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Russian-American Connection Brings Two RPO Debuts and a Popular Symphony

January 29, 2009

Cellist and Concerto Both Make First Appearances with RPO Paired with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth

Rochester, NY – An RPO debut by a young soloist isn’t unexpected, but when that artist gives the Rochester premiere of a well-known concerto written more than 60 years ago, audiences are in for a treat.  On Thursday, February 19 and Saturday, February 21 at 8:00 pm, American cellist Julie Albers performs for the first time with the RPO under guest conductor Daniel Hege in the Rochester premiere of Samuel Barber’s Cello Concerto – commissioned in 1945 for another women cellist – which the Orchestra never has played.  The concert opens with Mosaics by well-known American composer, Howard Hanson, an early director of the Eastman School of Music.  Mr. Hege leads the RPO in Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony for the concert’s second half.  He also hosts the pre-concert chat at 7:00 pm. 

Composed in 1957, Howard Hanson’s Mosaics is a set of variations on a theme, inspired by the glorious mosaics in the Cathedral of Palermo, Sicily.  Hanson, whose music is decidedly romantic, lushly scored, melodic, and approachable, wrote that the descriptive title “might suggest the way mosaics seem to change color and even form as lights and shadows play upon the composition.” 

The music of American composer Samuel Barber combines the emotional warmth and communicative spirit found in 19th Century Romanticism with techniques of contemporary practice that personally suited him.  His Cello Concerto was commissioned in 1945 by the Russian-born Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director, Serge Koussevitsky, for Raya Garbousova, a well-known cello virtuoso of the time.  She and Barber collaborated closely throughout the composition process.  For all the Concerto’s technical hurdles, it focuses on the lyrical side of the cello’s nature, contrasting dramatic energy and warmth.  The slow second movement is one of Barber’s most beautiful and expressive creations.  The virtuosic Finale culminates in powerful dialogues between the soloist and orchestra.

American cellist Julie Albers already is recognized for her superlative artistry, intense musicianship, and her charismatic, radiant performing style.  In 1998, she made her major orchestral debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, subsequently performing in recital and with orchestras in the United States, Europe, Korea, Taiwan, and New Zealand.  In addition to her solo performances, Ms. Albers regularly participates in chamber music festivals around the world.  In 2006, she began a three-year residency with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Two.  She is currently active with the Albers String Trio and the cello quartet, CELLO.  She recently toured through New York State with Daniel Hege and the Syracuse Symphony. 

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony is based on a recurring “providence” theme that represented the composer’s outlook on life at the time.  Christopher Seaman describes it as follows: “The theme is dark at the beginning, then raging with despair when it returns in the second movement, sinister when it haunts the end of the third movement (a delicious Tchaikovsky waltz), and finally glorious in the Finale.  A wonderful sense of the positive triumphing over the negative!”

A popular guest conductor with the RPO and many other American and international orchestras, Daniel Hege has been music director of the Syracuse Symphony since 1999.  Recent and upcoming guest conducting appearances include the Orlando and Louisiana Philharmonics, the Grand Rapids, Tulsa, Amarillo, and Santa Rosa symphonies and re-engagements with the Louisville Orchestra and the Wichita Symphony. In April 2003, Mr. Hege led the Syracuse Symphony in a critically acclaimed concert at a sold-out Carnegie Hall. He has also made two recordings: a disc with the Baltimore Symphony and the Morgan State University Choir featuring works by Adolphus Hailstork and a CD with the Syracuse Symphony with works by Verdi, Barber, Debussy, Respighi, and James Johnson.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$56, 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), and seven days a week at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.

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 discounted $9 Philharmonics Series tickets to local students. 

Celebrating its 86th season in 2008-09, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music, presenting nearly 200 performances each season to a combined audience of an estimated quarter of a million people, including more than 70,000 who experience the RPO’s broad range of educational and community programs.  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 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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