The Pittsburgh Symphony’s season begins with a gala concert, featuring superstar pianist Lang Lang and music director Manfred Honeck, which is also the organization’s single biggest fundraising event of the year. The symphony expects to raise more than $1 million via the gala.
The concert gains further interest because it marks Lang Lang’s return to performing at Heinz Hall with both hands, after taking two years to recover from tendinitis in his left arm.
Lang Lang will star at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Gala Concert: A Night in Black and White’ with Honeck conducting on Sept. 14 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall.
The Chinese pianist, now 37, was a child prodigy and was still a teen when he began his meteoric ascent in the music world. He was educated in China and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His biggest audience was more than a billion people when he played at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. His success has enabled him to be a philanthropist.
Lang Lang and Honeck will collaborate on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor. It is a powerful and haunting masterpiece written in Mozart’s prime when he was writing operas such as “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni” with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.
“Mozart’s music is so incredibly delicate but you also have to be operatic, like you have to be inside of the opera,” says Lang Lang. “Operatic is the key to succeed (in) Mozart’s music. You have to be inside of it as a character.”
The Heinz Hall performance will be the first of three because Lang Lang will play the Mozart concerto at stops in Hamburg and Munich in Germany on the orchestra’s five-county 11-concert European tour in October and November.
“Manfred Honeck has always been a very dear friend of mine (for) more than 18 years,” the pianist says. “He is an incredible musician with such wonderful artistry and the most tasteful musical interpretation. It’s always a great joy to work with him.” This year is joyous for Lang Lang on a more personal level because in June he married fellow pianist Gina Alice Redlinger in Paris, an event which included a spectacular wedding celebration at Versailles, the palace built in 1682 by French King Louis XIV.
The program before Lang Lang’s appearance opens with the local premiere of “Masquerade” by Anna Clyne, a very appealing piece by a young English composer which was first performed at the 2013 Proms concert series in London. Honeck also will conduct the Intermezzo from Franz Schmidt’s 1914 opera “Notre Dame,” set at the ancient French cathedral which suffered a catastrophic fire in April.
Three tuneful and energetic overtures will complete the preliminaries. Jacques Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” Overture ends with the most famous of all can-can tunes. Franz von Suppe’s “Poet and Peasant” includes a gorgeous cello solo. And Carl Nielsen’s “Maskarade” Overture has the particular appeal of wit and brevity – qualities which often go hand in hand.