The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO), led by Music Director Marin Alsop, welcomes back award-winning pianist Garrick Ohlsson to perform Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto as part of an all-Rachmaninoff program on the Classical Concert Series, which also includes Rachmaninoff's Isle of the Dead and Cinq Etudes-tableaux on Thursday January 17, 2013 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 3 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Maestra Alsop and Mr. Ohlsson will also collaborate for a performance of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto as part of the Off the Cuff Series on Friday, January 18, 2013 at 8:15 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore and Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 7 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Capitalizing on Marin Alsop's charismatic way of illuminating classical music, Off the Cuff Series programs focus on one masterwork, allowing Maestra Alsop to discuss the back story of the piece and the composer's life. Please see below for complete program details.
Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto is considered by many pianists to be one of the most technically challenging works ever written for the instrument. The work was composed while Rachmaninoff was staying on his family's rural estate in 1909 in preparation for his first American tour. Determined to make a lasting impression on the Americans, Rachmaninoff made this work quite a showpiece. Its intricate passages, bold chords and relentless pacing give the pianist little rest and are deftly managed by audience-favorite Garrick Ohlsson. Moreover, it's more than a vehicle of virtuosity, but also an expressive work that runs the gamut of emotions, from turbulent drama to tuneful lyricism. The New York Times had this praise for Ohlsson's past performance of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto: "Mr. Ohlsson dispatched the rippling passagework and crashing chords with authority and rhapsodic sweep. But this was an uncommonly elegant and lucid Rachmaninoff Third."
Also on the Classical Concert Series program is Rachmaninoff's tone poem, Isle of the Dead, inspired by the mysterious painting of the same title by artist Arnold Böcklin. The painting's mood-with its ominous purple clouds that hover over a rowboat and two stark figures--is expressed musically with Rachmaninoff's use of the downward motive, "Dies Irae," or "Day of Atonement"-the traditional chant sung at Roman Catholic burials.
Another work on the Classical Concert Series program is Rachmaninoff's Op. 33 and 39 or "Pictorial Etudes" are works that married Chopin's elevation of the etude from a methodical study into a short work of musical value, with the Romantic ideas of program music. In 1929, conductor Koussevitzky and his publishers commissioned Respighi to orchestrate a set of Rachmaninoff's etudes. Rachmaninoff called these works "tableaux" or "pictures," as they were inspired by art or scenes in nature, such as swooping seagulls, a boisterous fair or a funeral on a rainy day.