Piano Virtuoso$23 - $29
Sergei Babayan & Firelands Symphony Chorale
“Babayan is no mere pianist. He is a master-musician for whom the piano is his voice, his orchestra.”
Trained at the Moscow Conservatory and professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Sergei Babayan takes the stage performing Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3” will be performed.
Saturday, April 21, 2017 7:30pm at Sandusky State Theatre
Conversation with the Conductor 6:30pm
Carl Topilow, Music Director and Conductor
Firelands Symphony Orchestra, Full Orchestra
Sergei Babayan, Guest Pianist
The Moving Company, Guest Dancers
“Piano Concerto #3” // Rachmaninoff with Sergei Babayan, piano
“Gopak from The Fair at Sorochinsk” // Modest Mussorgsky
“Mysterious Mountain” // Alan Hovhaness
“Polovtsian Dances” // Alexander Borodin with Firelands Symphony Chorale
Piano Concerto No. 3
Movements/Sections: 3 movements
Composition Year 1909Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30, composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The work premiered on November 28, 1909, in New York City with the composer as soloist. It was the first of many American triumphs for Rachmaninoff, who would ultimately make his home in the United States.
In 1909, a few years after his stalled compositional career was revived by the successful premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 2, Rachmaninoff launched his first concert tour of the United States. The journey was undertaken much against his will. Three months of almost daily concert appearances, both as soloist and as conductor, held little appeal, for not much time would remain for composition. Moreover, he would be deprived of the quiet times on his country estate with his wife and young children. Yet then as now, in classical music as in popular music, the best way to promote one’s music is to play it before the public, and so early in October 1909, Rachmaninoff boarded ship to cross the Atlantic. Packed in his luggage was the manuscript for a new concerto, completed the previous week. During the voyage, Rachmaninoff practiced the solo part as time allowed.
The premiere took place on November 28, 1909, with Rachmaninoff as soloist with the New York Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Walter Damrosch. Some weeks later, it would be heard in New York again, this time with the New York Philharmonic as conducted by no less a figure than Gustav Mahler. Those two ensembles competed with one another for place as the city’s finest orchestra until, in 1928, they finally merged under the Philharmonic’s name.
Of the new piece, New York’s music critics had much to say, some of it favourable. The music writer for the New York Herald declared it to be one of “the most interesting piano concertos of recent years,” whereas the New York Tribune writer praised the work for its “essential dignity and beauty.” Both critics, however, decried the work’s length and suggested the Rachmaninoff should shorten it. Rachmaninoff did undertake some revisions; however, the changes were minor and caused little abbreviation of the score. Perhaps he felt, as Mozart once remarked about his own music, that it had exactly as many notes as were required.
For this newest concerto, Rachmaninoff chose the key of D Minor. It is the same key used by Brahms for his Piano Concerto No. 1 and by Beethoven for his epic Symphony No. 9. Both of those earlier works drew upon the possibilities of epic force lying within the chords and harmonies of D Minor. From time to time, Rachmaninoff draws upon those forces, but not continually, and certainly not in the opening moments. He begins the opening Allegro ma non tanto with gentle melancholy and a theme for the soloist that rises and falls in soft waves. That theme reappears as a unifying idea here and there in the first movement, juxtaposed with other contrasting melodies. Rachmaninoff was rarely at a loss for a good tune, and here he lives up to that standard, with themes ranging from reflective moods to rolling thunder.
Those sharply different moods also fill the second movement (Intermezzo), which, despite its generally languid tempo yet manages to offer shifting shades of expression. Sweetly melancholy at the beginning, with a prominent role for oboe and rich strings, several minutes pass before the soloist joins, first with intricate passagework, then with a lyrical, song-like theme. Stormier transitions appear, but most of the movement is spent in reflective mood, and Rachmaninoff often chooses to contrast busy piano passagework with more restful woodwind lines.
The Finale: Alla breve is a feast of restless energy with soloist and orchestra alike ever on the move, driving determinedly into the final pages. Here, Rachmaninoff demands of the soloist a diversity of techniques: busily intricate passagework, sweetly flowing phrases, and also powerful chordal statements. Given a soloist of Rachmaninoff’s skill—a tall and lanky man, he tended to compose piano works with his own large hands in mind—it is a concerto of dramatic impact.
Alexander Borodin – Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
Alexander Borodin was born in St. Petersburg on November 12, 1833, and died there on February 27, 1887. He began work on his opera Knyaz’ Igor (Prince Igor) in 1869‑70, then dropped it until 1874, after which he kept working at the score, which was still not entirely finished at his death 13 years later. After being completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov, the opera received its premiere at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg on November 16, 1890. In addition to the mixed chorus, the score calls for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, bells, snare drum, suspended cymbal, tambourine, and triangle), harp, and strings. Duration is about 12 minutes
Surely Alexander Borodin composed the best music ever written by a practicing chemist. He received a doctorate for his dissertation On the Analogy of Arsenical with Phosphoric Acid, while at the same time practicing his cello and writing some of his first chamber works. At the age of 31 he became a full professor of chemistry at the Medico‑Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg. His professional life was spent there investigating the products of the condensation of the aldehydes of valerian, enantol, and vinegar. But he led a second life as well, one that was enthusiastically supported by a group of Russian nationalist musicians including Balakirev and Musorgsky. Partly with their encouragement and support he began writing in the larger forms, producing ultimately three symphonies, two string quartets and other chamber music, piano pieces, songs, and several stage works.
Prince Igor was intended to be his masterpiece; though he spent 18 years of part‑time work on the score, it was not quite finished when he died, and only through the contributions of Rimsky‑Korsakov and Glazunov was it finally brought to performance. The opera has had a mixed success over the years, largely because Borodin insisted on writing his own libretto and had started the composing before even clarifying some of the lines of the plot. The result is a colorful opera that now seems somewhat disjointed and that is heard outside of Russia only in occasional revivals (though the Metropolitan Opera has revived it recently, a production seen worldwide in high-definition video).
When it is heard, however, the extended ballet sequence known as the “Polovtsian Dances” never fails to steal the show. This was designed as a series of entertainments for Prince Igor to pass the time while he is held captive in the camp of the great Khan. The dances are performed, in the opera house, with choruses alternating between the seductions of the slave girls and the vigorous praise of the great Khan himself. Often the choruses are omitted in concert performance, but they add greatly to the barbaric splendor of the scene, further enriched by Borodin’s brilliantly colorful orchestration. The enchanting melodic grace of these dances was recognized by Robert Wright and George Forrest, who mined this particular field for no fewer than three songs in their musical Kismet; that melodic freshness in Borodin’s original form has made the Polovtsian Dances an ever‑popular orchestral showpiece.
Hailed for his emotional intensity, bold energy and remarkable levels of color, Sergei Babayan brings a deep understanding and insight to a stylistically diverse repertoire, which includes a performance history of 54 concertos. Le Figaro has praised his “unequaled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity.”
Highlights of the 2016/2017 season include recitals in Montreal; Vancouver; Lawrence, Kansas; St. Paul, Minnesota; Durham, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Evanston, Illinois; duo recitals with Daniil Trifonov in Princeton New Jersey, and Sarasota, Florida; chamber music performances in Los Angeles, and Fort Worth; and a return again to the Verbier Festival for a recital in August 2017.
In the spring of 2016, Mr. Babayan’s recording of Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev was released on the Mariinsky label to great acclaim.
In the 2015/2016 season, Mr. Babayan’s schedule included concerto performances with the Rotterdam Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev and with the Camerata Israel in Tel Aviv; performances at the “Progetto Martha Argerich” in Lugano, Switzerland; at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, and at Bad Kissengen, Germany; recital and concerto performances in duo with Daniil Trifonov at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia; a return to Wigmore Hall in London; recitals and chamber music performances in Los Angeles; Atlanta; East Lansing, Michigan; and Columbia, South Carolina, among others.
In the 2014/2015 season, Mr. Babayan’s schedule included performances in Lugano with Martha Argerich; a return to the Verbier Festival, where he debuted in July 2014; and performances in London at Wigmore Hall. Of special note was his BBC Proms performance of two Prokofiev piano concertos, numbers 2 and 5, at Royal Albert Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev.
Babayan has collaborated with such conductors as Yuri Temirkanov, Neeme Jarvi, Hans Graf, David Robertson, Tugan Sokhiev, and Kazimierz Kord, among others. Over the years, Babayan has performed with Valery Gergiev numerous times to great critical acclaim, including appearances at the International Festival “Stars of the White Nights”, the Moscow Easter Festival, the Barbican with Mo. Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, in St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Théâtre des Champs-Elyseés in Paris, at the Salzburg Festival, and at the Rotterdam Philharmonic-Gergiev Festival where Babayan was artist-in-residence.
Mr. Babayan performs with the world’s foremost orchestras, including the London Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, Warsaw Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Nationale de Lille, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony.
His engagements and tours have brought him to preeminent international concert venues including Salle Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Warsaw Philharmonic, Severance Hall in Cleveland, Mariinsky Theatre in St.Petersburg, Herkulessaal in Munich, Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Meistersingerhalle in Nurnberg, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Brahms-Saal in Karlsruhe, Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Philharmonie Hall in Essen, Rudolfinum-Dvorak Hall in Prague, Victora Hall in Geneva in and many others.
Mr. Babayan’s performances have been broadcast by WQXR, WCLV, Radio France, Polish Radio and Television, BBC-TV, NHK Satellite Television and Medici TV.
Born in Armenia into a musical family, Babayan began his studies there with Georgy Saradjev and continued at the Moscow Conservatory with Mikhail Pletnev, Vera Gornostayeva and Lev Naumov. Following his first trip outside of the USSR in 1989, he won consecutive first prizes in several major international competitions including the Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition (renamed the Cleveland International Piano Competition), the Hamamatsu Piano Competition, and the Scottish International Piano Competition.
The Moving Company first began offering dance classes in September of 1980. Our school provides a friendly and safe environment for students to develop dancing skills and increase self-esteem. We emphasize proper dance technique and creativity in a positive, fun atmosphere where every student has the opportunity to develop his or her body and mind.
Whether novice or advanced, we encourage each dancer to feel confident and successful! We are very proud of the quality dance education we provide and ask that you check out the credentials of our fabulous faculty, as well as our beautiful facility. On behalf of the entire staff, I invite you to join our dance family.
– Wendy Miller, Director
Diane and Gary Ackerman
The Patrick and Louise E. Murray Foundation