Skip to Content

School of Music

  • Banner Image

USC Symphony Orchestra opens the season with the music of Russia

The September Concert features Zuill Bailey, among the most sought after cellists today

Donald Portnoy, music director
Concerts take place at the Koger Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m.

Purchase tickets


Thurs., September 18, 2014

Russian Extravaganza! with guest artist Zuill Bailey, cello

"Extraordinary skill...peerless technique and great passion." – The Sentinel
"An incredible cellist." – Audiophile Audition

Zuill Bailey, among the most sought after cellists today, has been praised for his "virtuoso technique, strong, richly expressive tone and bold, individual manner of playing" by Gramophone Magazine. Bailey will play Sergei Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra on the season opening Russian Extravaganza! concert.

The three movements of the work are expansive and diverse with a wide variety of themes and speeds that demand a cellist of exceptional technique and musicality. Also known as the Symphony Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, it is widely viewed as one of the most challenging works in the entire cello repertoire and is complex in its relationship between orchestra and soloist.

The piece is a departure from the concerto tradition; instead of the typical fast-slow-fast scheme, the central allegro giusto is the dominant movement and one of the longest movements ever written by Prokofiev. The outer movements are slow, and the central movement, in contrast, is quick and scherzo-like, filled with difficult technical gymnastics for the solo cello. The cello is called upon to make use of its entire range, from the deepest bass register to tenuous violin-like sounds, and shows off an entire gamut of techniques such as spiccato (bouncing bow), rapid alternations between arco (bowed) and pizzicato (plucked), and complicated double-stopping (playing two notes simultaneously).

Prokofiev composed the first sketches while in Paris during the summer of 1933. The unsuccessful premiere of the completed cello concerto, in which the soloist had difficulty with the work, took place in November 1938 in Moscow. Prokofiev revised the piece and the revised version was performed in 1940 in the United States. But it was not until seven years later that Prokofiev was to hear a successful performance by one of the greatest cellists of all time, Mstislav Rostropovich. Rostropovich and Prokofiev spent the summers of 1950-1952 recasting the work in its definitive form and it premiered in February 1952 with Rostropovich performing the solo part.

The USC Symphony Orchestra will also play one of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's most joyous compositions at the September concert, Symphony No. 2 in C minor, in which the composer uses Ukranian folk songs to great effect. The critic Nikolay Kashkin coined the work the "Little Russian" for the folk tunes from the Ukraine region, then colloquially known as Little Russia.

The orchestration of the Symphony was begun in September 1872 while the composer was in Moscow. In December of that year the composer wrote to his father, "I've been slaving over my new symphony, which is now, thank God, finished...."

In Tchaikovsky's letters to his younger brother Modest he wrote, "...This work of genius (as Nikolay Dmitriyevich calls my symphony) is near to completion, and as soon as the parts are ready it will be performed. It seems to me that this is my best work insofar as perfection of form is concerned—not normally my highest virtue."

The Second Symphony was performed for the first time in Moscow at the seventh Russian Musical Society concert in January 1873. Tchaikovsky shared his impressions of the concert with his father, "My symphony was performed here last week with great success; there were many calls for me and bursts of applause. The success was so great that it will be played again at the tenth symphony concert, for which they are already taking subscriptions to present me with a gift."

Tchaikovsky told his brother in February 1873, "When I was in Petersburg I played the finale one evening at Rimsky-Korsakov's, and the whole company almost tore me to pieces with rapture...."

Despite its success, Tchaikovsky revised the work heavily eight years later. Following its more extensive revisions in December 1879 and January 1880, the reworked Second Symphony was performed in St. Petersburg to great acclaim.

Purchase Tickets

Save with a season subscription (7 concerts) and enjoy the best seats in the house: $150 general public; $110 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $45 students.

Single concert tickets are $30 general public; $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students.

Capitol Tickets: 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online.

About the USC Symphony Orchestra
The University of South Carolina's premier orchestra ensemble, led by acclaimed music director Donald Portnoy, receives accolades for its fine performances. World-renowned guest artists join the ensemble throughout the year to bring you a stirring seven-concert season with music by the most dynamic composers.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.