Rochester, NY – Next month, renowned pianist Misha Dichter provides the musical common denominator as the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra offers two varied and different opportunities to experience Rachmaninoff’s magnificent Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. For the first time, the RPO and Christopher Seaman are using musical content to link together a pair of Philharmonics concerts (Thursday, April 15 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, April 17 at 8:00 pm) with a new Symphony 201 concert (Sunday, April 18 at 2:00 pm), all at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Mr. Dichter has been connected to the Russian Romantic repertoire since 1966, when he won the Silver Medal in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Competition, launching his international career.
The Philharmonics concerts also feature works by John Corigliano, Schubert, and Elgar, with Christopher Seaman hosting the First Niagara Pre-Concert chat one hour prior to the performance. The Symphony 201 concert, Theme and Variations Featuring Misha Dichter, may be of particular interest to those patrons familiar with—and devoted to—the more informal Symphony 101 format, with enlightening commentary from the stage and a question-and-answer period at the end. Using Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony 201 will explore and disseminate the style of theme and variations, culminating in a full performance of the piece.
The Philharmonics concerts open with Corigliano’s Gazebo Dances, originally written for piano four-hands. The title was suggested by the pavilions in which public bands would perform on summer nights in village greens throughout the countryside. “The delights of that sort of entertainment are portrayed in this set of dances,” says the composer. Sergei Rachmaninoff turned to the melody in the last of the 24 Caprices for solo violin by Niccolo Paganini as inspiration. What followed were two dozen variations for piano and orchestra, written with a huge range of styles—march-like, heroic, whimsical, somber, romantic, and lyrical. A tremendously successful response followed its premiere in 1934 with the composer as piano soloist and Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra.
After intermission, the Philharmonics concerts feature Schubert’s famous Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished,” and Sir Edward Elgar’s In the South (“Alassio”). Christopher Seaman describes Schubert’s Symphony as “highly dramatic, with tragic, almost anguished [very loud] passages contrasting with Schubert’s unique melodies.” Speculation continues as to why Schubert never finished the symphony, but it is known that he always was working on a number of pieces at the same time, and it is likely that he planned to return to it when he had time. His untimely death before the age of 30 prevented the piece from being completed. Elgar’s overture, In the South also had outside inspiration, but in Elgar’s case, it was the weather, the scenery, and the history of the Italian town of Alassio. This grand, swashbuckling piece opens with bursts of energy, then transitions to the composer’s more romantic side. The Roman Empire is depicted, as is a romantic song heard in the distance, portrayed by the dark colors of a beautiful viola solo.
Now in the fifth decade of an illustrious career, pianist Misha Dichter recently returned to performing full-time following surgery and full recovery from Dupuytren’s contracture, an inherited condition that affected his right hand and threatened to end his career. Last October, the Boston Musical Intelligencer wrote that Mr. Dichter delivered “a rock-solid, brilliantly bold and down-to-earth performance of some of the most difficult piano pieces in existence.”
Over his long career, Mr. Dichter has performed all over the world in recital and with virtually every major orchestra. An enthusiastic chamber musician as well, he has collaborated with most of the world’s finest string players and frequently performs with Cipa Dichter in duo-piano recitals and concerto performances. Mr. Dichter has an extensive discography, and in 1998 was presented with the “Grand Prix International du Disque Liszt” for his recording of Liszt’s piano transcriptions. Dichter was born in Shanghai in 1945, his Polish parents having fled Poland at the outbreak of World War II. He moved with his family to Los Angeles at the age of two and began piano lessons four years later. He subsequently came to New York to work with Rosina Lhevinne at The Juilliard School.
Tickets for the Philharmonics performances are $20-$60, with $75 box seats, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org; by phone (454-2100); in-person from the RPO Box Office, 108 East Avenue, 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm); and seven days a week at area Wegmans. A convenience fee may apply. Student tickets are available for $10 with current ID. The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb; this concert is sponsored by Zimmer Sales & Service. Tickets for the Symphony 201 concert are $24 general admission, with $50 box seats. Special rates for groups of 10 or more are available.