Goldcorp Masterworks Gold

Saturday and Monday, September 24 & 26, 8pm, Orpheum Theatre

Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky

Bramwell Tovey conductor

Jon Kimura Parker piano


The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s 2011/2012 season begins with one of Vancouver’s most famous and loved musical exports, Jon Kimura Parker, as he returns to play one of the most popular piano concertos ever written, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. VSO Music Director Bramwell Tovey conducts the concerts on Saturday and Monday, September 24th and 26th, 8pm at the Orpheum Theatre.

Internationally acclaimed concert pianist Jon Kimura Parker was born, raised and educated in Vancouver, and is an Officer of The Order of Canada. In recent seasons, Mr. Parker has performed as guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the NHK Tokyo Orchestra, and with major orchestra in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Montreal, Phoenix, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Toronto. A committed educator, Jon Kimura Parker is Professor of Piano at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, where he currently resides.

Mr. Parker will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, one of the most technically challenging concertos in classical piano repertoire. Composed in 1909 during Rachmaninoff’s most fruitful years as a composer, the piece makes extreme demands of agility, power and emotion from the performer. In the words of Mr. Parker, the guest pianist for these performances:

The Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 is really the concerto that strikes terror into so many young pianist’s hearts… It is thickly written; there’s a combination of big chords to play and very fast notes to play. There are two cadenzas written for the piece…the climax of either of those cadenzas is immensely powerful music. I always think that listening to this must be like standing under a waterfall.

This blockbuster season-opening concert also features one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest works, Symphony No. 5. Tchaikovsky agonized over the debate between free will and the idea that life was predestined, and one’s choices mattered little. One could struggle to break free from fate, but ultimately, were all efforts doomed to failure? This question is grappled with explicitly and implicitly through Tchaikovsky’s fourth and fifth symphonies, intimately related works though ten years apart. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 was written in the summer of 1888, premiering the following November in St. Petersburg, with the composer at the helm. Tchaikovsky was pursued by many demons, and had struggled mightily with a numbing depression in the years leading up to the Fifth’s composition. However, by that summer he was feeling in better spirits and eager to prove that he still had plenty to give as a composer. Inspiration struck in the form of a motto representing fate, as Tchaikovsky once again entered into a creative process with the purpose of working out an answer to the question of free will versus determinism.

The fate motto is heard throughout the work, beginning with a statement of “complete resignation before fate” in the composer’s words. The motto weaves its way through the piece dramatically, always returning in march-like form, couched in a pessimistic minor tonality. It is only in the finale that the clouds seem to part, and the fate motto is transformed into a triumphal E major march to bring the work to a rousing conclusion. But has fate really been vanquished? The triumphant nature of this work’s conclusion seems unconvincing, as a dark shadow seems to hover in background, a whisper of doubt that perhaps keeps the door open a crack for the struggle to continue in the Sixth Symphony, where Tchaikovsky’s final answer is given.

Reznicek              Donna Diana: Overture

Rachmaninoff    Piano Concerto No. 3

Tchaikovsky        Symphony No. 5


Tickets: $26.75 – $84 (senior, student and subscriber discounts available)

Tickets available online at or by calling VSO customer service at 604.876.3434