PSO welcomes guest conductor for grand classics

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Lahav Shani, in his Pittsburgh debut, will perform landmark works honoring the city of New York by some of America’s most celebrated composers during the BNY Mellon Grand Classics weekend, “Rhapsody in Blue,” Friday through Sunday at Heinz Hall located at 600 Penn Ave.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The concert opens with Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question” and Kurt Weill’s Symphony No. 2.

Ives, son of George Ives, wrote this brief avant-garde composition in 1906 and, due to its free notation, it can never be played the same way twice. Symphonic in conception, Weill’s symphony embraces the melodies, harmonies and feeling of his popular Broadway works.

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker joins the orchestra for “Rhapsody in Blue,” Gershwin’s iconic jazz-concerto. Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” brings the program to a rousing close.

Parker’s career has taken him from Carnegie Hall and Berlin’s Philharmonie to the Beijing Concert Hall and the Sydney Opera House.

A committed educator, Parker is professor of piano at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Parker is also artistic adviser of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, where he has given world premieres of new works by Peter Schickele and Jake Heggie.

Parker has recorded for Telarc and CBC and on his own label. His new album, “Fantasy,” features Fantasies of Schubert and Schumann, as well as the Wizard of Oz Fantasy by William Hirtz.

Parker studied with Edward Parker, Keiko Parker, Lee Kum-Sing, Robin Wood, Marek Jablonski and Adele Marcus. He won the Gold Medal at the 1984 Leeds International Piano Competition.

Twenty-seven-year-old Israeli conductor Shani’s conducting career was launched when he won first prize at the 2013 Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg.

In June 2014, Shani made a debut in Berlin, replacing Michael Gielen, with the Berlin Staatskapelle with concerts at the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Berlin Philharmonie. In December 2015, Shani stepped in, at short notice, for an indisposed Franz Welser-Moest for concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic in the Musikverein when he directed Bach: Concerto in D minor from the keyboard and conducted Mahler 1. He returned to conduct the orchestra for four performances of La Boheme in December at the Berliner Staatsoper and will return for orchestral concerts in the Berlin Philharmonie in May.

In January 2016, Shani stood in for Philippe Jordan conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on a major European tour, including concerts in Paris, Frankfurt and Munich. In the 2017-2018 season, Shani will become principal guest conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

A pre-concert talk, open to all ticketholders and led by Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, will occur on stage one hour before each concert. The Steinway Young Artists will perform one hour before each concert start time in the Grand Lobby of Heinz Hall. These performances are free and open to ticketholders.

Program notes for the weekend are available online at pittsburghsymphony.org/Rhapsody and on the PSO mobile app the day of the concert.

Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $94, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at (412) 392-4900 or visiting pittsburghsymphony.org/Rhapsody.

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