Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday April 25th 2018

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Opening Night

by Lilia Del Bosque Oakey Whitehouse

*UPDATE-The Pensacola Symphony’s opening performance will go on as scheduled. The Symphony issued the following statement on Friday afternoon: “After carefully considering the latest projections from the National Hurricane Center regarding Tropical Storm Karen, Pensacola Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Opening Night’ performance will proceed as scheduled on Saturday, October 5th, at 8PM. The box office will open at 6:30 for will call tickets and walk-up sales. The latest projections have the center of Tropical Storm Karen located southwest of New Orleans Saturday evening. Based on this information, we do not believe it will have a major impact on the performance. We do urge patrons to take their individual circumstances into consideration when making the decision to attend the concert. Please call the Symphony office at 435-2533 until 5pm Friday with any questions. Any updates after 5pm will be posted on”*

After months away tuning their instruments and refining their skills, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra is kicking off their new season. Opening Night will feature pieces composed by two French and one Czech composer.

The first piece will be Hector Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival Overture.” Originally composed in 1843, it is made up of material and themes from Berlioz’s opera “Benvenuto Cellini.” Next, the orchestra will perform “Symphonie Espagnole,” a Spanish-style piece from French composer Édouard Lalo. The night will finish with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6. The piece, composed in 1880, was one of Dvořák’s first to draw international attention and captures the Czech national style within a standard Germanic classical-romantic form.

Opening Night will also feature guest violinist Chee-Yun. Currently, the artist-in-residence and a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, Chee-Yun will be the featured soloist for Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole.”

Chee-Yun started learning violin at the age of six in her native country of Korea, but originally played the piano. “My mother had me stop playing the piano because she thought that the reason my sister needed eyeglasses was because of reading the notes,” said Chee-Yun.

It was her instructor who noticed that her talent was something unique. “My mother just thought I was filling time but my teacher, who was just a neighborhood teacher who taught little children, he noticed something in me,” she recalled.

Two years later, Chee-Yun competed in her first competition, the Korean Times Competition, which was the most important in Korea for children.

“I was competing against kids who had been playing since they were three with professors from the university and I had a neighborhood teacher. And I won the grand prize,” said Chee-Yun. “I was really happy about that. I thought being on stage was the greatest thing and I really enjoyed it.”

Since then, Chee-Yun has had many accomplishments as a musician, including studying at Julliard at the age of 13, winning the 1990 Avery Fisher Career Grant, and performing all over the world.

Chee-Yun is excited to perform Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole,” a piece she has recorded but hasn’t recently performed.

“It’s a very grandiose piece,” said Chee-Yun. “It’s a lot of fireworks, a lot of virtuosity. There are lyrical passages. You can hear the very strong Spanish influence. I think the audience will really enjoy it too.”

Unlike most pieces, “Symphonie Espagnole” has five movements instead of three. It’s the fifth movement that Chee-Yun thinks is unique and suggest that the audience listens to as the orchestra builds, piece by piece.

“In the last movement, you hear the heart of the orchestra. It starts very thin, then it gets very thick and then almost disappears,” said Chee-Yun. “It begins with just the woodwind instruments and then the strings join in and then the brass joins in. It’s very fun.”

Chee-Yun will be performing with her Francesco Ruggieri violin, which was made in 1669. Early in her career, Chee-Yun purchased the violin on her own. “I was a starving student and starving artist and put every cent I was making into the violin,” said Chee-Yun. “It was worth it.”

“It’s got such a unique sound on the lower strings. The fact that it’s almost 350 years old and looks beautiful and sounds wonderful, it’s mind boggling every time I practice on it,” said Chee-Yun. “I’m very flattered by it. It’s a beautiful instrument and I look forward to sharing that with everybody.”

But Chee-Yun’s success comes from more than her natural talent and unique instrument—every day she works to be a better musician than the day before.
“Every day I want to give more than 100 percent of myself. And I think that if I did that every day, if I give just 1 percent more every day, then I would improve 365 percent every year,” joked Chee-Yun.

“I am just grateful that I get to do what I really love and that I dreamed of doing all my little girl life and I didn’t think it was possible. Sure it takes a lot of work but what I get out of it is incredible and I am proud to say that I am a musician. I love being in the music.”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $22-$84