Weekender

Piano ‘rock star’ featured in Penn State show

The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra last performed at Penn State in 2008.
The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra last performed at Penn State in 2008. Photo provided

On Oct. 28, the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State will present one of Poland’s most distinguished and oldest musical institutions — the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Music and Artistic Director Jacek Kaspszyk. Joining the orchestra will be pianist Seong-Jin Cho, who will perform works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms.

The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, which last performed at Penn State in 2008, returns for its fourth United States tour. The orchestra gave its first concert in 1901 and has performed on five continents.

“I am thrilled that we’re bringing back the Warsaw Philharmonic, one of the world’s great orchestras,” said George Trudeau, director of the Center for the Performing Arts. “Their performance here in 2008 was a great success.”

Cho, on his first U.S. tour, will join the orchestra for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. The orchestra will also perform Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, and Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s “Polish Melodies” Op. 47, No. 2.

“There is always a strong interest in the international orchestras that we are able to bring to the campus and community,” said Laura Sullivan, marketing and communications director for the Center for the Performing Arts. “When the program includes a Beethoven piece, we can almost predict a high level of interest because most audiences find Beethoven to be accessible and familiar.”

A work by the Polish composer Mieczysław Weinberg featuring Polish tunes will open the program.

“Weinberg’s works have enjoyed increasing recognition as some of the most individual and compelling music to have been composed in the twentieth century,” Trudeau said. “After intermission, we’ll be treated to Brahms’ First Symphony that, with its lyricism and thematic unity, is widely regarded as one of the greatest symphonies of the Austro-German tradition. This promises to be a truly memorable concert.”

The evening will also include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. This piece will feature Cho, who attracted worldwide attention after becoming the first South Korean to win the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015. He also won high honors at the Tchaikovsky and Moscow piano contests, as well as becoming the youngest first-prize winner at Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan.

“We’re lucky to be able to hear Cho, as he has become in great demand world-wide as a soloist,” Trudeau said.

“I think the path to understanding classical music is a lifetime journey,” Cho said in a recent interview with the Center for the Performing Arts. “I’m only 22 years old, so I still consider myself as a beginner.”

In South Korea, Cho has developed something of a rock star status among fans who have followed his rise to stardom.

“I’m really grateful for the overwhelming support I’ve received from the people of Korea,” Cho said.

Cho’s debut solo album went platinum six times a little more than a month after its release. That number exceeds Grammy Award-winning South Korean soprano Sumi Jo’s record, which makes his release the top-selling album in South Korea for a decade.

The Warsaw Philharmonic concert is part of the CPA’s Classical Music Project, a program made possible by a six-year Mellon Foundation grant now in its final year. The goal of the Classical Music Project has been to engage Penn State students, faculty and the community with classical music programs and to provide opportunities for students to gain an understanding and appreciation of classical music that will last throughout their lives.

Since its debut performance in 1901, Warsaw Philharmonic has attracted distinguished musicians. In the years surrounding World War I, the “national orchestra of Poland” was known as one of the major musical institutions in Europe. It hosted famous conductors and soloists, including Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Richard Strauss, Edvard Grieg and Arthur Honegger.

During World War II, German bomb raids destroyed the philharmonic’s performance hall. In 1950, the orchestra’s new director, Witold Rowicki, oversaw the establishment of an official venue for the orchestra, which later helped the ensemble to regain its position as Poland’s leading musical collective.

Kaspszyk took over the Warsaw Philharmonic in 2013. Under his leadership, the orchestra started to stream its concerts online, and it has recorded three discs for Warner Classics and Deutsche Grammophon. He has conducted orchestras in Berlin, New York City, London, Prague and other music capitals.

The orchestra has recorded more than 50 albums, one of which won a Grammy Award in 2012, featuring mainly Polish composers. It has performed more than 140 international tours.

IF YOU GO

  • What: Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28
  • Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
  • Info: www.cpa.psu.edu
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