Performances take place at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
Critically acclaimed guest pianist Meng-Chieh Liu will join the orchestra playing two piano pieces on a $160,000 Fazioli piano donated specifically for this concert by Thomas Zoells, owner of Chicago’s PianoForte. Often called “the Ferrari of pianos,” Faziolis have won praise around the world for their superior construction and luxurious sound.
To begin the concert, Muspratt will lead the orchestra in one of Silvestre Revueltas’ best known and most performed works, the riveting Afro-Cuban “Sensemaya,” a piece adapted from the poem “Sensemaya: Chant to Kill a Snake,” by Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén. “Sensemaya” is often stylistically compared to Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” with its use of distinctive tone colors and complex rhythmic structures.
“I am so pleased to be doing a piece by this fine Mexican composer,” said Muspratt. “Sensemaya is at once brutal and completely mysterious. It invokes the slithering feel and the cold, glistening eyes of the snake, and the terror of the people who are hunted by it.”
Maurice Ravel’s masterpiece, “La Valse,” will be performed twice, first as a piano solo by Liu and again as a full orchestral suite. Originally conceived as a whimsical tribute to the waltz, “La Valse” was changed after World War I to reflect the turmoil and strife in Viennese culture.
“Ravel possessed a unique ability to convey powerful, expressive messages through his orchestrations,” said Muspratt. “They continue to astonish modern-day audiences.”
Liu will conclude the evening with Sergey Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto no.3 in D minor.” Famous for its technical and musical demands on the performer, as well as its profound beauty, the piece is often described as one of the most difficult concertos in the entire piano repertoire. Written in 1909, it was popularized in the 1996 film “Shine,” which portrays Australian pianist David Helfgott performing “the hardest piece in the world” for a piano competition.
Challenges like Rachmaninoff’s concerto are nothing new to Liu; at the promising start of his career in 1995, the young pianist was diagnosed with a rare and debilitating disease that affected his connective tissues. Doctors gave him very little chance to survive, and no chance of playing the piano again. With incredible determination and extensive physical therapy, Liu overcame the disease and embarked again on his concert career in 1998, just three years after his initial diagnosis. Since then, Liu has graced stages around the world.
“Meng Chieh-Liu plays like few today. He plays with the great style of masters that are no longer with us - the Rubensteins, the Richters, the Rachmaninoffs,” said Muspratt. “He is someone who completely understands the ‘old style.’”
Following “Rachmaninoff, Ravel and Revueltas,” New Philharmonic will continue its 2007-2008 season with a concert in April featuring all Beethoven works and performances of “Tosca” with sister company DuPage Opera Theatre in July.
At each concert, New Philharmonic carries on its tradition – and mission – of making classical music accessible with elements that enrich and enliven the concert experience. These include: Interactive Intermissions, which bring the musicians off the stage and into the lobby to mingle with patrons; Just Ask Kirk, the maestro’s question-and-answer session; and post-concert Cookies with Kirk, sponsored by The Meadows of Glen Ellyn, an opportunity to meet the conductor.
Tickets to “Rachmaninoff, Ravel, and Revueltas” are $33 for adults, $31 for seniors and $23 for students and patrons under 17. To purchase, call (630) 942-4000
About New Philharmonic Orchestra
New Philharmonic Orchestra is a fully-professional, 80-member orchestra that has inspired classical music enthusiasts in Chicago and the suburbs for three decades. Under the direction of Conductor and Music Director Kirk Muspratt, named a 2006 Chicagoan of the Year in the arts, the group gives innovative treatment to both classic compositions and modern works, and strives to make the music accessible to new audiences and youth through a variety of educational efforts. New Philharmonic is the resident orchestra of the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and performs a complete season annually.
About the McAninch Arts Center
The McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage (MAC) is a state-of-the-art facility bringing professional theater, music, dance, comedy, opera and visual art to the residents of Northern Illinois. Housing three distinctive performance spaces and an art gallery, the facility’s unique design allows patrons to experience all the arts under one roof.
Since its opening in 1986, more than one million people have attended performances, gallery exhibits or events at the facility. The MAC scheduled more than 250 performances during 2006-2007 alone, bringing in more than 69,000 patrons from the Chicago region and beyond.
In addition to presenting touring artists, the MAC houses five resident professional companies, including New Philharmonic Orchestra, DuPage Opera Theatre, Arts Center Jazz Ensemble, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and New Classic Singers.
The MAC also maintains a robust community outreach program with initiatives such as its SchoolStage program, which connects performers and students for an interactive, educational arts experience.
Because of its efforts to increase community access to the arts, the MAC has earned the Illinois Arts Council’s Partners in Excellence designation, which recognizes 40 of the most significant cultural institutions throughout the state.
The MAC is conveniently situated 30 miles west of Chicago in central DuPage County, near I-88 and I-355, and offers free parking and discounted rates for groups and outings. For tickets and information, please call 630-942-4000