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Concertmaster Athayde Gets Hero’s Welcome in Concerto Debut

Rochester, N.Y. – These days, heroes come in many guises, and the upcoming Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Philharmonics concerts illustrate that point to a “t.” On Thursday, April 20 and Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. in the Eastman Theatre, six months after her achievement as the youngest concertmaster ever appointed to the RPO, violinist Juliana Athayde (The Caroline W. Gannett & Clayla Ward Chair) will get a “hero’s welcome” by her orchestral colleagues. The unexpected but delightful spotlight will shine on her concerto debut in Felix Mendelssohn’s E minor Violin Concerto on a program that features music based on the well-known comic book “hero” Superman, as well as a heroic work by the great Sergei Rachmaninoff, all under the dynamic baton of the gifted young guest conductor, Daniel Hege. Music Director of the Syracuse Symphony, Hege is widely recognized as one of America’s finest young maestros, earning critical acclaim for his fresh interpretations of standard repertoire and for his commitment to creative programming. Hege and J. Andrew Cassano, RPO Director of Operations, will host the Pre-Concert Chat at 7 p.m.

The 25-year old Athayde – the first and only graduate from The Concertmaster Academy, a prestigious new program at the Cleveland Institute of Music – bravely stepped forward as a replacement for the ailing, but recovering, Principal Cellist Stefan Reuss (The Clara and Edwin Strasenburgh Chair), who was scheduled to appear as the soloist for the April concerts. Violinist Athayde was up for the challenge, as she already is performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto this week with the Palo Alto (California) Symphony. “I am absolutely thrilled to be making my concerto debut with the RPO, which has been so welcoming to me,” says Athayde. “And I can’t think of a better piece than the Mendelssohn to perform with my colleagues!” The extraordinary Mendelssohn Concerto combines, in the most remarkable way, classical poise with deep feeling, a perfect choice for the young Athayde. In a nod to Romantic practice, all three sections are played without pause, giving the concerto greater cohesiveness and momentum.

The program opens with Michael Daugherty’s Red Cape Tango (1993), the fifth and final movement of the composer’s Metropolis Symphony – a tribute to the Superman mythology – which brought Daugherty international attention when it was performed at Carnegie Hall in 1995 by conductor David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The principal melody of the Tango is derived from the medieval Latin death chant, Dies irae, and depicts Superman’s fight to the death with Doomsday. Daugherty’s exuberant, imaginative, pop-oriented music has made him one of the most performed and commissioned American composers of his generation.

Rachmaninoff remains one of the most loved of all composers, but some of his greatest pieces have been somewhat neglected, including his Third Symphony (1936), which closes this concert. The haunting theme at the beginning sets the atmosphere, and as the piece unfolds, the theme appears in other guises. As in Daugherty’s Red Cape Tango, the Dies irae theme makes an appearance in the final movement before the shadows are banished and the piece ends with a resounding conclusion.

Tickets for these performances are $22-$52, available online 24/7 at, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, as well as at all Wegmans Video Departments. RPO Box Office Hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (non-concert Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.). The Wegmans Video Department is open seven days a week, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. A convenience fee may apply.

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb. The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted Philharmonics Series tickets to local college students. Juliana Athayde’s performance is made possible by the Jon L. and Katherine T. Schumacher Orchestra Musician Soloist Fund

Celebrating its 83rd season in 2005-06, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s mission is to perform and present a broad range of quality music; attract, entertain and educate audiences with superior musical performances; maintain and build the Orchestra’s national reputation; and enhance the reputation of the Rochester community as a place in which to live, work, play, visit and learn.

RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; the County of Monroe; the City of Rochester; and American Airlines, the official airline of the RPO.