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Jean Oelrich
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Internationally Celebrated Pianist Garrick Ohlsson Returns For The First Time Since The 1999-2000 Pacific Symphony Season To Perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 Under The Baton Of Norwegian Conductor Rune Bergmann

Orange County, Calif. — October 04, 2017

Hailed by The Independent as a “big pianist with a calmly commanding presence,” Garrick Ohlsson joins Pacific Symphony for Mozart’s Ninth Piano Concerto—a work that legendary pianist Alfred Brendel has referenced as “one of the greatest wonders of the world.” The Financial Times has written: “Garrick Ohlsson, playing without a score, dignified the piece with his phenomenal pianism—never self-servingly virtuosic—and equally phenomenal memory.” The versatile Norwegian conductor Rune Bergmann steps in as conductor to replace the injured André Previn. In addition to the Mozart masterpiece, Bergmann conducts the orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s daunting Second Symphony plus André Previn’s latest original work, “Almost an Overture,” in its West Coast premiere.

The Symphony’s second concert of the 2017-18 season takes place Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 19-21, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Season ticket packages are $275-$1,061. Single tickets are $25-$116. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 was composed in January 1777, the month he turned 21. He was no longer touring Europe with his father and sister, performing and astounding audiences as a child virtuoso. At this point, Mozart was settled back in Salzburg, his home town, and, aside from spending three months in Munich, he was devoting himself to composing and performing in his role as concertmaster to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. His Ninth Concerto is known ​as the “Jeunehomme,” which is a reference to the pianist who inspired the work, Victoire Jenamy, the daughter of the famous 18th-century ballet master, Noverre, who was apparently in Salzburg during the winter of 1776-77. While little is known about her, it’s thought that if she was able to play the concerto, she must have been a considerably impressive pianist; Mozart took the work with him to show off his own prowess when he went looking for a new job in Mannheim and Paris in 1777-78.

The exuberance and ambition of the piece are obvious—it is both dazzling and breathtaking, and was a favorite of the composer. It demonstrates major growth in Mozart’s abilities since his earlier concertos. Conceived on a grand scale, it was the first of his piano concertos to appear in print, published in Paris around 1780. The orchestral scoring is for pairs of horns and oboes plus the usual complement of strings. Created in the typical three-movement form (Allegro, Andantino, Rondeau: Presto), the work has uncommon qualities that are evident from the opening bars. Instead of the usual extended orchestral introduction, the piano immediately replies to the orchestra’s opening motif. The passionate dialogue between piano and orchestra that ensues, and some stunning cadenzas, make the piece the perfect vehicle for ardent showmanship in the hands of Ohlsson.

The Seattle Times last year wrote that Ohlsson possessed: “…an incredible technique with razor sharp accuracy, producing a sound so lush it almost glistens.” Since his triumph as winner of the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition, Ohlsson has established himself worldwide as a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess, who commands an enormous repertoire ranging over the entire piano literature. 

Also on the program is Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, and actually, it’s nearly a miracle that he ever wrote it. The Russian master was so emotionally distraught by the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897 (calling it “the most agonizing hour of my life)” that the 24-year-old composer plunged into a deep depression. Unable to write a note, compositions he’d promised to artists and orchestras went undelivered.

Three years later, in desperation, Rachmaninoff went to see Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a psychiatrist who also was an amateur violinist. After four months of Dahl’s hypnosis, in which he repeated, “You will work with great facility,” Rachmaninoff recovered. He not only began to compose again but he also finished the score that became his most popular work—the Second Piano Concerto (dedicated to Dahl). Rachmaninoff played the piano solo at the premiere of the concerto in 1901 to triumphant success. While Rachmaninoff continued to suffer from depression for the rest of his life, he eventually went on to write his Second Symphony—

his greatest victory. It’s a work that is trademark Rachmaninoff: epic and passionate, from slow and brooding to urgent and yearning, eventually reaching heights of rapture. The exhilarating conclusion is not easily forgotten.

Bergmann rounds out the program by conducting the West Coast premiere of Previn’s new work, “Almost an Overture” for orchestra. With an international career in classical music, Previn has enjoyed success in movies, musicals, popular music and jazz. In 2014, he was the sole subject of Pacific Symphony’s critically acclaimed American Composers Festival (ACF). After ACF, the OC Register wrote: “André Previn, 86, is enjoying a kind of Indian summer as a composer, more prolific now as a creator of concert music and opera than at any time in his career... Previn’s new music suggests an ease and mastery that don’t have anything to prove.”

Bergmann, who conducted Pacific Symphony last season in a well-received program of Scandinavian repetoire, steps in for the ailing Maestro Previn in his absence due to injury, as he is currently under doctor’s orders not to travel. The 2017-18 season marks the beginning of Bergmann’s tenure as music director of Canada’s Calgary Philharmonic and his second season as artistic director & chief conductor of Poland’s Szczecin Philharmonic.

Pacific Symphony’s Classical Series is made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from The Westin South Coast Plaza, KUSC and PBS SoCal.