Pensacola, Florida
Sunday November 23rd 2014

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Sounds Russian

By Jessica Forbes

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow famously wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Indeed, no matter how politics change, no one can deny the significance of the Russian musical tradition, a fact that the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra (PSO) will celebrate in its second annual “Russian Spectacular” performance.

“One of the neat things about picking from Russian symphonic music is that there is a seemingly infinite amount of great stuff to pick from,” said Bret Barrow, the PSO’s executive director. “The appeal of the music and depth of the repertoire were quite inviting.”

This year’s concert will feature suites from two ballets, Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” and Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” which Disney fans will likely recognize from its use in the film “Fantasia.” The concert concludes with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, performed by visiting pianist Sofya Gulyak.

The performance will mark Gulyak’s first appearance with the PSO, and is part of her third visit to the U.S. Gulyak is a Russian citizen who now lives in London, and frequently performs throughout Europe and Asia. In 2009, she became the first woman awarded the first prize and the Princess Mary Gold Medal at the Leeds International Piano Competition. “We’re very excited to have her with PSO,” Barrow said. “Her performances are jaw-dropping.”

Happily for the audience, the Rachmaninoff concerto, written for one of the pianist-composer’s own tours of the U.S., is an ideal vehicle to demonstrate Gulyak’s talent, according to Barrow. “It showcases all of the technical fireworks and is really the height of achievement for pianists,” he stated.

If patrons would like to learn more about the concert’s featured selections, Dr. Larry Reed, who teaches in UWF’s Department of Music, will lead a brief presentation on the pieces at 7 p.m., which he does before all of the PSO’s Materworks concerts. “It’s a great preface for the concert if you have curiosities beyond what you can read in the program notes,” Barrow said.

As an added bonus, all of the Masterworks series feature 2 p.m. dress rehearsals that are open to the public, and tickets are only $5 each. Whether you prefer an earlier show time, or want to see the performance twice, the dress rehearsal is an ideal way to get more musical bang—in the form of Russian symphonic fireworks—for your buck.

PSO’S “RUSSIAN SPECTACULAR”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 5
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $22—$84
DETAILS: 595-3880 or pensacolasaenger.com