Celebrate Valentine’s Day with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra!

HSO presents Rachmaninoff & Firebird
February 12-15 with guest pianist Sean Chen

Sean ChenCelebrate Valentine’s Day with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra! The HSO will present Rachmaninoff & Firebird as the fifth concert of its 2014-2015 Masterworks Series on Thursday, February 12 through Sunday, February 15 in the Belding Theater at The Bushnell in Hartford.  The concerts will feature HSO Music Director Carolyn Kuan and guest pianist Sean Chen. The program will include Wagner’s Overture to Tannhäuser, WWV 70, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (featuring images from the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Coney Island exhibit) and Stravinsky’s The Firebird: Suite (1919). The 2014-2015 Masterworks Series is sponsored by MetLife Foundation and The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation. This is the Tina Mahar McNally and Alexander Campbell McNally Memorial Concert.  The HSO’s collaboration with the Wadsworth Atheneum featuring images from the Coney Island exhibit is sponsored by the Richard P. Garmany Fund at Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

About the Program
The Overture to Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser encapsulates in musical terms the dramatic conflict between the sacred love of the opera’s character Elisabeth and the profane love of the Venus character. The opera tells the story of a character called Tannhäuser who succumbed to the seductions of Venus in her mountain enclave and sought forgiveness through a pilgrimage to Rome and the love of a pure woman. For a series of orchestral concerts of his music in Zurich in 1853, Wagner wrote a grandiloquent synopsis of the Overture’s emotional progression, which reads in part: “At first the orchestra introduces us to the ‘Pilgrims’ Chorus’ alone. It approaches, swells to a mighty outpouring, and finally passes into the distance. As night falls, magic visions show themselves. A rosy mist swirls upward, and the blurred motions of a fearsomely voluptuous dance are revealed…. This is the seductive magic of the Venusberg. Lured by the tempting vision, Tannhäuser draws near. It is Venus herself who appears to him…. His heart and senses glow, the blood in his veins takes fire, an irresistible attraction draws him nearer, and he steps before the goddess. In drunken joy the Bacchantes rush upon him and draw him into their wild dance….”

The sumptuous Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor was the first orchestral work to carry the name of Sergei Rachmaninoff into the world’s concert halls. Other advances in Rachmaninoff’s life soon followed — many successful musical compositions, an appointment as the opera conductor of the Moscow Grand Theater, and a triumphant career as a concert pianist. Rachmaninoff once wrote, “I try to make music speak simply and directly that which is in my heart at the time I am composing. If there is love there, or bitterness, or sadness, or religion, these moods become part of my music, and it becomes either beautiful or bitter or sad or religious.” The heart of a true Romantic beat beneath the stern exterior of this man; his music is a direct link to the great traditions of the 19th-century masters.

Leonard Bernstein’s musical On the Town, with music by Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comdon and Adolph Green, tells the story of three sailors in New York who are determined to see everything in the city during their 24-hour leave. On the subway, one of the sailors falls in love with the poster picture of Miss Turnstiles, and the boys set out to find her. For his performances with the San Francisco Symphony in February 1946, Bernstein arranged “Three Dance Episodes” from the musical for full orchestra. The first movement, The Great Lover, captures the vibrant intensity of the bustling metropolis and the high spirits of the young sailors. Lonely Town (Pas de Deux), originally staged as a dance duet, is based on the expressive song of its title. The last “Episode” (Times Square — 1944) is a joyous fantasia on New York, New York, the show’s hit tune.

The Firebird, which Stravinsky regarded as his first mature composition, was a stunning success at its premiere. With this score, and the epochal Petrushka of the following year and The Rite of Spring of 1913, Stravinsky went in just five short years from an obscure student composer in Russia to one of the most famous musicians in the world. With somewhat uncharacteristic understatement, he said, “The Firebird radically altered my life.” The work has remained the most popular Stravinsky ever wrote. He conducted this score in its various versions “nearly a thousand times,” realizing that it was “a mainstay in my life as a conductor.” Stravinsky drew three concert suites from The Firebird. The first (1911) preserves the massive orchestra of the original, while the 1919 and 1945 suites are for reduced orchestra and use somewhat different portions of the score. The 1919 suite (which will be performed at this concert) includes six scenes from the complete score.

About Sean Chen
Pianist Sean Chen is being hailed as a rising star with a “million-volt smile” and a “formidable set of fingers” (Dallas Morning News). In 2013 Chen won the American Pianists Association’s DeHaan Classical Fellowship, one of the most lucrative and significant prizes available to an American pianist. He also won Third Prize at the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, becoming the first American to reach the finals since 1997. The 27-year-old American pianist has appeared as soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under Gerard Schwarz, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin and Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Corpus Christi, New West, Phoenix and San Diego symphony orchestras, and the Suwon City Philharmonic in South Korea. Last season Chen performed in recital at Jordan Hall in Boston, the Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago, SubCulture in New York City, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and on tour in the Czech Republic. Highlights of Chen’s 2014-15 season include debuts with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra at the Kimmel Center, the symphony orchestras of Hartford, Tucson, Santa Fe, and Carmel, and his return to the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. Recent CD releases include an album of Michael Williams’s solo piano works on the Parma label, a live recording from the Cliburn competition released by Harmonia Mundi, and La Valse, a solo recording on the Steinway label, as part of his American Pianists Association prize. The New York Times praised Chen’s “alluring, colorfully shaded renditions” of works by Scriabin and Ravel on the latter, and Los Angeles Music Examiner noted, “Los Angeles native Sean Chen has the rare ability to combine poetic musical sensibilities and dazzling technical prowess.”

Chen received his Artist Diploma at the Yale School of Music in 2014 as a George W. Miles Fellowship recipient, and a student of Hung-Kuan Chen and Tema Blackstone. In March 2014, International Piano magazine named Chen “One To Watch.”

Calendar Listing:
Hartford Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series
Thursday – Sunday, February 12-15, 2015
Belding Theater at The Bushnell
Thursday 7:30pm?Friday & Saturday 8pm?Sunday 3pm
Tickets starting at $38.50; $10.00 for students with ID
860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org
Carolyn Kuan conductor
Sean Chen piano
Wagner Overture to Tannhäuser, WWV 70
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
Bernstein Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (including images from the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Coney Island exhibit)
Stravinsky The Firebird (L’oiseau de feu): Suite (1919 version)
The Tina Maher McNally and Alexander Campbell McNally Memorial Concert
The HSO’s collaboration with the Wadsworth Atheneum featuring images from the Coney Island exhibit is sponsored by the Richard P. Garmany Fund at Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Season Sponsor: Travelers
Masterworks Series Sponsors:
MetLife Foundation and The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation
The Koski Memorial Concert
POPS! Series Presenting Sponsor: United Technologies
The Sunday Serenades Chamber Music Series is made possible, in part, by the Helen M.
Saunders Charitable Foundation Music endowment at the Wadsworth Atheneum.
HSO programs are funded in part by the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.


Upcoming HSO Concerts

Hartford Symphony Orchestra POPS! Series
The Music of Michael Jackson
Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Mortensen Hall at The Bushnell
Tickets starting at $20.00; $10.00 for students with ID
860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org
Join guest artist James Delisco, conductor Brent Havens and the HSO for an evening filled with fabulous music spanning 40 years of Michael Jackson’s influential and celebrated career.  Get ready to sing and moonwalk along to the hits, from the Jackson 5 to Thriller and beyond, including ABC, I’ll Be There, Beat It, Rock With You, The Way You Make Me Feel, and more.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series
Thursday – Sunday, March 12-15, 2015
Belding Theater at The Bushnell
Thursday 7:30pm?Friday & Saturday 8pm?Sunday 3pm
Tickets starting at $38.50; $10.00 for students with ID
860-987-5900 or www.hartfordsymphony.org
Gerard Schwartz conductor
Julian Schwartz cello
Schwarz World Premiere/Original Composition
Saint-Saëns Concerto No. 1 for Violoncello in A minor, Op. 33
Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
Saint-Saëns’ energetic and soaring cello Concerto No.1 and Brahms’ sunny Symphony No. 2 welcome the arrival of spring and an acclaimed father-son duo.  Internationally renowned conductor Gerard Schwarz leads the HSO and his son, accomplished cellist Julian Schwarz, in this program that also includes the premiere of the maestro’s original composition for the HSO.

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The Bushnell: 166 Capitol Ave. Hartford, CT 06106