.  But Tchaikovsky’s music, however tragic its emotions, always retains a degree of nobility.”

Canadian pianist Louis Lortie has been praised for the fresh perspective and individuality he brings to a broad spectrum of the keyboard literature.  He has performed the complete works of Ravel in London and Montreal for the BBC and CBC; the complete Beethoven sonatas in London, Toronto, Berlin and Milan; and all five Beethoven piano concertos with the Montreal and Quebec Symphonies. He often performs major contemporary works, recently focusing on pieces by British composer Thomas Adès.  Lortie has made over 30 recordings on the Chandos label, ranging from Mozart to Stravinsky. 

Tickets for these performances are $22-$57, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100); in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.); and seven days a week at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.  Students and senior citizens are entitled to a 20% discount on advance single ticket purchases as well as half-price rush tickets beginning at 10 a.m. on the concert day.

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb. Christopher Seaman’s appearance is made possible by Friends of Christopher; his pre-concert chat is made possible by Drs. Robin and Michael Weintraub in memory of their parents.   The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers $5 Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students with valid ID. 

Celebrating its 85th season in 2007-08, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two recent ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County and the City of Rochester. 

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