The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra’s 90th season opens tonight with a highly anticipated performance featuring one of Chautauqua Institution’s favorite musicians: internationally renowned pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk.
At 8:15 p.m. tonight, June 27 in the Amphitheater, the CSO will accompany Gavrylyuk in a performance from Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op. 43. The concert will also feature Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, op. 32 and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor, op. 45.
For CSO Music Director and Principal Conductor Rossen Milanov, this concert marks the beginning of a landmark anniversary season.
“We have been planning the season for almost two years now,” Milanov said. “We were looking for something that would not only mark the importance of the anniversary, but also showcase the incredible diversity of approach that we have to the repertoire, the excellence of the orchestra, our connection to the audiences in Chautauqua and the importance of live music in the Chautauqua mix.”
Milanov is entering his fifth year as CSO conductor. He said that the CSO draws together the Institution’s unique performances by performing solo, with guests and with the Institution’s dance and opera companies.
“The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra is that connective tissue that pulls everything together,” Milanov said.
This season will show the importance of both the anniversary and the orchestra itself, according to Milanov.
“This is going to be a season like no other in recent years,” Milanov said. “We’re happy to mark this occasion and happy that the Chautauqua audience can hear the best of the repertoire, whether it’s traditional or contemporary.”
Milanov said that Gavrylyuk, a renowned musician and a local favorite, was the perfect choice for the CSO’s 90th opening concert. Gavrylyuk is the Institution’s Heintzelman Family Artistic Adviser for the School of Music Piano Program.
“I cannot possibly imagine a summer without Alexander being present both as a soloist of the orchestra and as a teacher with the piano department,” Milanov said. “He has a huge following; people love him, people love the freshness that he brings to everything that he touches.”
Gavrylyuk and Milanov performed Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini together at a set of concerts in Spain earlier this month. When the original guest for tonight’s concert, pianist Daniil Trifonov, was unable to attend, the Rachmaninoff piece was the natural choice.
Gavrylyuk said the piece is famously complex.
“(Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini) is one of the most famous works for orchestra, and probably the most advanced compositions by Rachmaninoff for piano and orchestra,” Gavrylyuk said. “It’s a piece which has many variations, and each variation is like a miniature picture. … Every variation has a small message, like a small theatrical play or a small painting.”
Gavrylyuk said the piece’s variations make it challenging but rewarding for musicians and listeners alike.
“It’s quite difficult, this piece,” Gavrylyuk said. “It’s one of the most difficult works, but it is equally rewarding.”
Tonight’s concert will also open the CSO’s Russian Festival, which will feature two other performances of Russian compositions: “Sleeping Beauty” with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre on Saturday, July 13, and “Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff” on Thursday, Aug. 1