A GJSO premiere and Denver pianist Katie Mahan highlight a weekend of performances at the Avalon

On Saturday, January 24th and again on Sunday, January 25th, the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra takes the Avalon stage for Rachmaninoff, a weekend of two performances featuring works by Zwilich, Brahms and Rachmaninoff. Pianist Katie Mahan will perform Rachmaninoff’s beautiful and challenging Third Piano Concerto, a first in the GJSO’s 37 seasons. The performance on Saturday the 24th begins at 7:30pm and the matinee on Sunday the 25th begins at 4:00pm.

American pianist Katie Mahan is capturing the attention of audiences throughout the world for her profound artistry, unique musical personality and graceful, charming stage presence. She possesses an unquestioned technical mastery combined with a kaleidoscopic palate of tone colors, and has been recognized as “a daring and innovative performer” and as “one of the most outstanding talents coming up today.” A multi-faceted artist for whom music is an endless passion, she is at ease playing a wide repertoire ranging from Bach to Gershwin.

Since making her orchestral debut in 1999 performing Gershwin’s Concerto in F with the Breckenridge Symphony, Katie has appeared as recitalist or soloist with orchestra throughout the USA, Europe, Canada, the Middle East, Russia and Japan. She has performed with such celebrated conductors as Jiri Belohlavek, Marin Alsop – who described her as a pianist “in the style of Clara Schumann”, Grant Cooper, and Robert Lehrbaumer, and in such famous halls as the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Prinzregenten Theatre in Munich, and the Smetana Hall in Prague. Contemoporary composer Ellen Taaffee Zwilich’s Concerto Grosso opens the concert. In 1984, the Washington Friends of Handel commissioned New York composer Ellen Taaffee Zwilich to write a work in commemoration of the three-hundredth anniversary of Handel’s birth. Ms. Zwilich almost immediately thought to base her own work on that composer’s D-major Violin Sonata. The resulting composition, she says is a “twentieth-century response to the spirit of George Frederic Handel. My concerto is both inspired by Handel’s sonata and, I hope, imbued with his spirit.”

German composer Johannes Brahms is oft mentioned as part of the Three B’s that also include Beethoven and Bach. The notion of accepting the symphony mantle from Beethoven weighed heavily on Brahms. His first piano concerto was not well received at its premiere in 1854, and although he made some sketches for a symphony in 1855, one did not appear until 1876. However, he composed several orchestral works including serenades and concertos during this interim, and it was with the immensely successful first performance of the Haydn Variations in 1873 that his confidence was bolstered. This resulted in the first symphony three years later.

Sergei Rachmaninoff composed his Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor in the peace and quiet of his family’s country estate, Ivanovka. It was completed on October 5, 1909, only nine days before he sailed across the Atlantic. He practiced his solo part using a silent keyboard while on board the ship. The premiere of the Third Concerto was given on November 28, 1909 at the New Theatre in New York with Walter Damrosch conducting. It was repeated in Carnegie Hall the following January with conductor Gustav Mahler, whose conducting impressed Rachmaninoff enormously.
It has the reputation of being one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire. The concerto is respected, even feared, by many pianists. Josef Hofmann, the pianist to whom the work is dedicated, never publicly performed it, saying that it “wasn’t for him”.

Rachmaninoff is sponsored by long-time GJSO supporter Karen Combs with additional support from the Grand Junction Symphony Guild. Guest artist Katie Mahan is being sponsored by Ameriprise Financial – Ethos Financial Partners.

Tickets for both performances are available online at gjso.org, by calling 243-6787 or visiting the Grand Junction Symphony office at 414 Main Street. They will also be available at the Avalon Theatre box office beginning one hour prior to each performance. Prices range from $20 – $40 for adults and just $5 for students.

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