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Van Cliburn Silver Medalist joins USC Symphony Orchestra Feb. 21

Guest artist Joyce Yang, piano, plays Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on the Theme of Paganini

Joyce Yang, a Van Cliburn International Piano Competition silver medalist and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, showcases her colorful musical personality in solo recitals and collaborations with the world’s top orchestras. She joins the USC Symphony Orchestra as special guest on Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on the Theme of Paganini, one of the most demanding, inventive, thrilling and sensuously beautiful piano works ever composed.

The concert, “Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody,” takes place on Tuesday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts.

Praised for “poetic and sensitive pianism” (Washington Post) and a “wondrous sense of color” (San Francisco Classical Voice), Yang captivates audiences with her virtuosity, lyricism and interpretive prowess. She came to international attention in 2005 when she won the silver medal at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The youngest contestant at 19 years old, she took home two additional awards: the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for Best Performance of Chamber Music (with the Takàcs Quartet) and the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for Best Performance of a New Work.

Since her spectacular debut, she has blossomed into an “astonishing artist” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung). She has performed as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, the Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Sydney, and Toronto symphony orchestras, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and the BBC Philharmonic, among many others. In recital, Yang has taken the stage at New York’s Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Museum; the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; Chicago’s Symphony Hall; and Zurich’s Tonhalle.

Most of Rachmaninoff’s late works found few friends when they were new, but Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was an exception. Audiences everywhere took to it immediately. The work embodies Rachmaninoff’s late style at its brilliant and witty best and has one of the world’s irresistible melodies. Among connoisseurs and professionals, it is probably the most admired of Rachmaninoff’s works.

The February concert program also includes Morton Gould’s Symphonette No. 2. This 1939 composition is one of the most compelling classical attempts to create a jazz spirit. It succeeds in doing so without the presence of any jazz players or use of improvisation, but with jazz devices of coloration such as wire brushes on drums, glissandi (sliding through notes) and chord voicings that are common to jazz arrangements of the time. The themes, scales and harmonies are jazz- and blues- derived, and so successful was Gould in devising jazz themes for this symphonette that the second movement, "Pavane" has been widely quoted in jazz performances by such masters as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and David Baker.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D Major, known as the the Haffner Symphony, is also on the concert. The Haffner Symphony did not start its life as a symphony, but rather as a serenade to be used as background music for the ennoblement of Sigmund Haffner in the summer of 1782. At the end of 1782, Mozart decided to present music from the Haffner Serenade at a concert and set to work to make a number of alterations to the score in order to convert it into the Haffner Symphony. The Haffner Symphony, as we know it today, received its first performance on 23 March 1783 at the Vienna Burgtheater, proving very successful, even to the Emperor who, in attendance, uncharacteristically stayed for the entire concert —“and how he applauded me!” Mozart wrote to his father.

Tickets on sale now!

Tickets: $30 general public; Discounts: $25 seniors, USC faculty and staff; $8 students.
Call 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online.

Maestro Portnoy's Farewell Season

This season celebrates Maestro Donald Portnoy’s 31 years leading USC’s premier orchestra. His music leadership has drawn out the very best in thousands of young musicians. The Ira McKissick Koger Professor of Fine Arts retires as director of the USC Symphony Orchestra after the 2016-2017 academic year. Dr. Portnoy has received countless accolades throughout his years conducting the university’s orchestra – one of the top university orchestras in the region. He will continue to teach conducting and violin and direct the Conductors Institute of South Carolina at USC.