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André Watts and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2

This concert is now past.
André Watts
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $41.00 - $123.00

Concert Duration

2 hours 15 minutes
Wed, Dec, 5, 2012
7:30 PM
Thu, Dec, 6, 2012
7:30 PM
Sat, Dec, 8, 2012
8:00 PM
Tue, Dec, 11, 2012
7:30 PM
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Overture to Oberon

Overture to Oberon (1825-1826)

When Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischütz was produced in Berlin in 1821, it made him the most popular composer of the day, and credited him with creating German Romantic opera, unshackling it from powerful Italian influences. Having subsequently fallen seriously ill with tuberculosis, but thinking only of his family's financial straits, Weber accepted a commission from London's Covent Garden to write Oberon, an opera based on James Planché universally criticized libretto. The opera was a miserable failure, due in part to a muddled plot and Weber's never having worked with an English text. Against cautions and warnings about his declining health, he traveled to London to carry out the assignment, even taking English lessons to promote its fortunes. Less than a month after the successful premiere, he died in his sleep, a day before he was to return to his homeland. Though the opera is rarely performed today, its delightful overture remains a popular opener for symphony concerts, where horn calls and the sounds of shimmering flutes and fluttering strings transport us to the fairy world of the elf-king Oberon. No less an important critic than Sir Donald Francis Tovey said that while the opera may be "the merest twaddle," the overture is "a gorgeous masterpiece of operatic orchestration."

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18(1900-1901)

Coping with the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897 and an unhappy love affair left Sergei Rachmaninoff a proverbial basket case. He suffered from a nervous breakdown, bouts of drinking, and severe depression, and thought his creative juices had dried up. His musical voice fell silent for three years. He decided to focus instead on performing rather than composing, garnering much critical praise for his prowess as a pianist and conductor. Finally, he received help, thanks to the ministrations of Nikolai Dahl, a psychiatrist (and amateur cellist) who used a new type of treatment called hypnotherapy. Rachmaninoff recollected the mantra that Dr. Dahl repeated over and over: "You will begin to write your concerto. You will work with great ease. The music will be excellent." Post-post-hypnotic suggestion, Rachmaninoff's renewed self-confidence and creativity yielded this concerto, dedicated in gratitude to the doctor. Its soaring melodies, emotional appeal, and unabashed Romantic passion made it a big hit then as now, more than 110 years later. It remains his most popular work. He explained: "What I try to do when writing down my music, is to make it say simply and directly what is in my heart." (Pop culture note: you'll recognize the theme that inspired the wildly popular song from the 1940s "Full Moon and Empty Arms". Parts of the concerto have also appeared in films, from Brief Encounter of 1945 to Billy Wilder's Seven Year Itch of 1955 to Clint Eastwood's 2010 Hereafter). And you can hear the composer himself playing the first movement on YouTube, recorded in 1929 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski's direction.

“Fantasie” from Die Frau ohne Schatten


Suite from Der Rosenkavalier (The Cavalier of the Rose)

Suite from Der Rosenkavalier (The Cavalier of the Rose) (1944)

By now an anecdote about Richard Strauss has become familiar, but it bears repeating here, as it underscores the renown that his opera Der Rosenkavalier brought him. In April 1945, in post-war Germany, American soldiers apprehended the composer (who had had an ambiguous relationship with the Nazi regime) at his home in Garmisch. Coming to meet them, Strauss announced to Lieutenant Milton Weiss of the US Army: "I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier and Salome." Indeed, it was Rosenkavalier that made his name a household word. The opera has everything an opera lover could want: a beautifully crafted libretto by the great Austrian dramatist and poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, a clever plot that combines humor and bittersweet sentimentality, glittering waltzes, arguably the most exquisite music ever composed for female voices, and an ending that never fails to bring tears to the eyes of the listener. The dramatis personae are the Marschallin (Maria Therese, Princess von Werdenberg) who has been engaged in an affair with young Octavian, but fears that someone else will sooner or later replace her in his affections. Meanwhile her country cousin, the boorish Baron Ochs of the roving eye comes visiting, announcing his wish to marry the innocent young Sophie. The Marschallin nominates Octavian to be the cavalier who will present a silver engagement rose to Sophie. Inevitably, Octavian and Sophie fall in love. And through some amusing, crafty intrigues, the Baron is unmasked for the cad he is. In the finale the Marschallin, Octavian, and Sophie sing a trio whose emotional power never fails to overwhelm. Marie Therese lets Octavian go, giving him to young Sophie, and the two young lovers sing their rapturous final duet. Strauss gathered the highpoints from his most popular opera into an opulent suite that's sure to transport you to Vienna's golden age. A signature horn call launches the suite, the presentation scene follows, a taste of the delicious waltzes, and the great wistful trio and final duet. A rousing waltz brings this delightful suite to a close.


Juraj Valcuha by Vermont Classics

Juraj Valcuha is chief conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Torino. The Slovakian studied composition, conducting, and cymbalon at the Bratislava Conservatory; he spent two years in St. Petersburg, where he studied conducting with Ilya Musin, and then moved to Paris where he studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur with Janos Fürst. Mr. Valcuha served as assistant music director of the Orchestre et Opéra National de Montpellier from 2003 to 2005; during this time he made debuts with the Orchestre National de France (with whom he recorded the Alaleona's Opera Mirra) and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio-France.

Mr. Valcuha has conducted the Orchestre National de France in a double-bill of Debussy's La Chute de la Maison Usher and Chapochnikov's Le Jardin Empoisonné; Puccini's La Bohème in Paris and at Teatro Comunale Bologna; and Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle and Poulenc's La Voix Humaine at the Opéra de Lyon. He has also led the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Rotterdam Philharmonic, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, Dreden Staatskapelle, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Oslo Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestra di Santa Cecilia Rome, the Orchestre de Paris, Philharmonia London, Florence's Orchestra del Maggio Musicale, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Milan's Orchestra Verdi, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh, Houston, and National (Washington D.C.) symphony orchestra. He made his debut with the Bavarian Staatsoper in Munich and Deutsche Oper Berlin with Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and led a Verdi Gala with the Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice Venice in the first "Abu Dhabi Classics" season.

In the 2012-13 season Mr. Valcuha is scheduled to return to the National Symphony Orchestra, London's Philharmonia, Pittsburgh Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, and Milan's Filarmonica della Scala.

Learn more about Juraj Valcuha



Andre Watts by Steve J. Sherman

Pianist André Watts burst upon the music world at the age of 16 when Leonard Bernstein chose him to make his New York Philharmonic debut in a Young People's Concert that was broadcast nationwide. Two weeks later Bernstein asked him to substitute for the ailing Glenn Gould with the New York Philharmonic in performances of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1, thus launching his career. More than 45 years later Mr. Watts remains one of today's most celebrated and beloved superstars.

Mr. Watts is a regular guest with American orchestras and at major summer music festivals including Ravinia, the Hollywood Bowl, Saratoga, Tanglewood, and the Mann Music Center. Recent and upcoming engagements include appearances with the Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, Cincinnati, Houston, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Seattle, and National symphon orchestras. In celebration of the Liszt anniversary in 2011, Mr. Watts played all-Liszt recitals throughout the U.S., while recent and upcoming international engagements include concerto and recital appearances in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, and Spain.

Numerous television appearances have included performances with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His 1976 New York recital, aired on Live From Lincoln Center, was the first full-length recital broadcast.

André Watts's extensive discography includes recordings of works by Gershwin, Chopin, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky for CBS Masterworks; recitals of works by Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, and Chopin for Angel/EMI; and the concertos of Liszt, MacDowell, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Saens for Telarc. He is also included in the Great Pianists of the 20th Century series for Philips.

Mr. Watts received the Avery Fisher Prize in 1988. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl of Fame in 2006, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his professional debut (with The Philadelphia Orchestra).

Learn more about André Watts

Plan Your Visit

Special Thanks

Andre Watts’ appearance is made possible through the Lawrence and Ronnie Ackman Family Fund for Distinguished Pianists.


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