Epic Victory

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Two Russian works open new season October 14

The Folsom Lake Symphony’s season-opening concert, Epic Victory, on October 14 presents two standout works by Russian composers that brought renewal of hope to each under different circumstances.

Jon Nakamatsu, pianistSergey Rachmaninoff’s enduring Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, featuring guest soloist Jon Nakamatsu on the piano, opens the concert with keyboard sounds of tolling bells. Dmitri Shostakovich’s triumphant Symphony No. 5 follows intermission.

Mr. Nakamatsu, a Stanford University graduate, is the first American since 1981 to win a Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He has performed worldwide, including the Lincoln Center in New York and the White House. As a duo, he and clarinetist Jon Manasse perform and serve as artistic directors of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival. Mr. Nakamatsu has produced several CDs, with his all-Gershwin recording rising to No. 3 on Billboard’s classical music charts.

Piano Concerto No. 2 premiered in Russia on Nov. 9, 1901, with Rachmaninoff, also a piano virtuoso, playing the solo. Only his second major composition, the concerto was the composer’s return to writing after a long bout of depression. The piece, one of the finest violin concertos ever written, brought Rachmaninoff immediate fame. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the composer became an exile, living primarily in the United States. From that time, he produced little original work but continued to perform. Ultimately, he became an American citizen. Recordings of Rachmaninoff performing this concerto can be heard online.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 premiered before Russian dictator Joseph Stalin in Leningrad on Nov. 21, 1937. The composer had feared for his life after Stalin condemned his first opera in 1934, and wrote this politically correct symphony, subtitled “A Soviet Artist’s Response to Just Criticism,” to restore his family’s safety. Though modeled on Beethoven’s style, opening with a sonata, and incorporating a motif from Bizet’s Carmen, Stalin was satisfied the work fulfilled his demands for music that glorified Russia. The last movement incorporates a poem by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Music critics widely contend this symphony contains hidden references to the composer’s despair of communism.

Folsom Lake Symphony will perform Epic Victory, under the baton of Maestro Peter Jaffe, at the Harris Center for the Performing Arts on October 14 at 7:30 p.m. You can buy tickets now by clicking on the button below, by calling 916-608-6888 or by visiting the Harris Center ticket office on the Folsom Lake College campus.

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