The Breckenridge Music Festival will present a Festival Orchestra Series concert titled “Rachmaninoff Shines” this evening at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The performance will feature guest pianist Lei Weng in the monumental Third Piano Concert by Sergei Rachmaninoff and will include pieces by Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner.
Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 30 is a featured work of the program. Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto is well known as one of the most difficult works in the standard piano repertory — a veritable “knuckle-buster” of the first magnitude. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, most other pianists either declined to perform the work out of respect for its composer or a reluctance to try to meet its awesome technical demands (Rachmaninoff, of course, had tailor-made the work for himself, and he had enormous hands, with fingers capable of reaching four keys beyond an octave).
Boldly performing this difficult piece with the Festival Orchestra is Weng, who was acclaimed by the New York Concert Review as “a colorist of exemplary control” at his sold-out Carnegie Hall debut. Regarding his return to Carnegie Hall two months later by immediate re-invitation, New York Concert Reviews remarked: “Weng displayed a powerhouse technique and provided good contrast with delicate moments.”
Weng’s performances have also been critically acclaimed as “spirited and full of nuances” by The Cincinnati Post. The Herald Times called his performances “colorful and flamboyant.” China’s Tianjin Daily remarked on his “profound and immense artistry,” and Scott Cantrell, music critic of the Dallas Morning News, wrote: “Fabulous playing — really fresh, personal! I love the unpredictability, the willingness to take chances, not just to sound like someone else. “
Mastersingers of Nuremberg
Also on this program is Richard Wagner’s “Prelude to Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg.” According to Wagner himself, the idea for his great comic opera “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” (“The Mastersingers of Nuremberg”) came to him in 1845 while he was at the fashionable spa at Marienbad shortly after he had finished writing Tannhäuser.
The plot of “Die Meistersinger” centers on a song contest that takes place annually at the Midsummer’s Day Festival in 16th century Nuremberg. In it, Wagner dramatizes the ever-present conflict between hidebound tradition and artistic regeneration, a subject that was of vital interest to him, considering that he himself was an indefatigable blazer of new artistic trails.
Another piece to be performed in this concert is Grieg’s work “Holberg Suite, Op. 40,” which is essentially an affectionate backward glance to the so-called High Baroque era, a period of music history that coincided with the lifetime of Norwegian writer Ludwig Holberg. As Grieg’s biographer observed, he “simply placed himself in the same milieu in which Holberg lived and worked. He looks at the present through the spectacles of the past.”
According to the composer himself, he drew much of his inspiration from the French keyboard suites of the time. For the most part, it is only the little turns of harmony, ingenious syncopations, lush inner voices and other more modern touches of the suite that keep it from being mistaken for an 18th century rather than 19th century work.