The Breckenridge Music Festival orchestra opens its 32nd season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with an all-Tchaikovsky concert at the Riverwalk Center. The concert honors the work of the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center as part of a new partnership between the two organizations.
The BOEC's mission is to provide outdoor education experiences to all people, "with a specialized focus on serving those with disabilities and special needs." The cause is a heartfelt one for the orchestra's maestro, Gerhardt Zimmerman, who was diagnosed with polio at age 7 and told he would never be able to walk again.
"If you want something, go after it and don't listen to any of the naysayers," Zimmerman said. Adding that if people say "'it's too strenuous or you won't be able to withstand the rigors of a conducting career.' Just don't listen to people like that," advises Zimmerman, who in a way found the prejudice more difficult to overcome than the polio. This will be his 19th season with the Breckenridge Music Festival.
The season opener features the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, including the famed Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 23.
"The piano concerto is considered one of the best piano concertos of all time, and the opening with the piano playing the big ascending chords is one of the most recognizable piano themes of all time," said festival spokesperson Olivia Grover. "The funny thing is that when the piano concerto was first composed and performed, it was not received well."
Tchaikovsky completed the concerto in 1874, dedicating it to the Russian pianist Nikolai Rubinstein. His mentor remained quiet after the performance, however, and later, Tchaikovsky wrote that Rubinstein told him it was "worthless, impossible to play, the themes have been used before" and "there are only two or three pages that can be salvaged and the rest must be thrown away!"
"Who knew that it would later become the most loved piano concerto of all time," Grover said.
Guest soloist Panayis Lyras will join the Breckenridge Music Festival orchestra for the concerto. Lyras is an artist-in-residence at Michigan State University's College of Music, where he also teaches piano. His music career began at age 6, when the Greek musician attended the Athens Conservatory. Later, he earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School. The award-winning pianist has played on PBS and the Arts and Entertainment Network and performed both solo and with established symphony orchestras throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Thursday's program also includes the "Andante Cantabile" from the ballet suite, "Sleeping Beauty," and "Polonaise" from Eugen Onegin. The concert is sponsored by Rick and Pam Oshlo.
"It's a great orchestra," Zimmerman said. "Most people love the music of Tchaikovsky; it's very energetic, as I will be on the podium."
Visit www.breckenridgeriverwalkcenter.com for ticket purchase.