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On The Podium and at The Piano, It's All Andrew

October 30, 2008

Two Rising Stars – Guest Conductor Andrew Grams and Pianist Andrew von Oeyen – Perform Together with RPO

Rochester, NY – The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra may be seeing double next month, as two gifted young artists named Andrew take the Eastman Theatre stage together with the RPO at 8:00 pm on Thursday, November 20 and Saturday, November 22Guest Conductor Andrew Grams conducts pianist Andrew von Oeyen in Liszt’s Totentanz (Dance of Death).  Also on the program are works by Haydn and Bartók.  Julia Figueras, music director at WXXI-FM, hosts the pre-concert chat at 7:00 pm.

One of America’s most promising young conductors, Andrew Grams already has debuted with many of the great orchestras including those of Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, National, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, and the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Rome.  In 2007, he completed a three-year term as Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra – an appointment made by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst – during which he made his first subscription series appearance.  A Maryland native, Grams began conducting at age 17, when he directed the World Youth Symphony Orchestra at the Interlochen Arts Camp.  A versatile musician, Grams received a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the Juilliard School and a conducting degree from the Curtis Institute of Music.  This season, he debuts with the New Jersey, Utah, National Arts Centre, Edmonton, Melbourne, and Hamburg symphony orchestras, and returns to conduct the Cleveland Orchestra and the Miami City Ballet.

Grams opens the concert with Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, “La Passione,” written during the composer’s Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period, mirroring an emotionally similar movement in German literature.  The Symphony may possess links to Easter, with some suggesting Haydn meditating over the story of Jesus’ suffering.  The piece is characterized by a poignant and plaintive mood, a departure from the composer’s usually less serious musical moods.

Andrew von Oeyen made his RPO debut only two years ago, performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  His Liszt was so popular that he returns this year performing another brilliant piece by the same composer, Totentanz (Dance of Death) for Piano and Orchestra.  Like many artists of his era, Liszt held a deep fascination for the macabre.  Among his numerous works in a sinister vein, Totentanz is perhaps his finest, as well as his final and most stylistically advanced for this instrumental combination.  A fiery, virtuosic work representing the diabolical and the spiritual, it consists of atmospheric, highly demanding variations on Dies irae (Day of Wrath), drawn from the medieval Latin Mass for the Dead.  Portraying the fearsome final judgment day, the piece is truly devilish for the performer, with plenty of keyboard pyrotechnics interwoven with passages of lyricism and meditation.

Since his debut at age 17 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andrew von Oeyen has performed to critical acclaim in recital and orchestral appearances around the world. Of his Kennedy Center recital, Tim Page of the Washington Post wrote, “a smart, varied and altogether engrossing recital by Andrew von Oeyen...In fact, I would go so far as to say that von Oeyen played the finest all-around performance of Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor that I have heard in many years.”   From big romantic concerti by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky to works by Gershwin and Kurt Weill, von Oeyen obviously already is commanding an extensive and diverse repertoire. Next season, he will perform throughout the United States and Europe in recital with violinist Sarah Chang.

Commissioned in 1943 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra was written to show off single instruments or groups of instruments in a soloist manner.  Music Director Seaman describes the piece as having “a rather sinister opening, which gives way to an energetic section with a lot of counterpoint.”  The movement “Game of the Pairs” showcases Bartók’s sense of humor, with the theme passing from pairs of bassoons to oboes, clarinets, flutes, and trumpets.  In “Interrupted Intermezzo,” the oboe begins, followed by a folksy tune in the strings.  A dance-like rhythm is suddenly interrupted by a clarinet.  The finale is introduced by the horns, with strings swirling, intertwined with brass fanfares and Hungarian dance rhythms.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$56 ($9 for students), available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100), and in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm).  The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers $9 Philharmonics Series tickets to local students. 

Celebrating its 86th 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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